Is This Election Good for the Fish?

by on July 20, 2016 · 0 comments

in Election, Environment, Health, History, Organizing, Politics, World News

oceanshore w flagBy David Helvarg / Blue Notes – Blue Frontier /July 19, 2016

The party conventions are now underway starting with the Republicans in Cleveland to be followed by the Democrats in Philadelphia.

The stark contrasts between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: on immigration, education, health care, trade, foreign policy, etc. do not end at the water’s edge where you might also find a Trump resort or golf course.

The ocean has yet to be mentioned on the campaign trail although our organization, Blue Frontier, is coordinating a letter to the candidates from ocean leaders in business, science, conservation, education and other fields that will be sent to the candidates after the conventions.

We hope it might get a response on how the next President will act on key blue issues including the fight against pirate fishing, establishment of marine protected areas for large, unique ocean habitats, coastal adaptation to sea level rise and other climate driven challenges as well as expansion of a national ocean policy to coordinate efforts at the local, state, federal and tribal levels.

It also calls for realistic levels of funding for frontline maritime agencies involved in conservation, scientific exploration and law-enforcement such as NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard.

In the meantime we have to read the kelp leaves to know what a Clinton or a Trump administration might do for or to the blue in our red, white and blue.

Secretary Clinton’s campaign has put out an environmental ‘briefing’ that confirms her stand from earlier this summer that she will not support new oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean or along the Atlantic seaboard. She has not yet taken a position on continued drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

In calling for the protection of communities from the impacts of climate change she acknowledges the threat of sea level rise and also calls for infrastructure improvements including upgrading of water treatment facilities and use of porous pavements and reduced storm-water runoff that could also help reduce coastal water pollution.

Perhaps the strongest indicator of a more robust ocean policy under a Clinton Administration is the leadership role her campaign chair John Podesta is expected to play. As White House Counselor to President Obama he played a key role in the President’s expansion of vast Marine Monuments in the Pacific. Earlier this year he also tweeted

“Oceans are under threat from climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and illegal fishing. We need Action now.”

One major challenge for Mr. Trump when it comes to ocean health is his insistence, contrary to well-established science, that climate change is a “hoax.” While reflecting Republican political orthodoxy, this would also make it harder for him to respond to a range of threats to our public seas including ocean warming, increased storminess, ocean acidification and sea-level rise, although the managers of at least one of his coastal properties are already planning for sea-level rise adaptation.

His call for expanded oil-drilling and coal mining in the United States also poses a problem as mercury from coal-fired power plants is now the major source of deposition of this dangerous neurotoxin into the ocean from where it enters the food web and works its way up to edible predator fish such as tuna, swordfish and other popular seafood species.

Its hard to judge what other positions he might have in regard to our public seas since his campaign only lists seven issues of concern and the environment is not among them.

His son, and advisor, Donald Trump Jr. is a hunter and fisherman and fan of Theodore Roosevelt, America’s first conservationist President. Donald Jr. has called for keeping public lands public (not selling them off to the states) but has yet to publicly address any ocean issues.

While it doesn’t endorse presidential candidates the non-partisan Ocean Champions organization that calls itself “the only political voice for the oceans” (ahem) thinks the 2016 elections could also see more ocean advocates or ‘champions’ it endorses elected to Congress than at any time in history. We’ll need them all.



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