February 2005

Bay Bridge Follies
Letters to the Editor
New Ship Sails to Sausalito–Opportunities for All!
Mare Island Welcome Center is Now Open in Historic Mansion
Dispatch from the Dogpatch… A SeAm Between
In Richmond Today
Crab Fest Fever
Afterguard’s Broiled
Salmon Afloat
Bay Crossings Gardens
“Food from the Heart” at the Ferry Building Marketplace
Giant Storms in LA Affect Bay Area
WTA Pages…Ferry Rewards
Minds Meet at Underwater Forum on California’s Ocean Future
Bay Ghost Phenomenon
Bay Crossings Calendar
New Horizons at Webster Street’s Arts & Crafts Campus
Love, Lust, and Heartbreak

Minds Meet at Underwater
Forum on California’s Ocean Future

By Zannah Noe

On January 13th, a forum was held at the Herbst Theater on the state of our oceans. Co-sponsored by the National Marine Sanctuaries and the Commonwealth Club of California, the evening was moderated by Michael Krasny of KQED. Five panelists delivered passionate speeches on the depletion of our fisheries, erosion of our coasts, and the polluting of underwater sanctuaries. They represented an array of scholarly and politically active organizations with a variety of solutions to protect, preserve, and restore the health of our oceans. The panel consisted of Michael Chrisman, Secretary for Resources, State of California; John E McCosker, Ph.D.; Daniel Basta of NOAA; and Kate Wing, an ocean policy analyst for the Natural Resource Defense Council. A common call went out to spread the word that the most crucial element to successfully saving our oceans is the involvement of the public. People must participate in the responsible stewardship of our oceans.

The keynote speaker was the former White House Chief of Staff for President Clinton, Leon Panetta. Mr. Panetta has worked tirelessly to make both politicians and the public aware of the declining state of our oceans. He outlined some of the major causes for the decline and gave a number of proposals and suggestions to take action. Citing the findings of the Pew Oceans Commission (http://www.pewoceans.org) in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, Mr. Panetta’s report was grim. With coastal development impacting wetlands, runoff pollution creating dead zones, and a bureaucratic maze of unorganized and conflicting policies contributing to the failure to protect the vital life cycle of the ocean, Panetta asserted that, “If we keep to our course, our seas will not support our children.”

Mr. Panetta’s response to these findings calls for leadership at the national level. He suggested a National Ocean Policy that would fulfill the dire need for streamlining the bureaucratic process by instituting policies from the top down. Highlighting the most urgent recommendations, Mr. Panetta advised devising a cohesive plan to manage sustainable fisheries and strengthen pollution requirements from cruise ships and aqua culture. Reforms include implementation of a regional eco-system plan where local use of coastal land is congruous with the ocean. Also at the top of his list is educating the public.

Mr. Michael Chrisman, Secretary of Resources for the State of California, will participate in a leadership role with Governor Schwarzenegger to form an ocean action plan that will be the first of its kind. Mr. Chrisman recognizes the need for leadership and wishes to spearhead a group that would create a template for a national policy. The new policy would involve stewardship at the local level, as well as offer direction for forming councils to help draft a new umbrella policy to protect the ocean as a living habitat while maintaining its function as a resource.

John McCosker, a senior scientist with the California Academy of Sciences, got a round of applause when he suggested that the audience hold Mr. Chrisman’s political feet to the fire for his promises. “Holding leaders to their word constitutes the first step in good stewardship of our oceans.” Mr. McCosker continued, “This is the triage moment of the state of the sea.” Extolling science is a way to mitigate and reverse the effects of pollution and degradation of marine habitats. He warned that the “shifting baselines” of the public are passive reactions to the loss of our oceans as a resource. Citing a personal story to illustrate his point, he told of the abundance of abalone that littered the beach in his grandfather’s time, his father’s stories of diving for abalone, and his own knowledge of abalone as a rare delicacy. He feels that if the decline is viewed as normal, we won’t know there is a wound to heal. Mr. McCosker suggests that through science we can document changes and therefore better understand how to help save our oceans.

Daniel Basta, Director of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, shed light on ways to bring the public into the business of conservation and preservation of the oceans. Citing ownership as a primary impulse to protect, he has worked to achieve this vision in unique ways. Supporting coastal heritage agendas, he understands that maritime history hits a nerve with the American public. Installing underwater webcams in the kelp forest of Monterey Bay for classroom education is a way to bring people into the fold of ocean preservation. Our coastal communities need the support of landlocked states for financial, political, and educational gains to be made in reforming ocean policy.

The final panelist was Ms. Kate Wing, an ocean policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Ms. Wing emphasized that stopping offshore oil drilling isn’t enough; management must be accountable for what we take out of our oceans as well as what we put in. She used the analogy of an accountant that didn’t track income or expenses yet still expected to pull a paycheck indefinitely from the company that it managed. “If we expect the ocean to pay dividends to support generations to come, then we should be practicing good accounting.” Her background in fishery management informs her duty to her “clients,” i.e., fish. Ms.Wing delivered an inspirational call to fix the management of fisheries by knowing limits and managing what is out there. She implored the audience to invent new ways to redirect our pollution instead of exhausting the ocean as a filter for our pollution.

The message is clear: public involvement is crucial to protecting our oceans. All of the host organizations, The Commonwealth Club of California, Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, National Marine Sanctuaries, Gulf of the Farallones, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, encourage and welcome questions and participation.

Get Involved
National Marine Sanctuaries
Subscription-based newsletter on their educational programs and outreach.

The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Visitor Center, Programs and Volunteer Opportunities
Building 991, The Presido, San Francisco
Telephone: 415-561-6622

Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association
Telphone: 415-5616625

Get Educated
Pew Oceans Commission

Sea Change Center