Monday, May 10, 2010

19 of the Greatest Ocean Heroes of All Time

19 of the Greatest Ocean Heroes of All Time
See the men and women who have been on the frontlines of protecting our blue world.

Wallace J. Nichols
As David Rockefeller, Jr. recently told The Daily Green, "Ninety-five percent of environmental conservation efforts go to the land, with only five percent left for oceans. Yet 71% of the globe is covered by oceans." Seen from space, Earth is a blue marble.

To bring this concept home, sea turtle researcher and conservationist Wallace "J." Nichols, PhD started the Blue Marbles Project, a global initiative that asks participants to pass along a blue marble to someone they see expressing care for the oceans. So far 60,000 marbles have been shared, and the stories have been told via social media and other outlets. Nichols was recommended to TDG by two members of our Facebook community. He is a research associate with the California Academy of Sciences and is the founder of "We ocean lovers need to be the voice for the ocean," Nichols told TDG.

Alexandra Paul
Alexandra Paul has been acting for 20 years, and is best known for her leading role on the international hit Baywatch. Paul has long had a deep commitment to the environment and social justice, and has campaigned tirelessly for oceans protection. She has spoken to thousands of young students about the issue, and co-hosted the environmental cable access talk show Earth Talk Today for seven years. She is a long-time vegetarian and driver of electric vehicles, and appeared in Who Killed the Electric Car?.

Paul has written and produced several other environmental programs, and blogs at Huffington Post about living a better, greener life. She has been recognized by the UN and other groups for her advocacy work.

Carl Safina
Carl Safina, PhD is the president and co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, which uses science, art and education to inspire conservation of the seas. A marine ecologist and recreational (and part-time commercial) fishermen, the Brooklyn-born Safina became alarmed at the collapsing of fish populations. In response, he has helped lead campaigns to ban high-seas drift-nets, re-wrote federal fisheries law and promoted a United Nations global fisheries treaty. In 1990 he founded the Living Oceans Program at the National Audubon Society, which he ran for a decade.

Safina has written extensively on the oceans, including the award-winning Song for the Blue Ocean and Eye of the Albatross.

Ransom Aldrich "Ram" Myers, Jr.
Also recommended by one of TDG's Facebook fans is Ransom Aldrich "Ram" Myers, Jr., PhD (1952-2007). Myers was a world-renowned marine biologist and conservationist. He started life as the son of a Mississippi cotton planter, and won an international science fair at age 16 for his X-ray crystallograph.

Myers spent most of his career studying marine life in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada, where he drew international attention to collapsing fish stocks. He sounded the alarm about precipitous decline of Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna and many shark species.

David Helvarg
David Helvarg is an environmental advocate and journalist and who penned The War Against the Greens, Blue Frontier, 50 Way to Save the Ocean and his new memoir, Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish. Helvarg is the founder and president of the Blue Frontier Campaign, which works with government to craft ocean policy.

Recently, Blue Frontier has been pressuring the Obama administration to lead a new direction in ocean conservation. The group also supports Roz Savage's solo trans-Pacific row to Australia and Margo Pellegrino's Seattle to San Diego paddle in a small outrigger, both to promote ocean awareness. Helvarg is also working to save Point Molate, the last 422 acres of undeveloped but also unprotected headlands and offshore eelgrass meadows on San Francisco Bay, which the Richmond, California city council is trying to sell for a casino/resort development.

Peter Benchley
Another project of Helvarg's group is the Blue Frontier/Peter Benchley Awards, the next of which will take place June 25 at the California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco. This recognizes achievement in ocean conservation in a range of areas, including science, policy, media, exploration and seaweed (marine grassroots) leadership. It is named for Peter Benchley (1940-2006), who is best known as the creator of Jaws, but who also spent years working on marine conservation.

Before he became a best-selling novelist, Benchley was a journalist who worked for the Washington Post and Newsweek. After his story about a man-eating shark became a cultural phenomenon, Benchley used his time in the limelight to educate the public about oceans issues. He spoke and wrote extensively on the topic, producing non-fiction as well as serious and pop fiction.

Sylvia Earle
A lion(fish) among voices for the sea, Sylvia Earle recently used her TED Award pulpit to argue that we "need to think blue as well as green." She added, "It's a mystery to me why we've neglected the oceans the way we have."

Sylvia Earle is a world renowned oceanographer who has logged some 7,000 hours under the waves, has set several diving records (including diving while pregnant) and is a National Geographic "Explorer in Residence." She is also a best-selling author and tireless speaker and advocate for ocean policy reform.

Charles William Beebe
Another Brooklyn-born ocean advocate was Charles William ("Will") Beebe (1877–1962), who was a naturalist, curator, explorer and author. Beebe went on many eco-adventures around the globe, delighting his many readers and introducing the natural world to an increasingly urbanizing public. His deep-sea explorations led to the development of the bathysphere (pictured, Beebe at left), which set several records in the 1930s for deep descents.

Beebe produced leading scholarship on birds, and was a fixture at the Bronx Zoo. He devoted considerable efforts to environmental education, and helped preserve tropical forest in the Caribbean.

Ted Danson
Ted Danson is an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor who is best known for his role on Cheers. But Danson is also a longtime hero of the oceans, having advocated on their behalf for more than 30 years. In 1987, he founded American Oceans Campaign, after being upset that California beaches were too polluted to take his daughter to. That group merged with Oceana in 2002, when Danson became a board member and ardent supporter.

Danson narrated the critically acclaimed 2009 documentary The End of the Line, about overfishing, and he has been working on a book about the state of the world's seas, forthcoming from Rodale. You can catch Danson these days on the shows Damages and Bored to Death.

David Rockefeller, Jr.
Billionaire heir David Rockefeller, Jr. recently sat down for an exclusive interview with TDG. Rockefeller is a lifelong sailor and founder of the group Sailors for the Sea, which aims to organize recreational boaters in support of ocean conservation. The group is also currently sponsoring Around the Americas, a fact-finding and educational sail around the Western Hemisphere.

The Cousteau Family
A name that needs no introduction when it comes to oceans is Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997) was an explorer, scientist, filmmaker, naval officer and inventor who introduced millions of people around the world to the wonders of the oceans, and was a passionate and eloquent voice for protecting them. His son Jean-Michel Cousteau has carried on his legacy with the Ocean Futures Society, as have several other Cousteaus, including Celine and Fabien, who are shown here with Jean-Michel in the Dry Tortugas during production of "America's Underwater Treasures" for PBS. Alexandra and Philippe Cousteau are also heavily involved in ocean conservation.

Archie Fairly Carr, Jr.
Archie Fairly Carr, Jr. (1909–1987) was a herpetologist at the University of Florida and a pioneering conservationist who put the plight of endangered sea turtles on the global map. His long career helped shape and define the emerging field of conservation biology, as shown in the 2007 book The Man who Saved Sea Turtles by Frederick R. Davis.

Ed Ricketts
Edward Flanders Robb Ricketts (1897-1948), commonly known as Ed Ricketts, was a pioneering marine biologist and philosopher. His 1939 study Between Pacific Tides helped set the stage for modern conservation ecology, and since it was accessible and widely read it brought about awareness of the fragile coastlines, particularly in fast-developing California. Ricketts was not well accepted by the scientific establishment during his time, since he had not completed a college degree, but his work is influential even today.

Ricketts was also a profound influence on Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, who was a close friend. They collaborated on The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951), and as a result of their interactions, Steinbeck would imbue much of his work with themes of nature and environmental degradation. Several of the author's characters, including "Doc" in Cannery Row and Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath, are modeled after Ricketts. He died in a tragic collision at a railroad crossing.

Sigourney Weaver
Actress Sigourney Weaver grew up near the ocean on the East Coast, but told TDG that she used to take the oceans for granted, until she learned about the myriad threats they face. Now she is an informed and passionate spokesperson for the issue. She recently narrated NRDC's powerful Acid Test film about ocean acidification. She also played a blue character on a little movie called Avatar, which had an environmental theme or two.

Paul Watson
To many in the environmental and animal rights movements, Paul Watson needs no introduction. The captain of the Sea Shepherd Society is also increasingly known from the hit reality show Whale Wars, about the group's ongoing battles to block Japanese whalers. Watson was a co-founder of Greenpeace, and he has fought for the Earth for decades, often putting himself directly in the harpoon's path.

Eddie Vedder, the longtime vocalist of Pearl Jam, is a surfer and paddler who has done a lot of work with the conservation group Surfrider over the years on behalf of ocean conservation. Vedder has raised funds, volunteered his time and worked to spread awareness about the oceans around the world.

His bandmates have also long been committed to environmental causes, most notably lead guitarist Stone Gossard.

John Halas
In 2009, John Halas won the first annual Ocean Hero award from Oceana, for his long efforts to protect coral reefs. Halas is a marine biologist and manager of the Upper Region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He also developed an anchor and mooring buoy system that is less damaging to fragile corals, and which has spread around the world.

Halas has helped people protect sensitive marine habitats in at least 38 countries.

The Cove Filmmakers
The stirring, dramatic documentary The Cove has helped build global awareness about the annual dolphin slaughter in a small Japanese fishing town. The fact that it won an Academy Award certainly didn't hurt. The film introduced many to Ric O'Barry's passionate, tireless crusade on behalf of marine mammals.

The Cove also makes a case against over fishing, and it warns of the toxic burden of mercury pollution, which poisons our food supply.

Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard is a pioneering ocean archaeologist and explorer who is best known for finding the wrecks of the Titanic, Bismarck, Yorktown and JFK's PT boat. Ballard is a former commander in the U.S. Navy and is a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Ballard also founded the Institute for Exploration.

In addition to his inspiring explorations, Ballard has spoken out about the importance of better understanding and protecting the oceans. He has helped educate thousands of kids through the distance learning project he founded, the JASON Project, which is now part of National Geographic.
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