I WISH THEY ALL COULD BE CALIFORNIA
May 10, 2007
By David Helvarg
I WISH THEY ALL COULD BE CALIFORNIA
It’s not just that I’m returning to California to set up Blue Frontier’s West Coast Office this summer. California (state marine fish — the garibaldi) really is beginning to embarrass other coastal states and federal agencies that are supposed to protect our greatest publicly owned resource (hint: it’s a salty liquid medium that supports 97 percent of the planet’s biodiversity).
First there was the California and the World Ocean Summit and Ocean Compact agreed to by the Governors of California, Oregon and Washington (See Blue Notes #29). Now California has gone ahead and created 29 marine wilderness parks covering 18 percent of its central coast. These refuge zones are designed to help restore California’s depleted waters. Of the 204 square miles 94 will be ‘no take’ preserves, while limited fishing and kelp harvesting will still be allowed in the other 110 square miles. Additional reserves will be selected for Northern California by 2008 and the southern Baywatch region by 2011. Early advocates for the reserves such as Karen Garrison of NRDC and Warner Chabot of the Ocean Conservancy expressed guarded optimism. Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations warned the reserves will only work if they’re combined with strong anti-pollution water policies. Even sports fishing outfits, which were among the marine wilderness parks’ strongest opponents, are now taking a wait and see position. What we can expect to see is the return of giant black sea bass, rockfish, leopard sharks, rays, large lobsters rooting around rocky bottoms thick with sea stars, strawberry anemones and baby abalones, all shadowed by the dappled light of healthy kelp forests, rocky outcroppings, darting sea lions, and the occasional great white shark. As Ed Abbey said, ‘If there’s not something bigger and meaner than you are out there it’s not really wilderness.”
On a related front the California Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission have both rejected a plan for a proposed floating terminal for Liquefied Natural Gas off the Oxnard-Malibu coast. Natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels and seemed a good transition between coal, oil and non-carbon energy systems maybe ten or twenty years ago. But now that the science is indicating we’re facing a clear and present danger from greenhouse gases, it makes no sense to be investing in and building fossil fuel infrastructure designed to last 50 years or more.
Finally (for now), California has begun to lead the nation in its ‘Green Ports’ program to reduce air pollutants and other harmful emissions from the giant container ports of Long Beach/LA and Oakland. Among the advocates for this are the dockworkers of the ILWU, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. This is not surprising given the health and safety concerns and also the progressive history of this union. The lawyer for its founding organizer, a militant Australian import named Harry Bridges once remarked, “San Francisco has eight bridges, and the one you don’t want to cross is Harry.”
BLUE FRONTIER’S NAVY
Greenpeace is in the process of building a new all-weather ship. Other marine groups have diesel ships and sailboats. But I feel confident in saying Blue Frontier has the only 24-foot trans-oceanic rowboat. Actually it’s Roz Savage’s rowboat and she’ll be captaining it on her way to becoming the first woman to row solo across the Pacific.
You’ll remember we talked about Roz (www.rozsavage.com) and Margo Pellegrino in the last Blue Notes. Margo took off on her 3-month Miami to Maine (www.miami2maine.com) outrigger canoe adventure May 7. She’ll be stopping along the way to raise money for local chapters of Surfrider, to meet with local seaweed activists, and to raise awareness of the bottom-up solutions that exist to help restore our living seas.
She needs a few places to stay along the way, especially in North Carolina, Virginia, New York and Maine, and wants get some more media coverage, so if you are able to help please call or write Blue Frontier (firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-387-8030) or Amber at the National Environmental Trust (email@example.com, 202-887-8800). You can check out her route on her website.
Roz will be launching her boat from San Francisco in July on her way to Hawaii, then Tuvalu, and then Australia. Each segment of her journey will require about 70 days of rowing. She’s doing this to raise awareness about plastic pollution of our ocean and our book, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, like using less plastic and campaigning for bans on non-essential uses. As of this past month Roz’s Pacific Journey is now an official project of the Blue Frontier Campaign. We’re honored to have her aboard.
IF NOT AN ACT OF GOD, THEN NEPTUNE?
You may recall that Japanese Factory Ship Nisshin Maru that caught fire in Antarctica’s southern ocean in February leading to the premature closure of Japan’s annual whale hunt. Well, one disaster just seems to follow on another. In late April, after surviving their annual face-off against ferocious baby seals, more than 400 Canadian sealers aboard 100 boats were trapped by arctic sea ice for more than a week. The Canadian Coast Guard sent 3 icebreakers to try and free them, still more than a dozen vessels were crushed or badly damaged by the ice. Unfortunately the seals seem to be caught between a club and a soft place. While thick ice was drifting through Newfoundland, a series of warmer than usual winters melted the ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence where scientists estimate thousands of seal pups drowned.
STEP IT UP DOWN BELOW
Which brings us back to Global Warming. On May 10th Admiral James Watkins (Ret.) of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (that he co-chairs with Leon Panetta) testified in front of a Senate hearing on climate change impacts on the ocean (see Blue Notes #32 ‘Eight Climate Disasters on the Seven Seas’).
The admiral urged greater understanding of the ocean’s role in climate change, increased marine science funding and a unified approach to ocean governance to help mitigate and adapt to the consequences of human-enhanced climate change – caused by retrograde industrial combines like Exxon-Mobil whose moral priorities would make a hagfish gag (my words, not his).
Another approach to educating our elected officials was the varied Step It Up demonstrations held on April 14. Organized by author Bill McKibben, they called on Congress to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. With more than 1,400 events in all 50 states these were a great example of grassroots and seaweed power. One result: In early May Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both committed themselves to meeting the 80/2050 goal. Below are a couple of pix from some high profile seaweed actions by Blue Frontier allies Reef Relief – at Eastern Dry Rock off Key West – and by artist Cindy Snodgrass (who organized fish-painting at our 2004 Blue Vision Conference) on Boston Commons.
OCEANS OF MEDIA #3
I’ve long said one of the few ocean resources not being overexploited is a good investigative story on the sea. The Pulitzer Committee agrees, awarding Ken Weiss’s 5-Part LA Times series, ‘Altered Oceans,’ the top prize for explanatory journalism. The series, produced in collaboration with reporter Usha Lee McFarling and photographer Rick Loomis, was a scientifically accurate and serially depressing look at the poisoning and chemical alteration of our seas by plastic, industrial carbon and other human inputs. Luckily the Times has followed up with some fine reporting (by Ken and others) on solutions that each of us can pursue.
Speaking of pursuit, another FBF (friend of blue frontier) H. Bruce Franklin has put out a highly readable new book about the pursuit and corporate decimation of “The Most Important Fish in the Sea.’ You guessed it from the title. That would be the menhaden. No? OK, just think baitfish. I predict that what John McPhee has done for shad and Mark Kurlansky for cod, Franklin will now do for these oily, boney little critters that are a crucial link in the marine food web and key player in American maritime history.
A THOUGHT BEFORE SHIPPNG OFF
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