Blue Notes #150 – By David Helvarg
September 20, 2016
In This Issue:
- Clinton, Trump and the Sea
- Obama and the IUCN
- Kerry, Obama and ‘Our Ocean’
- Nominate Your Ocean Heroes
- Visit ‘The Golden Shore’
- Margo Makes It
- Save the Dates for Blue Vision Summit 6 – May 9-11,2017
- 150 With Your Support
Earlier this summer Blue Frontier initiated and sent out a letter from 115 Ocean Leaders asking the top two Presidential Candidates to respond to its proposed agenda for ocean action and asking what they plan to do for our public seas if elected President. On August 27 we received a letter of response from Secretary Hillary Clinton. We have not yet received a response from Mr. Trump. Meanwhile here’s my National Geographic blog that includes both the original letter and Secretary Clinton’s response.
On August 26 President Obama, using his authority under the Antiquities Act, quadrupled the size of Hawaii’s Papahanaumokaukea Marine National Monument (originally established by President Bush in 2006). This created the largest environmental reserve on the planet, over half a million square miles (more than three times the size of California). Shortly thereafter he visited Midway Island located in the heart of the Monument that is home to millions of migratory seabirds, endangered monk seals, sea turtles, tiger sharks, a newly discovered species of angelfish as well as 70 percent of America’s coral reefs. Our friend, and hero, Sylvia Earle was invited along on the visit and says President Obama seemed quite pleased and impressed with what he saw. At the opening of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Congress I attended in Honolulu earlier this month, Palau President – and 2016 Peter Benchley Ocean Award winner – Tommy Remengesau Jr. called Obama’s announcement, “monumental,” then joked that when President Obama sets aside 80 percent of U.S. waters as Palau recently did, “then you can join the big leagues.” I recently went to Palau and interviewed President Remengesau for Alert Diver magazine on why his nation has taken such an extraordinary action on behalf of our ocean. Here’s the link to that interview.
Even with President Obama’s action less than 4 percent of the ocean has any established level of protection from the cumulative impacts of overfishing, mining, drilling and pollution (including carbon pollution).
One of the resolutions passed at the IUCN Congress calls for 30 percent protection by 2030. This reflects the best available science that has found establishing large reserves of biological diversity is one of the keys to preventing a complete breakdown in the planet’s ecosystem. As we simplify natural systems they become less stable, but large intact marine reserves can act as biological reservoirs to assure the genetic diversity and natural resiliency needed for restoring the ocean over time.
During the congress, which drew some 10,000 people, I was happy to do my part with fellow journalist and Hawaii Surfrider Coordinator Stuart Coleman and Nalu Nunes, Executive Director of Brazil’s Grupo Boticario. At our workshop we helped some 120 scientists focus on how they could better communicate their crucial findings to journalists and the public. Here’s a link to a handout I wrote for it titled: Ten Useful Tips to Communicate Conservation Science.
Towards the end of The Congress, I was also honored to speak at Honolulu’s Book’s & Spirits, a new literary salon (or saloon) located at the headquarters of RevoluSun, a major solar company. After years of working to build the Seaweed Rebellion I was thrilled that the Seaweed Rebel is now also a cocktail prepared by famed Mixologist Christian Self of Bevy. Ingredients for a (delicious) ‘Seaweed Rebel’ include Limu, infused ocean vodka, grapefruit, lime & elderflower (with a sprig of dried seaweed). I don’t think Christian is willing to give away the exact proportions but feel free to experiment.
Among other IUCN highlights was a very Aloha evening at Ocean Navigator (and Benchley Award winner) Nainoa Thompson’s island home. I also managed to make several snorkel visits with some of Blue Frontier’s key constituents – goatfish, parrot fish, Puhi (eel), Honu (sea turtle), the famous Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (reef trigger) and a monk seal that hauled itself up on the sand to sleep.
“We know what we need to do to address the threats facing the ocean. There’s nothing that doesn’t have a solution!”
Secretary of State John Kerry said this to hundreds of attendees from some 90 nations at the 3rd annual ‘Our Ocean’ conference held at the State Department Sept. 15 and 16. It was an inspiring two days and included many Blue Frontier friends and heroes such as explorers Roz Savage, Nainoa Thompson, Sylvia Earle and Enric Sala, Senators Brian Schatz and Sheldon Whitehouse, scientists Jane Lubchenco, Nancy Rabalais and Nancy Knowlton and many others. “We cannot truly protect our planet without protection our ocean” President Obama said during a relaxed 20-minute talk to 300 participants on the opening day. “Oceans are pretty important. You guys know it. That’s why we share a blue marble instead of a brown one.” He seemed pleased recalling his snorkel at Midway where a monk seal got in the water with him. That took place just after he declared the world’s largest environmental reserve (see above). “Our Ocean” opened the day after he established the Atlantic’s first national park in the sea, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument (see Blue Notes #149 and my article in The Hill, ‘Will Obama Protect the Atlantic’s Grand Canyons?).
The conference included talks by Leo DiCaprio (live) and Prince Charles and Prince Albert (on tape), VR headsets that immersed you in a reef, commitments of ocean action by many nations, businesses and non-profits and panels on ocean pollution, pirate fishing, coral bleaching, ocean philanthropy and other challenges. At the same time Peter Benchley Youth Award winner Daniela Fernandez organized a parallel international student conference at Georgetown University also addressed by Secretary Kerry and attended by Blue Frontier. At the end of ‘Our Ocean’ Kerry tallied up the results: “40 significant new or expanded Marine Protected Areas,” announced, also 5.3 billion dollars committed for ocean initiatives, including $550 million over the next five years by the Packard Foundation, five nations committed to banning plastic bags, two new ocean satellites that will help hunt down pirate fishermen, more signatories to a Port States Treaty also aimed at shutting down illegal fishing and commitments to continue the ‘Our Ocean’ conference through 2019 in Malta, Indonesia and Norway.
“It’s a start” Kerry explained as he closed the conference, “but just a start.” He then received a standing ovation, followed by the sound of whale song.
Speaking of Heroes – The Nominations for the 10th annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, set for May 11, 2017, are now open for your submission(s). We’re looking for more world-class solution-oriented ocean leaders in a number of categories to join our 62 past winners. Nominate your ocean heroes here.
Growing solutions faster than the problems is the common challenge addressed at both IUCN and ‘Our Ocean.’ Luckily in my book ‘The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea’ (just out in paperback) I’ve managed to tell the history and present reality of one shining example. With 40 million residents and the world’s sixth largest economy, California has still managed to become a world model for living well with our coast and ocean. It’s a great story with a new Foreword by actor and Oceana activist Ted Danson. I’ll be launching the paperback at the Society of Environmental Journalists national conference in Sacramento Sept. 21-25. To accompany the release, I am going on a book tour down the West Coast. You can learn more about the book and see where I will be speaking on our Golden Shore webpage. If your group would be interested in having me give a book talk on how the Pacific defines California and what makes California’s unique approach to the Ocean special, or if you’re interested in ordering the book for your group please contact Joshua@bluefront.org or Monique@newworldlibrary.com or feel free to order copies from you local independent bookstore.
If all continues to go well Margo Pellegrino should complete her New York to New Orleans paddle in four days on September 24 in ‘The Big Easy.’ Her ocean, rivers, lakes and clean water paddles over the last 9 years up and down the lengths of America’s East and West Coasts, its Great Lakes and inland waterways is a reflection of how one woman can make a difference. Both her athletic passion for the blue cause and her animated personality have attracted support and opportunities from people and media she’s encountered on her adventures and hugely expanded the base of the Seaweed Rebellion. Catch up with her at Paddle4blue.com if you can’t be there with the Gulf Restoration Network and others to greet her in New Orleans. Also join Margo next spring at Blue Vision Summit 6 where she’ll be part of an Ocean Recreation and Conservation panel.
In January a new President and Congress will be sworn in and by May we hope to meet with the people we just hired (elected) to present them an Ocean Action Agenda for a Blue Economy and ocean restoration during the 6th biennial Blue Vision Summit May 9-11. Along with opportunities for our movement to set its priorities it will also include an even larger Citizen lobby for a Healthy Ocean than in 2015. And that one was the largest for the ocean in U.S. history. For more go to our Blue Vision Summit website.
On March 18, 2004 I wrote Blue Frontier Campaign’s First “Blue Notes” about a ban on the longline swordfish fleet off California by NOAA’s fisheries service under pressure from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court.
Twelve years later I’m still writing our monthly Blue Notes newsletter. During the IUCN conference I spotted a booth for the “sustainable” Hawaii Longliners Association. On Sept. 8 the Honolulu Star Advertiser had a cover story by the same Pulitzer winning AP team that exposed the use of slave labor crews aboard pirate fishing vessels. This new story “Floating Prisons” exposed a legal loophole that has allowed for the exploitation and abuse of hundreds of foreign workers fishing off of this Hawaii-based U.S. fleet.
Highlighting stories like this one, also the work of blue groups, and ways to link the environment, economy and equity in easily understandable ways, is what Blue Notes aims to do to help you in your own efforts.
We can only continue to do this however with your ongoing support. Please consider making a 150th issue donation be it $15 or $150 (or more) to mark this milestone and Blue Frontier’s many other activist projects.