Once a Champion, Always a Champion

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

 

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Pictured: my daughters (Sky on the left, and Summer) preparing to once again defend the oceans!

Today I was sitting on the beach with my family, and my six year old daughter Sky came over to me.  “Dad, is that a plastic bottle in the water?” she said.

“Yah,” I replied.

“You should go get it,” Sky encouraged.

“Yah, but the water’s really cold…”

Sky challenged me.  “Dad, aren’t you an Ocean Champion?”

“Yes.”

“Then you should go get it.  Think about the turtles and dolphins that could eat it and die.”

Then she hit me with the killer close.

“Dad, once a Champion, always a Champion!”

So I said, “You’re right, Sky.  I’ll go get it.”

And Sky, me and my eight year old daughter Summer went down to get the bottle.  While we were there, we also waded in to get a plastic bag nearby.  Then, as we were walking the debris back to the recycling bins at the dune crossing, Summer ran over to retrieve a cookie wrapper she saw lying in the sand.

I can’t tell you how proud I was of my little girls, and I think Sky’s message rings true for all of us.  Many of the ocean’s problems are right in front of us, and some can be addressed with just a little motivated action.  Once a Champion, always a Champion.

Date Posted: May 31, 2009 @ 12:58 pm Comments Off

The Next Ocean Hero Begins Her Journey

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Picture: Ocean Champions co-Founder David Wilmot between Margo Pellegrino and Roz Savage at the 2008 Ocean Champions D.C. event.

Earlier in the year, we blogged on the incredible work being done to raise awareness about ocean issues by Margo Pellegrino and by Marcus Erikson and Anna Cummins (JUNKride).  Margo just completed her 1,200 mile canoe trip from Miami to New Orleans on May 23rd.  Marcus and Anna have made it from Vancouver to central California.  The dedication and commitment shown by these ocean warriors is incredible, and challenges all of us to do more for the oceans in our daily lives.

With Roz Savage’s departure from Hawaii two days ago, we have the third incredible journey of 2009.  As many of you know, Roz has already successfully paddled across the Atlantic, and last year made it from San Francisco to Hawaii.  She intends to paddle the entire Pacific, and will add another 2,500 miles of open ocean this year, ultimately reaching a small atoll called Tuvulu.  Along the way, you can follow her on her web page (with a Roz Tracker), on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Roz highlights an issue on each leg of her trip, and on this one she’s raising awareness about carbon emissions and climate change.  In fact, she’s tied in a comprehensive plan for delivering a strong message at the climate talks in Copenhagen later this year and all of us have a chance to help her.  Roz has asked as many people as possible to match her 10,000 oar strokes per day with an equivalent number of footsteps – preferably as a substitute for driving.  You can log your footsteps online, and she’ll present the grand total (and associated carbon emissions savings) at the Copenhagen conference.

But wait, it gets even better.  After rowing 2,500 miles across the Pacific, Roz will be presenting her supporters’ carbon savings by WALKING 600 MORE MILES!  That’s right, on October 24th (World Climate Day, for those of you keeping score), Roz will depart from London on foot, and will walk the 600 miles to Copenhagen.  When she arrives, the work she and her supporters have done will be a living wake up call for the attending world leaders.  The message?  If she (and her supporters) can make such incredible sacrifices in order to help the planet, can’t they do the same?  And on that note, can’t we?

 Support Roz Savage and help her deliver a strong message at Copenhagen!

Date Posted: May 27, 2009 @ 5:22 am Comments (1)

Dreaming of Pavones

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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Ahhhh….80 degree water, a south swell, and one of the longest lefts in the world. Does it get any better than that?  Okay, well, maybe we should throw a few mint mojitos in the mix, a comfy place to sleep under the stars and a healthy and protected ocean to surf in.  Now we’re talking.  Back to Pavones, that deliciously long left.  When the conditions are right, a Pavones wave runs the entire length of the little town (about a kilometer). Located in the ‘deep south’ of Costa Rica, this world famous point break is one not to be missed.

A bit of history:  Pavones was first opened up as “tierre libre” (free land), by the Costa Rican government approximately 30 years ago.  Access was via foot trails through the mountains or by boat.  Since then, with the establishment of roads and bridges followed by the arrival of electricity (1995), Pavones has become a tourist destination.  Fortunately, conservation awareness also has it’s place in this remote area of Costa Rica.  Reforestation and wildlife conservation projects have been introduced, along with community beach clean-ups.  The Osa Campaign is a great example of an incredible cooperative conservation effort currently underway in Costa Rica.

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Date Posted: May 22, 2009 @ 11:31 pm Comments Off

Let’s Roll Red Tides Out of the Ocean

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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With apologies to the Alabama Crimson Tide, it’s time to “Roll Red Tides, Roll!” right out of the ocean.  Red Tides and other Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are occurring more and more frequently along all U.S. coasts, including the Great Lakes.  They impose huge costs to coastal ecosystems, human health and regional economies.  HABs are caused by many factors, including light, salinity, water temperature, and nutrient levels in the water.  In some regions, the specific sources of the problem are known, and mitigation can proceed.  In others, the causes are not yet well established and more research is necessary.  One thing is clear though, HABs will not go away without action on our part.

Fortunately, our Champions in Congress are ready to lead us into battle.  Two of them (Senators Snowe and Nelson) have introduced a bill that will direct funding toward research, planning and mitigation of HABs, while also establishing the regional structure necessary for coordinated action.  We expect a similar bill to be introduced in the House any day.

Ocean Champions is embarking on a campaign to help pass the HABs bill this year.  That means we’ll be putting out a lot of information.  It also means we’ll be asking for your help from time to time.  You are the voice of the oceans, and we need you to speak loudly and often to generate the support needed to pass a strong HABs bill and begin reclaiming our coasts.  You can start this process by going to our Home Page and following the HAB links to send an email to your Senators, asking them to support the Snowe / Nelson bill.

So, let’s start up the (clean, renewable energy-powered) machine for ocean action and “Roll Red Tides!” out of the ocean.

Date Posted: May 21, 2009 @ 8:40 am Comments Off

Shark Conservation

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about shark finning:  the multi-billion dollar industry that kills approximately 100 million sharks annually.  To really get a grip on the legislation moving this year, (The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 – will amend the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to improve the conservation of sharks) one must travel back in time a bit to 2000.  The Shark Finning Prohibition Act (H.R. 5461) became public law No. 106-557, amending the Magnuson Stevens Act to eliminate the wasteful and unsportsmanlike  practice of shark finning.  The purpose of this act was to eliminate shark finning by addressing the problem comprehensively at both the national and international levels.

In basic terms, the 2009 amendment will:

  • force shark hunters to leave the fins attached to the shark (rather than slicing them off and dumping the shark carcass back into the sea).
  • after landing, ensure that the total weight of the shark fins does not exceed 5% of the total weight of the shark carcasses.

You can track the bill here – currently it resides in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, having passed the House on March 3rd, 2009.

For more on shark conservation and sharks in general check out:

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“The sea, once it casts it’s spell, holds one it’s net of wonder forever.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau


Date Posted: May 18, 2009 @ 10:48 am Comments Off

They Can’t Be Serious

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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For some time now, the town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware has been discharging treated sewage into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.  In 2003, the State of Delaware mandated that they achieve  “zero discharge” of nutrients into their inland bays by 2014.  Most would agree that this is a good idea.  However, since the sewage can’t be conveniently “flushed away,” the point of discharge must be relocated.  One proposal is to tap into an existing county land-based spray irrigation process. Unfortunately, the other proposed solution is to build an ocean outfall and pump the treated effluent directly into the Atlantic.

Since we’re now in the process of removing old ocean outfalls, I was shocked to discover that a beach front vacation town was considering development of a new one.  While there are no perfect solutions for waste disposal, land based methods such as spray irrigation are widely accepted as superior to ocean outfalls, and there is a county spray irrigation system already in place.  Treatment would remove solids and a high percentage of pollutants, but a properly functioning ocean outfall would still increase the nutrient load off the Delaware coast – an area that has experienced Red Tides in the past.  The assumption that an outfall will always function perfectly is also naive.  

The Rehoboth Beach city council will be voting on the two alternatives any day now.  Surfrider has prepared an action alert that goes to all the commissioners and the mayor.  I encourage anyone who goes to the Rehoboth, Lewes, Dewey Beach area, and anyone who cares about coastal water quality to use this alert to let the town know how you feel.

Date Posted: May 14, 2009 @ 9:17 am Comments (1)

When a Little Help Can Do a Lot

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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We are close to a great victory in the British Virgin Islands.  It would be a win for a sensitive marine habitat, for protected areas in general, for ocean conservationists, and for the people of the British Virgin Islands.  It’s also a situation where a little bit of money can go a long, long way.  Here’s the short version of a complex story:

  • In 2003, a marine area that abuts Tortola’s Beef Island called Hans Creek was designated as a fisheries protected area.  
  • In 2005, the BVI Chief Minister struck a deal with an international developer (Quorum Island) to build an $80 million mega yacht, golf and country club that would cover 2/3 of Beef Island, destroying a sensitive salt pond, dredging 100 acres of turtle grass, and punching a golf course through mangroves and conch nursery water. (This, as you might guess, was in breach of the Fisheries Ordinance.)
  • To avoid due process, the government passed an order permitting any development over $10 million to be approved by the Chief Minister.
  • In 2007, a group of locals formed the Virgin Islands Environmental Council (VIEC) to challenge the project (grounds: irrationality, illegality and bias).
  • On March 7th, 2008, the VIEC brought in a London-based legal team to establish that they had grounds to challenge the project.  They won, with the trial set for late April, 2009.

The VIEC flew in it’s London lawyers again for the April trial, and counsel for Quorum used a number of dirty tricks to disrupt the case.  They requested last minute delays in order to exhaust the VIEC’s legal funds, attempted to get the case dismissed on a technicality, and filibustered in the hope that the out of town VIEC lawyers would have to return home.  

Now, this is a story where the good guys are winning, so on April 28th, not only did Justice Charles rule in favor of the VIEC, she also criticized the defense for its tactics. Sensing imminent defeat, the defense tried to settle out of court, but the VIEC refused, stating that this issue had to be decided by public due process.  The final ruling on the case from Justice Charles will come in July.

So, how has the little VIEC overcome the deep pockets of an international developer?  Through hard work, some creative fundraising, and a great partnership with the Ocean River Institute (ORI).  ORI raised the money needed to hold the first hearing, as well as the money to fly in the high powered legal team from England.  They also assembled an international petition opposing the government’s end run.  They’re continuing to raise travel funds, and are working hard to promote the VIEC and its cause.  

This is setting up to be a landmark case that will affect the sanctity of protected areas throughout the Caribbean.  If they lose in July, Quorum Island is likely to appeal.  So I urge all the ocean conservationists out there to donate to the Ocean River Institute’s Beef Island campaign.  A little bit from a lot of concerned people will go a long way toward protecting Hans Creek and setting precedent for every other protected area.  It also means a lot to the BVI locals to see that the rest of the world cares about their fight. Let’s help them complete their stand with a victory.

Date Posted: May 12, 2009 @ 12:34 pm Comments Off

Human Sustainability

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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To quote master chef Thomas Keller, (owner of Napa Valley’s world renowned restaurant ‘The French Laundry’), “Respect for food is respect for life, for who we are and what we do.”

“The more respect you have for food and where it comes from, the more opportunity we have to nurture humankind,” Keller told The Monterey Herald in an interview last month. “It’s about human sustainability, not just food sustainability.”

Keller will be featured at this month’s Cooking for Solutions Gala at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, May 15-17.  The aquarium has invited experts in ocean management, wild and man-managed fisheries, wholesale food sales and personal food consumption to discuss the sustainability of our oceans and the pressure our wholesale food buyers and consumers exert on our food chain.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program is a great resource to tap into if you have not already.  As they state, “The choices we make today will determine the fate of tomorrow’s ocean wildlife.”  Learn more about the issues and what you can do to make a difference.

Bon appétit ocean champs!

Date Posted: May 7, 2009 @ 11:27 am Comments Off

Meeting with Bart Gordon

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Last night, Patrick Collins and I got to spend some time with Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN), an Ocean Champion, and the Chair of the House Science and Technology committee.  We wanted to meet because Congressman Gordon’s committee has jurisdiction over a Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) bill we want to get passed in this session.  Before talking about the meeting, a quick departure on HABs and the HABs bill.

Harmful Algal Blooms are a big problem in the U.S.  Their growth is driven by many factors, including light, temperature, salinity and nutrient levels in the water.  Some algae are benign, but others have toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals and birds.  These algae can also cause human illnesses, including respiratory and neurological problems that are sometimes fatal.  In addition, the resulting algae decomposition that follows a bloom can deplete oxygen in the water and create the infamous “Dead Zones” that further destroy marine life.  Clearly, HABs are not our friends!

Last year, two of our Champions in the House (Castor and Mack) and two in the Senate (Snowe and Nelson) introduced HAB legislation.  The House version focused on research and planning for remediation, while the Senate version also authorized funding for mitigation.  

This year, we’ve been working broadly with our Champions, key committee staff and senior appropriators to help move the bill.  We expect the Senate version (which we hear includes mitigation and is stronger than last year’s) to drop any day. Congressman Baird (D-WA), who chairs the subcommittee on Energy and Environment which will initiate the House version of the bill, is an enthusiastic supporter, and is willing to expedite the process by working with the Senate version.  So, we were very interested in hearing what the committee Chair thought.

Well, I’m happy to report that Congressman Gordon is also a fan of the HABs bill.  He was very familiar with it, knew the status of the Senate version, and confirmed our impression that it was a priority of Mr. Baird’s.  Congressman Gordon also said he was happy to work with the Senate version, and that it was under consideration for a hearing in his committee.  Now, it’s VERY hard to pass legislation, and problems can arise out of nowhere to derail your efforts, but with support from key Champions like Mr. Gordon, we’re becoming cautiously optimistic.

I’d also like to pass along that I was very impressed with Congressman Gordon.  He was engaging and truly interested in the thoughts and ideas of the people in the room.  He spent a lot of time asking questions, but when he spoke, he showed depth and comfort with a wide range of issues, and was unafraid to share his opinions on complex problems.  All in all, it was a great meeting.

Date Posted: May 5, 2009 @ 12:22 pm Comments Off

JUNKride – Exercising Plastics Out of Our Lives

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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If you’re one of the growing list of people who’ve become aware of our marine debris problem, there’s a good chance you found out because of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.  Algalita has been engaged in a three-part campaign to raise awareness about marine debris, and in particular about the area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (estimated to be larger than Texas).  Last year, Marcus Erikson and Joel Paschal piloted the JUNKraft, a boat made of 15,000 plastic bottles, across the Pacific.  This year, Marcus Erikson and Anna Cummins are bicycling from Vancouver to Tijuana, Mexico.  JUNKride began on April 4th, and is expected to finish on June 25th.  The intrepid duo is currently passing through Oregon.

Since the effort is land-based, Marcus and Anna will be meeting with stakeholders along the way, and presenting legislators, educators and local organizations with water samples collected on JUNKraft.  Marcus and Anna are offering people the opportunity to ride along with them on the trip, and they’re keeping a blog of the adventure so that other interested folks can follow along.

As a result of efforts like JUNKride and the Surfrider Foundation’s “Rise Above Plastics” campaign, the problem of marine debris is beginning to enter the public consciousness.  Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) just introduced the “Plastic Bag Reduction Act of 2009,” which would impose a 5 cent fee nationally on “single use” plastic bags from retail establishments, and a number of local efforts are in place across the country.  Sigg bottles and other reusable containers are becoming more prominent, and local communities are initiating trash reduction projects.

Clearly, however, we’ve got a long way to go.  So, please support great efforts like JUNKride, tune into the Surfrider Foundation, and continue to preach the low consumption, no plastics mantra to any and all of your friends who aren’t yet drinking the cool aid (from a reusable container).

Date Posted: May 4, 2009 @ 9:03 am Comments Off