The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

Oilmageddon Continues Apace

Andy Sharpless (fourth from left) talks to Senator Bill Nelson (far left) and environmental advocates. © Oceana/Lindsay Orlowski

The Deepwater Drilling Disaster continues without resolution, as the first reports of sea turtles washing up on shore are starting to trickle in, and local fishermen are reluctantly accepting jobs working as cleanup crew for the company that has ruined their livelihoods.

As the oil continues to gush from Deepwater’s broken pipe at rates that cannot be accurately determined, we are looking at an oil disaster that will surpass Exxon Valdez in a matter of weeks, if it hasn’t already.

But this tragedy has galvanized opposition to offshore drilling.

Two notable developments have taken place this week already. On Tuesday, I was honored to speak to press in the shadow of the Capitol alongside Senators Bill Nelson, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, as well as the executive directors of the Sierra Club and Environment America.


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Mission Blue Voyage a Success

andy sharpless

That's me presenting during the Idea Champions session on the Mission Blue Voyage. © TED/James Duncan Davidson

Last week I participated in one of the most inspiring events in my tenure in the ocean conservation movement: the Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos.

The voyage was led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and included about 100 movers and shakers, including celebrity environmentalists such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Glenn Close and 30 of the world's leading marine scientists and non-profit leaders (like me).

We all had one question in mind: How can we work together to save the oceans?

I’m thrilled to write that we were able to put aside our conservation turf battles and collaborate to find real answers to the ocean’s biggest problems. In just four days, we spearheaded the following initiatives:

  • $1 million to complete a package to protect the waters around the Galapagos Islands
  • $1.1 million to launch a plan to protect the Sargasso Sea and commitments to raise a further $2.5 million to see the plan through to success
  • $350,000 to boost ocean exposure in schools
  • $3.25 million to commence a campaign to end fishing subsidies
  • $10 million to start a new partnership to fund longer-term ocean projects

That’s a head-spinning amount of progress in four days -- but I can’t say I’m surprised considering all the brainpower and talent on board.

The folks at TED recorded more than 20 talks on ocean issues while on board, so be sure to look out for those in the coming months.  

You can read more details about the background on the Mission Blue voyage at the TED blog.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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A Big Thank You to Some Small Shark Supporters

I recently got some very heartening news here at Oceana from some of our youngest supporters.

The seventh and second grade students at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas were inspired by our “Scared for Sharks” campaign and raised more than $2,500 for Oceana through a week of bake sales and a “Caring Color Day,” where students wore blue and gray "shark colors" and donated $2 each.  

It was especially nice to hear this news in light of the recent decision by CITES not to protect endangered marine species, including sharks.  

Of course, Oceana is still moving forward to protect sharks around the world. We’ve already helped the United States become a leader in shark protections, and we’re continuing to push the U.S. to put a final end to shark finning, the brutal fishing practice that is responsible for tens of millions of shark deaths every year.  

We’ll use the donation from the students of Good Shepherd to continue to fight to save sharks. You can help today, too, by donating or asking your senators to support legislation that ends shark finning. 


Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Oceana In Christie’s First-Ever Green Auction

I’d like to give you a sneak peak at the first international green charity auction to be held on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2010.

Christie’s International has invited four leading nonprofits to be the beneficiaries of its first charity auction for conservation: Oceana, Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Central Park Conservancy. Between us, we work on all seven continents – and, of course, the oceans in between.

A Bid to Save The Earth will include a live auction at Christie’s New York City space in Rockefeller Center as well as a silent auction conducted online at Charity Buzz. Every item up for bid is donated, and Christie’s is waiving all its usual fees to allow the maximum impact for the beneficiaries.


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Foreign Fleets Trespass in Belizean Waters

blue hole belize

© USGS

One day in December, the residents of the seaside village of Punta Gorda in Belize looked out to the horizon and saw something unexpected: Jamaican fishing boats. They had arrived, unannounced and without permits, to fish in Belize’s diverse waters.

Many of Punta Gorda’s local fishermen still work the shallow waters inside the Belize Barrier Reef from individual canoes using age-old methods to provide lobster, shellfish and reef fish for Belizeans, as well as a small but thriving export business. The Jamaican boats, with more sophisticated commercial gear, offered no such promise for the local economy or the continued sustainability of Belize’s fisheries.

A few unpermitted Jamaican fishing boats may seem like a local hurly-burly, and after an uproar the boats were turned away by Belizean authorities. But Oceana has discovered that the fight to protect Belize’s waters from exploitation has just begun.

Other countries with larger fleets, namely Chinese Taipei and Spain – Europe’s largest and most aggressive fishing nation – have already approached the government of Belize about moving into the deep waters beyond the Belize Barrier Reef.


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Kate Walsh, Sea Turtles and More in Our Fall Newsletter

kate walsh

Actress Kate Walsh with a leatherback hatchling. © Tim Calver


I’m happy to share our latest quarterly newsletter with you. We’ve taken a slightly different approach this time around and featured several facets of our campaign to save sea turtles.

We’re also officially introducing Kate Walsh, star of the hit TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” as our sea turtle campaign spokeswoman.

These stories and more are inside:

*Kate Walsh Wants to Get Sea Turtles Off the Hook: The actress travels to the Virgin Islands with Oceana to film a public service campaign to protect sea turtles.

*New Oceana victories to protect krill, sea turtles and more.

*Introducing Casey: This 11-year-old sea turtle activist from North Carolina raises money for sea turtles through bake sales, and joins Oceana’s holiday adopt-a-creature fundraiser.

*Nesting Nights: Oceana online editor Emily Fisher and marine biologist Kerri Lynn Miller traveled to Bald Head Island to witness loggerhead sea turtle nesting.

*Photos from our Sea Change Summer Party honoring Morgan Freeman and Glenn Close.

*A profile of Lea Haratani, marine biologist and new vice chair of the Ocean Council.

*A sustainable seafood recipe from renowned Spanish chef Sergi Arola.

You can also download a PDF of the newsletter. I hope you come away entertained and enlightened about Oceana’s work.



[Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.]


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Big Oil Moves on Florida

Platform Holly

In a disappointing move, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gave its blessing for offshore drilling in Florida last week, potentially opening Florida’s coasts to oil and gas development.

This is a major reversal that reneges on the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, which offered the oil and gas industry rights to 8.2 million acres in the eastern Gulf in exchange for the protection of coastal eastern Gulf waters. It also precluded drilling in the remainder of the Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle from 125 to 150 miles from shore.

This agreement was supposed to remain in place until 2022, but would be undone if this bill becomes law.


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CEO Note: Mercury Bill Clears Major Hurdle

Great news – we’re one giant step closer to ending needless mercury pollution from chlorine plants in the United States.


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What are the Oceans Telling Us?

Recently, I read about a professor at Columbia who teaches a course about the signs of the apocalypse. With the financial collapse and threats of a swine flu pandemic in mind, he told the New Yorker he decided to create the class because “now seemed like a good time.”

I don’t know if Professor Taussig’s students have looked toward the oceans for signs of the apocalypse, but if they do, the students will find unsettling news coming from the marine world. Whether you believe in end times or not, the oceans are sending clear signals that they are in distress.

In Chile alone, a trio of strange occurrences has unsettled scientists and observers in recent weeks. More than a thousand dead penguins were found on a southern beach, followed by tons of dead sardines so smelly that schools were forced to close. Lastly, thousands of rare flamingos abandoned their nests, leaving 2,000 chicks to die.

Elsewhere on the planet, the ocean throws up another mystery. In California, hundreds of emaciated seabirds, mostly Brandt's cormorants, littered beaches in a dozen locations early in May in perhaps another example of Hungry Oceans.


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CEO Note: The Basic Solution to Ocean Acidification

At long last, a Congressional committee is poised to approve sweeping climate and energy legislation this week. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R.2454) calls for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. While Oceana believes these targets should be strengthened, they are still a giant step forward in global efforts to combat climate change.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the bill’s passage would be a significant milestone for protecting the health of the oceans.

We need your help now. Please take a moment to call the House Energy and Commerce Committee and urge passage of H.R. 2454. Tell them to pass a strong version of this bill to protect our oceans and put America on the path to a clean energy future. You can call the Committee directly at 202-225-2927.

As we speak, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of the oceans. Ocean acidification, the nasty, under-reported cousin of climate change, is set to wreak havoc on the entire ocean if emissions aren’t curbed, and soon.

Here’s how it works: the oceans absorb an enormous amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which reacts with sea water to produce carbonic acid, reducing the amount of available calcium carbonate that corals and marine life such as crabs, lobsters, clams and oysters depend on to produce their skeletons and shells.


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