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Post Election Blues

November 25th 2004
By David Helvarg

Even though ocean conservation is a bipartisan issue, the re-election of President Bush and consolidation of Republican one-party control over the House and Senate will certainly make it more difficult for Blue activists to win passage of a comprehensive Ocean Act in the next four years.

While the President has until December 20 to respond to the findings of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the White House has shown little interest in the Blue Frontier during the first 4 years of the Bush administration. By contrast, Senator Kerry has been a major voice for ocean reforms in the past (and will likely continue to be now that, having failed in his bid for the Presidency, he returns to the Senate as a minority member).

The three ‘gatekeepers’ for ocean reform during the 109 th Congress will be House Resources Chair Dick Pombo from California, a real-estate developer and long-time property-rights activist who says “reforming” (gutting) the Endangered Species Act is his top environmental priority for the new Congress. On the Senate side Ted Stevens of Alaska is slated to take over the Commerce Committee from John McCain. This is the committee that oversees NOAA and oceans policy. Stevens, while long familiar with ocean issues, tends to take a very parochial approach (is it good for Alaska’s fishermen?) and also has gotten caught up in what appear to be conflicts-of-interest on ocean policy (favoring factory trawlers and corporate Fish Processors who supported him and also employed his son and son-in-law). Still he’s spoken out favorably about the recommendations of the U.S. Ocean Commission. The third gatekeeper will be the President himself. His lead spokesman on oceans to date has been Jim Connaughton, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Jim spoke at our Blue Vision Conference in July, where he offered few specifics about possible actions by the administration.

Likely actions I believe the administration will take include getting the Senate leadership (Senator Frist) to allow that body to finally ratify the Law of the Seas Treaty. This vote was held up during the election campaign when far-right-wing supporters of the President claimed it gave too much power to the UN. I expect the administration and congress will also find a billion dollars or so for a Global Ocean Observation System and other research tools that will, in the words of the heads of EPA and NOAA “take the pulse of the planet,” (which best-available science suggests has gotten quite weak). I expect we’ll also see reorganization and streamlining of federal ocean management as recommended by the Ocean Commission.

But addressing the major problems confronting our seas – Overfishing for the global seafood market, nutrient pollution of coastal waters from agricultural and urban runoff, coastal sprawl encouraged by federal subsidies, and fossil-fuel fired climate change, would require rules, regulations and a new ethical standards that many in industry stand opposed to. And to date this administration has shown little inclination to do anything that challenges existing industrial practices.

Still politicians remain hard-wired to two incentives, money and votes, and while a comprehensive ocean act would be a good unifying principle for the Blue movement to organize around, the need to organize an effective district and state-based seaweed rebellion remains as strong as ever. The Blue Frontier Campaign will continue to work to encourage a rising tide of citizen action for the protection, enjoyment, restoration, and exploration of our Blue Frontier, and to do its part in bringing the day closer when we have the public mandate to protect our living seas and the communities that depend on them.

Results of Blue Vision Hill Day

Jean Logan of Blue Frontier compiled some statistics that reflect the kind of mobilization we need to continue both in the field, on the water, and in Washington DC. ON Tuesday July 13 th, the last day of our Blue Vision Conference, attendees from around the country participated in more than 44 meetings on Capitol Hill. Three Senators (two Republicans and one Democrat) and 13 members of Congress (7 Democrats, 5 Republicans) met with Blue Vision representatives along with a number of hill staff. Among the topics discussed were NOAA funding, the Clean Cruise Ships Act, coral reef protection, fisheries management reform, and the need for a comprehensive approach to coastal and ocean health.

Blue Vision participants met with the following Senators:

Sen. Richard Shelby (R, AL)

Sen. Susan Collins (R, ME)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ)

And staff of the following Senators:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, CA)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D, CA)

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D, CT)

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D, CT)

Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D, FL)

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R, ME)

Sen. Jon Corzine (D, NJ)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D, NY)

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY)

Blue Vision participants met with the following members of Congress:

Rep. Sam Farr (D, CA)

Rep. Lois Capps (D, CA)

Rep. Bob Filner (D, CA)

Rep. Robert Simmons (R, CT)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL)

Rep. Clay Shaw (R, FL)

Rep. Tom Allen(D, ME)

Rep. Michael Michaud (D, ME)

Rep. Wayne Gilcrest (R, MD)

Rep. Rush Holt (D, NJ)

Rep. Frank Pallone (D, NJ)

Rep. Jim Greenwood (R, PA)

And staff of the following members of Congress:

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D, CA)

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA)

Rep. Richard Pombo (R, CA)

Rep. Tom Lantos (D, CA)

Rep. Howard Berman (D, CA)

Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA)

Rep. John Larson (D, CT)

Rep. Rosa LeLauro (D, CT)

Rep. Chris Shays (R, CT)

Rep. Nancy Johnson (R, CT)

Rep. Bill Young (R, FL)

Rep. Peter Deutsch (D, FL)

Rep. Robert Andrews (D, NJ)

Rep. Jim Saxton (R, NJ)

Rep. Christopher Smith (R, NJ)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R, NJ)

Rep. Tim Bishop (D, NY)

Rep. Jose Serrano (D, NY)

Rep. John Spratt (D, SC)

Blue Frontier members in the News–

It looks like Seaweed Rebel and Blue Frontier Advisory Board member Donna Frye could have been the next Mayor of San Diego – America’s 7 th largest city. For details on this ocean activist’s rise to political power see our homepage story at

Zeke Grader – Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens’ Associations and another board member is featured in the new Nov/Dec. issue of Sierra magazine in a story titled ‘Bold Man and the Sea’ which pretty much sums up Zeke’s approach to collaborative work between fishermen, enviros, ranchers, cities, chefs, etc. as he works to assure a continued livelihood and sustainable resource for his 1,800 community-based fishing members.

Board member Chris Palmer has relocated – moving from his long-time job as head of National Wildlife Productions to establish the new Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University here in D.C., while continuing to produce award-winning wildlife films (many starring charismatic marine megafauna like whales, dolphins and sharks).

Best of all board member Peter Douglas, Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission, looks to have beaten one of his most formidable enemies to date. After aggressive treatment, his latest exams show him free of the life-threatening cancer he’s been fighting for some time. Looks like this immigrant champion of the Blue Frontier will be keeping avaricious developers and coastal polluters up at night for some time to come, while assuring accessable waters for seals and surfers alike.

And on the Literary Front

In November Blue Frontier also completed the Ocean & Coastal Conservation Directory 2005-2006 which will be out this spring with Island Press. BFC’s President (that’s me) also finished updating Blue Frontier – Saving America’s Living Seas, which Sierra Club books will put out next fall.


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