While there’s been some exciting ocean conservation news recently including a promised expansion of marine protected areas in the Pacific, reopening of the U.S. marine sanctuary nominations process to the public, passage of a law to fund research on how to end harmful algal blooms, a presidential commitment to address pirate fishing and mislabeling of commercial seafood, and protection of forage fish that make up the base of the marine food-web, solutions are still not growing faster than the ocean’s problems. Nor are politicians responding to the declining state of our public seas at the level they respond to other policy issues even though fishing nets threaten global food security far more than threats to net neutrality. In response to a lack of public engagement more than 50 advocates and leaders from over 20 ocean and coastal organizations met in Washington D.C. and by teleconference last month (the day after the State Department held a global ‘Our Ocean’ conference) to develop a U.S. strategy for raising the profile of ocean issues and solutions between now and the 2016 presidential election.
This “Over The Horizon” meeting’s sponsors included Blue Frontier, Oceana, Ocean Champions, NRDC, Colorado Ocean Coalition and Clean Ocean Action. Other participants came from institutions and groups such as NOAA, the U.S. State Department, U.S. House and Senate, Conservation Law Foundation, The Ocean Foundation, The National Aquarium, Restore America’s Estuaries, Marine Conservation Institute, One Florida Foundation, Ocean River Institute, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Hands Across the Sand, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, Alliance for Justice, Surfrider Foundation and Greenpeace.
The full meeting report can be found on the Blue Frontier website at:
But the outcomes and conclusions – that hopefully will provoke timely discussion and planning around the nation – can be briefly summarized as follows:
1. We can and should impact 2014 elections in at least half a dozen states, raising ocean and coastal issues before the candidates and the public from Florida to Colorado to California. This will give us practice in developing more effective ‘field campaigns,’ working at the local and state levels – including inland states – to impact national policy.
2. Ocean issues likely to have resonance with the public include: opposition to offshore oil & gas drilling and fracking; alternatives including creation of new national marine sanctuaries and wilderness parks in the sea. We also need to support clean ocean energy as part of democratic planning for our coasts and ocean. We can educate the public on how restoring healthy populations of fish and marine wildlife benefits both humans and the sea. All of this should be based on the understandable message that healthy seas, coasts and estuaries assure healthy economies and communities.
3. In 2015 we need to take these issues to Washington DC for the Blue Vision Summit and Healthy Ocean Capitol Hill Day. These will take place May 11-14 2015 along with the annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. We all should begin to seek funding to send people to DC.
4. To achieve the above, we need to expand our coalitions to include business, recreational and other ocean users and to develop stronger student and youth outreach efforts.