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Blue Notes #107

BLUE NOTES #107: Benchley Awardees, Book Tour, Scholarships & More

January 22, 2013
By David Helvarg


In this issue
2013 Peter Benchley Heroes Named
Join the Tour for The Golden Shore
Seaweed Spotlight: The Ocean River Institute
Blue Vision Summit Scholarships & Volunteers
Your Notes


2013 Peter Benchley Heroes Named
What do a West African President, a pair of scientists studying life in the ocean, a twenty-year-old veteran of 4-H clubs, a Massachusetts Congressman, and two California women who spent over a decade working to create underwater parks have in common? They are among the winners of this year’s top ocean honors. The sixth annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, presented by Blue Frontier Campaign and marine conservationist Wendy Benchley, will take place May 15th in Washington, D.C. during Blue Vision Summit 4. The Benchleys are the only awards program dedicated to recognizing excellence in ocean conservation solutions across a wide range of categories including science, policy, media, youth and citizen activism.

Named for the author of Jaws, the awards celebrate the life and legacy of Peter Benchley who, though many people are not aware of it, dedicated most of his life to the protection of sharks and the ocean ecosystems they are a part of. The awards celebrate exceptional efforts leading to the protection of our ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them.

Among the 32 recipients to date are President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, President Anote Tong of Kiribati, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Academy-Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos, Port of Los Angeles Director Geraldine Knatz, Retired Navy Captain Don Walsh, the late marine scientist Ram Meyer, and the late New Jersey coastal activist Dery Bennett.

This year’s winners were selected from among dozens of highly qualified candidates whose names were submitted to the selection committee.

We are please to announce the recipients for 2013.President Macky Sall

For Excellence in National Stewardship – President Macky Sall of Senegal
As one of his first acts after his election in 2012 President Sall rescinded all foreign fishing permits in his nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Within months of his action thousands of local fishermen were seeing their catches dramatically increased and their families and communities restored. President Sall is now moving forward with plans to assure a sustainable domestic fishery free of foreign exploitation, creating a resource management model for West Africa and the world.

For Excellence in Science – Boris Worm + Heike Lotze
Working both separately and in collaboration this husband and wife team of scientists from Dalhousie University in Canada have continued to expand on the work of the late Ransom Meyer, the first Benchley science award winner. Through their extensive body of work they have significantly increased the world’s knowledge about the changing abundance and diversity of the planet’s fish and marine wildlife populations and the impact of nutrient pollution and other human activities.

For Excellence in Policy – U.S. Representative Ed Markey
Representative Markey (D-MA) has a strong record of support for the oceans including as a critic of offshore drilling and outspoken critic of BP during its oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. He has promoted legislation to address climate change and ocean acidification, supports sustainable fishing policy and, as the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee has been a strong defender of National Ocean Policy, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections.

For Excellence in Media – Nancy Baron + COMPASS
In 1999 leading ocean scientists and communications professionals established COMPASS to train marine scientists in communications skills needed to talk to the media, the public and policymakers about their findings. As the long-time Ocean Science Outreach Director for COMPASS Nancy Baron has played a pivotal role in establishing strong links between thousands of scientists and journalists so that changes and discoveries in our seas become news and information we can all use.

Christopher Benchley Youth Award – Sean Russell
Twenty-year-old Sean Russell became aware of the problem of marine plastic pollution as a high school intern at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. In response he founded the “Stow It-Don’t Throw It” project, a statewide monofilament fishing line recycling program and collaborative effort between youth and environmental groups that has since gone national. In 2011, with the help of Mote Marine Lab, Sean led the first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit held in Florida that inspired the creation of the activist Youth Ocean Conservation Team (YOCT). He has also given countless hours to community service projects while serving as a member of the Florida 4-H Program. Sean is now a senior at the University of Florida.

Hero of the Seas – Karen Garrison + Kaitilin Gaffney
They have worked together for more than a decade leading the effort to create, design and implement California’s 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) that, following a long and arduous process, has resulted in a world-class system of ocean wilderness parks. As of late 2012 these Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) cover some 16 percent of California state waters. While working for the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Ocean Conservancy Karen and Kaitilin kept their focus on grassroots organizing. In the words of California Secretary for Natural Resource’s John Laird, “They were incredibly successful in persuading others to their view because they listened to people’s concerns, and worked with them to find solutions that worked for all…their contribution to our blue ocean and to the communities that depend upon it is monumental.”

Hopefully hundreds of you will join this year’s winners at the Carnegie Institution in D.C. on the evening of May 15. The awards ceremony will be free and open to the general public. The awards dinner will be a ticketed event and not included in Blue Vision Summit 4 registration. Tickets will go on sale in February.


Join the Tour for The Golden Shore
Karen and Kaitilin’s (and California’s) recent ocean victory was followed by President Obama’s expansion of two of California’s National Marine Sanctuaries that will extend protection from offshore oil drilling along the Sonoma and Mendocino coastlines north of San Francisco, a legacy to retiring Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey and her constituents. These protections are consistent with what I call the “California model”of ocean use where a democracy of public interests tends to generate the best environmental solutions to the challenges we face on our public seas. It’s only when a single industry or interest dominates coastal decisions that things tend to go bad. How the Pacific has defined California and how Californians have learned to live well by the sea is the theme and topic of my new book, The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea, available February 19th from St. Martin’s Press. Below are my book tour speaking dates so far. I hope ocean lovers and seaweed activists reading this will be able to join me. For any additional information or speaking opportunities contact me at

SAN FRANCISCO – Friday Feb. 22 – Launch Party at San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay with Dr. Sylvia Earle – 5:30 PM
SAN DIEGO – Tuesday Feb. 26 – Birch Aquarium, La Jolla CA 6:30-8PM
LAGUNA BEACH – Wednesday Feb. 27, Crystal Cove Alliance Visitor’s Center. 5-8 PM
LONG BEACH Thursday Feb. 28 – Aquarium of the Pacific, 6:30 – 8 PM
SANTA BARBARA – Friday March 1 – Main Public Library – 6PM
MARIN COUNTY –Sunday March 3 – Book Passages 4PM
SANTA CRUZ – Monday March 4 – Bookshop Santa Cruz 7PM
MONTEREY –Tuesday March 5 Monterey Institute of International Studies 6PM
PORTLAND OR. – Thursday March 14 Powell’s City of Books 7:30 PM
DENVER CO. – Monday March 18 Tattered Cover – 7:30 PM
BOULDER CO. – Tuesday March 19 Ocean First Divers (with Colorado Ocean Coalition) –6:30-8:30 PM
D.C. –Friday March 22, Politics & Prose – 7PM


Seaweed Spotlight
A regular feature of Blue Notes where we shine the light on a group from the Blue Movement Directory in order to create a more self-aware and collaborative movement. This month we feature the Ocean River Institute.

ORI is a seaweed group after my own heart in its stated belief that “many environmental issues can be addressed best by people taking action in their own communities and regions, not by national or international entities.” Founded in 2007 by educator and scientist Dr. Rob Moir, who has been Curator of Education at the New England Aquarium and President of the National Marine Educators Association among other things, ORI with its 3 person staff works like a blue SWAT team facilitating grassroots efforts, aiding local groups by providing them needed expertise, services, resources, and information around Ecosystem-based ocean management, river science, environmental justice and projects in Florida, the British Virgin Islands and its home state of Massachusetts. Here’s a few examples:

  • ORI acted as the fiscal agent for the Virgin Islands Environmental Council when it formed and helped them engage people from around the world in efforts to protect the islands’ fragile ecosystem. This has included educational outreach for enforcement of fisheries regulations in the British Virgin Islands and a major battle against a mega-yacht marina planned for a wild salt pond on the BVI’s Beef Island. That development scheme was defeated last year.
  • ORI has worked with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Conservation Law Foundation, and Ocean Conservancy to raise public awareness of the need for comprehensive ocean management that resulted in passage of the Massachusetts Ocean Act and creation of one of the nation’s more effective state ocean planning councils.
  • ORI is campaigning to get public feedback on a proposed management plan for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Massachusetts.
  • One of their latest partners is Sunshine Wildlife Tours in Florida. I talked to Rob Moir by phone while he was waiting to catch a plane from Fort Lauderdale where he’d been working with Sunshine Wildlife and others on a campaign to ban the use of nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizers feeding into the Indian River Lagoon. “The problem is nitrogen coming off lawns in summer is causing harmful algal growth and loss of sea grass beds and skin eating bacterial growth on dolphins,” he explained. “More than 40 dolphins have died and this fungal infection can also spread to humans….So Martin County is the first of five counties on the Lagoon that has now passed an ordinance that includes a use ban, what I call a fertilizer holiday, from June 1 to September 30 when the heat and longer daylight make the problem worse. We’ve got a national campaign underway to get the other four counties to pass similar ordinances, plus local people don’t like all that slime – all that extra algae – washing up on their beaches.” On January 24, ORI and Sunshine Wildlife will hold a fundraising dinner and Blue Green Heroes Reception in Stuart Florida to honor Patrick Hayes, the Martin County Commissioner who led the fight for the toughest lawn fertilizer ordinance in the state. Area dolphins have not confirmed whether they’ll make an appearance to thank the gentleman.
  • And of course I’d be remiss not to mention that ORI’s Rob Moir will also be helping coordinate the New England delegation that will visit Capitol Hill on May 15 as part of the 2013 Blue Vision Summit to demand federal action on pollution and other marine issues.

To learn more about ORI, visit their website.


Blue Vision Summit Scholarships & Volunteers
Blue Vision Summit 4 will be held May 13-16, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Applications are now being accepted for Registration Scholarships and Volunteers. The deadline for scholarship applications in April 15th so submit yours today! Registration for the summit and Benchley Awards will open in February.


Your Notes
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