An Occasional Ramble by the Sea
June 15, 2005
By David Helvarg
Boxer no Jellyfish
Last year at our national Blue Vision Conference people spoke of the need for a comprehensive ocean protection act at the level of the Clean Air or Clean Water acts of the last century – to mobilize and inspire the public. On Thursday June 9 Barbara Boxer (d. CA) introduced the “National Oceans Protection Act,” to do just that. It would implement the best recommendations from both the Pew and U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. The bi-partisan House Oceans Caucus is now introducing a complimentary ‘Oceans 21’ bill on the house side.
Of course in the face of ongoing threats to offshore waters – including attempts to open them up to new oil & gas drilling – We’ll need to build a bottom up blue constituency and political force to win at least 50 more senators and at least 214 members of the House to pass the kind of visionary comprehensive ocean protection act being put forward by Boxer.
On just 48 hours notice Blue Frontier was able to help mobilize 25 of the more than 100 organizations that have so far endorsed the Boxer bill. We’re particularly pleased with the range of this grouping that includes ‘seaweed’ organizations from Texas, Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, California, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland and D.C.
NOAA goes Organic?
Within Boxer’s legislation is a plan to make NOAA an independent agency within two years of the bills passage. “There should be a separate agency for the oceans, or at least not one in constant conflict,” agrees former NOAA chief scientist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle. The Pew Oceans Commission report also agrees, calling for, “an independent agency outside the Department of Commerce to address the national interest in the oceans and atmosphere.” And Before his retirement Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, a leading ocean champion on Capitol Hill, called members of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy “‘Sissies,’” for not recommending the establishment of an independent agency.
Unfortunately, having created a monster-sized agency in Homeland Security, Congress seems disinclined to make any other big changes just now. Instead they’re looking to pass a ‘NOAA Organic Act’ backed by the White House giving the agency statutory authority in law to continue its work, which until now has been based on Richard Nixon’s 1970 White House Executive Order establishing NOAA. This change, it’s claimed, will help the agency better define its missions and purpose. What it actually does is assure that NOAA will remain as firmly attached to the Department of Commerce as a barnacle to a commercial wharf piling.
From the Sierra to the Blue Frontier
After my profile of Donna Frye ran in the May/June issue of Sierra magazine I’m glad to see they’re running another piece of mine ‘Big Oil’s March to the Sea’ in their July/August issue. This magazine’s so informative they ought to go monthly like Blue Notes (OK, so they reach 750,000 more people than we do). Once again – if you like what you’re reading please encourage your friends to sign on for blue notes at bluefront.org– Hey, at FREE you can’t beat the price.
Bi-coastal Book Roll Outs and Sea-Prize Parties
On June 8 I had the honor of sharing a panel with Sylvia Earle and Linda Glover, Elliot Norse and Larry Crowder at a National Press Club. It was an‘ Evening for the Ocean’ and included a global conservation award to Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Echini – the Minister of Energy and Environment for Costa Rica. Smiling with parochial pride Carlos Manuel told me that if you go diving at Cocos Island “you’ll see the same types of fish and sharks you see elsewhere, only here they’re all much bigger.”
This evening was part of the annual Ocean Week in DC that’s getting more lively every year (even as the oceans seem to be getting less lively). Along with our event there was a Greenpeace sponsored movie screening of ‘The Deep Blue’ (aka –‘Finned Migration’ made by the documentary makers of ‘Winged Migration’) as well as the annual NOAA fish fry where 1,000 people down a ton of marine wildlife in celebration of our endangered seas.
Our event was sponsored by Defying Ocean’s End, Island Press, Conservation International, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and Blue Frontier Campaign. We may be small and seaweedy but we keep good company.
It was also a roll-out for three new Island Press Books, ‘Defying Oceans End’ ‘Marine Conservation Biology’ and ‘The Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide’ that Blue Frontier has produced. Unfortunately our book was not yet back from the printer. I waved a manuscript and asked folks to envision a lovely book.
We’re assured the book will be available by the time we do our ‘Celebration of the Sea’ Fundraising Party and West Coast Book Launch on Friday July 29 at San Francisco’s Bay View Boat Club.
With a schooling cohort of Bay Area volunteers and a prestigious host committee we’re looking forward to an evening of high energy stoke. If you can’t fight for the living seas and have fun while doing it you’re really no better than a hagfish and who’s going to be inspired by a slime eel (other than Carl Rove maybe). If you can join us please do so. Don’t forget to RSVP at 202-387-8030. Space will be limited but our Blue Vision will remain undimmed.