This week, ocean advocates convened at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, D.C., to rally support in defense of our blue movement and to discuss solutions to some of the ocean’s toughest challenges.
This three-day meeting brought together some 500 participants from across the country, first to meet with members of Congress and, second, to discuss the critical issues endangering the health of our ocean and our coastal communities.
Amidst our changing climate, it’s more important now than ever before that we turn the tide toward a healthier ocean. In New England, the Gulf of Maine is warming at a rate faster than almost any other ocean area. This puts pressure on all aspects of New England’s ocean economy – from tourism to commercial fishing – while also threatening already fragile marine wildlife like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. It’s imperative that we let our legislators know that creating a healthier ocean is an urgent issue.
In a time where climate change is not just ignored but denied by members of the Trump administration, we all need to rally for climate science and the issues facing our oceans – especially since every other breath we breathe is possible because of the ocean.
Standing Up for a Healthier Ocean
As Ocean Campaign Director for Conservation Law Foundation, and in my role as Blue Vision Summit advocacy lead for the state of New Hampshire, I spearheaded meetings with New Hampshire Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen’s offices as well as Granite State Representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Anne Kuster. Working with Summit participants including Wendy Lull, President emeritus of the Seacoast Science Center, and Jen Kennedy, Executive Director of Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, we highlighted ocean issues of importance to our seacoast communities and encouraged our members of Congress to make them a high priority.
In New England, we are in the midst of implementing our new Northeast Ocean Plan, so we thanked our members for their steadfast support of smart ocean planning to date and called on their continued support to maintain the effort that is critical to effectively addressing issues of ocean and coastal resiliency in New England. In addition to the Summit’s priority area subjects, I also discussed our efforts to defend the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which protects our unique and fragile marine wildlife. With the monument under ‘review’ along with 26 others, our national treasures are under attack, and CLF is working to ensure this critical issue is on their radar. Our meetings were met positively from our congressional leaders – a dose of optimism and renewed hope for the ocean and our future.
In addition to the meetings I led, other CLF ocean conservation advocates met with our New England delegation members in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, resulting in more positive support. Summit participants from around the country were assigned to meet with dozens of additional congressional members whose constituents have a stake in a healthy ocean.
Finding Solutions Together
Beyond the lobby day, there was also a day of educational panels on coastal resiliency, the future of fishing, marine protected areas, ocean planning, and more. Ocean advocates from around the country came together to learn about and discuss the best solutions to these challenges that will benefit the ocean and all of us who rely on it.
There were three priority areas for the conference: Coastal resilience through smart ecosystem-based planning, ending offshore drilling by 2030, and ridding the ocean of plastic and marine debris. There are many avenues for creating a healthier ocean, but by focusing on these three areas, we left with more knowledge of concrete solutions to fight these challenges together in the coming years.
Peter Benchley Awards
The Summit wrapped up last night with the celebration of the 2017 Peter Benchley awards. Named for the famous author, screenwriter, and passionate ocean advocate, these annual awards honor our champions for the ocean. These recipients include the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Planning Bodies and the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Planning Team for their collaborative effort in producing landmark ocean plans that will benefit all citizens and provide excellent road maps for other states and regions to engage in smart ocean planning.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is also receiving receive an award in conjunction with Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz honoring their support and commitment to championing marine national monument designations last year, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in New England.
Learn more about what happened at the Blue Vision Summit on Twitter: #BlueVisionSummit