The Golden Shore: California’s Love Affair with the Sea

Sylvia Earle, David Helvarg & John Frawley

The Golden Shore: California’s Love Affair With the Sea

Written as a celebration of the California coast and the forces that protect it, “The Golden Shore, California’s Love Affair with the Sea” is a passionate tale of one of the most unique and stunning natural habitats to be found anywhere on earth, the 1,100 miles of the California Coast. San Francisco Bay area author and ocean activist David Helvarg is uniquely qualified to take us on this journey of love and the struggle to protect the rugged wilderness that defines the western border of the continental United States.

It may be a slightly dysfunctional love affair. For better or for worse, with ups and downs, lots of hard-learned lessons, and just like in real life, sometimes the lawyers get involved. But ultimately, California’s legacy as a global leader for ocean conservation remains strong. Perched at the edge of the planet’s largest ocean, the Pacific looms large in the consciousness of Californians. “Without the Pacific,” says Helvarg, “California is just a long skinny clone of Nevada.”

Have you ever heard the saying, “so goes California so goes the Nation?”   Ocean advocates across the nation are hoping these words ring true when it comes to protecting important ocean resources. The State of California now officially owns a complete network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs.)  These MPAs encompass rich, coastal ecosystems from Oregon to Mexico—creating sanctuaries for marine life to thrive.

The final set of MPAs went into effect in the north coast on December 19, 2012—completing a nearly 10-year process to establish MPAs along California’s populated coastline.  California is the first state in the nation to have established such a comprehensive system.  16% of our coastal waters are now protected in some fashion.

Check out Helvarg’s video – it’s quirky, fun, and head-over-heels in love with the ocean, about what makes the California coast unique, and how it represents a model to the rest of the world for coastal and ocean policy.

“One of the unique advantages,” says Helvarg is that “California was populated later than most of the other 50 states, remaining largely a wilderness until after World War II. Before the population surged from the Gold Rush, it was even more pristine. Even today, when 25 million people live in coastal counties south of the Golden Gate Bridge, the five counties to the north have less than a million people combined.”

“And there are ways that the Pacific Ocean is naturally resilient – you have these unique patterns, the California current for example, that’s been called the ‘Serengeti of the Sea,’ that brings wildlife from northern climes down to California coastal regions. There is a great upwelling zone that creates a bouillabaisse of life that feeds everything from sea lions to white sharks to blue whales.

“The first offshore drilling rigs began to operate in the 1890’s near Summerland in southern California. The pollution at the turn of the 20th century moved Santa Barbara voters, just to the North to vote, “No more oil.” It took another 60 years to convince them that engineers had developed safe methods for offshore drilling. And on the third drilling of the Union 76 platform, there was a massive blowout. The shock of the 1969 spill led Californians to call for the protection of the coastline, which eventually led to the creation of the milestone California Coastal Commission. We made a choice not to turn our coast into an urban seawall. US-1 is still one of the most scenic routes on the planet.

“Choosing not to go the way of Waikiki or Miami Beach turned out to be a good economic choice as well. The major players like the Navy and the Ports and the real estate interests realize that they have to work within the context of sustainable coasts and clean waters because that is what the people of California want.

“Worldwide, about 50% of the people live within 100 miles of the coast. In CA 90% of us live within 20 miles of the coast. This is where we live, this is where we play and where we earn our living. We have come to understand that we can only do that when we recognize that we are part of the natural world, and that the Pacific is our liquid blue frontier.

Says Mission Blue founder, Dr. Sylvia Earle, “THE GOLDEN SHORE is a thrilling read.  Join master storyteller David Helvarg on a heart-pounding journey into the tumultuous past, provocative present and promising future of California’s wild blue frontier.”

And Jean-Michel Cousteau has this to say, “Having lived in California for 44 years I was surprised by how much I learned from David Helvarg’s book THE GOLDEN SHORE.  It blew my mind.  If you have the same love affair for the beautiful California coast and ocean as I do, this marvelous and compelling book is a must read.”

David Helvarg is founder and Executive Director of the Blue Frontier Campaign, a Washington DC based organization working for ocean and coastal conservation.  He is currently organizing The Blue Vision Summit 4 and the 6th Annual Peter Benchley Awards.

By Deb Castellana/Mission Blue

Featured photo ~ Dr. Sylvia Earle, David Helvarg and John Frawley

Aquarius Reef Base Saved

Dr. Sylvia Earle, (c) DJ Roller, Liquid Pictures

Mission to Save Aquarius Reef Base a Success

Yesterday, news that gives us hope for future ocean exploration was confirmed – Aquarius Reef Base off Key Largo has been saved! Through a great deal of work by a great number of dedicated people, the only underwater laboratory on earth has been funded for continued operation.  Aquarius is an invaluable tool to study the ocean environment allowing us to gather knowledge of our changing ocean and its inhabitants.

Fabien Cousteau (c) KipEvans

Last July, Dr. Sylvia Earle and a team of Aquanauts spent a week at Aquarius Reef Base during One World One Ocean’s Mission Aquarius focusing worldwide attention on the imminent loss of funding for the deep sea lab. Special guests Fabien Cousteau of Plant-a-Fish, Bob Weir of Nightline and Dan Orr of DAN joined One World One Ocean and the Mission Blue team to maximize exposure for the campaign. And now, 7 months later, it has all paid off, with FIU (Florida International University) stepping up to the plate with the needed funds.

Writing from inside the habitat one evening last summer, Dr. Earle said, “Gone too, would be a priceless living laboratory, the only place in the world where scientists, artists, poets and others can live underwater, using the ocean as a laboratory – an enduring muse.” ~ Ed.

DJ And Sylvia Shooting

From PR Newswire:

MIAMI, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Florida International University has been awarded a grant to continue stewardship of the Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only operational underwater research center.

As a member of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Science CIMAS, FIU received a grant to continue maintenance and monitoring of the facility for NOAA in 2013. This will enable FIU to develop a new business model to fund operations at Aquarius. NOAA’s National Undersea Research Program, including Aquarius, was not included in the president’s fiscal 2013 proposal, however, NOAA recognizes that the Aquarius Reef Base is a unique and valuable asset to the scientific community. The new business model would include research and education activities supported by federal, state and local government funding, as well as fees for services from science and engineering teams from government and industry that use the facility. Donations from private benefactors also will be key to ensuring the future of Aquarius.

Sylvia Earle and Fabien Cousteau

“Aquarius offers tremendous research opportunities, and we’re ensuring that the investment of American taxpayers continues to provide critical research results to the country,” said Mike Heithaus, executive director of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS). “For our students and our marine sciences program Aquarius offers fantastic new possibilities and is a natural fit for the work we are doing in the Keys and throughout the world.”

FIU biology professor Jim Fourqurean is the director of the Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys in SEAS, and he will be overseeing activities at Aquarius Reef Base. The existing Aquarius team will become FIU employees.

“Rapid changes in the environment that supports the beauty and economy of South Florida make the observation post of Aquarius even more important,” said Fourqurean. “It gives us a unique vantage point to understand how changing climate, fishing pressure and threats from pollution and oil and gas exploration and production will impact our coastal environment.”

Aquarius provides unparalleled means to study coral reefs and the ocean, test state-of-the-art undersea technology, train specialized divers, and to engage the imagination of students and the public across the globe in ocean science, coral reefs, conservation, and underwater technology. The undersea lab even offers training opportunities for astronauts headed to space.

Original Source:  PR Newswire

This Time, The Mission is the Message

By Deb Castellana

Key Largo, Florida

Deb at Aquarius Habitat (c)KipEvans/Mission Blue

As Mission Aquarius, a celebration of 50 years under the sea, winds to a close, the Mission Blue team in Florida is filled with hope for the future of Aquarius. Dr. Sylvia Earle, her team of Aquanauts and everyone working to support and highlight the mission pulled together into a cohesive team that has made a clear statement to the world – Aquarius must be saved.

With One World One Ocean in the lead, a winning group of talented ocean media professionals converged on Key Largo, Florida this week to call attention to the imminent loss of funding for the world’s last remaining undersea laboratory. Utilizing IMAX film, live webcasts from both inside the habitat and from the seabed, social media and mainstream news networks, teams worked 24/7 to highlight both the past achievements of Aquarius, and it’s possibilities for the future. The live U Stream feed typically had 200-400 viewers at any given time.

Fabien Cousteau visited Aquarius for his first time early in the week. The grandson of Jacques and son of Jean-Michel Cousteau, Fabien has known Sylvia Earle since he was 3 years old.  And growing up on the decks of Calypso & Halcyon, saving the ocean is in his blood. His cozy one-on-one chat with Sylvia was touchingly personal, yet far reaching as they discussed both the degradation of the world ocean and the possibilities for improving it’s health in the future.

Fabien Cousteau with Handcuffs (c) Deb Castellana

Topside, with his typical irreverent sense of humor, Cousteau jokingly plotted to handcuff himself to Aquarius in protest of it’s closing.  He could see the headlines, “Cousteau handcuffs himself to Aquarius underwater habitat to protest closing!”

His intimate visit inside Aquarius with Sylvia was filled with nostalgia. “I follow in your fin steps and my grandfather’s,” he said, “in being more comfortable in the sea than on land.” How to bring that type of ocean consciousness to the general public is a dilemma. How can those who have never gone beneath the waves, truly care for something they’ve never seen? We hope that through the efforts of this talented group of filmmakers, journalists, and photographers, enough attention will be focused on the ocean to begin to bridge that gap.

Embedded ocean journalist and former Gizmodo Editorial Director, Brian Lam contributed his young, hip take to the mission. Earlier this year, when he Interviewed Sylvia for a New York Times article on home made subs, Brian’s epiphany about the state of the world’s oceans was evident. His touching follow-up piece, “A Heartbreaking Interview with Dr. Sylvia Earle,” went viral. Brian’s deep commitment to using his considerable talents towards saving the ocean continues to grow, and his contribution to the Aquarius mission has been outstanding.

With digital media being shared on every platform from cell phones to IMAX screens, we hope that the public, and our leaders in Washington will hear the message to save Aquarius loud and clear. The photographic talents of the crew from One World One Ocean, Liquid Pictures’ Aquanaut DJ Roller, and our own Kip Evans have created a bank of rich content that is being shared worldwide.

Kip Evans & Brian Lam (c) Deb Castellana

Like an ocean wave closing in on the shore, news of Mission Aquarius grew as the week progressed.  When the AP story hit the wires on Thursday, news of Aquarius’ plight hit newspapers coast to coast. NPR had two pieces during the week, including Science Friday with Ira Flatow. Nightline anchor Bob Weir dove to Aquarius to interview the aquanauts both inside and outside of the habitat. Sylvia’s TED wish to spread the news by all means possible that our ocean is in trouble has never been better served.

Culminating with a gala fundraising event at the Museum of Diving History in Islamorada, we have increasing hope that Aquarius will be saved. Certainly millions of people have now heard about the imminent closure due to budget cuts. Even with today’s difficult economy, the $3 million that it takes to operate Aquarius annually seems like a goal that should be easy to reach. Given the return on investment that Aquarius will provide, it seems a tiny amount.

No article about Aquarius would be complete without a shout-out to the team at Aquarius Reef Base. It has been a pleasure to spend this week working alongside the NURC team – each member bringing a consummate professionalism and a great deal of heart to the table, keeping the aquanauts and those of us working around the lab safe and comfortable. Mission Aquarius has been a resounding success due to the hard work of this incredibly dedicated and skilled team. We hope that we’ve been able to focus the necessary attention on Aquarius to bring in the funds needed to keep her and this amazing group of submariners up and running for a very long time into the future.

Aquarius Team (c) Deb Castellana

Originally posted at: MISSION BLUE

Mission Aquarius, Celebrating 50 years of Ocean Exploration

Point Richmond, CA
By Deb Castellana

Followers of Planet Ocean News may have noticed that the page has gone dark these past few months as I have come up to speed in my new position as Director of Communications for Dr. Sylvia Earle’s ‘Mission Blue.’  Now I am looking forward to posting more often with some exciting, and always thought provoking content.  First up, Mission Aquarius!

(c) Brian Skerry

Training begins tomorrow off the coast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, for Mission Aquarius, ‘Celebrating 50 years of Living Beneath the Sea.’  The mission seeks to highlight not only the achievements of Aquarius, but also its tenuous future in today’s uncertain economic and political climate.

A question for you. Have you ever heard of Aquarius Reef Base? Don’t feel badly if you haven’t. Somehow this incredible feat of underwater engineering has largely escaped the public eye for the all the years that it has been in operation.

Since 1993, the Aquarius undersea lab has supported 114 missions, with over 550 peer-reviewed scientific publications produced, numerous educational programs, and television pieces. NASA has participated in a number of programs to research everything from the psychological effects of living in close quarters to mining asteroids (see NASA/NEEMO Website here). The Aquarius Reef Base is also supporting one of the longest running and thorough coral reef monitoring programs in the world, critical given current ocean stressors such as climate change and ocean acidification.

Aquarius has provided the world’s leading marine scientists with the opportunity to live aboard and engage in complicated research projects that could only have been carried out from saturation diving. By living and working on the seafloor for an extended period of time (up to 10 days,) scientists are able to comprehensively and intimately study and document the coral reef ecosystem.

Says Dr. Sylvia Earle, who now embarks on her third saturation dive with Aquarius, “Being able to study the animals and plants in their home using an underwater habitat gives me the gift of time,” Earle said in a mission summary. “Time to see what these magnificent life forms are actually doing on the reef.”

A cohesive partnership has formed between Mission Blue, One World One Ocean,  Google, The Aquarius Foundation, NOAA, UNCW (The University of North Carolina at Wilmington,) National Geographic, and Reef Base Aquarius and the collaboration promises to be a powerful force bringing public attention to the achievements of Aquarius as well as to what may be lost if this should be the last mission.

The media teams will be transmitting across multiple platforms from Mission Aquarius through live feeds, social networks, feature articles, as well as mainstream media.  Dr. Earle and Principal Investigator Mark Patterson will speak live with students from Williams and Mary College, there will be a live feed with Chautauqua Institution, a Google + Hangout, and possibly even a call-in with Ira Flatow’s always entertaining and fascinating NPR show, ‘Science Friday.’ We’ll keep you posted.

One World One Ocean will be on site with IMAX cameras, and DJ Roller of Liquid Pictures 3D will be shooting in 3D. Yours truly will be there with my trusty Go Pro.

We hope that you will help us to maximize this educational and outreach effort, and to use this rare opportunity to increase ocean literacy. So tweet it, facebook it, and e-mail our news if you can. The ocean would thank you if she could!

Much more content on Mission Aquarius is on it’s way, so stay tuned!

Tara Oceans Expedition returns after two years at sea

On March 31, 2012, two and a half years after setting sail, The Tara Oceans Expedition returned to the harbor at Lorient, France. True to style, the people of Brittany – some of the saltiest folks in the world, came down in droves to meet the voyagers. But Tara’s mission is not over – there is still much science to be done. The Tara Oceans expedition aims to identify the effects of global warming on planktonic and coral reef ecosystems, and the consequences on food webs and marine life. The crew have traversed the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, and Antarctica. Eric Karsenti (senior scientist at CNRS and EMBL) and Etienne Bourgois (President of Tara Foundation) co-direct the mission.

Sir Peter Blake, formerly partners in the then called “Seamaster,” was murdered onboard on the Amazon River in 2001 by would-be thieves. Blake had been engaged as Director of Expeditions for the Cousteau Society, and was also named special envoy for the UN Environment Programme. While on an environmental exploration trip in South America, monitoring global warming and pollution for the United Nations, this sailing legend and ocean hero met his tragic end. It was unthinkable. In New Zealand, his grave is a place of pilgrimage. With Sir Peter’s tragic death, it looked like his legendary 119-foot schooner Seamaster might never be used to her full potential. But baby, look at her now. Sir Peter would be proud!

Since leaving Lorient on September 5, 2009, the schooner Tara has taken samples at 150 scientific stations around the world, collecting material for laboratory analysis, and has also studied specific coral reef sites. (938 expedition days, including 630 days at sea and 58 days studying corals.) After two-and-a-half years circling the globe, Tara returned to her home port in Lorient on Saturday, March 31, 2012.

With this unprecedented expedition, scientists hope to better understand the functioning and diversity of marine life and provide answers about their role in the face of climate change. Preliminary analyses from 30 stations show that 60-80% of genes characterizing plankton were unknown up to the present.

Tara Oceans is also an outreach expedition; meeting the people of the countries they passed through. During the 50 stopovers, nearly 5,000 children from all continents visited Tara and interacted with the scientists. The mission has been a great human adventure involving hundreds of people onboard and ashore.

In the coming months, the first scientific results will be published. Three papers are in preparation: on the genomics of stations in the Mediterranean Sea, the impact of environment on the complexity of biodiversity, and the effects of ocean circulation on ecosystems. In addition, analyses of their samples will continue for many years in partner laboratories. Possible applications of these results are numerous, especially in the biomedical field and for climate models.

2012 is the year for sharing the Tara Expeditions project – first, this June at the Earth Summit in Rio. The schooner will remain in Brittany throughout the summer. During the French leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, she’ll be in Lorient, then in Camaret-sur-Mer and at the “Tonnerres de Brest”. The schooner will then sail to Paris in September, and dock there for several months.