The Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay has been recognized as an honoree of the 2012 California Travel Association Summit.

The non-profit, which recently released its annual Beach Report Card joined six other honorees, including Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola at the travel trade organization’s annual convention earlier this month.

Heal the Bay received the Stewardship of the Year Award, which annually recognizes an individual or organization that has done the most to protect, preserve, restore, improve, expand, or otherwise enhance California’s natural, cultural, or historical treasures.

In bestowing the award, the travel association noted Heal the Bay’s education and advocacy initiatives to protect oceans statewide and beautify beaches for the millions of people who visit California each year. Among the group’s programs highlighted were the Beach Report Card, which assigns A-to-F water quality grades for more than 500 beaches along the state’s coastline, and its ongoing education of nearly 100,000 visitors to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

“Protecting the California coastline isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for the statewide economy,” said Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay coastal resources director. “The millions of visitors who come to our beaches each year expect clean water and sand. We all have a duty to protect what we love.”

John Severini, California Travel Association president and CEO, said, “The California Travel Summit awards are a critical component of our annual event, recognizing the essence of the industry’s ongoing effort to keep travel thriving, not only within our own state but worldwide.”

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