by Allan Richter and Linda Melone
from Energy Times
During his fifth season playing affable bartender Sam Malone on “Cheers,” Ted Danson was walking with his daughters along the beach in Santa Monica, California, when they encountered a sign that read, “Water polluted. No Swimming.”
Danson found himself at a loss for words when his girls asked why the beach was closed. The experience stirred the environmentalist within—and an ocean activist was born.
by Allan Richter and Linda Melone
from Energy Times
Water is within us and around us. It is sustenance and recreation.
From actor Ted Danson’s activism on behalf of oceans to the allure of boating,
here are some perspectives on life-giving H20.
Stay tuned for Water World, Part 2 on swimming and water workouts next week.
During his fifth season playing affable bartender Sam Malone on “Cheers,” Ted Danson was walking with his daughters along the beach in Santa Monica, California, when they encountered a sign that read, “Water polluted. No Swimming.” Danson found himself at a loss for words when his girls asked why the beach was closed. The experience stirred the environmentalist within—and an ocean activist was born.
Danson’s affinity for the ocean and nature began earlier. Because his father was an anthropologist and his mother “a very spiritual person,” he learned it was important to be a good steward of the environment. Growing up in Arizona, Danson was influenced by the Hopi children he befriended; they had a deeper appreciation of the natural world. Though landlocked in the southwest, Danson would enjoy the ocean on childhood visits to family in California.
At age seven, Danson had a vivid dream that shaped his thinking. “I had a high fever. I woke up screaming and ran into my parents’ room. They asked me what was wrong and I described my nightmare. I was sitting on the beach and God’s voice said, ‘Ted, you have one hour to enter the oceans into this bucket,’ and then he gave me a spoon with holes in it. I’ve been thinking about the oceans for many years.”
Seafood for Thought
Cod: Pacific (US bottom longline)
Halibut: Pacific (US)
Salmon (Alaska wild)
Tilapia (US farmed)
Trout: Rainbow (US farmed)
Cod: Atlantic and imported Pacific
Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)
Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic)*
Tilapia (Asia farmed)
Note: This chart represents a sampling. For full list, visit Oceana.org. Best choices are abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Seafood to avoid are overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.
*Limit consumption due to concerns about mercury or other contaminants. Visit edf.org/seafoodhealth
Source: Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
Since that late 1980s walk on the Santa Monica beach, Danson has been an eager student of ocean health, culminating in the release of his recent cautionary but optimistic book, Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them (Rodale). “Science is saying that we are coming to a tipping point,” says Danson, whose book title borrows its name from the ocean conservation group he founded. “Science also shows that our oceans can bounce back if we make some necessary changes. We still have time to solve the problem.”
If you buy wild versus farmed fish because of the health benefits of the former—wild salmon has more healthful omega 3-oils than farmed salmon, for instance—you’re likely also helping the oceans. “Fish farming creates more pollution and overfishing pressure around the world,” Danson points out. Irresponsible fish farms pollute waters with fish waste and introduce toxic chemicals into the food chain and ultimately onto our dinner plates.
Every pound of farmed salmon takes five pounds of smaller fish, resulting in a net loss of protein. All of those smaller fish that are needed to create the farmed salmon are important species to the marine ecosystem, and many are edible by people as well.
Danson similarly rails against fishing on an industrial scale, saying the global fishing fleet is more than twice as large as the planet’s oceans can sustain. “Too often, destructive gear is used that kills everything in its path,” the actor/activist says. “Industrial fishing ships with huge nets catch and kill marine life—dolphins, sea turtles, birds. Bottom trawlers destroy deep sea coral and other seafloor habitats, which provide critical nurseries and feeding grounds for innumerable fish and shellfish species.
“The oceans are resilient. Fish populations can bounce back if given a breather from intense fishing pressure.”
“Destructive fishing also jeopardizes the millions of small-scale fishermen and others who have depended on the oceans for their livelihood for generations,” Danson continues. “In addition, it threatens the nearly 3 billion people in the world who rely on animal protein that comes from the sea.”
Nevertheless, Danson sees his efforts as pro-fishing. “I want fishermen to be able to make a living for years to come. Many fishermen know their catch is shrinking. I have spoken with fishermen over the years. They understand, and many support, that changes need to be made in the industry to let the fish populations recover.”
Seafood fraud, in which less expensive fish such as tilapia is being passed off as grouper and red snapper, is one consequence of overfishing, says Danson, who says he loves seafood. “It is a disturbing trend, and most people don’t know they have been lied to and ripped off,” he says. “It disguises the fact that overfishing is taking place. This creates an illusion that we have an endless supply of fish when in actuality many of these species are on the brink of collapse. How can you believe that grouper is at risk when you can have a so-called grouper sandwich every day?”
To fight seafood fraud, Danson says, consumers should ask questions at the fish markets and restaurants they frequent: What kind of fish is it? Where was it caught? How was it caught? Was it farmed? Where was it farmed? “One good rule of thumb is to try and eat locally caught seafood if you don’t have any more information,” Danson says. A seafood guide, such as one from Monterey Bay Aquarium that you can download from Oceana’s site at Oceana.org, can help you choose fish that is available in abundance or farmed with the environment in mind.
Eating sustainable food and avoiding products, like plastics, that can damage the oceans are among ways that Danson suggests to help heal marine ecosystems. Despite the challenges, he says he remains optimistic.
“The oceans are resilient,” he says. “Fish populations can bounce back if given a breather from intense fishing pressure. Most of the oceans’ most vibrant ecosystems—coral reefs, for example—are near coastlines, and people are motivated to save them. We are getting the will, and now we just have to find the way.”
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