Joel Johnson named CEO of National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Photo courtesy: Laurence Kesterson
Longtime fly-fishing industry insider and Angling Trade contributing editor Joel Johnson has been named as the new chief executive officer of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  Please join us in wishing Joel well and congratulating NMSF on a great hire.
Here’s the release from NMSF:

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced today that Joel R. Johnson, an accomplished conservation leader and storyteller dedicated to protecting global biodiversity, has been named Foundation president and CEO, effective July 17, 2023.  

Johnson has a 20-year track record of big storytelling and fighting for ideas that equitably protect people and the planet at the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, Trout Unlimited, and at the marketing firm he co-founded.  He will join the Foundation to head its mission as the leading voice for U.S. protected waters, working with communities to conserve and expand those special places for a healthy ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.  

The announcement was made on World Ocean Day at the Ocean Awards Gala, part of Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. CHOW brings together scientists, policymakers, scholars, businesses, and conservation leaders to address pressing conservation, science, and management issues facing our ocean and Great Lakes.   

Said Susie Kondracki, co-chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees, “Through our discussions with Joel, it became clear that he is the leader who can carry on the Foundation’s legacy of accomplishment and build on it. Joel has shown himself to be a dynamic, selfless leader who lifts up the team to enable them to do their best work.  We are fortunate to be gaining a driven, capable, and innovative executive and storyteller who will bring the Foundation to new heights in fulfilling our mission.” 

Said Mark McDade, co-chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees, “I am excited to welcome Joel Johnson as our new president and CEO. Joel is an accomplished storyteller, who fell in love early with the Great Lakes and the ocean and has made an impact in the conservation world. He’s big on family and passionate about our mission, and I’m excited to get to work with him.”  

Said John Armor, Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, “The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is our most critical partner in conserving America’s most spectacular ocean and Great Lake areas. Joel is a fantastic and exciting choice to lead the Foundation in this critical time.” 

Said Johnson, “As a storyteller, I believe in the power of stories to unite people in common cause to address crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and systemic inequity. America’s national marine sanctuaries are beacons of hope for our planet, each one a unique treasure in our waters. Our maritime history, fisheries, biodiversity and the blue economy offer compelling stories for sanctuaries to tell in boardrooms, classrooms, in city halls, and the halls of Congress. I look forward to learning from those who know sanctuaries best, and telling their stories.”   

Joel R. Johnson is an award-winning, executive conservation leader who was most recently Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation working on the global biodiversity extinction crisis and promoting the hopeful solution of Half-Earth. He was previously a co-founder in Admirable Devil from 2016 – 2020, an award-winning marketing firm based in Washington, DC with clients including Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, The Orvis Company, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company among others. 

Joel was Chief Marketing Officer at the nation’s largest and oldest coldwater conservation organization, Trout Unlimited from 2014 – 2016 and Senior Vice President of Strategy at GMMB, the preeminent advocacy and public affairs firm.  He has led brand strategy at advertising agencies in Chicago, New York, and London, including Spike Lee’s ad agency, Spike DDB, where he created iconic campaigns for the NBA, Pepsi, and MLB. 

He lives outside Washington, DC, is a married father, has fly-fished over 50 of America’s rivers, and has been his family’s historian for nearly 20 years. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Swarthmore College.


1 Comment

  1. Peter Vandergrift on

    What a fantastic hire and a fantastic opportunity for our industry to work closely with marine sanctuaries.

    Congratulations Joel!

Leave A Reply