Drills and Warriors, Pirates, Paddles, Dam Fish and Summit Else
April 22, 2009
By David Helvarg
Not the Same Old Drill
In the 1980s the Reagan Administration held public hearings to promote offshore oil and gas drilling. The result was not more rigs off our coasts but rather public opposition leading to the creation of three major new Marine Sanctuaries that forbid drilling within their boundaries.
Twenty years later the Obama Administration just held a series of public hearings in New Jersey, New Orleans, Anchorage and San Francisco focused on Offshore Energy.
In San Francisco on April 16 Blue Frontier joined with more than 500 people including Senator Barbara Boxer, Governor Ted Kulongoski down from Oregon, the Lt. Governor of California and four members of Congress who testified and rallied for safe clean energy and against any new oil drilling. Boxer noted that the coast was a treasure and huge economic asset, “just as is,” generating $24 billion in annual value and 390,000 jobs. Surfers, dockworkers, clean energy entrepreneurs and fishermen all agreed with her. The only two people advocating for more oil drilling was a guy from the Western States Petroleum Association (people held dollar bills up as he spoke) and the operator of a Motel 8.
This time, just as 20 years ago we could see some unexpected results from these hearings, results that could transform how we work on play in and explore our public seas through the use of strategic offshore zoning.
Even if we get a needed transition from offshore fossil fuel production to wind, wave, tidal or ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), the industrialization of our ocean will continue. In addition to ocean energy, spar net aquaculture, raising fish in giant top shaped pens in the open ocean, is now being promoted as the next wave of fish farming. At the same time there are multiple other demands on our public seas from shipping, fishing, recreational boating, etc.
The solution could be an ecosystem based management approach. This is a kind of ocean zoning — some call it marine spatial planning – that would incorporate a system of cleaned up watersheds and estuaries, offshore shipping lanes and greener ports, wildlife migration corridors, designated clean energy, national defense and fishing areas, recreational and marine wilderness parks and other planned benefits that recognize humans are a part of the marine ecosystem but also that the basic laws of nature are not themselves amenable to negotiation or compromise.
While federal action has lagged efforts to apply this in the water have taken place in several coastal states. Massachusetts is farthest advanced, having learned its lessons from a train wreck experience of competing ocean interests when the offshore wind turbine company Cape Wind failed to do adequate outreach to the local community on Cape Cod and saw a huge NOBO (Not On my Bay or Ocean) backlash from well-off waterfront home owners.
In response Massachusetts passed a landmark ocean management plan last year that aims to balance commercial and recreational use with marine wildlife and habitat protection. It established an ocean commission with a science advisory board to guide all development activity, including renewable energy, in state ocean waters.
Getting there was not easy involving four years of negotiations with various state agencies, legislators, municipal officials, environmentalists, fishermen and marine industry stakeholders. Still their holistic approach promises the best chance for dealing with the cascading challenges in our endangered ocean.
When asked at the Blue Vision Summit last month what the federal government could do to help the states Massachusetts Undersecretary for Oceans and Coasts Deerin Babb-Broot smiled, relplying, “It’d be good to have a national ocean policy.” Offshore energy promotion, clean or oily, is not an ocean policy but it could be a start.
May 12 my book, ‘Rescue Warriors — The U.S. Coast Guard, America’s Forgotten Heroes,’ hits the bookstores (or you can order online today). While marine conservationists might be most interested in the chapters titled, “New Orleans Saints,” “Duck Scrubbers,” and “The Next Surge.” Environmental author and climate activist Bill McKibben thinks you should read the whole thing and then, “stow this volume next to the chart case.” Waterkeeper Alliance’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls it “a must- read for anyone who loves the water or cares about the safety, security and stewardship of our nation.” I figure it’s a perfect gift for mother or father’s day or the opening day of hurricane season 2009.
Green My Book
One of Blue Frontier Campaign’s official books, ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean’ just won the 2009 Green Book Festival top prize in the ‘How To’ category. It’s written by myself with a Foreword by Philippe Cousteau of EarthEcho International and illustrated by Sherman’s Lagoon cartoonist Jim Toomey. Publisher New World Library will make it available to non-profit blue groups for only 40 percent of the cover price. Contactami@newworldlibrary.com 1-800-972-6657 X 20. Minimum order of 10.
Is this a Dam Joke?
What’s a salmon say when it hits its head? Dam. OK that’s the joke but some rather literal scientists including Dr. Ann Miracle from the University of Florida are now researching ways to detect traumatic brain injury in juvenile fish that get buffeted and beat up in the spillways, tunnels and turbines of Pacific Northwest Dams. Of course for good science you need a control group to compare with. My suggestion – take down four unneeded dams on Washington’s Snake River – and then compare the brains of the post removal fish to those of dam-exposed fish.
Flipper Vs. The Pirates —
While we know that Navy SEALs can kill pirates, and also that the Navy has its own sea lions and dolphins the Chinese News Agency Xinhua now reports that a vast (or perhaps Avarst) school of wild dolphins was so thick in the water they effectively blocked Somali Pirates attempts to seize a Chinese freighter in early April. “The pirates could only lament their littleness before the vast number of dolphins,” according to a translation of the Chinese news report.
Margo Vs. the Polluters
Seaweed Rebel Margo Pellegrino, who paddled from Miami to Maine in 2007 to help raise funds and awareness for blue groups, then paddled from her home in NJ down to DC in 2008 for the HR-21 Ocean Bill and then helped Blue Frontier organize March’s Blue Vision Summit is on the row again, paddling her small outrigger from Florida to New Orleans to make a big noise about cleaning up our coastal seas. Since her Miami2Maine website now seems dated there’s a new one www.Miami2NOLA.com. Check it out and track her progress.
And of course expect to hear more here (and everywhere) about Blue Frontier’s ocean rower Roz Savage when she launches the second leg of her Trans-Pacific solo journey from Honolulu next month.
Blue Vision Summit Follow-Ups
As mentioned in the last Blue Notes, on March 10 a number of Blue Vision attendees went to Capitol Hill where they were greeted by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Nick Rahall (d WV), Sam Farr (d CA), Lois Capps (d CA) Brian Baird (d WA) and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam. Rahall said Sam had been telling him about his ocean bill (HR-21) for years. The difference is now he got to see there is a broad constituency including scientists, activists, businesspeople and others who want to move it forward. After this initial meeting we spread out across the Capitol for a series of 60 meetings with other members of the House, Senators Lautenberg (d NJ) and Inouye (d HI) and many of their staffers.
Hill Day coordinator Melanie Marks of Shark Trust Wine has now compiled an excellent Excel charting of these 60 meetings; who met with who, what was said, comments they received from members and their staffs, also what follow-up is needed. We have posted this online on the Blue Vision Site that can be accessed from the upper right hand corner on our www.bluefront.org website
With some 65 responses to our Summit Survey — we are happy to report that 97 percent of those who responded rated the Summit experience excellent (61 percent) or good (36 percent) while just 3 percent rated it fair or poor. What people most liked about it were the panels (82%), networking opportunity (75%) and evening events (54%).
The highest rated plenary sessions were the ones on Federal Ocean Policy that included representatives from the Obama Administration, House and Senate, the Climate and Ocean Plenary and the Artists and Writers for the Sea. Breakout sessions that got high ratings included Solutions to Pollution and Marine Debris, the Arctic Meltdown, the Ocean and Human Health and Marine Education. Since many ran concurrently the top one people most wished they’d had a chance to attend (but didn’t) was Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change.
Suggestions for the future included a single hotel venue for the summit (that was too expensive this time) healthier, less over-packaged food (George Washington U. wouldn’t let us use an organic outside caterer) and more time for networking including a dedicated lunch or dinner where small table discussions could take place. 72 percent of respondents said they would like to continue supporting the Blue Vision Movement and will contact their elected officials if asked. And almost 70 percent said they’d be very likely to attend another Blue Vision Summit.
Pix, Notes and Video
Blue Frontier Campaign is also compiling reports, transcripts, power-points, video links, etc. that we’ve started to post. You can find them at www.bluefront.org/bluevision
We also hope to have a Summit Video from Sea Stewards Studios by the time our next Blue Notes is out.
Help Herd Catfish for a living
OK, herding catfish is my term for it. Actually the mission of the Blue Frontier Campaign is “to promote unity, provide tools to and raise awareness of the solution-oriented marine conservation community,” To do this we’re looking for a full-time Washington D.C. based Associate Director. For a job description and requirements please check out “Be the Blue” on our website at www.bluefront.org