This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for the dedicated champions of ocean conservation.
Two of them—Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—will receive Presidential Medals of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House today.
Maryland native Senator Mikulski has always been committed to ocean and coastal issues, especially in efforts supporting the Chesapeake Bay. She has served in Congress since 1977 and in her long and storied career, has always been elevated ocean conservation, taking a strong stance on issues like sustainable seafood and fighting for federal investments to support ocean conservation, science and research. Senator Mikulski was a powerful ally for the ocean as the first female Senator to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. We do not doubt that her service will inspire the next generation of champions.
A couple of weeks ago I went on a mackerel fishing trip out of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a 35-year commercial fishing veteran. It was a beautiful day and there was the slightest tinge of autumn out on the Gulf of Mexico, and we quickly caught the day’s order of Spanish and King mackerel. Heading back through John’s Pass I asked my friend, who also fishes for Gulf snapper and grouper, how business has been and without missing a beat he said “The last two years have been the best of my career.”
We did it! You asked our Gulf leaders to restore the Gulf beyond the shore, and they heard you! When the details of the $20.8 billion settlement were released last month, more than $1 billion was set aside to restore the open ocean.
But there’s a catch…the Trustees charged with restoring the Gulf have proposed to take ALL of their federal overhead expenses for the next 15 years out of the open ocean fund. That funding is critical for restoring Gulf wildlife in the deep sea, where an area 20 times the size of Manhattan remains polluted with BP oil!
Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began over five years ago, various settlements with BP and Transocean have given way to a veritable alphabet soup of restoration processes: NFWF, NRDA, RESTORE, NAS and so on. Each process has its own set of funding and restrictions, which can exhaust the many dedicated people who are engaged in restoration with multiple sets of public meetings and comment periods. But the fish and crabs and wetlands in the Gulf don’t care where the money comes from to restore their health and their habitats.
A young boy who loved exploring the tidal pools along the shores of California’s Monterey Bay grew up to become a fierce defender of America’s greatest natural resource — our ocean. Yesterday, after more than two decades as California’s Central Coast’s longest-serving member, Congressman Sam Farr announced that he would retire at the end of the current Congress.
We are deeply grateful to Congressman Farr for his leadership in protecting our ocean.
Congressman Farr is a founding member co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus, whose 67 members from both sides of the aisle work to educate the House about issues facing our world’s ocean.
We know that not everyone has the time to peruse hundreds of pages of information, so Ocean Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation partnered to summarize what we now know about impacts. This summary is based on five years of government research, which recently became available when the details of the BP settlement were released last month.
The past few weeks have delivered a lot of good news to those of us who feel that offshore drilling in Arctic waters is too risky and too much of a threat to both the region and the planet’s climate. But, while we have two pieces of good news to share with you, these victories are temporary. We still need to work together on solutions to protect our future from risky offshore drilling.