The Seattle Aquarium bestowed its annual awards at our Chairman’s Dinner on January 26. For his lifetime leadership at the critical intersection of marine conservation, science, government policy and citizen engagement, William W. Stelle, Jr. was awarded the Seattle Aquarium Medal, which is presented to an individual whose leadership and lifetime accomplishments reflect the Seattle Aquarium’s mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.
Will Stelle is the senior advisor to the NOAA administrator; he was formerly the regional administrator of NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region, managing the listings of salmon and steelhead populations under the Endangered Species Act in the coastal west. He has also served as the chief architect for salmon recovery strategies covering hydropower, hatcheries, harvests and riverine, estuarine and marine habitats vital for salmon. He’s been at the center of some of the region’s most contentious natural resource engagements over the last two decades. He led major structural reforms of marine fisheries management and marine mammal conservation endeavors. He played a major role in leading NOAA’s tribal fiduciary responsibilities, and in ongoing congressional engagements, and served as co-chair of the Puget Sound Federal Caucus during the Obama administration, along with EPA.
In his remarks after accepting the award, Stelle emphasized the importance of resuscitating Puget Sound and, by extension, the one world ocean we all share. He noted that our region’s history, technical and scientific expertise, and wealth are strong foundational points from which to build. But, he noted, we must take ownership for what is occurring in our figurative backyard. “The time has come to stop saying, ‘I wish they’d do something about it,’” he commented. “The ‘they’ is ‘we.’ It’s our responsibility.”
For his endless commitment as an educational leader for marine life and cultures of the Salish Sea, Dr. Marco B.A. Hatch was awarded the Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award, which honors individuals performing leadership research in the field. An assistant professor of environmental sciences at Western Washington University (WWU), Marco Hatch is a marine ecologist and member of the Samish Indian Nation. Prior to WWU he directed the Salish Sea Research at Northwest Indian College. His research focuses on the nexus of people and marine ecology, with a particular focus on clams.
Dr. Hatch spoke of clam gardens—beaches, from Washington to Alaska, altered by First Nations and Native American people to ensure a reliable food source. He described visiting one such beach and finding “a series of modifications done over thousands of years” created by “interdisciplinary teams grounded in community.” His remarks reinforced that it is through approaches like these that true, long-lasting change can be made.
Past Chair James C. Gurke presented 17-year veteran Seattle Aquarium board member J. Terry McLaughlin with this year’s Scott S. Patrick Inspirational Award. Named for the late Aquarium board member and Seattle Seahawks executive who served with extraordinary passion, the award recognizes the Seattle Aquarium board member whose service best exemplifies the leadership and enthusiasm that characterized Patrick’s life and board service.
Among his many contributions, Terry McLaughlin has served as board chair, secretary and treasurer; and co-led the successful negotiation with the City of Seattle to allow the Seattle Aquarium Society to manage the Aquarium on the city’s behalf. He is currently co-chair of the expansion project oversight committee.