The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

The Year Ahead for Oceana

A new year has brought us a new U.S. Congress. While there has been a changeover in power on the political stage, I am hopeful that the new Congress will continue a great tradition of truly bipartisan support for ocean conservation.

In recent years, we’ve seen incredible progress from both ends of the political spectrum. President Bush established one of the world’s largest marine reserves in the Pacific as he was leaving office, and President Obama recently ended offshore drilling for much of the American coastline. Just last month, the outgoing Congress unanimously passed a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.


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Victory In Chile Against Coal-Fired Power Plant

We've been working in Chile to protect its incredible coastline from a proposed coal-fired power plant that would threaten Punta de Choros, home to amazing wildlife including endangered blue whales and Humboldt penguins. In recent days, grassroots opposition to the power plant grew after the power plant received its environmental permit, with peaceful demonstrations that were ultimately dispersed with tear gas and water cannons as well as a massive outpouring of criticism from Chileans online.

So it is with great satisfaction that I report that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has announced he has persuaded Suez Energy not to build its power plant near Punta de Choros. In addition, he asked his cabinet to review all the industrial projects that produce environmental damage being considered in the country to see whether they could affect protected areas.

This is an incredible victory for Chileans, 94 percent of whom opposed the power plant in a recent poll. Against the odds, we changed a formal government decision, and the amazing marine ecosystem of Punta de Choros will remain protected.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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New Video from Oceana Chile

Our colleagues down in Chile have just released a fantastic new video featuring Chilean actress Leonor Varela, who recently visited the pristine region of Punta de Choros in Northern Chile to promote Oceana's Energy Campaign.

Our team in Chile has been working to prevent several proposed coal-fired power plants from being built near pristine marine reserves in Punta de Choros.

During her visit, Varela asked Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to keep his campaign promise to oppose all thermoelectric power plants that negatively affect communities, the environment and quality of life.

Check it out:

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Oceana Prepares On-The-Water Gulf Expedition

The Oceana Latitude.

A hundred days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, it appears that BP has finally succeeded in controlling the blowout that spewed millions of gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet to paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is just the end of the beginning. The creatures that live in, and the people that depend on the Gulf of Mexico will be affected by the oil spill for years, and we are just starting to comprehend the scope of this tragedy.

That’s why I am pleased to announce that Oceana is launching an ambitious, eight-week scientific expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. We will assess the effects of the oil spill on the marine environment, and we will trumpet the message that ocean oil drilling is too dangerous to be allowed to wreck any more of our oceans and our beaches.

This expedition team, led by Oceana’s Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield and Oceana’s vice president for Europe, Xavier Pastor, will also include research by Dr. Jeff Short, Oceana’s Pacific science director and one of the world’s leading experts on Exxon Valdez and the effects of oil spills from his years as a government scientist at NOAA. The crew also includes scientists, divers and underwater photographers from our U.S., Chile and Spain offices, as well as academic scientists.

Working from the Latitude, a 167-foot ship capable of sailing in shallow and deep waters, the crew will test for underwater oil and study important seafloor habitats as well as the migratory marine life affected by the spill. This includes endangered sea turtles as well as the rare whale shark.

We are fortunate to have supporters who believe in Oceana’s targeted, science-based work and make this kind of original research possible. The facts uncovered by our on-the-water team will be critical in the fight to end dangerous offshore drilling.

You can give today to help us support the critical work of the expedition. Please help us protect the oceans today!

When the expedition launches in early August, we will post frequent updates on Oceana.org, and I’ll be sure to share the most exciting developments with you.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Ten Myths about the Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Photo by Kris Krug via Flickr

At yesterday’s TedxOilSpill, I spoke to the crowd about the questions I hear most from people who don’t see eye to eye with me on why the disaster in the Gulf is our call to action.

Here are my responses to the naysayers -- feel free to use these with any clean energy skeptic you come across.

1) Isn't the Deepwater drilling disaster just like an airplane crash? We don't shut down aviation when a plane crashes.

No. In an airplane crash, most of the victims are those who were on the airplane. In this case, most of the victims are the millions of people living in the Gulf. This is more like the guy who built a campfire in the dry season, against regulations, and burned down the national forest and all the towns and cities alongside it. That's why we have regulations against building campfires during the dry season: Not because every camper burns down his campsite, but because all we need is one. We have laws against dry season campfires, and we should have laws against ocean oil drilling.

2) There are 3600 drilling platforms in the gulf. Are you going to shut them all down?

We're not calling for a shutdown of the platforms, just of drilling. Once the wells are drilled, the risks go down. The pumping can continue, but the drilling has to stop.

3) So then isn't this just a deep-water problem? Can't we continue in the shallow water?

Ocean drilling in shallow water is also very risky. One of the top three oil drilling disasters of all time, Ixtoc 1, was in 160 feet of water. And last August, the Montara rig blow-out near Australia, which took 11 weeks to control, was in just 250 feet of water.


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Dr. Daniel Pauly on The Spill

Oceana board member and renowned fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly spoke to OnEarth magazine about the gulf oil spill’s effect on marine life and fisheries.

“We cannot really grasp the measure of this accident because we don’t know if we are at the beginning, the middle or near the end of it,” he says.

Watch the video for more from Pauly.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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We Hate to Say We Told You So…

In 2009, not long after Obama’s inauguration, we created the ad you see here to encourage our new leader and administration to prevent expanded offshore drilling and turn our country’s energy policy around.

Here we are a year later, and the image now seems chillingly prescient, given the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for more than a month now.


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New Climate Bill Bribes States, Risks Coastlines

Yesterday, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their climate change bill. As you know, the U.S.’s consideration of any climate change legislation is historic – but in the light of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the senators’ proposal leaves me dismayed.

The “American Power Act” trades away our oceans to the oil industry even as at least 5,000 barrels of oil continue to gush from the broken Deepwater Horizon pipeline every day.  Here’s the first released video of the broken pipeline spewing oil:


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Oil Spill Blame Game Misses the Point

There was plenty of finger pointing at this week’s Congressional oil spill hearings.

The chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay, said BP is responsible for cleaning up the spill, but he blamed Transocean for the failure of the safety seal.

Then Transocean CEO Steven Newman said that since BP is the operator, the spill is ultimately the oil giant’s fault. And Halliburton executive Tim Probert denied that flaws in his company's cement contributed to the leak.

Meanwhile, oil continues to flow, uninterrupted, into the Gulf of Mexico.

But what the company executives and government officials fail to recognize is that the oil spill is not the fault of one company -- it represents an endemic lack of accountability from the oil industry and government agencies as a whole. The catastrophe isn’t the result of one mistake, it’s the result of a fundamentally broken system.


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Letter to the G-20: Stop Fishing Subsidies

As I told you recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the TED Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos Islands, led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle. I was one of seven “idea champions” on board, and this was my idea: We can tackle the problem of overfishing by curbing fishing subsidies.

Although 75 percent of the world's fisheries are now either overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation, many governments continue to provide huge subsidies -- about $20 billion annually -- to their fishing sectors.

The fleets are fishing at a level that’s as much as 2.5 times more than what’s required for sustainable catch levels.

I feel strongly that halting fishing subsidies is one of the single greatest actions that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans. And I was hoping others on board would agree with me. Canvassing on the ship with a clipboard and a pencil, I felt like I was back in school, collecting signatures in the cafeteria.

And it worked.


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