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Oceana Magazine Fall 2009: Ocean Advocate – Lea Haratani

Oceana welcomes Lea Haratani as the vice chair of its Ocean Council, a group of diverse leaders who represent Oceana on the global stage. With her lifelong affiliation with the oceans, Lea Haratani brings science and smarts to the table.

Lea Haratani has never strayed far from the sea.

“My earliest memory of the ocean was when I was three,” she said. “I remember standing on the beach, hearing the sound of waves, observing the vast expanse of water, and feeling overwhelmed by its beauty and power.”

Haratani, the new Vice Chair of Oceana’s Ocean Council, has been personally and professionally connected to the oceans ever since.

With a degree in Natural Resources Conservation Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, Haratani first fell in love with the oceans during her time working as a biologist for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. While living in Hawaii she often went scuba diving and witnessed Kilauea Volcano erupt into the sea, creating new land.

Later, during a decade of work at Pacific Gas and Electric, she created an environmental education and compliance program that focused on hydroelectric power plants. She taught 350 powerhouse foremen and their crews about environmental regulatory compliance.

Now she works for the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, a non-profit organization that protects, conserves and restores local natural resources. Among other things, she does grant writing, project management and environmental education about the impacts of human activities on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Haratani was recently awarded the 2008 Golden Whale award by the Community Action Board for exceptional community work in Santa Cruz County.

And she’s an active ocean conservationist even on vacation. Haratani spends her summers on the Elizabeth Islands near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she and her son Holden participate in efforts to monitor and protect the health of Buzzards Bay and Hadley Harbor.

“My children became ocean activists on their own accord,” she said. “We have started a real movement. I am confident that we will find solutions to these daunting challenges.”

Haratani believes that the current state of the oceans is the most significant ecological challenge that we have ever faced. Of all the threats facing the seas, she is most passionate about climate change and acid seas.

Oceana’s campaign to protect bluefin tuna also resonates with her. Despite her Japanese heritage, Haratani is not a zealous sashimi eater. In fact, she does outreach and education targeting Asians about the endangered bluefin.

Given her history, it’s no surprise that Haratani got involved with Oceana. “Oceana is comprised of the most
sincerely committed people I know in the environmental movement,” she said. “I am fortunate to be a part of this family.”