Top 11 Earth Day 2011 Must Haves

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

Happy Earth Day Ocean Champs!  In the spirit of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, we’ve created a list of top 11 Earth Day 2011 Must Haves:

1)  An Ocean Champions membership of course, I have to start this Earth Day wave with a hearty splash!  As you know, Ocean Champions is the only ocean group that endorses and supports Members of Congress who work tirelessly on behalf of ocean health.  This ensures our voice is heard, but we can’t do it without your help.  This Earth Day, become a “Fighter for Fish” by giving generously to Ocean Champions.

2) A robust arsenal of green knowledge and tools to use in every day life and the courage to educate others.  Ignite the ripple effect baby!

3)  A bicycle, hybrid or electric vehicle to commute to and from work and other destinations. Here’s a great, definitive guide to some amazing vehicles in the electric universe.  Dust the cobwebs off of that trusty old beach cruiser or 10 speed and give it a run for its money.

4)  The initiative to eliminate pesticides and fertilizers in the garden and lawn and a push or electric mower.  Check out this great site for info. on healthy green lawn care.

5)  Stuff we gotta have: food and water – support local and organic farmers and invest in a water filtration system/healthy water source and reusable water bottles to prevent consumption of bottled water.

Juvenile albatross killed by 306 pieces of plastic and marine debris consumption

6)  On the go items:  a travel mug for your Cuppa Joe or tea (preferably not plastic) and Chico bags or reusable canvas/nylon bags for groceries and other shopping items.

7)  Plant-based, eco-friendly biodegradable cleaners, detergents and beauty products.

8)  Energy efficient appliances, electronics, light bulbs, water fixtures, etc.

9)  If paper products is a must, go 100% post consumer recycled on everything possible: paper, business cards, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. and embrace their equally important companion:  the ever humble recycle bin.

10) The incessant paper trail, abort abort!  Go electronic when possible and take control of those unwanted magazines, catalogs and mail.

11)  A green certification for your business.  You may already be doing a number of green things in the work place, embark on a green mission to take those remaining steps needed to become officially green certified!  Ocean Champions is proud to be recognized today, on Earth Day, 2011 as the second nonprofit business in Capitola, CA to become a certified green business.  Ocean Champions received the recognition from the Monterey Bay Area’s Green Business Program who’s Task Force recognizes Ocean Champions as an environmental leader that conserves resources, promotes pollution prevention and minimizes waste.

Date Posted: April 22, 2011 @ 9:41 am Comments Off

BP Oil Spill One Year Later: The Fight to Restore the Gulf

Posted by: Elizabeth Maksymonko

It’s been one year since the explosion that took 11 people’s lives and caused the subsequent oil spill that captured the world’s attention for months. The national media has since left the Gulf of Mexico and most people in the country have moved on with their lives. But for the residents of the Gulf coast states and the sea creatures that call the Gulf their home, the spill is still impacting their lives. Yet despite a lack of improvements in offshore drilling safety, there is a continued push for more offshore drilling that is threatening both marine and human welfare.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which pumped oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months, had devastating effects on the region. Hundreds of miles of fragile marshes and wetlands were contaminated with oil, throwing entire ecosystems off-balance. Many of the 15,700 species of sea life in the Gulf were severely impacted, from killing off phytoplankton and zooplankton to covering thousands of sea turtles in oil and killing hundreds more. The Gulf harbors 10 species of threatened shark, 6 species of endangered sea turtles, manatees, whales, dolphins and a vast array of fish (including spawning bluefin tuna). Many of these species were in direct contact with the oil, which can cause anything from eye and skin irritation to death, especially if ingested.

Even a year later, the spill is still causing harm – 153 dead dolphins have washed up on Gulf shores since January and fish have been found with deformities and strange lesions. Additionally, many industries of the Gulf are still feeling the impact of the spill, as tourism to the area has decreased and shrimp and oyster stocks have fallen (even after fishing closures were lifted). On top of this, consumer confidence of the safety of Gulf seafood is still quite low.

Despite the destructive effects the oil spill had on the Gulf, not much has changed in the industry to make drilling any safer. Working with our champions and others in the ocean environmental community, we helped pass the CLEAR Act in the House.  This bill would have improved drilling safety and liability by requiring companies to prove their drilling equipment is safe and eliminating the cap on liabilities related to oil spills. Unfortunately, the Senate didn’t pass any comparable bills, so we’re stuck with the same weak policy we had before the spill. The oil industry hasn’t done much to step up either, as there has been little work to create new technology to prevent spills or contain them if they occur.

Nevertheless, House leadership still believes we need to expand offshore drilling. Multiple bills have been passed out of Committee to accelerate the pace of drilling, avoid environmental safeguards and open up drilling in new areas. Natural Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-WA) has pronounced, “drilling is safe,” yet he appears to be acting completely on faith.

Expanding deepwater offshore drilling in the Gulf is a bad idea until the industry proves it can both prevent spills and immediately stop them if they do occur. Drilling in new areas like the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Arctic would present new and different risks that aren’t worth taking. The U.S. holds around 5% of the world’s oil but uses over 20% of its supply.  Mathematically, we simply can’t drill our way to energy independence, so we have to look for alternatives to fossil fuels.

The House will likely vote on Hastings bad drilling bills very soon.  Beating them there will be difficult, and the real fight will likely shape up in the Senate.  We’ll be working with our champions in D.C. and will need the support of champions in the ocean community to protect clean coastal water and critical habitat.

Date Posted: April 21, 2011 @ 9:33 am Comments Off

Ending Overfishing in the U.S.: Magnuson-Stevens Offers Hope for the Future

Posted by: Elizabeth Maksymonko

For decades, people all over the world assumed the supply of fish in the ocean was unlimited, and acted accordingly.  Advancements in technology allowed us to become better and better at harvesting huge numbers of fish, and success drew more and more participants into the industry.  By the 1970’s, however, we began to feel the real effects of overfishing, as fisheries like the cod, haddock and flounder stocks in New England and elsewhere around the world began to decline precipitously.  This drove the first passage of The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, (MSA) in 1976 to address overfishing the U.S. MSA became the primary governing law for fisheries in the country and its impact has already been felt, from aiding the development of domestic fishing by phasing out foreign fishing to reducing bycatch. The act has been modified (and strengthened) several times, the most recent being the 2006 Reauthorization.

The 2006 reauthorization continued the goals of the original act; reducing bycatch, rebuilding fisheries and ending overfishing. However, the ocean community, including Ocean Champions, was successful in including key provisions that gave MSA a real chance of success for the first time.  These included strengthening the role of science in policymaking and expanding fisheries research. Perhaps most importantly, it included the goal of ending overfishing by 2011 through the imposition of mandatory catch limits in all U.S. fisheries and set the requirement of rebuilding overfished stocks within 10 years.

MSA also embraced Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs), also known as “catch shares.” This method extends fishing seasons and benefits both fishermen and fish, and was passed by a Republican Congress and Administration. This is good to remember when you hear voices on the right now attack this highly successful market-based program.

Previous versions of MSA had some success in rebuilding a few overfished fisheries including the New England scallop, which is now the most valuable wild scallop fishery in the world; the Mid-Atlantic bluefish, which was declared fully rebuilt in 2009 after a 9-year rebuilding plan; and the Pacific lingcod, which was rebuilt several years ahead of schedule through a 10-year rebuilding plan. Now, however, with catch limits in place for all overfished fisheries, and limits to prevent overfishing to be in place for all fisheries by year-end, MSA can truly achieve its goal of ending overfishing.  However, at the very moment that MSA could set us on a path for long term sustainable fisheries, it has come under heavy attack.

The imposition of overfishing deadlines have many in the fishing industry striking back. They argue that in these recessionary times, more flexibility in the quota system is needed.   This is a Trojan horse, however. While it’s understandable some might be concerned about hard quotas in difficult economic times, many fisheries are near collapse, and these science-based limits will help ensure that the fishing industry can prosper well into the future.  In addition, MSA already includes the flexibility to make adjustments based on current conditions year to year, and there are other ways to help fishermen in these tough times.  Thus, using “flexibility” as a reason to amend MSA today is really just an attempt to weaken the law, returning to the days when fish stocks could be driven out of existence.

This is a critical moment in time for fish and for all those who depend on them for food, income and recreation.  If we protect Magnuson and stay the course, all of us – fishermen, consumers and the fish themselves – will be better off.  If we give in to short term pressure, we could head down a path where our only thriving fishery would be the jellyfish.

Date Posted: April 11, 2011 @ 9:17 am Comments Off