Last week I recounted several of the things we have to be grateful for in the ocean and the maritime environment. While some may consider these accomplishments mere footnotes to be buried in a year of frantic activity, I urge you to regard them as important stepping stones to a better future not just for the ocean and the mariners who sail upon them, but for all of us. Why? Because the future of every soul on this planet depends on a healthy ocean and its fragile ecosystems.
With this in mind, I urge you to visit several of the sites below and learn more about the organizations that champion a better ocean. You don’t even have to join them though that would be better. At least by visiting them, you’ll learn a few things you can do to help make Mother Ocean a healthier and safer place for its children and the eight billion children of this planet.
… Greenpeace at www.greenpeace.org uses peaceful protests and communication to expose environmental problems and promote solutions.
… Coral Reef Alliance at http://coral.org/ promotes the health of coral reefs around the globe.
… Cousteau Society at http://www.cousteau.org/ is all about helping people understand and care for seas and rivers worldwide.
… Marine Conservation Institute at http://www.marine-conservation.org targets key ecosystems around the world and advocates for them.
… Wild Oceans at http://wildoceans.org seeks to curb overfishing and restore depleted fish populations. If you’re a weekend fisherman, you owe them a lot.
… SeaKeepers at http://www.seakeepers.org energizes the yachting community to protect the world’s oceans. Their motto is: “Research, Educate, Protect, and Restore.”
… The Ocean Project at http://theoceanproject.org partners with aquariums, zoos, and museums to promote ocean conservation.
… Waterkeeper Alliance at http://waterkeeper.org helps protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways worldwide. Like to swim in clean water? Check them out.
Thanksgiving is almost upon us and not far beyond that Christmas and the end of another year on our Blue Planet. With all the dreadful news that has piled up on the threshold of our doorstep this year, there is some good news about the oceans for which we should indeed be grateful. Let me just cite a few things; they appear in no particular order.
… Incidents in piracy has dropped dramatically off the coast of Somalia. While it’s true, it has increased in other areas of the world such as the coast of West Africa and Malaysia, vigilance and cooperation are key to stunting its growth.
… One of the worst offenders of overfishing was caught earlier this year by the environmental group The Sea Shepherd. This after a 110 day chase on the high seas. When they were finally brought to justice, they were given hefty fines and even heftier jail sentences.
… The Suez Canal opened its second lane in September. The eight billion dollar project, done in just one year, is intended to speed up the trip for thousands of ships a year.
… Populations of fish are continuing to make a come-back according to PEW charitable trusts. Include among these groups the Goliath grouper. No-take reserves help fish come back more quickly. Support these areas whenever you can. We have a long ways to go, but it should buoy our hopes.
… The United States and Cuba after many years of acrimonious feelings have agreed to share scientific data and cooperate in marine conservation. Affected are the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dry Tortugas, the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks, and the Guanahacabibes National Park. Sharks have also been targeted for protection. Put simply, without sharks, the rest of the marine ecosystem collapses pretty quickly.
… Both Chile and New Zealand have established marine sanctuaries, making them off limits to fishing. Chile’s is the Desventuradas Islands; New Zealand’s is a 239,000 square mile reserve in the Kermadec region.
…The Paris Climate Talks begin November 30, only a few days from now. Many countries have already prepared goals to reduce their carbon footprint and thus reduce global warming. The rising seas is an incredible threat to millions of peoples living on islands and coasts around the world. If they get displaced by rising seas, the refugee problem we have today will be but an inconvenience compared to what will come.
… The public has awakened to the dangers of micro-beads in thousands of beauty products. These beads are not only a threat to coral reefs and the creatures that feed off them but to larger fish, and eventually to humans who eat those fish. Furthermore, companies are listening to consumers and some have already pledged to phase out their use. Be part of the solution and let companies know you want healthier alternatives.
… Big oil has withdrawn its bid to drill in the Arctic. Because of its lust for huge profits, the prohibitive cost of doing business sent them packing, not a love for the pristine environment. Continue reading →
We’ve had terrible news last week with the loss of thirty-three lives aboard the cargo ship El Faro. It was lost off the Bahamas in the middle of Hurricane Joaquin. On top of that, South Carolina has endured devastating floods that have left thousands homeless. So it’s nice to be able to share some really good news today.
This past week three notorious poachers, all officers aboard the Thunder, were convicted of forgery, pollution, damage to the environment, and recklessness. Captain Luis Alfonso Rubio Cataldo (Chile), Chief Engineer Agustin Dosil Rey (Spain), and Second Mechanic Luis Miguel Perez Fernandez (Spain) received sentences between thirty-two and thirty-six months. In addition, they must pay fifteen million euros, well over sixteen million US dollars.
But none of this would have happened without the courage and persistence of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The drama actually unfolded in early January when the Sea Shepherd’s ship, The Bob Barker, captained by Peter Hammarstedt, chased one of six ships, the Thunder, notorious for overfishing, for months. During that time, the crew of the Thunder did everything conceivable short of sinking their own ship to shake the tenacious crew of the Sea Shepherd.
On the hundred and tenth day, they did exactly that, scuttling their ship to destroy possible evidence to be used in court though they would deny it. The Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker and sister ship Sam Simon, captained by Sid Chakravarty, plucked the wet and unhappy crew from their life rafts and brought them to justice. Several of the toothfish they poached in Antarctic waters became damning evidence.
Continue reading →
I was going to follow up last week’s blog with fifteen more worthy maritime organizations you might be interested in joining to help save the oceans, but as you no doubt know by now, South Carolina has been inundated with torrential rains that have had widespread consequences. None of them good. In fact, most schools in South Carolina were closed from Tuesday through Friday presumably because of flooding even though many are nowhere near a flood zone.
I find this cruelly ironic since those four days were knock dead gorgeous with sunshine from sunrise to sunset. Given the fact that many of the past ten or eleven days were filled with forecasts of heavy rains, thunderstorms, or clouds.
And while the historic rains had no good consequences, the fact is they did bring two blessings to me. With my daughter and son-in-law preoccupied with their jobs, my grandchildren Luke and Nora had nowhere to go. So for three afternoons, my wife and I harbored them in our house. And what a particular harbor it was. I think Jimmy Buffett would be proud.
One day we played the afternoon away on a weight bench that served as a pirate ship much as it has for the past four years. With plenty of pirate swords, hats, a real compass, and several treasure chests, there was booty aplenty to plunder.
But the best day was Thursday. No pirate ship that day. Captain Bill had something else planned. He hooked them young scalawags with a treasure hunt. Well, it wasn’t really a treasure hunt. The truth be told we was burying treasure, we was! On me special island in the back of me secret hideout.
But you can’t bury treasure without something to bury. So we rifled through me boxes and drawers filled with all kinds of treasures. If me memory serves me right, there was a small moon, an oversized coin of Florida, a coin with skull and crossbones on one side and a genuine pirate ship on the other. Me grandson threw in some jewels, the likes of which no pirate has ever seen. Rubies, emeralds, and more coins.
And so there we was, mates, two young pirates and this old salt, slipping out our secret door and into the unknown wild. Me grandson with a chest loaded with booty in one hand, his pirate sword in the other; me granddaughter with a treasure map tight in her fist and a pen in the other because what good is burying treasure if ye don’t know where ye hid it? Continue reading →
Does it make you sick to see the oceans becoming sicker and the creatures of the deep more abused and pushed closer to extinction? Want to help right the wrongs you constantly read about? It seems impossible not to pick up a newspaper or magazine without coming across at least one or two environmental groups working hard to fix some problem.
Some are like an uncle we love but rarely see. We know them. We know they do good, but somehow we just never get in touch with them. Some groups are like the new neighbor down the street who we never get around to meet.
We’ll here’s your chance to not only get in touch with that uncle who does a lot of good, or meet that new neighbor but partner with them in a real and lasting way.
Opportunities abound to join environmental groups on the forefront of making a difference. Because the list is so vast, I’m going to concentrate just on maritime organizations. Blame it on the pirate in me! Aarrrghh!
Before introducing you to them, I want to explain these groups fall primarily into two types. Those that have members who are activists along with those who support them through money or time or by raising awareness of important issues.
The other type of group is made chiefly of activists who literally put their butts on the line. Close to the action, they often place themselves in harm’s way. Those who support them can be thought of as followers or supporters and do so with money.
Of course, some groups are hybrids of the two, but whatever group you are attracted to, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about them before committing time or money to them. All contribute to the ocean and its children in some way. A smaller group doesn’t imply the value of its work is any less noble.