My role at WILDCOAST is to work with enforcement officials, policy makers, scientists, students, and tribes in California to conserve the world’s largest network of marine protected areas, or MPAs. California has 545,280 acres of these underwater parks that protect globally significant wildlife and ecosystems.
My biggest accomplishment at WILDCOAST was helping to create two new laws that greatly strengthen enforcement against poachers in California’s MPAs. Wildlife poaching off the California coast was a major issue and now enforcers are equipped with the tools necessary to address this issue.
Sustainable fishing, hunting, and being outdoors has always been a passion of mine and was an integral part of the Pukini family bond. My dad, step-dad, and brothers still plan a handful of outdoor adventures each year to remote nature destinations. Being outdoors is how I feel most connected to nature and grounded in the present. For me, being in nature is a spiritual and sensory experience that always leaves me feeling refreshed and at ease. Think of the scene from the movie Point Break when Johnny Utah finishes a surf and the worry and lines leave his face… that exact feeling. Working at WILDCOAST is one way I can ensure others experience the same state of nirvana.
Prior to starting at WILDCOAST in 2016, I worked on the island of Kauai as a Predator Control Specialist as part of the Hono O Nā Pali Seabird Recovery Project. My duties included weekly backcountry “drops” from a helicopter on the rugged Nā Pali coastline where I would set trap lines and control invasive populations of rats, cats, goats, pigs, and owls through hunting and trapping. The management of these predatory species is critical to the survival of native seabirds. Through my experience in Hawai’i, I developed critical field skills and confidence in my conservation work that equip me for success in my position as California’s Conservation Manager.
One of my all time favorite places on earth is the Trinity Alps Wilderness in Northern California; a remote, rugged, and mostly unheard of wilderness area close to my hometown of Redding, CA. I have spent more than 50 nights in the back country and hiked and fished in dozens of high mountain lakes in the area.
Climate change is the biggest challenge we currently face. It is a global problem that will require humans to take action or lose the natural world and systems we depend on for survival. My work in MPAs and blue carbon, carbon captured by coastal and marine ecosystems such as salt marshes and sea grass beds, is critical in the fight against climate change and provides one small but impactful solution to a much larger problem. There is a great deal of need for restoration in coastal wetlands to enhance their ability to sequester and store carbon. Tidal wetlands across California have the potential to help offset climate change through enhanced ecosystem function achieved through restoration.
One of my favorite things to do in the field is develop media pieces with reporters. I enjoy storytelling and think it is a powerful way to activate and inspire change
I hiked the Lost Coast Trail on a remote section of Northern California beach to help develop MPA management strategies for the region. This wild coastline is not unlike the wilderness coastlines that WILDCOAST works in Baja California. On this journey, I was accompanied by a team of my coworkers from California and Mexico. Together we traversed 25+ miles of pristine coastline over three days. It was an amazing experience.
I wish more people understood the rewards of conservation and saw themselves as a part of the natural world and not somehow removed from it. The ecosystem services, aesthetic beauty, and soul enriching capabilities of natural spaces are not something to be taken for granted. If everyone understood and valued the link between healthy environments and healthy communities and made strides to conserve the natural world around us, we would see major societal improvements.