Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Chairman Rahall and Congresswoman Castor address the crowd. Photo Credit: Doug DeMark Photo

It’s always  a challenge to pull of an event on Capitol Hill.  The schedules of Members of Congress are notoriously volatile, and traffic (non)flows challenge all potential party goers.  So while we know we’ve built strong relationships with many members, we’re always a little nervous about how our reception will turn out.  This year, we knew that a mandatory Senate dinner had been set for 6:00, and as the evening began, we also found out that a series of procedural votes, expected to go well into the night, had been called in the House.  Furthermore, gigantic mutant hamsters were rampaging through the city in a rabid quest for sunflower seeds.  OK, I made the last one up, but from our perspective, it did feel like the universe was conspiring against us.

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Congressman Sam Farr talks ocean policy (left). Congressman Frank Kratovil with Cong. Farr in background. Photo Credit: Doug DeMark Photo.

But as it unfolded, we were touched to see that many Members of Congress used whatever small openings they had to come show their support for the ocean.  By the end of the evening, ten Members had come by.  Many made passionate speeches about the initiatives they were leading or supporting to help our oceans, and all took the time to engage the many ocean activists who attended.  Of note, Congressman Brian Baird spoke at length about Harmful Algal Blooms and about Ocean Acidification.  He may have had the quote of the night when he said, “No one should mention climate without discussing ocean acidification!”

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David Wilmot introduces Congressman Brian Baird. Photo Credit: Doug DeMark Photo.

Ocean Champions would like to thank , , , , , , , , , and for making the time to come celebrate with us.  We’d also like to thank everyone who came to the event for your time and support.

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Ocean warriors or ocean revelers? Photo Credit: Doug DeMark Photo

Until next year!

Date Posted: September 24, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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An important step in passing legislation to address Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) was a rousing success. House Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair held a to inform legislation he is crafting to address these Toxic Tides. The Senate has already passed their HAB and Hypoxia bill out of committee, and Mr. Baird is looking to build upon what they’ve done. Today’s successful hearing positions the bill for markup and (hopefully) passage into law.

The panel of witnesses all spoke passionately about the threat posed by toxic tides and hypoxia and about the need to act strongly to counter them. Of note:

  • of NOAA said the call for a national strategy for fighting HABs and the establishment of regional action plans to address them were critical.
  • , Washington Coastal Shellfish manager, described how HABs close annual shellfish harvests, killing jobs and income.
  • of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute stated that technologies for killing HABs have been developed and that this bill could help implement them by creating funding targeted for HAB control.
  • , a professor of Biochemistry, talked about the lethality of fresh water HABs, which have killed tens of thousands of livestock and many domestic animals, in addition to causing large scale human illness.
  • spoke about the major Hypoxic “dead zones” in U.S. waters, and stated that the bill should tighten accountability for curing causes when they’re known.

In short, a very good hearing that demonstrated unanimous support for the HAB bill. All witnesses asserted that the bill could do a lot to address their specific concerns, and several offered ideas to help improve the legislation. Mr. Baird took their comments to heart and said there would be a two week comment period for the draft bill. He adjourned the meeting with a rallying call to move the bill “with alacrity!”

So, what’s next? Following the comment period, the bill will likely be introduced and will go through a Committee markup. Assuming it is passed out of Committee, it’ll be a matter of getting floor time in the House and Senate to get the bill made into law. Ocean Champions is confident this can happen in 2009, and will continue to push hard. We’ll be asking for your help in contacting your Senators and Representatives to help push this bill over the finish line as soon as the House version is formally introduced. We’re very, very close to victory, but we cannot let up now.

Date Posted: September 21, 2009 @ 7:07 am

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

On June 12th, President Obama issued a that established the , and charged it with developing a recommendation for a national policy to protect, maintain and restore our oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes.  The Task Force is now traveling the country holding Public Meetings to get feedback on why such a policy should be created and what it should look like.  Sometime today (9/10), the Task Force is expected to release it’s first comments.

The ocean is currently saddled by a completely unworkable governance structure that includes over 140 laws and 20 different Federal agencies, each with different goals and conflicting mandates. As a result, there is no guidance on how to resolve conflicts that occur between these interests, and many problems fall through the cracks. In addition, with so many organizations owning a piece of the jurisdiction, there is little consistency across decisions, and no one is accountable for overall ocean health. Thus, to address the major crosscutting problems facing the ocean, a clear, accountable governance structure, aligned around the guiding principle of protecting, maintaining and restoring ocean health must be established.

To succeed, the Policy needs to be grounded in Ecosystem Based Management. Today, decisions about ocean resources are typically made on a species by species, problem-by-problem manner, whereas Ecosystem Based Management considers the interplay between species and their habitats, including the impact of human activities. The policy should also address the governance problem by providing a mechanism to ensure consistent implementation across all the Federal agencies that are involved in ocean management. Part of this is structural, and solving that will be complex. Part of it, however, is simply directing the Federal Agencies to interpret and enforce their regulations in accordance with the Policy value statement (Protect, Maintain, Restore), to revise any policies that are not aligned with it, and to issue new regulations where gaps exist. The bottom line is that these Agencies should be directed to minimize harm to ocean, coastal and great lakes resources through their activities, and to take action to prevent harm. The policy should also recommend actions to address specific problems facing our oceans today such as restoring fisheries, restoring habitats, and improving water quality.

All of this is much more easily said than done, and when managing for the long term, sacrifices must be made. However, if we don’t solve the governance problem and start making sacrifices, we’ll soon have squandered all the gifts the ocean has bestowed upon us. I hope the Task Force seizes the opportunity and act with courage and conviction to protect our oceans.  To help motivate them, I encourage everyone living near each of the Public Meetings to attend and to make informed comments.  The next meeting is in .  The time is now for the ocean community to stand and be heard.

Date Posted: September 10, 2009 @ 12:40 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

Let’s start off with a little cheer shall we – a victorious ocean hero has arrived safely!  Ocean Warrior has completed stage 2 of her pacific solo ocean row – congratulations Roz!

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Photo courtesy of Roz Savage

She launched stage 2 of her voyage on May 24, from Honolulu, Hawaii. She spent 104 days at sea, bringing the total number of days alone at sea for her Pacific crossing to 203 days. Savage uses her ocean rowing adventures to help inspire action on environmental issues and this year, Roz targeted climate change.  Roz will soon travel to Copenhagen where she hopes to share video testimonials from the people she meets in Tarawa with world leaders at the Copenhagen summit.  Roz plans to highlight the critical importance of immediate and aggressive action on reducing global carbon emissions.

More cheer:  two up and coming ocean parties we’ll be hosting/co-hosting take place on the 16th and 23rd of September.  As you know, the next Thursday, the 17th.  Join us at the pre-meeting ocean party the night before for some drinks, music and informal strategizing.  On the 23rd, Ocean Champions annual reception in DC will kick off at 5 PM. for their tireless work and dedication to ocean health, an event not to be missed!

Now for a couple of not so cheerful items:  HABs and the devastating oil slick in Australia.  We’ve been consistently reporting on worldwide HABs outbreaks associated with illness and/or death of not just marine wildlife.  , and other terrestrials are being affected.  .  Help us by .

The Australian oil slick is going under investigation.  According to this article:  “The Kimberley coast is described by Tourism Australia as “one of the world’s last true wilderness areas.” The Australian Greens have said the area is a “marine superhighway,” with populations of baby turtles this time of year and a migratory route for whales.

“It’s a huge concern that there’s still an uncontrolled leak of oil,” Gilly Llewellyn, who heads the Australian marine division of the World Wildlife Fund, said today. “The oil might well be heading toward Indonesian waters or to Timor. This is one of the most important parts of the planet for marine wildlife.”

Check out this site for satellite images of the spill.

Make your voice heard on offshore drilling. A couple weeks remain to submit your comments to Ms. Renee Orr, up until September 21, 2009:

Ms. Renee Orr
Chief, Leasing Division
Minerals Management Service, MS 4010
381 Elden Street
Herndon, VA 20170-4817

Date Posted: September 9, 2009 @ 3:51 pm Comments Off