Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative (JOCI) was formed to encourage meaningful ocean policy reform.  Their work builds upon recommendations arising from the and the report from the   The organization includes scientists, activists, industry representatives and government personnel.  JOCI recently published which outlines major priorities for the ocean community and recommends actions that should be taken by the Obama administration and by Congress over the next 2 – 4 years.  They presented this report to key congressional committee personnel in early April.

The report is a great read for anyone interested in understanding the breadth of ocean-related issues our nation and the world must address, such as climate change, declining fisheries, water quality, and the competing (and plentiful) potential uses of ocean resources.  It also provides excellent coverage of the underlying causes.  The heart of the report, however, is its discussion of recommended solutions, which are grouped into four key areas:

  • Improving Ocean and Coastal Policy and Management
  • Bolstering International Leadership
  • Strengthening Ocean Science, and
  • Funding Ocean and Coastal Policies and Programs  

Each of these areas is filled with important recommendations, too numerous to cover here.  If I had to pick the three that I believe are most important to address right away, however, I’d choose the following:

  • Establishing a national policy to protect, maintain and restore the health of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources
  • Accelerating the full implementation of Magnuson-Stevens, and
  • Establishing an ocean investment fund from resource rents driven by commercial activities in federal waters on the outer continental shelf

I believe these three tenets are critical because they create ripple effects that address other peripheral issues.  A national policy would provide the framework for solving many of the problems stemming from poor coordination and integration across the many groups responsible for ocean governance today, and would simplify adoption of other important devices such as Marine Spatial Planning.  Implementation of Magnuson-Stevens could initiate currently workable solutions to the issues driving over fishing.  Finally, establishment of an ocean investment fund could begin to direct resources to many under-funded initiatives.

Clearly, ALL the recommendations are important, and opinions will differ about which might carry the most weight.  So, time for you to chime in Champions – let me know which recommendations you think are the highest priorities and why.  

Date Posted: April 29, 2009 @ 6:29 am

Posted by: David Wilmot

Spring time in DC – what’s not to love!

Against a backdrop of blossoms and melodious birdsong, President Obama is bringing science back into the equation while he appoints worthy, conservation-minded people like Dr. Jane Lubchenco to key positions. Hope – as they say – like spring, is eternal. (Well, assuming we can get a grip on the global warming threat. But, I digress).

I am happy to report that my latest visit to the Halls of Congress (and the White House) has left me more enthused than ever about the direction we’re taking to build a Congressional coalition of champions and get good things done for the oceans.

At the same time we’re pushing forward on bold, comprehensive efforts, (, for example), we’re also focusing on more modest but important legislation with better-than-even chances of passing both Houses of Congress and being signed into law by President Obama.

This strategy, combined with our growing reputation on Capitol Hill and in the Administration, has been opening the doors and possibilities we first envisioned when we founded Ocean Champions in 2004.

Today, I cannot tell you how incredibly rewarding it is to be in this position, and I attribute it all the ongoing support you – our Members and donors – have provided us over the years. So, please accept a heartfelt thank you from me for believing in the Ocean Champions vision.

Given the positive response we received during my visit to , a key element of my strategy for this visit was to move the ball as far forward as possible on the Harmful Algal Bloom legislation – developing a national strategy to address these harmful outbreaks as well as hypoxia (”deadzones”) in the ocean.

And, although the odds are always against any piece of legislation – no matter how important or non-controversial – actually passing both Houses of Congress and being signed into law, the prospects for this bill continue to grow, prospects I’d like to highlight by briefly discussing a few of our key meetings.

First, we met with Cong. Brian Baird of Washington, who is the new Chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee. It may be a bit of an understatement to say that he is ready and raring to go on this bill. Not only is he passionate about this issue and the legislation, he described to us that in addition to causing respiratory problems, the neuro-toxicity of some blooms can actually permanently destroy short-term memory in humans! Not good. This concern, which he addresses very eloquently and passionately, clearly defines the threat algae blooms can pose to human health, and will become a compelling element of our overall strategy to move this bill to the President’s desk. Further, he has expressed his keen interest in working closely with two of our long-time champions on this legislation, and , the original sponsors of this legislation.

During this visit, I had two other especially noteworthy meetings, one with the Assistant to the Speaker Cong. Chris Van Hollen, and the other with two senior White House officials.

Cong. Van Hollen, of course, has replaced Rahm Emanuel as the head of the DCCC and thus, in addition to his close working relationship with Speaker Pelosi and the White House, is in regular contact with every single Democratic Member of Congress. We had first met Mr. Van Hollen at an event for (D-MD), one of our freshmen Champions. At the event, Mr. Van Hollen took the opportunity to describe to us in some detail his strong interest in global ocean issues, and asked us to meet with him to discuss matters further at our earliest convenience.

At this follow-up meeting, we took the opportunity to seek his support for the Harmful Algae bloom bill, to which he responded favorably. He further agreed to stay in touch with us in the weeks ahead to help connect us to his colleagues who share our concerns about dealing with harmful algae blooms.

Finally, we met two officials at the White House to discuss a wide range of ocean issues, and we seized the opportunity to engage them on our harmful algae bloom legislation. We must be doing something right as we again received a positive response not only to the merits of the legislation, but also for our ongoing strategy for aligning the right mix of political support – House and Senate, Democrat and Republican – to move the bill forward. In addition, we received a warm response to our offer to work with them in the months ahead to garner support among our Congressional Ocean Champions for worthy Administration efforts on behalf of the oceans.

So, all good, but we’ve just begun. With an overloaded legislative agenda and the Administration focused on the economy and other more demanding issues, it will take all we’ve got to help push this bill through the Committee process and to the House and Senate floors for a vote. As you know, even in a relatively slow year, the vast majority of bills introduced in Congress never get a hearing, let alone make it to the floor for a vote.

Even now, we’re reaching out to the committee chairmen to schedule hearings, and to the Leadership in both bodies to make the case for eventual floor time. For this, we will need your help: at the right time we will be turning to you to ask you to contact key Members of Congress to help us make this case.

Again, thanks for all of your support, and I’m looking forward to sharing my next communiqué from Washington. During that May visit, we plan to visit of few of the famous Capitol Hill watering holes and try to catch some Members and senior staff in more relaxed settings. The goal is to get a few of them to comment into my phone-camera and let me post it on our website. So, if you have a question or two you’d like me to ask, send it my way and I’ll see what I can do.

Date Posted: April 28, 2009 @ 1:19 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Denise

I don’t know who could possibly be earthier than Ocean Champions.  At a time when politics has never mattered more to our environment, Ocean Champions takes the lead, ‘front and center’.

If you agree, and I know you do, let our friends know at They’re running a contest, and whoever communicates best about an organization that is doing a great job, wins a whole bunch of cool prizes.

Go ahead, wax eloquent (in 50 words, or less ; ), on Ocean Champions.  Hey, a simple little haiku could work!

Ocean Champions Rock
Where Politics Meets the Sea
The Blue Protectors

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Date Posted: April 22, 2009 @ 3:19 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

On April 15th, Margo Pellegrino, a mother of 2 from New Jersey, began a in an outrigger canoe from the Atlantic coast of Florida to New Orleans.  She’s hoping to raise awareness about the myriad challenges facing our oceans and to build support for  a Healthy Oceans Act.  As she paddles, Margo will be filling a Coca Cola bank with S.O.S. letters (Save Our Seas) from Floridians to their representatives in Congress, seeking legislation to improve ocean health.  You can follow her trip at OnEarth Magazine from the NRDC.  In addition, you can help support Margo by using to tell your representative in Congress that you also support a healthy ocean act.

This isn’t Margo’s first trip – she’s already paddled over 2,500 miles along the east coast to raise awareness for ocean issues, including one trip from Miami to Maine .  These are truly amazing feats, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Margo, you can see how she is able to pull them off.  She has incredible energy and spirit and great passion for the ocean.  In light of her efforts, we should ask ourselves what we can do to help promote healthy oceans.  Not everyone can paddle 1,000 miles, but there are a number of simple things we can all do to make a difference:

  • Pick up trash when you see it, and participate in beach and watershed clean up efforts
  • Avoid using pesticides and fertilizers as these often run off into storm drains and creeks, and find their way to open water
  • Avoid using –  a huge share wind up in the ocean, and they take hundreds of years to decompose
  • Cut down on driving and energy consumption – from CO2 absorption is a growing problem

Finally, as Margo shows, it is important to engage politically – members of Congress need to know that ocean health is a national priority.  

Consider how powerful gun owners have become through the NRA.  

Now imagine if the oceans could tap into that kind of political strength.  Pretty compelling vision, and one that’ll take a lot of work.  Just think of it as a 1,000 mile paddle – it’s a difficult journey, but if we work together and keep moving forward every day, we’ll eventually reach our destination.

Date Posted: April 21, 2009 @ 3:44 am

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

By all accounts, yesterday’s on oil drilling was a success for ocean advocates.  Environmentalists, some dressed as sea turtles or jellyfish, as well as state and federal lawmakers delivered a clear anti-drilling message to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  

This is consistent with the tone of the public hearings held in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Anchorage, Alaska.  Even the Wall Street Journal reported that in the Atlantic City event, ”Opponents of offshore drilling dominated the hearing,” and that “…Salazar got an earful about medical waste, tar balls from industrial spills and other detritus that has washed up on the Jersey Shore.”  In Anchorage, all but two of the 300 people in the room responded “yes” when asked by Secretary Salazar about whether they agreed with testimony opposed to oil development in Bristol Bay.  Of the four public hearings, only the one held in New Orleans carried a pro-drilling message – not surprising given the degree to which the oil and gas industry provides jobs in that region.

So the question now is, “what’s next?”  Secretary Salazar stated yesterday that he hoped to be able to release details of the Obama administration’s energy plan “sometime this year.”  To date, the Obama administration has put development of renewable, clean energy front and center, but has also talked about a balanced portfolio of energy options that includes development of oil and gas. In short, the future is unclear.

Given this uncertainty, should we sit on our hands and wait?  I say no, and I’m sure that most of you feel the same way.  Thus, I am asking all the people who read this blog to continue to make your voice heard.  The Interior Department has listed as one point of contact to receive public comments on new oil drilling ).  Please write to her with your views, and pass the address along to any like-minded friends or family you have.

Date Posted: April 17, 2009 @ 8:46 am Comments Off

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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Have you heard about the ‘Adventures of the Plastiki’?  A device of great ingenuity, this recyclable sail boat is getting ready to set sail from San Francisco to Sydney this summer.  Pretty cool.

Also premiering this summer, recyclable suits from Sears.  Machine washable and dryer safe – no dry cleaning required.  Cool!?

As approaches, it’s a great reminder of all that we should be doing to stay on the ‘green’ path.  Consider these top 10 ways to celebrate Earth Day.  Or, volunteer.

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Just think, that plastic bottle you recycle could turn into a sailboat or a suit.

Or better yet, consider never buying ‘one use’ plastics again.  Check out this

Date Posted: April 8, 2009 @ 10:53 am Comments Off

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

An Ocean Champion is born!

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Jaden Laughlin, sporting his new Ocean Champions onesie.

Having had the insider’s tour of Ocean Champions headquarters, Jaden has a lot to say, and it’s all good!  He can’t wait to charge out into the ocean, as long as we can all provide the protection the ocean needs and deserves to endure for these younger generations to enjoy.

Let’s keep the healthy legislation rolling through Congress, with our beautiful big blue in the big picture.  These babies need a healthy ocean to live healthy lives.

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Santa Cruz baby mosh pit, 3-22-09

Please join us in the effort to support healthy oceans.

Date Posted: April 1, 2009 @ 9:51 pm Comments Off