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Oceana Magazine Summer/Fall 2013: Supporter Spotlight: Mitzi Gaskins

Mitzi Gaskins
Vice President & Global Brand Manager, JW Marriot Hotels and Resorts

How did you learn about Oceana?

Living in Washington, D.C., I have been familiar with the organization and its mission for many years, but more recently have had the opportunity to learn about its great work in depth as a partner of ours at JW Marriott. This spring we launched a partnership with Oceana to further raise awareness and educate the public on how critical it is to protect the world’s oceans. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with such an important and relevant organization and have created a series of brand-wide initiatives introducing our guests and associates to the partnership and to Oceana’s imperative role in ocean conservation.

Have you always been interested in ocean conservation?

Yes! I grew my sea legs when I was very young growing up in West Texas. As a child, my favorite thing to do was fish off a small boat with my grandfather — of course, this was on a Texas lake and not on the ocean — where I used to catch grasshoppers to use as fishing bait. At a very young age, my grandfather taught me that we cannot take nature for granted and that we needed to protect our ecosystems. As I grew older, I spent more and more time at the beach and in the ocean, and grew fascinated by the mysterious, secret world that lay beneath our waters — there was so much to see, so much to explore — and my dedication to ocean conservation grew quickly.

What ocean conservation issue is the most compelling to you and why?

Sustainable seafood is one of the most compelling, current conservation issues. As a mother of a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old, I’m very conscious of what I am feeding my family, and seafood is a staple in our household. But it can feel overwhelming to try to understand and find sustainable seafood. Overfishing is extremely destructive to our oceans — it wipes out marine habitats, entire species of fish and other ocean life, and has a huge environmental impact overall. I want my children to grow up being able to enjoy and appreciate the ocean as much as I have.

Is there a coastal place you feel most connected with?

Outer Banks, NC, is my refuge, one of my favorite places in the world to visit. I have been going there since my early twenties and it’s a favorite place of my family. There is something about the air there that immediately makes me happy. We rent a house for week or so every year to enjoy the beach, have some delicious seafood, and watch the fisherman reel in their catches —the Outer Banks has some of the largest blue marlin in the world!

Anything else you want Oceana readers to know about you or your work?

JW Marriott is dedicated to protect the world’s oceans — this is absolutely imperative for the world’s biodiversity, food supply, climate, trade, and enjoyment. We plan on rolling out our partnership with Oceana brand-wide through experiences and educational programs at our hotels and resorts, and through the support of marine exploration beyond our shorelines. The JW brand is also committed to serving sustainable seafood and to raising awareness about the importance of the responsible sourcing.