It was a grey and rainy day, the seas were choppy and I had my seasick medicine at the ready.
“Hope you ladies are in for a bumpy ride” shouted the captain of the small vessel that would be our next mode of transportation. “We might only make it halfway out before we need to turn around, it’s rough out there today!”
A year ago, President Obama became the first sitting US President to visit the Arctic.
He stood on the banks of Bristol Bay with a freshly caught salmon in hand, joined schoolchildren in a traditional Yup’ik dance, and stood at the toe of the rapidly shrinking Exit Glacier. He experienced awe-inspiring Alaska with its rich cultures and traditions that depend on a healthy, thriving environment. He also saw the effects of climate change firsthand from the ecological impacts of a receding glacier to a village forced to relocate because of severe coastal erosion.
After that trip President Obama said, “What’s happening in Alaska is happening to us…it’s our wakeup call.”
Last week, Ocean Conservancy brought the ocean into the Senate.
You can imagine my confusion when I was asked to help.
It made sense once I learned Ocean Conservancy and the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab were teaming up to bring the issue of ocean acidification to the Capitol. We would use virtual reality–as in that over-the-face simulation technology you keep hearing about—to submerge Senators and staffers underwater. If policy makers couldn’t get to the ocean, we would bring the ocean to Washington D.C., in hopes of leveraging virtual reality’s immersive nature to inspire much-needed change for our ocean.
“The ocean is a major part of my life, all our lives.” – Representative Lois Capps
Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps of the 24th District visited Ocean Conservancy, to speak not only on her legacy in Congress, but also her incredible contribution to our ocean.
Like me, Representative Capps is a Cali girl. Although born in the Midwest, she spent fifty years living in Santa Barbara as a nurse, educator and congresswoman, elected to first represent the Central Coast in 1998. In fact, Representative Capps spoke about enrolling her children in the Junior Lifeguard program–the same program I did growing up, the one that formed my love for the ocean!
Representative Capps demonstrates a dedication to marine conservation like no other, including advocating for marine protected areas, marine life and environmental education. She supported the expansion of coastal and marine monuments off the California coast, prevented offshore drilling and is a leader on the issue of ocean acidification. She’s even co-sponsored a long list of legislation, including acts protecting sea turtles, sharks and sea otters. And who doesn’t love sea otters?
An interest in the natural world can spring from unlikely places. For Eddie Love, a recent college graduate and current RAY Fellow at Ocean Conservancy, a love for the fastest land animal in the world inspired his decision to launch a career in conservation.
“I had an affinity for cheetahs at a very young age. I found myself watching Animal Planet instead of cartoons,” Eddie says. “I always wanted to be as fast as them. I play tennis so I try to channel my inner cheetah and get to every ball. They’ve always been sort of an underdog in the cat world. That’s how I felt growing up. I was small, so they motivated me to be better.”
What happens when feisty, tough Dungeness crabs meet an even tougher bunch of fishermen? We’ll find out this fall in Discovery Channel’s new series, Dungeon Cove. The show highlights how the Newport, Oregon Dungeness crab fleet and the local community handle the dangers, victories and worries of the fishing season.
It’s clear that Dungeness fishing isn’t for the weak. Not only are the crabs often hard to find, hiding cleverly from fishermen or avoiding cunningly placed traps, but the working conditions are also dangerous. Simply exiting the Newport harbor is difficult at times, when wind and sea state cause waves to pile up and challenge the best helmsmen. Family members on land worry about their seagoing loved ones every day. Layer physical danger on top of economic concerns—many Dungeness fishermen are owner-operators, or essentially small business owners—and you have one tough job.
Last month, President Obama made history by establishing the largest protected marine area ever in Hawaii.
Now, he’s at it again.
Today, President Obama announced the protection of a new marine area in New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. That means that in just a matter of weeks, Obama has protected more U.S. waters than any other president.