The Blue Fronteir

It was a dinner gathering to remember. In a historic Washington, D.C. building there was assembly with such variety of talents dedicated to saving our awfully overburdened oceans that Blue Frontier director David Helvarg remarked “there’s rarely been so much marine talent gathered in one place, since Jacques Cousteau dined alone.”

The dinner was the official launching of our Blue Frontier campaign to connect and help organize over 2000 coastal and maritime communities and civic associations into a powerful force to rollback the devastations that spell misuse and overuse of oceans, beaches, estuaries and bays.

Assembled were ocean-savers such as John Passacantando of Greenpeace, Andy Sharpless of Oceana, Roger Berkowitz, the farseeing owner of the Legal Seafood restaurants, and Representatives George Miller, Sam Farr and Wayne Gilchrist who are genuinely committed to effective legislation.

The oceanic crises were obvious. The decline in ocean fisheries has driven some species close to extinction. Giant trawlers scrape the bottom of the seas over a region equal to the size of the United States, wreaking eco havoc. Fish-catching giant nets and their accompanying technology shrink the giant oceans and their underwater denizens.

Environmentalist Barry Commoner’s insightful phrase-“the technosphere against the ecosphere” comes to mind.

There is more. Nutrient runoff from factory farms and urban storm drains create massive algal blooms, dead zones (as in the Gulf of Mexico) and spread disease. Floods of chemicals are pouring into the seas, and the growing economies of China and India are seriously affecting their coastlines.India for years has been dumping radioactive waste into its seas in containers that do not last for more than a few decades.

David Helvarg, author of the brilliantly engrossing Blue Frontier: Saving America’s Living Seas, told the dinner guests that “The chance to protect and restore our waters and wildlife are undermined by coastal sprawl impacting the nurseries and cleansers of our seas- our watersheds, estuaries, saltmarshes, sea-grass meadows, barrier islands and coral reefs…all these cascading disasters are being enhanced by fossil fuel driven climate change that’s resulting in beach erosion, sea level rise, intensified storms and coral bleaching from warming oceans.”

Two major reports this year — one coming out this month from a Presidential commission and the other published in June by the Pew Oceans commission contain many sensible recommendations for action. We may be the last generation (the next 40 years) to save our oceans from an irreversible decline in performing their critical functions for the planet, animal life and humans.

There are, to be sure many vested interests, from the U.S. Navy to fishery companies to recreational users and beach property owners. But there are also many practical solutions as described on the Blue Frontier website www.bluefront.org if the “growing constituency of watermen and women who have solutions can build a seaweed rebellion of citizen activists”, in Helvarg’s words. Indeed such citizen rebellions have saved the Californian coasts from more oil drilling and have established marine sanctuaries which are equivalent to wilderness areas for preservation of species.

As if to punctuate the urgency, dinner participants passed around a description of a notorious rider stealthily attached by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)in the final days of this Congressional session, without any public hearings, to the appropriations bill for the Department of Commerce. Thisrider, if not stopped by a counter move led by Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would allow the destruction of thousands of square miles of deep sea coral habitat and open stellar sea lion refuges to exploitation by a small cartel of industrial fishing companies.

Interested citizens can contact “Sink the Stevens Rider” at www.oceana.org For more information go to the website www.bluefront.orgĀ 

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