New Millennial Generation Marine Park

A networking campaign for marine protection has in only a few months raised close to $500,000.

If every marine reserve on the map received the kind of attention that is falling on Whale Cay in the Bahamas right now, this world would be a better place. A networking campaign among marine savvy business and tech leaders, the first of its kind, has in only a few months raised close to $500,000.

Partnering with the Summit Series, a millennial generation networking organization, the Nature Conservancy will use the funds to help the Bahamian government establish the infrastructure needed to set up and monitor a no-take marine park that has been on paper for more than a decade.

Kristofor Lofgren founder of the sustainable restaurant Bamboo Sushi initiated the effort after meeting with the head of the Bahamas Nature Conservancy during a Summit Series event earlier this year called Summit At Sea.

Lofgren, who got into the sushi business while studying environmental law and told Discovery News he was appalled at the lack of sustainability he found, established Bamboo Sushi as a certified B Corporation in Portland, Or., working toward public benefit. He buys seafood that's on the green shaded categories of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute seafood guides and says he wants to "turn the red into green."

When the Summit Series launched the funding campaign for the marine park they started with half of the needed amount in the bank, thanks to a check from Lofgren for $250,000.

Throughout the campaign those who have donated more than $10 have also had the chance to enter into special contests, such as a shark tagging adventure with the University of Miami. This week, the Summit Series announced an opportunity to win an expedition off the coast of south Florida as a Mission Specialist on the OceanGate submersible "Antipodes" for anyone who donates $250 or more to the fund.

"This is not a ride," Guillermo Söhnlein CEO and co-founder of OceanGate told Discovery News. "Our guests spend a full day training as Mission Specialists, which means that they become part of our operations crew and are assigned specific operational responsibilities during the dive missions. They may work the sonar, communications, life support, or video systems, or they may also support the science team with their data collection. We call it ‘getting in touch with your inner ocean explorer'."

IMAGES: Map of the marine protected area Whale Cay in the Bahamas. (From Google maps and Summit Series)

Antipodes submersible (OceanGate)