Aloha Roz and Gustav, Invasive Critters, Polynesian Polluters and, Oh, Happy 50th Blue Notes.

by on September 16, 2008 · 0 comments

in Environment, Organizing

By David Helvarg / Blue Notes / Sept. 10, 2004


“I’m under the airplane,” Roz informed us on the radio as we watched a jet take off from Honolulu International. Bopping around in a 24-foot towboat looking for a 24-foot rowboat five miles off Oahu reminded me of how vast the ocean can seem. Even with her coordinates it took Capt. Phil from the Waikiki Yacht Club, a photographer and a camera crew almost two hours to find Roz as she arrived in Hawaii, 99 days after the night we’d said goodbye under the Golden Gate Bridge (see Blue Notes #47).

And so on Monday September 1 (Labor Day appropriately) Seaweed Rebel Roz Savage became the first woman to row solo 2,900 miles from California to Hawaii on her way to becoming the first woman to do so ac ross the entire Pacific.

On her arrival at the Yacht Club, escorted by outriggers and welcomed by a cheerful mob of her Mum, friends and media, Roz was aglow with salty satisfaction at a job well done. Even if she had lost 25 pounds and was down to 11 percent body fat her purpose was not to promote a new ocean-rowing fitness regime but rather to raise awareness of the threats our living seas face and what each of us can do about them.

“It’s taken me about a million strokes to get here from California, and if I’d have stood there in San Francisco and said well one oar stroke isn’t going to make any difference then I’d still be standing there, but I’ve demonstrated by putting one oar stroke after another that every tiny little action adds up to something really substantial,” she said, drawing the analogy to environmental actions each of us can take to make a cumulative and collective difference. Champagne and Shampoo were her immediate priorities however, and then it was time for physicals, interviews, phone calls, and more interviews.

On Thursday we held a joint press conference at the Waikiki Aquarium for Roz and the Algalita Foundation’s Junk Raft sailors Marcus and Joel (See Blue Notes #49). Along with both their vessels on display the press conference included statements from local seaweed groups working to reduce plastic waste including the Oahu chapter of Surfrider, Styrophobia, Jack Johnson’s Kokua Hawaii Foundation and the Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (BEACH).

From there we headed to Kahuku Beach where, with some 25 volunteers including a number of BYU students, we helped BEACH cleaned up massive amounts of plastic debris on a stretch of the island’s northeast coast that faces into the Pacific Gyre from whence much of the plastic we dump into the ocean returns to us. We do what we can, one stroke at a time.


After the Beach Clean-up I stopped at Pounders Beach to do some bodysurfing. I caught three great rides before a wave caught and pounded me. The side of my face made contact with the bottom as I felt a shock of pain in my neck. Lying there underwater I had a moment’s worry that I’d done something irreparable. Only after surfacing, leaving the water and getting hold of some ice and Tylenol did I appreciate having gotten away with only a cut eye and strained neck. The ocean in its vast indifference to human experience remains the ultimate wilderness. You don’t have to row an ocean to understand the risks of living, working or playing on our Blue Frontier.

A tragic example of this happened that evening with the crash of an HH-65 Coast Guard Dolphin Helicopter on a training mission off Honolulu that saw three crew members killed and a fourth lost and presumed dead.

Their job, as the rescue warriors of our public seas, is too often a thankless and forgotten one. So just a brief but heartfelt thanks to four more who have crossed over the bar so, “that others may live,” – Thomas Nelson, 42, Andrew Wischmeier, 44, David Skimin, 38 and Joshua Nichols, 27.


It’s been a busy season so far with Fay, Hanna, Gustav, Ike and their ilk devastating the Caribbean and battering the U.S. mainland. Nancy Rabalais’s Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) lab located on my favorite sand spit, Cocodrie, Louisiana, lost a roof to Katrina and flooded during Rita. This time it lost its water and power (and a good bit of its dock) to Gustav. Nancy, who lives in Baton Rouge, also points out that there’s still lots of downed trees and power lines in the State Capitol that, since Katrina, has also become the state’s most populous city.

Evacuations generally went well for almost 2 million people (plus pets) from New Orleans and the Gulf region as they got out of the way of Gustav. We’ve learned a lot about response since 2005’s historic hurricane Season but not so much about long-term prevention. More than three years after that 100 billion dollar Katrina wipe-out that also claimed over 1,600 lives and created a million environmental refugees, we’re still not addressing the underlying issues of wetlands loss, federal flood insurance as a driver of high-risk coastal sprawl and fossil-fuel fired climate change.

Now there’s yet another study just published in the Journal Nature (this one based on satellite data from 1981 through 2006) suggesting global warming is increasing the number of Category 4 & 5 hurricanes around the world. While there’s still some scientific debate on this – largely sustained by NOAA’s Chris Landsea who has his own theory of Atlantic Hurricane Cycles – there’s general scientific consensus that climate change is contributing to increased coastal flooding, beach erosion, coral bleaching, the rapid loss of Arctic ice, ocean acidification and other grave threats to our blue planet. Doesn’t that make you want to escape to paradise?


Unfortunately BFF (Blue Frontier Friend) Jon Christensen of San Diego recently returned from his dream sail through French Polynesia only to report his disappointment that they still allow waste discharge in their lagoons, that the main charter boat company only has two-stroke outboards for its dingies, and that polluting 2-strokes seem to be the standard in the islands with few if any cleaner 4-stroke outboards in evidence. He found most islands are still using diesel generators with little or no effort to introduce wind or solar and that there are no recycling programs to reduce landfills. Also he noted the use of plastic water bottles has become almost universal. And this from a French colonial administration that only recently and reluctantly gave up nuclear bomb testing in its waters.


A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science is the latest of several to suggest that invasive species for the most part do not lead to the extinction of native species and may in fact expand the biological diversity of their new habitats. That doesn’t mean predators like anacondas in the Everglades or Snakeheads in the Potomac can’t cause extensive disruption, just that invasive species like Lionfish newly arrived in the Atlantic (see Blue Notes #49) don’t necessarily mean the inevitable doom of their neighbors, which is good news given how little we’ve done to reduce the spread of exotics through commercial shipping, air travel, dumping of weird pets, etc. Right now New Zealand is the best example we have of a society making a serious effort at maintaining bio-security. My last two trips to Hawaii I was given agricultural declaration forms to fill out that target invasive plants and animals, but no one collected them as I left the plane with my pet brown tree snake in my carry on (I could have been carrying one).


This September some 25 major blue groups will gather in Washington DC on the eve of the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s spectacular new Ocean Hall to plan another kind of tribute to our living seas. They will be preparing for the 2nd national Blue Vision Summit March 7-10 2009, also in Washington DC at the Carnegie Institute, George Washington University and on Capitol Hill. This gathering of some 500 ocean leaders from around the United States and our blue planet will promote local and regional marine conservation solutions, discuss climate and ocean issues, and learn about federal ocean protection legislation. For more stay tuned to this space or contact

50 FOR 50

The Blue Frontier Campaign is dedicated to promoting unity, providing tools to and raising awareness of the ocean and coastal protection movement believing, “blue is the new green.” One of our tools has been Blue Notes, the ocean policy newsletter you’re reading and I’ve been writing with your help since March 2004. With our 50th issue we now reach 2,000 key seaweed (marine grassroots) subscribers.
Following are five of the 50 things we’d like you to do if you’ve been enjoying Blue Notes.

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And thanks for all you do to give back to the ocean that gives us so much.

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