American Oceans Campaign
American Oceans Campaign
Located in Los Angeles, California, the American Oceans Campaign (AOC) was founded in 1987 as a political interest group dedicated primarily to the restoration, protection, and preservation of the health and vitality of coastal waters, estuaries, bays, wetlands , and oceans. More national and conservationist (rather than international and preservationist) in its focus than other groups with similar concerns, the AOC tends to view the oceans as a valuable resource whose use should be managed carefully. As current president Ted Danson puts it, the oceans must be regarded as far more than a natural preserve by environmentalists; rather, healthy oceans "sustain biological diversity, provide us with leisure and recreation , and contribute significantly to our nation's GNP."
The AOC's main political efforts reflect this focus. Central to the AOC's lobbying strategy is a desire to build cooperative relations and consensus among the general public, public interest groups, private sector corporations and trade groups, and public/governmental authorities around responsible management of ocean resources. The AOC is also active in grassroots public awareness campaigns through mass media and community outreach programs. This high-profile media campaign has included the production of a series of informational bulletins (Public Service Announcements) for use by local groups, as well as active involvement in the production of several documentary television series that have been broadcast on both network and public television. The AOC also has developed extensive connections with both the news and entertainment industries, frequently scheduling appearances by various celebrity supporters such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Whoopi Goldberg, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Swayze, and Beau Bridges.
As a lobbying organization, the AOC has developed contacts with government leaders at all levels from local to national, attempting to shape and promote a variety of legislation related to clean water and oceans. It has been particularly active in lobbying for strengthening various aspects of the Clean Water Act , the Safe Drinking Water Act , the Oil Pollution Act, and the Ocean Dumping Ban Act . The AOC regularly provides consultation services, assistance in drafting legislation, and occasional expert testimony on matters concerning ocean ecology . Recently this has included AOC Political Director Barbara Polo's testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans on the substance and effect of legislation concerning the protection of coral reef ecosystems.
Also very active at the grassroots level, AOC has organized numerous cleanup operations which both draw attention to the problems caused by ocean dumping and make a practical contribution to reversing the situation. Concentrating its efforts in California and the Pacific Northwest, the AOC launched its "Dive for Trash" program in 1991. As many as 1,000 divers may team up at AOC-sponsored events to recover garbage from the coastal waters. In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Maritime Sanctuary Program, the AOC is planning to add a marine environmental assessment component to this diving program, and to expand the program into Gulf and Atlantic coastal waters.
Organizationally, the AOC divides its political and lobbying activity into three separate substantive policy areas: "Critical Oceans and Coastal Habitats," which includes issues concerning estuaries, watersheds, and wetlands; "Coastal Water Pollution," which focuses on beach water quality and the effects of storm water runoff , among other issues; and "Living Resources of the Sea," which include coral reefs, fisheries, and marine mammals (especially dolphins ). Activities in all these areas have run the gamut from public and legislative information campaigns to litigation.
The AOC has been particularly active along the California coastline and has played a central role in various programs aimed at protecting coastal wetland ecosystems from development and pollution. It has also been active in the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project, which seeks to restore environmental balance to Santa Monica Bay. Typical of the AOC's multi-level approach, this project combines a program of public education and citizen (and celebrity) involvement with the monitoring and reduction of private-sector pollution and with the conducting of scientific studies on the impact of a various activities in the surrounding area. These activities are also combined with an attempt to raise alternative revenues to replace funds recently lost due to the reduction of both federal (National Estuary Program ) and state government support for the conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems. In addition, the AOC has been involved in litigation against the County of Los Angeles over a plan to build flood control barriers along a section of the Los Angeles River. AOC's major concern is that these barriers will increase the amount of polluted storm water runoff being channeled into coastal waters. The AOC contends that prudent management of this storm water would be better used in recharging Southern California's scant water resources via storage or redirection into underground aquifers before this runoff becomes polluted.
In February of 2002, AOC teamed up with a new nonprofit ocean advocacy organization called Oceana. The focus of this partnership is the Oceans at Risk program that concentrates on the impact that wasteful fisheries have on the marine environment .
[Lawrence J. Biskowski ]
American Oceans Campaign, 6030 Wilshire Blvd Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA USA 90036 (323) 936-8242, Fax: (323) 936-2320, Email: [email protected], <http://www.americanoceans.org>