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Blue Notes #125

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Blue Notes #125: Good News, Good Reads, Blue Vision and more

July 15, 2014
By David Helvarg

In this issue
Blue Victories!
Over The Horizon Report
Save the Date
Blue Vision Summit May 11-14 2015
Four Summer Beach Reads
And One Summer Book Deal
And One Final Thought
Blue Victories!
aerial-palmyra-by-kyddJune, declared Ocean Month by the President, produced some pretty good news for our last great commons. President Obama vastly expanded the protected areas around the Line Islands and other part of the Pacific Remote Islands Monument created by President Bush in his last days in office.  The waters protected from drilling, fishing or dumping were expanded from 50 to 200 nautical miles (the extent of the U.S. Exclusive EconomiKerry Windsurfingc Zone) creating a new seascape that should expand full protection from 2 to 3 percent of the world ocean (scientists say there should be at least 20% to assure a reserve of biological diversity for the future).  At the ‘Our Ocean’ conference put on by Secretary of State John Kerry, other nations also promised to ban commercial fishing and expand their ocean wilderness zones, including Kiribati, Palau, the Cook Islands, the Bahamas and the United Kingdom (an area around the Pitcairn Islands about 3 times the size of the UK).   At the State Department conference, President Obama also committed to cracking down on pirate fishing and the mislabeling of seafood (a cause Oceana has promoted and one lobbied for last May at Blue Vision’s Healthy Ocean Hill Day).  Along with overfishing, the conference addressed pollution and ocean acidification.  One form of pollution, harmful algal blooms fed by agricultural and urban nutrients, is addressed in a new law passed by Congress and signed by the President at the end of June. The law allocates  $82 million for new research to control these outbreaks.  Long supported by Ocean Champions, this is the first stand-alone ocean legislation to become law during the Obama administration.  At the same time, NOAA announced that the public process for nominating new National Marine Sanctuaries has opened up for the first time in 20 years.  In the 1980s public outrage at proposed offshore drilling leases led to the creation of some of the nation’s largest (and now most popular) sanctuaries in California, Florida and New England.  The Department of Interior is about to announce a new 5-year leasing program for offshore oil & gas that may spur new sanctuary designations. 
Over the Horizon Report
While there’s been some exciting blue news recently, solutions are still not growing faster than the ocean’s problems nor are politicians responding to the state of our public seas at the level of other public policy issues.More than 50 advocates and leaders from over 20 ocean and coastal organizations met in Washington D.C. and by teleconference on June 18 (the day after the State Department conference) to develop a nationwide strategy for raising the profile of ocean issues and solutions between now and the 2016 presidential election, which is just “Over The Horizon (OTH).”


The OTH meeting’s sponsors were Blue Frontier, Oceana, Ocean Champions, NRDC, Colorado Ocean Coalition and Clean Ocean Action.  Other participants came from institutions such as NOAA, the U.S. State Department, U.S. House and Senate, Conservation Law Foundation, The Ocean Foundation, The National Aquarium, Restore America’s Estuaries, Marine Conservation Institute, One Florida Foundation, Ocean River Institute, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Hands Across the Sand, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, Alliance for Justice, Surfrider Foundation and Greenpeace.


Below is my Executive Summary of the meeting.  For the full meeting summary go to:  LINK

Outcomes and conclusions from the meeting:

  1. We can impact 2014 elections in half a dozen states, raising ocean and coastal issues before candidates and the public.  This will give us practice in developing more effective ‘field campaigns,’ working at the local and state levels to impact national policy.
  2. Ocean issues likely to have resonance with the public include:  opposition to oil & gas drilling and fracking offshore; alternatives including creation of new national marine sanctuaries and wilderness parks in the sea.  We need to support clean ocean energy as part of democratic planning for our coasts and ocean.  We can educate the public on how restoring healthy populations of fish and marine wildlife benefits both humans and the sea.  All of this should be based on the understandable message that healthy seas, coasts and estuaries assure healthy economies and communities.
  3. In 2015 we need to take these issues to Washington DC for the Blue Vision Summit and Healthy Ocean Capitol Hill Day. These will take place May 11-14 2015 along with the annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.  We all should begin to seek funding to send people to DC.
  4. To achieve the above, we need to expand our coalitions to include business, recreational and other ocean users and to develop stronger youth outreach efforts.
Save the Date And here’s a reality check from former NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco who, speaking at the ‘Peter Benchley Bay to Sea Seminar’ on May 31, said that among the things she learned while in DC was, “Democracy has been hijacked by Special Interests.  Climate science has also been hijacked…the four years I served (2009-2013) had the most severe weather of any 4 years in U.S. history!”   This year may be on track to make that the 5th.  We’re in a crisis and we need to reclaim our government in order to protect our blue planet.  For Seaweed Rebels we know at least one way we can do that.  Join us for a spring offensive of common sense solutions at the Blue Vision Summit!BlueFrontier-Hill-555x348TopBlue Vision Summit May 11-14 2015
May 11 – Evening – Celebration of the SeaMay 12 – Blue Vision Summit

May 13 – Healthy Ocean Hill Day

May 14 – Hill Day Review & Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.

For tips on how to fundraise for your team’s trip to DC see Chris Palmer’s advice from Over The Horizon – LINK



Four Summer Beach Reads

Number 1 in my book, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean (illustrated by Jim Toomey) is ‘Go to the beach,’ because you’re more likely to protect the things that you love.  And who doesn’t love a good summer read on the beach?  Here are 4 new ones I’d recommend:

War of the Whales (Simon & Schuster) – Joshua Horwitz spent seven years working on his investigation into beached whales, Navy sonar testing and the epic scientific and courtroom battles that resulted.  It was time well invested. From severed whale heads to top-secret Naval warfare ops, from the blue waters of the Bahamas to the inner corridors of the Pentagon, War of the Whales is a true-life detective story, military drama and legal procedural of the first order. Horwitz channels John Grisham and Jacques Cousteau in a way that will leave you inspired, outraged and deeply satisfied.



Blue Mind (Little Brown) – BF friend and global distributor of Blue Marbles, marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols has added a subtitle to his book that pretty much sums up its thesis “The Surprising Science that shows how being near, in, on or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.”


A near definitive book on water and our connections to it, Blue Mind is a unique synthesis of a how-to book with inspirational quotes and a scientific argument that we have a neurological and evolutionary link to water that can rebuild our personal and emotional balance, connecting to our ‘brain on water.’  His well-braided personal, historical, scientific and ecological thesis makes for a fascinating read.


American Catch (Penguin) – Paul Greenberg, who wrote 4 Fish is back with another somewhat fishy story (I mean that in the best possible way.) of how marine wildlife that we eat is becoming disconnected from the waters where we live. Greenberg’s analysis of three geographically based marine species, New York oysters, Gulf Shrimp and Alaskan salmon may prove an even more influential book than the hugely popular 4 Fish.  Through different stories of a bivalve, a crustacean and a fish, he tells the awful story of how we’ve come from depending on local marine abundance to importing over 90% of the seafood we consume and how in losing our connection to the sea around us, we’ve broken a vital bond to the health and well being of the other 71% of the planet we depend on.   Still, in the end Greenberg finds hope among seaweed rebels doing oyster restoration in New York, organizing among Gulf fishermen and fighting a dangerous mining project in Alaska.  In making the connection between people, wildlife and the health of our blue planet Greenberg also manages to provide a rousing good read.  And that’s a Trifecta you can take to the beach.


The Reef (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) – Ian McCalman’s book on the life and history, both human and natural, of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is getting the kind of reviews and buzz that has it at the top of my summer reading list.  Having visited, dived in and worked on the “GBR” three times over the last 20 years I look forward to this read with anticipation and dread, like being retold the story of a great woman who you know and who has influenced the world but is now having to deal with a terminal disease.  That disease is the greenhouse gasses we’re putting into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and the way they’re impacting the world’s coral reefs through warming (bleaching) and ocean acidification.  In reading The Reef we can only hope there is time left to view this book as a crystal clear cautionary tale rather than as an elegant obituary.



And One Summer Book Deal

If you’d like to help Blue Frontier in building an ocean constituency to turn the tide while there’s still time, have we got a book deal for you!  Make a contribution of $40 or more between now and Labor Day and we’ll mail you an autographed hard cover copy of Executive Director David Helvarg’s salty, highly praised memoir -  Saved by the Sea – A Love Story with Fish (cover price $25.99).  “This book has the power to change the way you think about the world, about yourself, and about the future of humankind,” says National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle.  Don’t forget to include your mailing address with your contribution




And One Final Thought

From California Congressman Sam Farr’s taped address to the Over The Horizon meeting:  “You can win or lose an election in this state based on your ocean position.  We need to make sure that every state is like California.”  See his complete 3-minute tape here.




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