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A letter from the President

Dear Friends of the Oceans and of MCBI,

The following lead editorial in Sunday’s NY Times is one I could only have dreamed they’d publish, one with very encouraging recommendations. I wish I could say that I initiated it, but I didn’t. Nonetheless, I am stunned that that it is based to a substantial degree on MCBI’s efforts, and on the efforts of our colleagues with whom we recently shared a podium.

It alludes to a number of things that happened at the recently concluded 2008 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, at which MCBI organized three scientific symposium sessions. One of ours concerned bottom trawling, an issue we brought to global prominence 10 years ago; another concerned shark conservation; the third (which was not mentioned in the editorial) concerned use of the oceans to sequester carbon dioxide.

This editorial starts by referencing a paper on worldwide human ocean impacts by Ben Halpern (UC Santa BArbara), Fio Micheli (Stanford University) and co-authors. MCBIers made only a small contribution (concerning projected impacts of ocean acidification) to that widely reported study, which was one of two subjects featured in a AAAS press conference. The other was bottom trawling impacts, which were covered by Les Watling (U of Hawaii) and John Amos (Skytruth), two star speakers from our session. Trawling is one of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity, and gets special mention in the editorial. Indeed, they rightly call it “a ruthless form of industrial fishing.”

The editorial further alludes to a AAAS session organized by my remarkable friend Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State U on the dead zone off the Oregon Coast, and to the Joint Ocean Commission, in which Jane is a leading participant. Her uniquely influential efforts merit special appreciation. No one, anywhere, has done more to bring top-notch science to bear on marine policy in the USA and beyond.

The editorial goes on to allude to our AAAS session on shark conservation, then to President Bush’s 2006 designation of a gigantic marine national monument (until very recently the world’s largest no-take marine reserve) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, in whose designation MCBI played a central role. Moreover, it calls on President Bush to do more to protect places in the sea before he leaves office, just 10 months from now. Quietly, behind the scenes, MCBI and Environmental Defense have for 14 months been working with other US marine conservation organizations to help that happen.

The editorial ends with a call for Congress to ratify the UN Law of the Sea, something that could help the USA regain a position of prominence on global ocean policy that my country has relinquished to nations including New Zealand, Australia and Kiribati.

After decades of neglect, a growing number of people around the world are bringing the latest, best marine science to bear on ocean policy. I am deeply proud of my colleagues, and that MCBI is playing a major role in diagnosing the problems and proposing solutions, and is sharing a podium and interacting with other players in these efforts.

As Vaudeville comedian Eddy Cantor said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” None of this has happened without years and years of sustained support from you and a very small number of other funders of marine conservation. Your investments are paying off. I want to thank you for having supported us and our colleagues in the past. And when I see editorials such as this, I want to celebrate what you, we and our allies, together, will accomplish in the years to come.

We are making a difference.

For the Earth,