The Blog Aquatic » Janis Searles Jones News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:20:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Senator Lautenberg: A Hero for Our Ocean Mon, 03 Jun 2013 16:15:11 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Ocean Conservancy expresses condolences to the family and friends of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for their loss at his passing.  Senator Lautenberg was a tireless protector of not just New Jersey, but all of our waters and coastlines.  He was a true environmental champion who will be sorely missed by all those who care about our ocean.  During his long career, he built an incredible legacy of conservation.  Here are just few key highlights:

  • He introduced and passed the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act so that the government could be begin coordinating research on the changing chemistry of the ocean.
  • He successfully fought to improve water quality and curb ocean dumping of sewage and plastics.
  • He wrote and passed the BEACH Act, a law to improve water quality monitoring standards and make sure the public is informed about the safety of their beaches.
  • He was a strong advocate for action to reduce pollution and tackle climate change, pushing for a clean energy future, reducing carbon pollution and promoting renewable energy.
  • He was a tireless advocate for the prevention of oil spills, and was part of congressional efforts to put in place tighter regulations, and to get companies to use stronger “double-hulled tankers” to prevent oil spills. He worked to prevent offshore oil drilling along the Atlantic coast.
  • As the Chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the regulation of toxic chemicals, Senator Lautenberg  held hearings and introduced legislation to put the burden on chemical companies to provide data to the EPA so that Americans can be assured the chemicals they are exposed to are safe. He was a champion for the public’s right to know more about the pollution being released into their neighborhoods and created the Toxic Release Inventory.
  • He introduced and passed the Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act to awards grants to states with approved coastal management programs to protect environmentally sensitive lands.

Senator Lautenberg stands on the Asbury Park Boardwalk with Rep. Frank Pallone and others to call for full funding for BEACH Act grants and push new federal legislation that would strengthen existing water quality protection programs.(August 23, 2012)


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A “To Do” List for the Ocean Tue, 16 Apr 2013 15:00:54 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Photo by Mattox. Creative Commons

Great news for anyone who thinks having a healthy ocean is a good idea.  The President’s National Ocean Policy Final Implementation Plan was released today.  It may not have the catchiest title, but since it’s essentially a “To Do” list for a healthy ocean and economy, it’s something worth getting excited about.

This “To Do” list includes over 50 action items related to making smarter use of the ocean and Great Lakes, both for conservation and the economy.  There are tasks related to protecting the Arctic, tackling climate change and ocean acidification, improving water quality and overall finding ways to better coordinate and manage ocean uses through data collection and monitoring, mapping and improved agency coordination.

Like most to-do lists, there are a lot of routine tasks, such as monitoring of temperature. There are also some ambitious feats on there. It provides the underpinning to cope with unpreventable and unpredictable events, like hurricanes and tsunamis, increased marine debris or rising sea levels.  This plan tackles many of those issues, and much more.

The National Ocean Policy is about making smart choices for a healthier ocean – which, in turn, saves money, time and jobs. The Implementation Plan shows that the policy is a realistic plan that recognizes the tough fiscal climate we’re in.  That’s why it emphasizes that these priorities can help direct the limited resources to where they’re most needed.

We’ve written before about the National Ocean Policy and what has happened so far.

Unfortunately we can expect some of the same critics to cry foul about this based on politics rather than the content of the plan.  Slowing down or blocking the National Ocean Policy could devastate services that many businesses and communities rely on. Congressman Markey once said that opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.

Our new CEO, Andreas Merkl, recently said,

“The ocean is at the very center of the key challenges of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage our impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.”

Approaches that look at the big picture, like the National Ocean Policy, are exactly what we need to rise to this challenge.

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Sen. Daniel Inouye: A Hero to the Ocean, a Hero to Our Country Tue, 18 Dec 2012 19:02:17 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Senator Daniel Inouye makes remarks at the U.S.-Japan Council Opening Reception on Capitol Hill on October 6th, 2011. Photo: Us Japan Council

Late yesterday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to announce the loss of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, one of the ocean’s true legislative champions. Inouye passed away last night as the second longest serving senator in history – leaving a long legacy of good works for the ocean.

As a senator and former representative from the country’s only island state, Inouye championed the causes of the ocean that surrounded and helped sustain the culture and economy of Hawaii. As one of Capitol Hill’s true bipartisan senators, he wielded his influence to work across the aisle and help pass landmark legislation for ocean health.

Inouye was an early champion in the fight against ocean trash, serving as a lead sponsor to introduce and eventually pass the Marine Debris Act. He also led and co-sponsored the most recent reauthorization of the bill.

As the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Inouye played a key role in the most recent reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act, which set hard deadlines for ending overfishing. He worked closely and in a bipartisan fashion with former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to pass the reauthorization and the bill may not have happened without this tireless work.

As senators from the 49th and 50th states, Inouye and Stevens shared a special bond and often worked closely on a host of ocean issues.

Inouye also sponsored legislation to create and reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act – legislation to protect the beautiful ecosystems so crucial to the Hawaiian way of life.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he was a champion for ocean funding and was a co-sponsor of the National Endowment for the Oceans.

Throughout his long career in the Senate, Inouye was a servant to his state, country and the ocean.

But he was not only a hero to the ocean; he was also a hero to his country. Inouye served valiantly in World War II and received the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his service. He was also the first Japanese American elected to the Senate and a champion of civil rights in Hawaii and across the country.

While Inouye was not always the most high-profile member of the Senate, often shunning the spotlight to work behind closed doors and across the aisle to pass meaningful legislation, those who worked with him will remember him as a passionate and effective leader.

In a time when political gamesmanship too often trumps bipartisan and pragmatic solutions, our country – and our ocean – will miss the quiet leadership of Sen. Daniel Inouye.

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Praise for Science Champion, NOAA Chief Dr. Jane Lubchenco Wed, 12 Dec 2012 16:10:44 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Dr. Lubchenco (left) with Ellen Bolen, Ocean Conservancy’s Associate Director of Government Relations. Credit: NOAA

Dr. Jane Lubchenco announced today she is stepping down as administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We want to thank Dr. Jane Lubchenco for her tireless work to promote science, conservation and cooperation in all her efforts to ensure a healthy ocean. As the head of NOAA, she has led a forward-looking agency determined to preserve the ocean for generations to come.  We are confident she will remain a strong voice for science and conservation.

Ever a teacher, Dr. Lubchenco has been one of the most steadfast champions of science and the need for scientists to become solutions-oriented at a time when restoring scientific integrity is an urgent priority for the country. Under her leadership, NOAA renewed its focus on key ocean issues like ending overfishing, reducing marine debris, protecting the Arctic and tackling climate change and ocean acidification.

Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA were quick to respond to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the Gulf region, including the marine ecosystem, is restored. She was also instrumental in the creation and follow-through of President Obama’s historic National Ocean Policy Executive Order, which created a set of commonsense principles to protect important marine habitat, help clean up our nation’s beaches, and foster emerging industries and jobs.

We wish Dr. Lubchenco well in her new endeavors, and we hope that NOAA, and the rest of the federal government, follows her lead with a cooperative, scientific and ecosystem-based view to solving some of the planet’s biggest challenges. That also means it’s more important than ever that Congress provide NOAA the resources it needs. Superstorm Sandy was the most recent lesson in why NOAA is crucial — their tools, services and information can help us make better decisions to save lives and reduce the risks and costs of future disasters.

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In the Wake of Sandy, Thinking About the Future Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:49:51 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

Credit: AP Photos / Alex Brandon

Like many of you, many of Ocean Conservancy’s staff have lived through hurricanes and other natural disasters. We know how much damage hurricanes can cause, and our hearts go out to those of you affected by Hurricane Sandy.

For our staff working along the Gulf of Mexico, June through November is a time to remember how to “live with the water,” as Bethany Kraft, our director of Gulf Restoration put it at the start of this year’s hurricane season. When Hurricane Isaac hit last month, Gulf residents experienced hard winds, massive flooding and oiled shorelines that reminded us that we are still in the grips of responding to and recovering from the BP oil disaster.

Hurricane Sandy, which pounded the East Coast on Monday, was a wholly different storm. Our immediate concerns are always with those in the path of such devastating storms, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was especially acute. We send our gratitude to NOAA for the warnings and the time to prepare and to the first responders, who are not only saving lives but are leading communities’ recovery efforts.

As we shift from rescue to recovery, we are confronting a cleanup and rebuilding effort with an extraordinary price tag and an unforeseeable timeline. And while we can’t control such a massive storm, we can help strengthen our nation’s best defense against this force of nature.

Coastal and marine habitats such as barrier islands, beaches, oyster reefs and sea-grass beds can help buffer shorelines and protect coastal communities from wind and rising water. But when these natural sentries are weakened by climate change, development, pollution, overfishing and other human impacts, our communities are at even greater risk when disaster approaches.

With this in mind, we must ask:

  • How can we step in to help coastal areas affected by the storm?
  • What can we do to ensure that our coastal areas are ready and resilient, so they can better handle extreme weather events?

While any one storm — particularly one this complex — can’t be solely blamed on climate change, we know we can expect a greater frequency of stronger storms like this one. In addition to addressing climate change, we need to increase funding for restoration of our coastlines’ natural defenses.

In the Gulf of Mexico, we already know that restored wetlands and oyster beds can help sap the energy of an incoming hurricane and protect the shoreline from storm surge.

As Paul Greenberg, author of “Four Fish,” notes in The New York Times this week, oyster beds “once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.” While a small recovery of that population is underway, it could not have protected New Yorkers from the incredible strength of Sandy.

Going forward, we must focus attention on solutions for better protection of our increasingly vulnerable coastlines, from ongoing research and monitoring to smart, integrated planning in the coastal zone.

For now, our thoughts are with those recovering from Sandy, but as restoration gets underway in the coming weeks and months, Ocean Conservancy will be a leading voice in the call for comprehensive planning efforts to shore up our natural defenses before the next storm.

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Celebrating 40 Years of Making the Ocean Matter Fri, 07 Sep 2012 16:00:59 +0000 Janis Searles Jones coral reef with 40th anniversary logo

Photo: Gloria Freund, Photo Contest 2011

Today Ocean Conservancy turns 40 years old. That’s quite the milestone when you think about how we got started. (View a slideshow of our history.)

Founded in the midst of the nascent environmental movement in 1972, Ocean Conservancy began as a small organization focused on securing grants for environmental educators. Now we are recognized as a leader in empowering citizens to take action on behalf of the ocean.

For 40 years, Ocean Conservancy has found success by relying upon science to inform our work and partnering with unexpected allies ranging from fishing communities to major businesses to a global network of volunteers. However, there is still much work to be done.

We are witnesses to a complex world, where we must engage competing ocean interests, restore important habitats and confront the reality that our ocean is changing rapidly. If we hope to protect the planet’s valuable marine resources in the decades to come, we must work together to ensure that the things we all love about the ocean – wildlife like whales, dolphins and seabirds; the beaches we roam; the waves we surf and sail; and the seafood we enjoy – are protected.

Now that Ocean Conservancy is celebrating 40 years of making the ocean matter, we are building a vision for the next four decades.

When we think about the ocean in 2050, we imagine our nation’s fisheries and coastal economies thriving and sustainable, supporting well-paying jobs, providing for recreation and supplying the world with healthy seafood.

We believe our goal of trash free seas will become a reality and that solutions-focused partnerships with industry, government, science and conservation leaders will create a culture in which trash is too valuable to toss.

Our future ocean includes a revitalized Gulf of Mexico region, restored in earnest after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and an Arctic that is vibrant because we took the time to use sound science to make smart decisions about offshore drilling and other uses. The vital coastal communities of the West Coast will be flourishing and our underwater parks off the coast of California will be robust with life after being protected for decades.

When it comes to making decisions about our shared ocean, we envision a future where stakeholders play an important role in a comprehensive planning process that helps avoid conflict and conserves precious resources. We foresee our decision-makers being influenced by unwavering public support for ocean health and making science-based conservation a priority.

We truly believe this vision for a healthy ocean in 2050 is achievable, but only with your continued support. I invite you to share with us your own vision for a more prosperous and beautiful ocean. What does your ocean look like in 40 years?

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What’s So Scary about a National Ocean Policy? Only That We Could Be Doing More. Tue, 17 Jul 2012 15:27:59 +0000 Janis Searles Jones

July 19, 2010: President Obama signs the Executive Order establishing a National Ocean Policy. Credit:

During this week two years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was still dominating the news.  And as our staff surveyed the Gulf, inspecting the impacts of gushing oil, it was already becoming clear that systemic problems with how decisions are made in the ocean contributed to this disaster.

So when on July 19th, 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a National Ocean Policy, it was a bright spot shining through the murky waters.  The Ocean Policy and the National Ocean Council it created will use a set of common sense principles to protect important marine habitat, help clean up our nation’s beaches and foster emerging industries and jobs.  It’s a way to untangle the web of existing ocean regulations and protect coastal communities and the economy. This policy wouldn’t have stopped the oil disaster, but it could provide a better path forward for a thriving, healthy ocean that also meets our economic needs.

Unfortunately, as we mark the two year anniversary of the National Ocean Policy, not enough has been said about a group of critics using a coordinated campaign of scare tactics and misinformation to try to drum up opposition for a common sense policy that is simply about coordinating existing programs that manage and protect the ocean, beaches and coastal economies.

So what’s so scary? Has anything happened that is worth being afraid of?

  • People are talking. A national workshop was held, and the regions that want to move forward have invited the federal agencies and ocean stakeholders to engage in the initial stages of smart ocean planning. For example, states in the Northeast held a workshop this spring to establish a planning and engagement process and start a discussion about goals for the region.
  • Maps and Data are being publicized. A National Data portal has been established, and the National Ocean Policy is in the process of making Federal data resources, as well as tools to view and interpret the data, available to the public. Several states and regions are developing Ocean Atlases to look at all their ocean information comprehensively.
  • A draft implementation plan was released.  The plan includes steps like improving the efficiency of ocean and coastal permitting processes, improving water quality and providing locally tailored forecasts and vulnerability assessments of climate change impacts on coastal communities.

These are not world-ending developments.  If anything, we can and should be doing more to move the National Ocean Policy forward because better coordination can help avert the truly scary ocean disasters.   Contrary to the critics, the laws already exist to do the actual work of governing, the National Ocean Policy simply serves as a coordinating blueprint that takes into account all of the moving pieces.

We need to move forward, not backward.  Regions that want to move ahead with planning need support and funding.  They shouldn’t be held back because of partisan bickering. A final Implementation Plan for the National Ocean Policy will be released this summer with action items that will provide guidance for those regions that want to invite the National Ocean Council to assist with research, education, planning, management and monitoring.  It addresses things that matter to the public and ocean users, like ocean acidification, dead zones, marine debris, ocean observing systems and sea level rise.

It’s time to get to work.  This policy is good for our ocean and the people who depend on it.

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