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Wet Wonks, Seas of Data, Tuna Fished Out and Blues you can wear
Nov.28, 2009
By David Helvarg

Obama’s New Frontier

More than a quarter century after President Reagan established a U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone stretching 200 miles out from America’s shoreline, a vast marine domain six times the size of the Louisiana Purchase, President Obama is moving towards a unified national ocean policy to oversee it. In June he established the Interagency Ocean Policy Taskforce to protect and manage this largest, most challenging wilderness frontier in our nation’s history and gave it until December to develop a plan for his approval.

In six regional Task Force ‘listening sessions’, around the nation, some 2,000 people turned out to be heard. Hundreds gave testimony while many more submitted written statements to the White House Council on Environmental Quality that’s leading the effort. Each meeting reflected its own set of geographic concerns, whether over the need to protect Arctic resources in Alaska, restore coastal wetlands in Louisiana or deal with invasive species like Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. Still, a common theme among 75-80 percent of those who testified was support for the government taking a more unified approach in addressing environmental and safety concerns and the need for a single point of federal contact and collaboration for people working on solutions at the local, state and regional levels.

An example of why a comprehensive approach is needed was reflected in a recent decision by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (who oversees NOAA) to ban commercial fishing in 250,000 square miles of climate-impacted Arctic waters north of the Bering Sea until the effects on this rapidly changing ecosystem are better understood. His decision was supported and encouraged by both commercial fishermen and environmentalists. At the same time the Department of Interior continues to issue oil and gas drilling permits in these same high-risk waters ignoring the precautionary principle (“first, do no harm”) being practiced by its sister agency. A comprehensive National Ocean Policy will prevent this kind of inconsistent stove piped approach to managing our public waters.

On November 19 Blue Frontier Campaign sponsored a Lessons Learned/Next Step meeting for Seaweed Activists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C. Some 40 people representing several dozen groups participated live and by phone. We agreed that the ecosystem-based unified management message sent to the Task Force during the public meetings must be carried into their next report on Marine Spatial Planning due for release in December and their final report to the president expected some time in January. We also agreed that if, as expected, we have good recommendations from the Task Force, we should support an action-oriented Presidential Executive Order to carry them out.

Just as the 1983 executive order establishing a new EEZ ocean frontier may be one of Ronald Reagan’s least known but most significant actions as president, an executive order establishing a national ocean policy for the practical use and long-term protection of our public seas could be one of Barack Obama’s outstanding achievements. After all it’s not every president who gets to redefine a frontier or restore the blue in our red, white and blue.

Our November 19th meeting also came up with a colorful way to churn the waters of Public Opinion during this critical time.

For my Huffington Post Version of this please go to:

Wear Blue January 13

Like a sneaker wave this idea came out of the blue, really out of our meeting’s desire to take action and show support for the ocean at the time the President gets his recommendations for how best to save it. Wednesday January 13 is a hump day, so for the Humpbacks and all the other ocean critters (including ocean loving humans) why not wear something stylishly blue? In the season of swine flu we need to take this viral in a good way. Use your social media, make You Tube videos painting yourself blue, ally with the Blue Man Group and other celebrities like Ted Danson, Jack Johnson, Daryl Hannah, Sponge Bob and Sherman. Go to the Wear Blue website being established by Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network or the new Wear Blue for the Ocean! Facebook page or just start tweeting on Twitter (so we can re-tweet even as we adwance). But come January 13, whether in front of the White House or on the beach where you live, WEAR SOMETHING BLUE!

No Analog Ocean

Sunday November 8 was a very upbeat day for Blue Frontier. We spent it with our new partners from Digital Ocean and about 200 guests at Pier 39 in San Francisco premiering the half hour ‘Students Saving the Ocean’ video. It profiles young people around the Bay working on marine solutions inspired by our book ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean.’ Sherman’s Lagoon cartoonist Jim Toomey then illustrated some examples using the book’s stars Finley the fish and Clawdia the crab while I talked. We’ll soon post the show-and-tell video of this along with the SSO video produced by Outhink Media.
Jim and I were followed by speakers from Digital Ocean that will be an online portal to link young marine scientists’ cutting edge research to the activists and policy makers who by combining best available science to society’s shared values can help expedite solutions for saving our seas. We also heard about solutions to overfishing being worked on at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute before going on to demonstrate mammalian schooling behavior at the Aquarium of the Bay. Thanks to Oracle for sponsoring the day. The next day silicon entrepreneur and surf dog Dave Toole, the salty driver behind much of this, gathered 40 folks for a charette, which I think is architect talk for a planning session, on the utility of Digital Ocean and its relationship to larger forces such as Google Ocean and Ocean 1.0 (the actual ocean).

Crossing the Bar

I’d be remiss as the author of the ‘Rescue Warriors’ book on ‘America’s Forgotten Heroes’ not to extend late but heartfelt condolences to the families and fellow service members of the seven Coast Guard C-130 crew members from Air Station Sacramento, along with the two Marine aviators killed, when their aircraft collided off Southern California on October 29. The Marines were on a training mission in a Cobra helicopter. The C-130 crew was, not surprisingly, involved in a Search and Rescue mission for a missing sailor at the time of their deaths. The missing sailor was not found though the Coast Guard continued searching for him right through its recovery effort for its own lost people.

The Blue Beat

The declining state of tuna (the buffalo of the sea) made feature appearances in Time magazine and the New York Times this month even as fishing nations met and declined to put a moratorium on fishing Bluefin Tuna. That’s what scientists say is the only way to prevent Bluefin’s commercial extinction in the next few years… The New York Times also ran a story on how the Pacific garbage patch is being replicated by plastic waste fields in other oceans and on the challenging work being done by our friends at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation…In brighter news AP’s Dina Cappiello reports that the Brown pelican has been removed from the endangered species list. This is one of the few birds whose bill is said to hold more than its belican though scientists remain uncertain how the helican… Green Author and Blue Vision Summit speaker Bill McKibben wrote a good piece in the Outlook Section of the Washington Post November 22 on how President Obama could learn from President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Threatened with the loss of his low-lying island nation to rising seas Nasheed has become a leader in the climate fight, even holding an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of sea level rise…One possible adaptation in the news, combining elements of both the Titanic and the iceberg, has been the launch of the world’s largest cruise ship, the seemingly top-heavy ‘Oasis of the Seas’ that can handle over 6,000 “guests” and 2,000 crew and will soon be joined by its sister ship Allure just in time for James Cameron’s next epic disaster movie.

Oceanic Inspiration —

Our usual Blue Note Inspiration
Must be replaced by a solicitation
We’d toast you with holiday cheer
but can hardly afford a salty dog beer
To continue to promote seaweed solutions
we really need your Tax-deductible contributions
Just go to and give where it says ‘Donate’
If you think our blue world’s in trouble but it’s still not too late


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