Each month, The Beacon features one Oceana staff member, highlighting their role at Oceana and personal history with the oceans. The month’s spotlight is on Oceana’s seafood fraud senior campaign director, Beth Lowell. Take a look below to learn more, and check out previous staff spotlights here.
Oceana’s seafood fraud senior campaign director Beth Lowell grew up in Maine, so she’s been passionate about the health of the oceans since childhood. That enthusiasm has stuck with her through her professional career, as she directs one of Oceana’s most ambitious and prominent campaigns—working to reduce seafood fraud by ensuring that seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled.
Beth has worked for Oceana for nearly 10 years, and has moved from being an ocean wildlife advocate, a federal policy director, campaign director, and now a senior campaign director. Under this role, Lowell directs of team of cutting-edge scientists, communications specialists, and policy makers to drive a large campaign that works to create long-term policy changes for safe and sustainable seafood. Her daily duties range from planning the next three months of activities for the fraud campaign to editing a press release to reaching out to stakeholders to attending meetings on Capitol Hill, as well as providing information to the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud that was launched this past June.
“Oceana is a unique organization where we focus on distinct goals under specific timeframes, enabling us to really dive into issues without spreading ourselves too thin,” says Lowell, on her favorite aspects about Oceana. “Every day that I leave the office, whether I’m editing a press release on seafood fraud or working on comments for the Task Force, I leave knowing that we worked to save that oceans. And, I wouldn’t be here for nearly 10 years if it wasn’t for the incredible people I work with.”
Since the seafood fraud campaign launched in 2011, Oceana has become a leader on the issue. Oceana’s innovative studies revealing fraud in U.S. restaurants and marketplaces consistently gather media attention, like a 2013 report that found that 33 percent of the 1200 seafood samples tested from across the U.S. was mislabeled. This past June, Oceana released a review of more than 100 studies from around the world that have uncovered seafood fraud and displayed it on an interactive map to show the global reach of seafood fraud.
But the campaign’s biggest milestone undoubtedly occurred this past summer at the Our Ocean conference, when President Obama announced an initiative to tackle seafood fraud, illegal fishing, and black market fish. The announcement gathered significant media attention, with many outlets citing Oceana’s work on the issue.
“I really like the seafood fraud campaign. Seafood mislabeling is an issue that touches everyone because it reaches people on their dinner plates and in their wallets. This campaign has broad support from a diverse set of stakeholders beyond people who just care about ocean conservation,” says Lowell. “I’m proud to be a part of Oceana’s campaign that produces ground-breaking studies and pushes the policy platform forward.”
Working in the environmental advocacy field, it’s easy to become pessimistic about an issue when a bill doesn’t pass or groups don’t see eye-to-eye. To remain positive, Lowell says it’s important to “recognize the baby steps that push towards a long-term goal, and embrace the small victories”—like the introduction of a bill or the release of a sign on letter with hundreds of supporters. At the end of the day, Lowell keeps pushing forward for the overall purpose of ocean conservation and preserving the resource for generations to come.
Lowell holds a bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience and a minor in environmental science from Lehigh University. Prior to working at Oceana, Lowell worked as a campus organizer with NJ Public Interest Research Group on environmental issues, and then served as the policy director at the Endangered Species Coalition for five years. When asked about her favorite ocean animal, Lowell says it’s a tie between a dolphin and a sea turtle.