What do National Geographic Explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman and senate candidate Ed Markey, Ralph Nader, the marine artist Wyland, a syndicated cartoonist, a coast guard admiral, a coastal paddler, the head of America’s largest port and a young woman submarine pilot all have in common? They, along with hundreds of other ocean defenders, will be part of the fourth Blue Vision Summit in Washington D.C. this May 13-16 to send a message to our nation’s leaders – “Now is the time. Our oceans are rising and our voices are too!”
Every two years ocean conservationists of different stripes descend on Washington DC to network and strategize for the “blue movement” and to educate our elected officials to the vital importance our public seas play in assuring the safety, security and stewardship of our maritime nation.
This year’s Blue Vision Summit and 6th annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards – taking place at the same time – represent both a challenge and hope for our ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them.
In writing my latest book, The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea I came to realize that in states and places where the public is engaged with the ocean good outcomes for both ecosystems and economies tend to follow. Representative Sam Farr of Monterey has told me that, “California is the one state where you can get elected or lose your job based on your position on coastal protection and offshore oil.” We need to spread that inspiration and fair warning to elected officials from the 49 other states.
This year’s Blue Vision Summit will focus on three major themes: responding to coastal disasters like Super-storm Sandy in ways that will protect the ecosystems that protect us all, making fossil-fuel fired climate change a blue issue and highlighting youth leadership for ocean conservation. We also plan to hold the largest ever Healthy Ocean Capitol Hill Day visits with hundreds of people from across the country meeting directly with their House members, Senators and their staffs on May 15 to let them know we expect them to support the President’s common sense ocean policy for the nation to coordinate and protect our seas while still making sustainable use of them. Also we want Congress to stop slashing the budgets of the nation’s frontline marine agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard. We’ll also be encouraging Congress to support bills that fight both seafood fraud and illegal pirate fishing. This is something we’re obliged to do as citizens and legally permitted to do as non-profit educational groups, activists, businesspeople, scientists and youths.
Among the most active participants we’re expecting will be high school and college students who are planning marine science and maritime careers while finding new ways to protect the ocean they love. They are coming from New York, California, Florida and other places, even Colorado because at 5,000 feet above sea level the group Teens4Oceans understands that, “every state is a coastal state.”
The hope for ocean conservation will also be reflected in this year’s outstanding Peter Benchley Ocean Award winners. The world’s leading marine conservation awards the Benchleys are named after Peter Benchley because, while most people know he wrote the novel ‘Jaws’, few are aware that this prolific author spent most of his life working to protect sharks and other marine wildlife.
This year’s winners include President Macky Sall of Senegal, a West African head of state who has banned foreign fishing fleets from his nation’s waters, ocean scientists Boris Worm and Heike Lotze from Canada who are expanding the world’s knowledge of marine ecology, Representative Ed Markey, a long time ocean champion from Massachusetts who takes no guff from saltwater special interests, Nancy Baron and COMPASS, a long-time ocean communicator and her organization that help translate ocean science into public understanding, Sean Russell, a young man from Florida who has challenged recreational fishermen and women to clean up after themselves by providing safe disposal systems for fishing line and two California women, Karen Garrison and Kaitilin Gaffney, who effectively have helped move the state’s park system into the water column by protecting 16 percent of state waters as marine reserves. This year will also mark the largest gathering of past and present winners including Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the recently retired head of NOAA, Washington Post reporter and shark author Juliet Eilperin and 2010 youth winner and anti-plastics activist Rudy Sanchez.
Seaweed (marine grassroots) activists and ocean lovers are invited to attend this year’s Blue Vision Summit to help turn the tide for our ocean planet and restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Given the cascading disasters that still threaten our living seas including industrial overfishing, pollution, coastal sprawl and climate change we’re not sure if we can win the fight to restore our public seas. All we do know for certain is that if we don’t show up for the fight we lose.
For more information on BVS4 & PBOA6 go to: http://www.bluefront.org/blue_vision_blog/2013-summit/