At the Blue Vision Summit, from left, Richard Hyman, Emily Smith, legislative aide to Sen. Chris Murphy, Mary Horrigan and Tom Robben.
Reflections on the Blue Vision Summit (Op-ed by Richard Hyman. Published May 18, 2017 in The Weston Forum.)
It’s almost Memorial Day and time for the beach. What if your beach washed away or was covered in plastic or oil? You couldn’t go swimming, fishing or boating.
Those were some of the issues that I and ocean champions from 25 coastal and inland states discussed at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, D.C., from May 9 to 11.
We worked on solutions for climate disruption, rising and acidifying seas, overfishing, plastic and other forms or marine pollution, and loss of habitat — all threats to our blue planet.
We also lobbied Congress, focusing on:
- Protecting marine habitats and coastal communities from destructive offshore oil drilling. Advocating legislation that prohibits offshore drilling in the Atlantic and elsewhere, the issuance of new oil and gas leases off the Atlantic coast, and destructive seismic activities.
- Opposing state and federal “pre-emption” of local plastic pollution legislation. Can you believe that some communities have enacted bans on single-use plastics, such as bags and foam foodware, but industry lobbyists silenced them by convincing state legislatures to prohibit municipalities from adopting such local ordinances? New York City passed a bag fee, but the day before it was to go into effect, the state passed A.4883/S.4158, a pre-emption bill that specifically blocked the city. This also happened in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Pre-emption could happen in Connecticut or even at the federal level. Westport has an ordinance that bans plastic bags.
- Supporting strategic coastal resilience programs to ensure smart ecosystem-based planning. Instead of just reacting to the next Sandy, let’s enable federal agencies and coastal state governments to continue to work together and proactively prepare. We asked members of Congress to fully fund NOAA and the EPA, including the Coastal Zone Management Program, National Sea Grant Program, Beach Grants Program, and National Estuary Program. We met with the offices of Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy and Reps. Himes, Esty and Larson.
In general they all supported our agenda and requests. Did you know Sen. Blumenthal was an outspoken voice in calling for the designation of the Northeast Coral Canyons and Seamounts area as a marine national monument? This is one of the 27 Antiquities Act monuments under review by the Department of the Interior.
Your voice matters! Write, call or visit Congress. Ask if your legislator is a member of the Ocean Caucus.
If so, thank the person. If not, ask why. Does the legislator support fully funding the EPA and NOAA? Say where you stand and ask where your representatives stand on S 999, S 985, S 756, HR 2158, HR 728, and other related bills.
So enjoy the beach! Be relentless, proactive and, as Jacques Cousteau said, “Protect what you love.”
Note: Upon returning to Weston I had the privilege to mentor eighth graders at Weston Middle School’s Career Day. I told them about the summit, that dozens of students attended, and invited them to join me at the next Blue Vision Summit.
Richard Hyman is a Weston native, businessman and conservation leader. After graduating from Weston High School, he became a diver aboard Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed research vessel Calypso. He is the author of Frogmen, a personal account of his expeditions. He is also member of the Marine Biology Hall of Fame and serves on the board of Fabien Cousteau’s Ocean Learning Center. Visit richardehyman.com to learn more.
© Copyright Richard E. Hyman, All rights reserved