The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

Cleaning It Up and Taking it to the Bank

Hot off the presses are new findings that show it's actually cheaper for chlorine plants to make their product using mercury-free technology.


Oceana says so in the most extensive report to date focusing on the conversion of mercury-cell chlorine factories to more environmentally and economically sound mercury-free technology.


What's more, the findings have prompted Sen. Barack Obama (D - Ill.) to re-introduce legislation that requires chlorine and caustic soda manufacturing plants to switch to mercury-free technology by 2012.


It's good to see politicians recognizing the need for this type of legislation. Shifting not only benefits the environment and our health, it benefits to the company pocketbooks, too - and that's the bottom line.


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Ranger crew encounters jellyfish swarm

Oceana divers documenting the state of ecolog


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Gillnetters Get the Boot

Endangered leatherback sea turtles migrating from an Indonesian beach to feed on jellyfish off the Pacific coast have one less obstacle to overcome.


NOAA has denied issuance of the special exempted fishing permit required for gillnet boats to operate in an area of coast stretching from Central California to Central Oregon, during the time critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are feeding there.


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Want some peanut butter with that jellyfish?

Just in time for the summer vacation season, the jellies are back, and their numbers are as big as ever.


Researchers aboard Oceana's Ranger have already spotted flocks of these slimy, easy going invertebrates drifting with the currents. A lack of coastal rain water running into the ocean has eliminated the usual buffer that keeps jellies away from swimming beaches.


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Frozen in Their Footprints

It's official - and unanimous. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to protect from bottom trawling some 180,000 square miles of previously unexploited ocean floor in the Bering Sea, particularly in the North.


The area is home to 26 species of marine mammals, including whales and walruses, as well as 450 species of fish and million of seabirds that flock to region from all seven continents.


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The Real McCoy

Playing hard-nosed Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, actor Sam Waterston has thrown the book at the bad guys for years on TV's Law & Order.



Bad guys on boats and beaches better watch out now, too, because Waterston recently joined Oceana's Ocean Council, a panel of academic, business and philanthropic leaders who represent and support Oceana's efforts on the global stage. Also on the Ocean Council are actors Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammar.



We are very grateful for Sam's help. He gets it. He has closely followed the drumbeat of scientific reports about the rapid depletion of life in our oceans. Everyone recognizes and trusts him. He will be a huge help in the fight to bring the world's oceans back from the brink of irreversible collapse.



As big a fans as we are of Jack McCoy and Waterston, it turns out Sam is also a big fan of us: "The time to act is now, which is why I'm very happy to be working with an organization as effective as Oceana."


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Oceana - Talk of the Town

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall at a top level corporate meeting just to see what really goes on behind closed doors? Consider this nifty Power Point presentation your ticket in.



It turns out chlorine companies talk about Oceana in their meetings as much as Oceana talks about them. The Chlorine Institute held a meeting a few months back where one of the companies gave a formal presentation about being "In the 'Crosshairs' of an Environmental NGO."



Their presentation looks an awful lot like our presentations - outlining all of our tactics to stop seafood contamination which to them are challenges they need to overcome. It's nice to know that Erco has realized Oceana's in it for the long haul.



My favorite slide? "Essential survival tactics."


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News Travels Fast

Last week we broke the story about French fishermen coordinating an attack on Oceana's research vessel, Ranger, in an attempt to get their hands on the pictures our crew has been taking of them using illegal driftnets.



Now everyone's talking about it, including our friends at NPR. They aired a segment on the confrontation on their top radio show All Things Considered. And footage of the assault is wracking up hits on youtube. Remember, you heard it here first.


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But don't take my word for it ...

The other day I told you how there's a good chance we could see an end to commercial overfishing subsidies through WTO negotiations. And, my organization is not alone in making the case to the World Trade Organization. At least 125 scientists from 27 countries feel the same way and sent a letter to WTO making it clear that "an ambitious outcome in the ongoing WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations is vital to the future of the world's fisheries," The scientists who signed the letter are a who's who of ocean fisheries scientists, including Daniel Pauly, Boris Worm, Jeremy B.C. Jackson,; Andrew Rosenberg,; Carl Safina, Callum Roberts; Larry Crowder, Wallace "J" Nichols. These leading experts made the stakes clear: "Fisheries subsidies," they note in the letter, "produce such strong economic incentives to overfish that reducing them is one of the most significant actions that can be taken to combat global overfishing." How's that for pressure?



You can see the full letter here.


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Fishing Subsidies Stink

Most ocean conservationists are on pins and needles in anticipation of the results of this week's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting. But I'm also thinking about another three letter acronym and how much good may be coming out of it. W-T-O. That's right, the World Trade Organization.



In Geneva (and at the current Doha round) there's serious talk of cutting government subsidies for commercial fishing - the fundamental driver for the unsustainable exploitation of the oceans. I just returned from there, where I met with Pascal Lamy - head of the WTO, and, together with Professor Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, briefed a large number of the delegates.


Government subsidies of $30-34 billion (to an industry whose dockside revenues are $80 billion) swell the global fishing fleet to something like 200% of sustainable capacity. It's no wonder that scientists predict the collapse of our fisheries by mid-century. These subsidies can only be eliminated through multi-lateral action, since all countries will refuse to unilaterally disarm in the race to capture the last wild fish. That makes the WTO the best place where real change can happen.



I made a pit stop in London to help fuel some media attention on the issue. Check out the terrific piece in Canada's Globe and Mail, liberally quoting economist Sumaila, author of the most recent global study on subsidies.


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