Our First Two Years in the Water, Blue Vision Mid-Atlantic & The Fecund Charms of Old Fat Females (vs. Blue Feedlots).
Feb. 28, 2004
By David Helvarg
Our mission statement reads – Blue Frontier works to strengthen the ocean constituency by building unity, providing tools and enhancing awareness. In other words we want to help turn a fractious and inspiring community of ocean and coastal advocates into a powerful and effective social movement. At two years of age we’re still young and feisty enough to believe we can do it. Below is a listing of what we’ve managed to date.
BLUE FRONTIER CAMPAIGN
I. Building Unity
Built a network of several dozen volunteers, organizers and advisors including leading figures in marine advocacy.
Provided other blue groups with donated books, media and activist contacts, interns and representation in Washington when requested.
Convened the first-ever national conference of coastal and ocean activists, the Blue Vision Conference of July 11-13, 2004, to strengthen the nation’s ocean constituency. 250 people from 170 organizations in 25 states and territories participated. On the last day conferees met on Capitol Hill with 3 Senators, 12 Representatives and dozens of staffers to advance an ocean conservation agenda.
Held a founding dinner in Washington DC that drew 120 guests from ocean conservation groups, government, business, media, and three members of Congress.
II. Providing Tools
Established the Bluefront.org website and e-list including videos, articles, and a directory of over 1,200 organizations involved in marine conservation. After 12 months website attracts some 5,000 visitors a month.
Edited the first Ocean & Coastal Conservation Guide of over 2,000 marine groups along with listings of government agencies, marine university and science centers and coastal parks (Island Press 2005). Arranged for biannual updating and publication.
Updated and revised Blue Frontier – Saving America’s Living Seas (Sierra Club Books, 2005) including new materials on campaign efforts.
III. Enhancing Awareness
Wrote articles, opinion pieces and provided quotes on the ‘seaweed rebellion’ for a range of media including AP, the LA Times, Seattle P.I, Miami Herald, Knight-Ridder, Marketplace and NPR radio, U.S. News & World Report, Popular Science, Sierra magazine, Environmental Health Perspectives, Offshore, Sea Technology magazine, etc.
Established and presented the first annual Blue Frontier Awards for outstanding work in marine science, media, policy and a special Hero of the Seas category.
Edited and published a special ‘Oceans of Trouble’ issue of Multinational Monitor, a public interest magazine, and distributed several thousand copies.
Won Coastal Living Magazine’s 2005 Leadership Award.
Organized panels and spoke at science and journalism conferences, universities, public agencies, aquariums, to local activist groups, and to two major ocean commissions.
Blue Vision Mid – Atlantic
In the wake of last summer’s national Blue Vision Conference, the campaign hopes to sponsor and organize a series of regional gatherings in 2005 in collaboration with blue groups around the nation. The first of these, the Blue Vision Mid-Atlantic Conference will take place Friday, April 8 at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It is being done with the support of the Aquarium, The Coast Alliance and Clean Ocean Action. A one day gathering it aims to bring together 50-60 leaders and activists from Blue Groups working along the Atlantic Seaboard between New York and North Carolina. The day will focus on the key issues of concern to these activists, federal legislation and proposals that they need to respond to, and regional strategy and training sessions to build a more effective seaweed network in the Mid-Atlantic (with the possibility of a Hill Day in Washington to follow). At the end of the day there will be a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium and a reception where people will have a chance to shake their tails. For more info. Contact us at Blue Frontier – David/Jean/Lea (202) 387-8030 or Cindy Zipf at Clean Ocean Action (732) 872-0111.
Old Fat Females & Blue Feedlots
It may not be a term of endearment among our species, but scientists at the recent annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science here in D.C. report that older larger fish (old, fat, females) can be 200 times as productive in generating eggs as are smaller fish, plus their eggs are more viable and their offspring grow larger. But global overfishing has taken out many of the large fish from the world’s oceans, including 90 percent of large predators. With most of our wild fisheries maxed out or in a state of collapse there’s been a major shift towards aquaculture. Corporate Fish farmers are also better able to provide big retail outlets like Walmart the consistent year-round product they demand that habitat based suppliers like Mother Nature are unable to provide.
But, as was noted at an AAAS panel organized by Marine Science Champion Jane Lubchenco, the aquaculture industry has also generated lots of controversy raising high-value predator species like salmon. Their nearshore pens have been linked to pollution, disease, and escaped fish that threaten wild stocks (a quarter of all salmon swimming in the Atlantic are farm-reared escapees). Plus one third of the global wild fish catch now goes into fishmeal and fish oil to feed farm-raised fish, cattle and hogs.
One proposed response to these problems has been to move the farm cages offshore. There are already large tent like commercial net operations in deep waters off Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The Japanese are also capturing young bluefin tuna and fattening them up in open ocean pens that operate like blue feedlots.
Whether we can do open-ocean fish farming in an environmentally sustainable way also remains an open question. Proponents argue sea currents will remove excess nutrients and other pollutants, and algal feeds can be used to reduce dependence on wild fish for feed.
In this fish eat fish world modern fish farming has the potential to be of benefit to both hungry people and our living seas, but I don’t think this will take place until the industry adopts best management practices for environmental viability and becomes a real substitute – rather than a supplement -to the killing and capture of marine wildlife.
The Bush administration supports fast-track legislation that will give the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration authority to begin leasing federal waters 3-200 miles offshore for blue water fish farms. NOAA, located (some say sunk) within the Department of Commerce plans to both promote and manage offshore aquaculture, envisioning a $5 billion a year US industry by 2015. The problem is that in both promoting and managing commercial fishing over the past 30 years NOAA managed to oversee the serial collapse of commercial fisheries including New England Cod in the 1990s and California Rockfish today.
It’s hard not to suspect that, while the potential to finally get it right with aquaculture is real, the major driver of the Bush administration and its Department of Commerce is not restoring the seas living resources, but reducing the trade deficit. If that’s not the case why set a dollar figure on how large an industry you want to see in ten years? Shouldn’t the job of our government be to manage our public resources for all Americans and let the fish-farmers do their own promotion?
We had 4 High School Interns from Georgia helping us out last week; Mia Gallegos, Tommy Bairstow, Spencer Cooper and Molly Bode. They stayed busy as otters and on their last day made some useful suggestions for the website including changes that you’ll hopefully see in coming weeks such as promoting our ‘Seaweed Rebel’ t-shirts, books and fish-beads (for online contributors), setting up a Student Section, More cartoons/illustrations/humor, and more interactivity. Please feel free to add your own suggestions on how to increase the quality and visibility of Bluefront.org and please link it to your own site if it’s not already. We also promise to update our Section soon.
David Helvarg – BFC