The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog
I have some wonderful news out of our European offices that I’d like to share with you. Last Wednesday, the European Parliament took a tremendous step forward in restoring the health of our oceans and our fisheries. They voted to significantly limit harmful subsidies that enable overfishing, leading to the collapse of any of Europe’s fisheries.
After 16 days Congress has finally ended the government shutdown. But while thousands of workers are able to return to work, our oceans will continue to suffer from Congress's misguided bickering.
Yesterday I partnered with actor and ocean activist Ted Danson to discuss just how harmful the government shutdown was for our oceans. In an editorial for the Huffington Post, we revealed how the shutdown affected critical ocean research, and how it could continue to impact fisheries management through next year.
After we posted our blog, “The Washington Post is Wrong About Farmed Salmon," we got a lot of questions about wild salmon feed ratio versus the feed ratio for farmed salmon. One commentator even suggested that because wild salmon eat at ratios higher than one to one, it might be better for the ocean if we switch to eating farmed salmon (instead of wild) because it would save more wild fish.
We live in a world increasingly divided and governed by partisanship. At times, it can be frustrating for those of us who want to make a difference.
That is why I am proud to let you know about the Oceana’s relationship with two remarkable leaders from different sides of the aisle, both united in their desire to save our oceans: Hillary Rodham Clinton and James Connaughton.
I have more great news to share with you about Oceana’s campaign to halt the use of deadly seismic airguns on our Atlantic coast. On September 6, Oceana delivered more than 100,000 petitions to Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Those petitions urge the government to stop the proposed use of seismic airguns, which the energy industry wants to use to search more than 300,000 square miles of the Atlantic for buried oil and gas deposits.
Oceana’s new book, The Perfect Protein is available for sale at your local book store and online. Authored by myself and Suzannah Evans, with a foreword by Bill Clinton, this book explores the connections between ocean conservation and food security.
The new ideas presented in The Perfect Protein are gathering attention, and I want to share some of the coverage it received in the press and digital media:
It’s not often that a government delay is cause for celebration, but this time the oceans caught a break. After campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the Department of the Interior decided to postpone their decision on whether to allow seismic airgun use off the Atlantic coast until next March.
This is the third time Oceana has successfully delayed the decision, allowing us the chance to build opposition and to urge more lawmakers to protect marine mammals by opposing testing. It also gives the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration time to update its outdated standards for the level of noise that is harmful to sea life.
Nine billion of us are estimated to be on the planet by 2050, and the demand for food will increase by 70 percent above today’s levels. If land and fresh water are already under strain, how in the world are we going to feed a population that grows by 220,000 mouths every day? Well, the ocean conservation measures you champion as an Oceana supporter can, believe it or not, help make a huge difference. You can find out how in my new book, The Perfect Protein, which can be pre-ordered now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound.
If you’re a Marylander like me, this is a time to be proud. The Old Line State has stepped forward, making ocean conservation a priority and providing an example that other states would be wise to follow.
First, Maryland became a leader in developing offshore wind energy by passing The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, which was signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley this week. The measure will help spur the development of at least 200 megawatts of renewable energy off Maryland’s coast – enough to power about 200,000 homes.
While wind turbines already dot Europe’s coast, the United States has yet to construct a single offshore wind farm. Maryland’s legislation marks an important milestone on this country’s path to a clean ocean energy future.
This victory was made possible by the tireless advocacy of Oceana and a diverse coalition of environmental, faith, business and community groups, all of which recognized the need to transition to this clean and abundant form of energy, and away from fossil fuels. Special thanks to Chesapeake Climate Action Network, National Wildlife Federation, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Maryland Sierra Club and Environment Maryland for helping to pressure lawmakers to take this first step towards a greener energy portfolio for the state.
Second, both the Maryland House and Senate passed a bill to prohibit the sale and trade of shark fins. Pending the signature of the Governor, Maryland will become the first state on the East Coast to adopt such a ban. Approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year, primarily to support the demand for shark fin soup. While shark finning is banned in the U.S, this brutal practice—which involves slicing the fins off a live shark and then dumping it back in the water where it is left to die—is still occurring around the world. By stopping the shark fin trade in state, Maryland can help protect sharks worldwide.
So congratulations Maryland, but remember, there’s a lot of work still left to do to protect our oceans. As for the rest of the states, what are you waiting for?
I have some terrific news to report: Shell announced yesterday that it will suspend attempts to drill for oil in the U.S. Arctic Ocean.
This announcement comes as a huge relief after Shell’s dangerous string of mishaps in the Arctic in the past year. In late December, the company’s drill rig, the Kulluk, broke away from its tow vessel in rough seas, and ran aground on New Year’s Eve off of Kodiak Island in an area that is home to endangered Steller sea lions, threatened southwest sea otters, and salmon.
Fortunately, the Coast Guard was able to rescue the crew of the Kulluk, and salvage crews were able to pull the vessel off the rocks without significant ecological harm. But the Kulluk incident capped off a year of missteps, and made it clear that Shell is not prepared to drill in the Arctic.
As Oceana’s Mike LeVine points out, “Shell currently faces two disabled vessels, two pending Coast Guard investigations, two notices of violation of the Clean Air Act, and an ongoing ‘assessment’ by the Department of the Interior. Fundamentally, both the company and the government agencies charged with making decisions about our ocean resources are faced with a crisis of confidence. The decisions to allow Shell to operate in the Arctic Ocean clearly were premature.”
This week, the civil trial began in New Orleans against BP and its partners in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. During the opening statements, an attorney for the Justice Department said, "The evidence will show that BP put profits above people, profits before safety and profits before the environment.”
The attorney’s statement could easily describe Shell’s behavior in 2012, except that the company was forced, by its own failures, to stop before real disaster struck. We are extremely lucky to have avoided catastrophe considering the unforgiving conditions in Alaskan waters and the impossibility of cleaning up a spill.
Kudos to Oceana’s team and our allies in Alaska for their persistent campaign work to achieve this victory.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana
- Arctic Sea Ice Found to Play Bigger Role in Global Carbon Cycle Than Assumed, Study Says Posted Tue, September 30, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Gulf Businesses Won’t Return BP Payouts, Whales May Have More than One Spleen, and More Posted Fri, September 26, 2014
- Creature Feature: Leatherback Sea Turtle Posted Mon, September 29, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Oceans Get a “D’ for Ocean Health, Beluga Whale Population Faces “Catastrophe,” and More Posted Wed, October 1, 2014
- Video: Leonardo DiCaprio Speaks up for the Planet at UN Climate Summit Posted Fri, September 26, 2014