My Pacific row is a project of the Blue Frontier Campaign, a US-based nonprofit that focuses on supporting grassroots (aka seaweed) efforts to preserve the oceans, and organizes forums to build consensus and collaboration amongst other organizations involved in marine conservation.

Today I am honoured to feature a special guest blog written by David Helvarg, the President and Founder of the Blue Frontier Campaign, and author of 50 Ways to Save the Ocean. Informative, eye-opening and constructive – I highly recommend this blog. Enjoy! And act.


Five years ago I was going through some hard times, as were our living oceans. I’m better, they are not.

A recent study in the journal Science found that 40 percent of the oceans are heavily impacted by human activities while only 4 percent are in a pristine state. Another study found 90 percent of large ocean fish, including sharks, big tuna and billfish have been killed off since 1950. A FEMA report predicts one out of four U.S. houses built within 500 feet of the shore will be destroyed by rising seas in the next 45 years.
The best available science tells us more than half the world’s tropical coral reefs will die as a result of fossil-fuel driven climate change that has already taken place.

And now President Bush and Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain are pushing to reopen long-protected offshore waters to new oil drilling. Shortsighted government policies such as these only worsen the effects of marine disasters linked to industrial overfishing, pollution, coastal sprawl and climate change. The most frustrating thing is we know what the solutions are; we just haven’t summoned the personal and political will to implement them-at least not yet.

People often ask me what they can do about such seemingly overwhelming challenges as the collapse of marine wildlife or fossil-fuel fired climate change, especially when they’re already so busy with work, raising families and other obligations. My response is that you’re already doing something. We all impact the seas around us by the things we do every day as consumers and citizens. The challenge is to be aware of what you’re doing and then make the right choices. What I found in writing the Blue Frontier Campaign book ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean,’ is that in doing what’s right for our ocean planet we usually end up doing good for ourselves, for our health, our pocketbook and our sense of self-worth.

Which brings me to what I call the Roz Savage Challenge. I met Roz through another Seaweed (marine grassroots) activist, Margo Pellegrino,
a New Jersey wife and mother who decided to paddle an outrigger from Miami to Maine last year to raise money and awareness on behalf of
seaweed activist groups like Surfrider (eco-surfers) offering bottom up solutions to coastal and marine problems. Margo’s now about to paddle from New Jersey to Washington DC in support of a U.S. Ocean Act to assure the ecological integrity of our public seas. After she introduced me to Roz who had already rowed solo across the Atlantic and
planned to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific to raise awareness of plastic pollution and other threats to our blue planet, Blue Frontier offered to make Roz’s Voyage a project of our non-profit campaign.

Riding alongside her under the Golden Gate Bridge last month with Paul from SF Bay Adventures, her rowboat outlined by the lights of the city and escorted by a curious sea lion, I was overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge she’d set herself, set herself again I should say. Last year’s disappointment had only steeled her to try again with more ballast and gumption. Our rigid hull inflatable turned back by the Point Diablo Lighthouse while Roz rowed on towards the sharky waters of the Farallone islands twenty seven miles away and Hawaii twenty four hundred miles beyond them, the first leg of her Pacific voyage.

So here’s the challenge! If Roz can row an ocean to protect the diversity of life on our blue marble planet can’t each of us do something in our own lives?

Can we give up drinking water from plastic bottles for example that end up polluting the sea, costing us a fortune and using up fossil fuels in both their production and transport? Why don’t we instead work to assure safe and healthy drinking water from our taps? New York City has some of the best drinking water in the world, the champagne of tap water, in part because it chose to invest in protecting its rural Catskill Mountains watershed and reservoirs from unneeded development and pollution. Solutions are all around us!

Can we drive less and walk/bike more, use public transportation where it exists and fight for it where it ought to? Let’s keep our money out of the pockets of oil companies like Exxon-Mobil that continue to deny the catastrophic threat global warming poses to our oceans and to us all.

Can we eat more organic and vegetarian food to reduce the runoff of nutrient heavy synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and animal wastes into
our coastal waters? This is also a healthier and tastier choice.

We can do these things and many more. If Roz can row oceans to challenge herself and spread the word on the state of our seas we ought to all try and be ocean heroes in our own lives. Who knows, working together we just might turn the tide and inspire a solution-oriented seaweed revolution. We’ll see you on the other side.

Fair winds and safe rowing Roz

David Helvarg
President & Founder
Blue Frontier Campaign

Picture: Roz with David Helvarg, San Francisco, 2007

Other stuff:

Today I crossed the line of longitude at 124 degrees west – for the fifth time. I’ve been out and back, out and back, and now out again. It would be really nice if this is the last time.
The watermaker again refused to work beyond a few short-lived gurgles. I am experimenting with diverting power from all solar panels to a single
battery to try and summon up enough “oomph” to keep it going for longer. Will try again tomorrow.

Hi to Paul (looking down at me from a plane) and Nicole (looking across at me from LA) – can you see me waving?!

Guten Tag to Matze Bley of Germany. Leider kann ich kein Deutsch. Vielen dank. Auf Weidersehen (Pet).

John Pullin – no noticeable effect from the land any more. The wind seems to do whatever it pleases, at whatever time of day!

Tom and the guys at the outdoor store – thank you! I shall row all the harder to get to Hawaii so I can open my box of goodies.

Thanks Martin for the suggestions on the sea anchor and anchor bridle. Didn’t quite get it from your description, but we’ll talk it over sometime when I’m back on dry land.

Hi also to Kathy, Pippa (life after rowing? Yes, I have a plan, but not ready to divulge just yet!), Rod (I love sashimi! But no fishing until I am in the “happy zone” of tailwinds), Ryan, Alexandria and Audrey,
Sophie and Jeanne and schoolmates (the coolest and bluest!), Star Siegfried.

Steve in Colorado, training for a marathon – sounds like the training is coming along well. You keep dreaming about your marathon, and I’ll keep
dreaming about Hawaii.

And a special hello to my cousin Diane – a much better endurance athlete than I am. An interesting excerpt from her email here, about a local half marathon: “I surprised my self by taking 3rd lady and 1st vet 45. Interestingly all the top places were taken by veteran ladies and you had to go down to 14th before finding a lady that was not a vet. So fear not – reaching the grand age of 40. In endurance events it means life has only just begun.” Hear, hear!!

PS from Rita:

Position for Roz last night: 31 58 533N, 124 14 385W.

Marine Track has sent later updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *