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Blue Notes #91


Maritime Heroes, Sharks, Senators and more

September 20, 2011
By David Helvarg

In This Issue
Mariner heroes of 9/11
Sharks get a fin up
Sponsor a Champion
Senators for the Sea
Holding the Torch
Blue Art: Dianna Cohen
Seaweed Spotlight: Urban Assembly New York Harbor School
One Awardee deserves another

Mariner heroes of 9/11

Among the vast coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks were some respectful tributes and thoughtful reflections. I wrote a story for a National Geographic blog about the evacuation by water of lower Manhattan that horrific day. People were taken off the island by a volunteer flotilla of tugboats, fireboats, ferries, tour boats and recreational watercraft coordinated by the U.S. Coast Guard. It was the largest maritime evacuation in world history. Some half a million people got off the island following the collapse of the twin towers and enveloping smoke cloud by way of the harbor (tens of thousands more crossed the Brooklyn Bridge). This waterborne escape stemmed panic and avoided additional casualties. 80 percent of New York City of course is not directly connected to the continental mainland but is made up of islands including Staten Island, Manhattan and Long Island that includes the Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. The story of the maritime rescuers of September 11th, as well as the recent storm flooding in the city, reminds us of this fact, and ten years after 9/11 we need to guarantee that New York’s waterways continue to function safely and sustainably, through efforts ranging from updating the city’s emergency response plans for storms and flooding to the Coast Guard’s ongoing ports, waterways, and coast security patrols, from a proposed Clean Ocean Zone bill to protect the New York Bight from pollution to the city’s Harbor School training the next generation of maritime workers and scientists (see this month’s seaweed group profile below). For the full story of 9/11’s heroes afloat, click here.
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Sharks get a fin up

People are expecting California Governor Jerry Brown will soon sign into law two ocean bills that recently passed the State Senate after having won approval in the state assembly. One bans the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in California. As most of you know, tens of millions of sharks are killed every year for their fins used in shark fin soup that can sell for upwards of $100 a bowl in China and anywhere else status conscious people find ground cartilage, seasoning and the extinction of 600 million year old predators appetizing. California will be joining Hawaii, Oregon and Washington in banning the trade that is more than symbolic since the U.S. west coast is the major market for shark fin soup outside of Asia.

Among the groups that worked for the California finning ban are WildAid, Sea Stewards, Sea Save, Oceana, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, COARE and numerous others.

The second is an oil spill act that will add a penny per barrel fee increase for the oil companies in order to keep the state’s oil spill response capabilities intact during financially troubled times. This much-amended act was initiated by Jackie Dragon of Pacific Environment (PE) and PE has continued to champion the bill since Jackie moved on to Greenpeace. BP, the company that gave us the horrific oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, argued the bill was unnecessary because, you know, their safety record speaks for itself. And a new U.S. Coast Guard report confirms that, noting that BP and its sub-contractors were in violation of seven federal regulations at the time of the incident.
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Sponsor a Champion

Ocean Champions gave its highest endorsement to California’s Jared Huffman who as a state senator sponsored both the shark fining and oil safety bills and is now running for Congress (to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Woolsey) in a recently expanded district that stretches from Sonoma County north of San Francisco to the Oregon border along the ‘Redwood Coast.’ Ocean Champions—by the way—is holding its Annual Ocean Reception in Washington, D.C. for all its champs in D.C. on September 21. The event honors congressional ocean champions and many come to the event to say a few words.
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Senators for the Sea

A press conference and reception were held September 13 for the new Senate Ocean Caucus made up of 19 senators and counting—15 democrats and 4 republicans to date. As a collegial and bipartisan group it also qualifies for endangered species status. The reception at the Hart Senate Office Building included John Kerry and caucus co-chairs Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Also in attendance were the heads of NOAA, CEQ, the White House Science advisor and Representative Sam Farr, a founder of the House Ocean Caucus, along with about 200 ocean supporters. Senator Whitehouse said the caucus will focus on “the role of the ocean economy, ecosystems functions and the need for more research.” Hopefully it can also help save ocean agencies and programs from having their budgets slashed by the House and that other body, oh yeah, the Senate. From what was said, it sounds like the caucus will begin working around issues involving the melting Arctic, the Law of the Seas treaty that the Senate has yet to ratify (30 years and counting), and ocean conservation. It’s a truly hopeful sign in a generally less than hopeful town.
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Holding the Torch

BFC Ocean Explorer Roz Savage, now in her 130th plus day rowing across the Indian Ocean, has been nominated to carry the Olympic torch on the relay to London 2012. With so many carrying the torch for Roz; admirers, fans and ‘Rozlings’ it only makes sense she should carry one for the world. She’s also currently raising funds to send her mother to meet her when she makes land–you can help support this effort by donating today. Row on, Roz!
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Blue Art: Dianna Cohen
A new feature highlighting artists who create awareness about marine issues through their work.

Dianna Cohen is a multi-media visual artist who uses discarded colored plastics as her major medium. Her works range from small hanging pieces of sewn together plastic to room-sized installations, like the AIDS quilt only the medium itself is the plague. “When some of the bags began to fissure and break into smaller fragments I became concerned and began to research the implications of this,” she says, discovering that, “not only is this plastic ending up in our terrestrial and marine environments, but it is being ingested by the entire marine chain and sea birds and ultimately the chemicals used to manufacture this plastic end up in us and in our bodies.” As creative director and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, she has infused her work with added meaning, linking the visceral intrigue and fun of her floppy found and reconfigured objects with the societal warning that plastic puts our seas and our world at risk. It’s as if an orthodox monk making luminescent religious icons with flake white lead paint were also to lead the fight against global lead poisoning.
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Seaweed Spotlight
A new 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.

One of the highlights of last May’s Blue Vision Summit 3 in D.C. was a presentation on oyster bed rehabilitation in the New York Harbor presented by three students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School.

The Harbor School is a public high school now based on Governor’s Island off lower Manhattan that provides a rigorous, college-preparatory education built upon New York City’s maritime experience as one of the nation’s founding ports. It provides its students both the ethics and skills of environmental stewardship and on the water job training for future careers as the maritime workers and stewards of our blue planet. Conceived by Murray Fisher, a former member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, it was founded in 2003 by the Urban Assembly, Waterkeeper Alliance and South Street Seaport Museum. Top

One Awardee deserves another

Dr. Nancy Knowlton, winner of the 2009 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in Science (along with Dr. Jeremy Jackson), has won another prestigious award: the 2011 Heinz Award. This award is given by the Heinz Family Foundation to outstanding individuals in several areas of achievement including the environment. Nancy was cited for her lifetime of work as a marine scientist increasing our understanding of coral reefs, as well as her establishment (with Jeremy Jackson) of Scripp’s Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. Presently the Sant Chair of Marine Science at Smithsonian, she is also the author of the recently published book: Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures from the Census of Marine Life.

2010 Benchley Youth Activist winner Kyle Thiermann of Santa Cruz, CA is one of seven winners of the Earth Island Institute’s 2011 Brower Youth Awards. He has been recognized for his exceptional work in environmental education, creating the “Surfing for Change” video series to show individuals how they can protect oceans in their daily lives. Radical!

You may have already received the nominations request for the 2012 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. Please feel free to suggest a deserving candidate. For more information, click here or e-mail benchleys@bluefront.org. Closing date is December 31, 2011. Remember, a Benchley Manta statue is like an Oscar statue for those who act on behalf of our seas.
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