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PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Thursday, October 23, 2014

SB Channelkeeper Boosts Local Eco-Tourism Business to Highlight Marine Conservation

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper Boosts Local Eco-Tourism Business
to Highlight Marine Conservation

October 22, 2014 (Santa Barbara, CA) — Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds, is hosting an exciting event on Sunday, October 26, 2014, to boost eco-tourism business in Santa Barbara and raise awareness about recently established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along our coastline. In partnership with a collaborative of environmental groups and local agencies, the organization is sponsoring a heavily discounted SCUBA diving trip with Truth Aquatics to the Naples MPA, a stunning offshore pinnacle reef housing some of the most diverse and productive sea life in all of Southern California.

In 2012, California became an international leader in ocean protection by completing the nation’s first statewide network of MPAs which are designed to ensure healthy, vibrant ocean life for generations to come. Five new MPAs were established along the Santa Barbara County coast, from Point Conception to the Goleta Slough. Some of these MPAs can be difficult for the public to access, including the Naples MPA where access is primarily limited to boaters, but according to Channelkeeper, this trip is not just about transporting people to the MPA.

“A strong eco-tourism economy and marine conservation go hand-in-hand,” said Ben Pitterle, Watershed and Marine Program Director for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. “Forming partnerships with local eco-tour businesses is a perfect way for us to expand opportunities for people to access and enjoy MPAs, while also benefitting the local economy. Everyone walks away from these trips with an enhanced sense of appreciation for these special places.”

In Santa Barbara County, 25,283 jobs rely on coastal tourism and recreation, and approximately 60,000 people visit the Channel Islands each year for aquatic recreation such as fishing, sailing, kayaking, wildlife watching, surfing, and diving.

Since the coastal MPAs went into effect in 2012, Channelkeeper has been working to foster community awareness and support for these new underwater parks, and this year the organization has been putting its money where its mouth is, raising grant funding from foundations specifically earmarked for and passed on to local businesses to incentivize excursions that allow customers to explore coastal MPAs.

“Our subsidies bring the ticket price down to help businesses experiment with price-points and integrate new MPA offerings into their business plans at little risk to their pocketbooks, while also making them attractive to customers,” said Pitterle. “Ultimately, we hope the businesses we’re partnering with will come to recognize and take advantage of the economic potential these underwater parks have to offer.”

Brad Killeen from Truth Aquatics expressed enthusiasm for the project. “We love diving MPAs at the Channel Islands and here along the coast – the wildlife in these areas is extraordinary in beauty and abundance and is certainly worth the protection it’s afforded by conservation efforts like these. Working in tandem with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, we hope that trips to our coastal MPAs will become a popular and regular part of our diving repertoire.”

Channelkeeper is working with local businesses large and small. To date the trips they have coordinated and co-sponsored have resulted in over $11,000 in new revenue for four local businesses, and Channelkeeper hopes to increase that amount to over $15,000 by year’s end. The group says that eventually they will ratchet down the amount of the subsidies being offered and shift to providing financial support to help market the MPA tours to the public. So far the demand for the trips they’ve helped arrange has been high.

This Sunday, up to 40 SCUBA divers will board the Conception to travel up the coast to the Naples MPA, departing from Sea Landing at the Santa Barbara Harbor at 7:00 am. Limited space is available onboard for media.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds through science-based advocacy, education, field work and enforcement. To learn more about Channelkeeper, visit www.sbck.org

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