Sylvia Earle and Sam Low Win Cronkite Award as Mission Blue Debuts on Martha’s Vineyard by Martha Shaw

What do Walter Cronkite, Sylvia Earle and Sam Low all have in common? They have mastered the might of media on behalf of the sea.

The 2014 Walter Cronkite Award was bestowed on ocean all-stars Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. Sam Low by the MVYLI, Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, which honors people who create positive social change in the world through the power of media.

Like the award recipients, Walter Cronkite was a champion for the 71 percent of Earth’s surface that is the sea—our omnipotent, astonishing, complex, generous and sorely neglected neighbor who rules our planet and keeps us terrestrials alive. Since the industrial revolution, the ocean has been polluted, and literally put through the meat grinder as never before in its 4 billion year history. Walter stirred the hearts of people, young and old, to take an interest not only in the beauty and bounty of our ocean, but in its health and future. The Walter Cronkite Award recognizes leaders who provide this level of inspiration to today’s youth.

Award recipient Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is a world-famous ocean pioneer and former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who has spent her life exploring the world’s oceans and sharing her boundless curiosity for what lies beneath the surface of sea—once a glass ceiling for women scientists. In 2009, she formed Mission Blue as a collaborative platform to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas large enough to save and restore the “blue heart” of the planet, known as Hope Spots.

“We are at the sweet spot of human history,” said Dr. Earle. “More has been learned about the ocean in the last decade than throughout all of human history. For the first time, we have access to information about our ocean as never before. Now we can actually do something. What will we do with this new knowledge? As a new generation that knows more than anyone has ever known before, what will you do with your future?”

“Walter Cronkite epitomized the spirit of what went up (to space) and what went down (to sea) and as a young scientist that inspired me,” said Earle. “I see his presence is still alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard. I am honored to be receiving this award with Sam Low, who has offered such a boatload of information about the ocean to all of us. I bow low, to Sam Low.”

The co-recipient was Dr. Sam Low, an anthropologist and award-winning storyteller dedicated to island people in their quest to raise awareness of our planet’s fragility, of which islands are most vulnerable. His film, The Navigators—Pathfinders of the Pacific, and recent book,Hawaiki Rising—Hokule’a Nanoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance, tell the story of the Polynesian settlement of the Pacific and ancient mariners who use native intelligence and natural signs to navigate our ocean. Low has both Vineyard and Hawaiian roots, and will join a global voyage in an ancient Polynesian canoe with the Polynesian Voyagers Society to share and celebrate the ancient wisdom of the sea.

Following the awards presentation, young leaders from MVYLI remarked on how the ocean was bringing everyone together, particularly island people, and shared their ideas for creating a more sustainable blue planet.

At sundown, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival set up a big screen on Menemsha Beach to premiere Mission Blue, the remarkable and breathtakingly beautiful documentary about Dr. Sylvia Earle’s life. The film was directed by Vineyard filmmaker Bob Nixon, and Fisher Stevens, who followed Earle with their crew around the world ocean for more than five years. Island residents and summer visitors laid blankets on the sand to be among the first to see the film, before it goes up on NetFlix on Aug. 15.

Native Vineyard fisherman and advocate for sustainable fisheries, Buddy Vanderhoop, shared his admiration for the mission of Dr. Earle and his support for marine protected areas to allow the depleting local fish population to spawn and populate again, and to prevent massive fish factory ships from destroying what is left. Dr. Earle promised to return to Martha’s Vineyard and work together toward this, in light of NOAA’s recent invitation to communities across the nation to nominate national marine sanctuaries.


Saving our Seas: Tapping into the Wisdom of Ocean Elders by Martha Shaw

Saving our Seas – Tapping into the Wisdom of OceanElders
By Martha Shaw, OCEAN TIMES
(New York, NY) – For 10,000 years, the ocean has been the life support system that has generously supplied us with air, food, and shelter in the embrace of a livable climate. In a perfect world, human beings might have fit nicely into the Earth’s ecosystem, in balance with the rest of nature. Over the last half-century however, that’s not been the case. Since the industrial revolution, man’s effect on the ocean has been likened to an invasive species. Man’s greatest predator has quickly become man himself.
As a species, who will save the day?
One thing working against the ocean is that problems are out of sight, out of mind. Its wounds lie beyond and below our line of vision. Many people have never even seen it except on television, in books and movies, on menus, or in pictures on the packaging of ‘seafood.’ Of those who have seen the ocean, most only see a surface that glitters and shines, and splashes upon the shore in a spectacular show of white frill. What most of the population doesn’t see is that our ocean lies unprotected and exposed, subject to looting, polluting and plundering. As a result, we have depleted the ocean’s fish stocks by 90%, clogged it with trash, saturated it with chemicals, cranked up the temperature, and altered the acidity to the point where seawater is dissolving coral, cartilage and bone.
On a positive note, with new technologies and greater knowledge we now know more about the ocean than ever before. With the advent of these new tools, a woman named Gigi Brisson has become determined to make a difference. After an inspiring Mission Blue expedition with oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle in 2010, she decided to start something that would have the potential to reverse the ocean’s steady, if not alarming, decline. She developed a plan for how people of influence could pool their talents and resources in the best interest of the ocean, and founded OceanElders.
OceanElders combines science, business, philanthropy, art and star-power
Launched in 2012 with its first member Dr. Sylvia Earle, OceanElders now includes H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Sir Richard Branson, Jackson Browne, James Cameron, Dr. Rita Colwell, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jose Maria Figueres, Graeme Kelleher, Sven Lindblad, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Nainoa Thompson, Ted Turner, Captain Don Walsh, and Neil Young. Founder Gigi Brisson said, “These are people with power, experience, success and connections who are all passionate about the ocean and combining efforts to reverse its declining health. The plan is to grow over time and include individuals from Africa, China, India, Japan, and Central and South America.”
The hope is that the OceanElders can get things done together while everyone else is still talking about it, according to Dr. Sylvia Earle. “We used to think that the ocean was too big to fail. Now we’ve learned that it can. We are in a narrow window of human history when we have the knowledge and the technology to tackle these problems — just in time. It’s urgent. The next ten years can be the most important of the next 10,000.”


When asked about being an Ocean Elder, Ted Turner said, “OceanElders are older and supposedly wiser people trying to concentrate on solving the problems of the ocean.” Graeme Kelleher said, “It’s a group of people dedicated to saving the world ocean and the entire biosphere, including humanity. Sven Lindblad described the group as an aggregation of diverse influential voices that can collectively help shape ocean policy. Science advisor Dr. Greg Stone said, “It’s a committed group of people effecting change.” One of the earliest and oldest OceanElders, Captain Don Walsh described the group simply as people who can pick up the phone and do something, or stop something, as the case may be. There are rumors that more star power that can do just that will be added soon.
To date, OceanElders has been effective by partnering with global organizations to support ocean protection in the form of appearances, videos, Op-Eds and letters, including a letter to President Putin in support of Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
The Time is Now, OceanElders Summit 2014
OceanElders (OE) held a summit entitled The Time is Now on the eve of Climate Week 2014 in New York City. Colleagues, who shared the OE mission, gathered to meet one another with the intent to share wisdom and experience, explore new ideas and incite successful collaborations.
Speakers at the event emphasized the need to work together for a new global architecture for the high seas, the half of the world that is beyond national jurisdiction and lies unprotected. Trevor Manuel of the Global Ocean Commission and Dr. Sylvia Earle presented a poster to Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, reading “257,000 people from 111 countries want a new agreement for high seas protection.”
H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco said, “There cannot be social economic development without resilient and productive oceans.” The Prince went on to say, “The Earth’s marine environment provides humanity with a number of important services ranging from the air we breathe, to food security and storm protection. These in turn underpin lives and livelihoods around the globe.”
In reference to one of the biggest problems that plagues the ocean, IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing), Under Secretary of State, Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Catherine A. Novelli said, “It is only fair that we both level the playing field for honest fishermen and do everything we can to manage fisheries around the globe in a sustainable way.”
Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. shared the wisdom of his island’s ancient tradition of “bul,” which places a moratorium on fishing in order to replenish those stocks and maintain balance. In this tradition he has declared his country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as a marine sanctuary, the first of its kind in the world. “We are on the brink when this free-for-all is coming to an end,” he said.
The event concluded with a brilliant performance by celebrated artist Norah Jones. Dozens of attendees then gathered at a nearby establishment to further the discussion.
Join the discussion
OceanElders invites everyone to join in the discussion at


Who owns the fish? UN meetings focus on eminent tuna collapse.

Out of sight and out of mind, the most valuable fisheries on Earth are up for grabs.

May 8, 2012, United Nations- It’s called ABNJ, which stands for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, and it makes up 64% of the surface of the world’s oceans. Yet, this part of the planet has no protection from the massive destruction by private interest fishing operations. At the UN today, a Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity in ABNJ was introduced to protect the biodiversity of this area, which some consider to be the last global “commons” on Earth.

Organized by the Global Ocean Forum, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about 30 experts from those groups as well as UNEP, the World Bank, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, International Sustainable Seafood Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy gathered to share the details of a new program that will devote $44 million dollars to manage the long-term health of this frontier which is depreciating rapidly. Throughout history, it’s been “every man for himself” out there beyond the watchful eyes of citizens, giving way to total anarchy dominated by highly sophisticated $10 billion dollar/year fishing operations equal to 6.3 million tons caught per year.

While land degradation is visible, ocean degradation is invisible and this makes the task of protecting our high seas particularly challenging, as the area is unmonitored. The effect of loss of biodiversity in the open ocean, however, is very much felt in the decline of fisheries in coastal waters.

In the decade following the adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, fishing on the high seas became a major international problem. The Convention gave all states the freedom to fish without regulations on the high seas, but coastal states, to which the Law of the Sea conferred exclusive economic rights including the right to fish within 200 miles off their shores, began to complain that fleets fishing on the high seas were reducing catches in their domestic waters.

The problem centered on fish populations that “straddle” the boundaries of countries’ 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs), such as cod off Canada’s eastern coast and pollock in the Bering Sea, and highly migratory species like tuna and swordfish, which move between EEZs and the high seas.

By the early 1990s, most stocks of commercially valued fish were running low, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). As catches became smaller, coastal states complained that the industrial-scale fishing operations on the high seas were undermining their efforts to conserve and revitalize fish stocks.

There is a history of violence between fishing vessels and coastal states, most notable during the “cod wars” of the 1970s. Several countries, including Britain and Norway, sent naval ships to protect fishing fleets on the high seas. Spanish fishers clashed with British and French drift netters in what came to be known as the “tuna wars.” Before the UN Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was finalized in October 1995, several coastal states had fired shots at foreign fleets. In the northern Atlantic, Canada seized and confiscated a Spanish boat fishing in international waters just beyond the Canadian 200-mile limit.

At the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, known as the first Earth Summit, governments called on the United Nations to find ways to conserve fish stocks and prevent international conflicts over fishing on the high seas.

The coastal states most concerned during the negotiations about the impact of high seas fishing on their domestic harvest included Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland and New Zealand, complaining that only six countries were responsible for 90 per cent of deep sea fishing: Russia, Japan, Spain, Poland, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan province of China. The United States also caught a significant amount of fish, especially tuna, and China soon became a major fishing nation.

Companies began to use refrigerated factory trawlers or “mother ships” that allowed fleets to travel vast distances from the home country and to stay at sea for longer periods without having to return to shore. What quickly became a human rights issue, these fleets undermined the livelihoods of local fishers, depriving poor people in coastal areas of a primary source of sustenance.

On the table for Rio+20 next month, though not without conflict, is an end to government fishing subsidies, considered to be as damaging as fossil fuel subsidies. No agreement has been reached here, nor has a proposed phase-out of all deep-sea bottom-trawl fishing on the high seas by 2015. This is called for on the basis that no deep-sea bottom trawl vessels or fleets have demonstrated that they can fish deep-sea species sustainably and prevent damage to deep-sea ecosystems.

Also at the negotiating table is a call for labeling, and for seafood buyers and retailers to only buy and sell fish from deep-sea fisheries that have clearly demonstrated no harm to deep-sea ecosystems.

Today, as global fish stocks decline, seafood becomes an increasingly expensive item for the rich and a rarity for the poor. With the world population expected to reach 8.2 billion by 2030, the planet will have to feed an additional 1.5 billion people, 90 percent of whom will be living in developing countries many of whom depend on local fisheries.

Find out more about GEF/FAO Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction here, and other issues on the negotiating table for Rio+20 here.