- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

A new environmental organization has come to Washington in order to build one of the largest international movements aimed at saving oceans and pressing the federal government to pass measures that would protect marine wildlife.
The organization, Oceana, is a result of a merger between Oceana, a group that works to protect international oceans, and American Oceans Campaign (AOC), a national group founded by actor Ted Danson that works to safeguard U.S. coastal waters.
Officials from both nonprofit groups said yesterday the merger gives them more resources such as grass-roots mobilization and legal expertise to help push policies that would help safeguard the oceans.
"The launch of Oceana will make a huge difference," Mr. Danson said in a written statement. "With the two organizations joining forces, I see a new surge of energy and expertise and many more resources being dedicated to ending destructive fishing practices and the pollution of our oceans than ever before."
Meshing the talents of both staffs Oceana's global membership and AOC's Hollywood exposure seemed like a perfect match that will get things done, said Heather Weiner, a spokesperson for Oceana.
"Oceans are shared bodies of water, so this merger seemed like the right thing to do," Miss Weiner said.
The merger undoubtedly means Oceana will have a more powerful voice in town when it comes to pushing policy. But organizations that work for a common cause said yesterday they don't see the group as competition but rather as extra help to work toward their common goals.
"It's great that we'll get more help in pushing our causes," said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network in Washington. "The more folks we have pointing out problems, the better off we'll be."
Officials with the Ocean Conservancy shared Mr. Crockett's sentiments. "The more advocates we have saving the oceans and cleaning up pollution, the better," said Tara Stewart with the Ocean Conservancy.
Oceana's latest goal is to persuade President Bush to reduce the problem of fishing bycatch. Bycatch, or wasted catch, refers to all the ocean's living things that commercial and recreational fishermen unintentionally harm or kill while fishing.
Oceana set up a site on the Web (www.oceansatrisk.com) and filed a formal legal petition with the Bush administration asking that it uphold the laws to reduce destructive fishing.
The Web site includes a copy of the petition, which calls on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to implement a program that would count, cap and control wasteful fishing practices in U.S. fisheries. If NMFS does not respond in a timely manner, Oceana may sue.
And, in the next few months, Oceana will begin campaigns to curtail the use of fishing gears that clearcut the oceans and destroy marine habitat; prevent pollution from cruise ships; and clean up persistent organic pollutants that kill marine animals and threaten public health.


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