Ocean Week, Slime Eels, Mermaids and a Cormorant
June 25, 2007
By David Helvarg
OCEAN WEEK BUT GETTING STRONGER
In 2004, when we held our last Blue Vision Conference, the Pew Ocean Commission had published its report and the US Commission on Ocean Policy was about to publish theirs. There was a lot of speculation about BOB, a Big Ocean Bill, which might emerge from their combined recommendations. It didn’t happen. Instead the combined commissions went on to grade government response to their work with a D and a D+ (see Blue Notes #23).
Still, at this June’s Ocean Week in Washington DC, change seemed to be in the air (and the water) moving forward with all the deliberate speed of a hungry sea hare.
The Marine Fish Conservation Network’s annual conference focused on the positive –new science and conservation oriented reforms to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishing Act — and making sure it didn’t get messed up in implementation. Outgoing Executive Director Lee Crockett recalled how the Network thought it had achieved its aims with reforms in 1996 and then abolished itself, only to see those reforms undermined by built in conflict-of-interest within federal fisheries councils and agencies. This time the Network, with more than 190 organizational members, plans to remain as vigilant as a frigate bird over a school of anchovy.
Meanwhile, Lee will be joining the newly formed $70 million Pew Environment Group, which will incorporate the National Environmental Trust and Pew’s environmental program, to form what could be the Super-trawler of the marine conservation fleet with its focus on climate change and ocean protection.
Other highlights of Ocean Week included the annual National Marine Sanctuary Foundation awards dinner and Capitol Hill symposiums. With the establishment of the NW Hawaiian Island marine monument, America’s marine Sanctuaries grew to seven times their previous size this year. Along with Bob Ballard, Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michael Cousteau, Leon Panetta, a new ocean celebrity was introduced at their dinner — Sam the Sea lion, spokes-pinniped for the Sanctuaries. Unfortunately Sam, who was supposed to appear live, could only make a video appearance for fear Pam Anderson would spray paint his fur coat. BFC would like to take this opportunity to deny rumors concerning Sam and Patty, the 50 Ways to Save the Ocean book cover sea lion. Their publicists insist they’re only friends and have not taken a salmon off a hook since their brief stints in rehab.
NOAA’s annual Fish Fry was also something of an inspiration. Apparently it’s inspired the Forest Service to begin planning a huge annual bonfire.
BFC also held a small Seaweed Happy Hour at the REEF on Ocean Day which, if nothing else, gave the Board of Directors of Ocean Champions an excuse to drink like fish.
FORGET BOB — ITS BAB’S MOMENT
The best news of the week however may be that Senator Barbara Boxer (d. CA), now Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to re-introduce an updated version of her June 9, 2005, National Ocean Protection Act (See Blue Notes #13). While dropping fishing issues, (thanks to Magnuson reforms) it will address a full range of other marine topics from pollution and sediment runoff to climate impacts and coastal sprawl.
Rep. Sam Farr (d. CA) Co-Chair of the House Ocean Caucus told me they are providing the language of their ‘Oceans 21’ Act, that calls for an Ecosystem Based Management Approach to federal marine activities, to Boxer’s office so they can begin to align the two bills. For years, Blue Frontier has talked about the need for an American Oceans Act on the scale of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts of the last century, also the need to build the political constituency to pass such an act. The National Ocean Protection Act (NOPA) could be what’s needed if we hope to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Next summer’s Blue Vision Summit in DC could show there’s a constituency for that kind of bold initiative.
Right now Senator Boxer’s office is open to solution-oriented ideas for inclusion in the bill. Having your organization review the old Senate 1224 version before submitting your language could be useful. Your best point of contact is her Legislative Sea Grant Fellow:
Summer M. Morlock
Office of Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office building
Washington DC 20510
OR WE’LL ALL BE EATING SLIME EELS
Unfortunately, much of what goes on in Washington could make a hagfish gag, and marine scientists like Jeremy Jackson have long been warning us of the ‘rise of the slime’ as we eat our way down the food web while also polluting our seas. Still, I was a bit surprised to read an AP story by Noaki Schwartz on how the Hagfish (AKA Slime Eel) has been turned into a profitable new deep-sea fishery off the U.S. The slime eels are exported to South Korea where they’re considered a tasty aphrodisiac (with sesame oil and salt) selling for up to $20 a pound. I thought Viagra was supposed to have undermined the whole tiger bone, rhino horn, slime eel thing. Still, if you happen to be at a party and someone asks how a slime eel slimes — when agitated it vomits up a protein secretion that reacts with seawater to create a thick mucus. Now you know.
MERMAIDS ROW AND PADDLE SO WE DON’T HAVE TO
On a more inspired note, Margo Pellegrino is more than half way on her Miami to Maine paddle (miami2maine.com), having reached her home state of New Jersey. She and her family also stopped by in DC to meet with members of the House Oceans Caucus including republican Jim Saxton of NJ and democrat Tom Allen of Maine who’s running for Senate in his home state and knows more about the ocean than your average Maine lobster. Margo continues to inspire seaweed activists all along the eastern seaboard (and beyond) and is getting lots of support from NET and Surfrider among other groups.
Meanwhile Blue Frontier is working to help organize Roz Savage’s launch party — she’s going to be the first woman (and seaweed rebel) to row solo across the Pacific — The launch party will take place at the Presidio Yacht Club at Fort Baker (below the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin) beginning at noon on Tuesday July 10. Her actual launch will take place some 24-48 hours later depending on winds, tides, currents and other ocean conditions.
Join us, Roz, NOAA, Brocade (her major corporate sponsor) and other supporters for what should be a great event. For more information call Blue Frontier at 510-778-8470 or 202-387-8030. For more on Roz’s ocean-spanning pollution-fightin’ adventure check out the latest Outside magazine, watch the CBS Early Show on July 2 or check out her site rozsavage.com.
A MELVILLE MOMENT
My last Melville Moment was when a Minke whale ran into my Zodiac off the Marr Glacier in Antarctica. My latest comes thanks to the New York State Marine Education Association that awarded me their Herman Melville Literary Prize at their annual meeting in June. I’m touched and humbled and almost want to blubber, but that would be in poor taste. Thanks educators.
LIKE A CORMORANT WHOSE WINGS HAVE DRIED
I’m settling — My new home in the Richmond Marina (San Francisco Bay Area) is awesome. I’ve now got ducks instead of trucks on my street and am adjacent to a recreational boating marina that used to be part of the Kaiser shipbuilding basin during World War Two. Running along its shore is the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ Memorial Park honoring the women, African American and Hispanic workers who worked the jobs that helped save democracy. I’m old enough that I’m not going to worry too much about the heavy metals in the marine sediment from the construction of liberty ships. I’m just glad we beat the Nazis and their Fascist allies. They still have a liberty ship across the channel as well as two gantry cranes for the Port of Richmond. Ironically, I watched a big auto ship offloading Japanese cars onto the docks there the other day. Today, ours is a world far more interdependent then the last century’s but still highly dependent on marine transportation, trade, energy, protein, recreation and other saltwater driven economies.
Part of the struggle to protect our blue frontier is protecting culturally diverse waterfront communities and making sure that working waterfronts like Richmond’s and affordable and sustainable coastal communities can still exist along our last great commons.
And Don’t Forget these two great T-SHIRTS!
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