The Crowd: No time to waste in saving the ocean


Have you ever buried your trash in the sand while at the beach rather than carrying it to a bin — even a simple plastic baggie from your sandwich?

How about discarding unwanted items overboard when nobody was watching on your last boat trip to Catalina Island? If you are honest and answer guilty as suspected, then you are joining millions of folks, not just here in Southern California but worldwide, who for far too long — centuries, in fact — have assumed our vast oceans are a bottomless waste disposal.

Science has been sounding the alarm that we humans are potentially poisoning the planet due to such irresponsible abuse. Research reports that enormous sections of ocean floor worldwide are covered with waste, much of it non-biodegradable. So don’t be surprised when restaurants ban plastic straws and utensils and similar items. It is not a plot by staunch environmentalists to ruin businesses. Such regulations may in fact save business, and more importantly, save the planet for many generations to come.


The waste problem is just one aspect of the challenges facing those dedicated to ocean conservation and preservation. There are serious threats to all variety of maritime life, many species at risk due to overfishing Other environmental habitats are ruined from human behavior including oil spills and coral bleaching. There has been a loss of vast reefs that support many species.

And then there is climate change, a spooky term for non-believers. But tell that to oceanographic scientists gauging higher water temperatures worldwide. The debate should not be if climate change is real, but rather what is the cause and what can be done about it, whether it is man- or nature-related or both.

For the past 11 years in Orange County, the world’s most respected and largest ocean conservation organization, Oceana, has held a major summer fundraiser on the Pacific Coast. The SeaChange Summer Party is held annually at an Italian-Mediterranean-inspired villa in Laguna Beach hosted by the Bruce Cahill family.

The event attracts a gathering of SoCal who’s who, including a contingent of Hollywood glitterati who also are dedicated to the cause. Among them is actor Ted Danson, who has fronted the event each year. Also front and center for the 2018 party were Dennis Haysbert (“You’re in good hands with Allstate”), Austin Nichols, Hassie Harrison, Christina Ochoa and Oscar Nunez, many of whom have supported Oceana for years.

The celebs mingled with some 400 local VIPs clinking glasses on a balmy July evening high in the hills of Laguna, overlooking an endless Pacific as the sun moved west into the horizon. Dinner was served al fresco on the Cahill lawn as experts spoke about serious issues.

Oceana’s CEO, Andy Sharpless, flew in from its East Coast headquarters and addressed the crowd on the theme of the 11th SeaChange, protecting corals. Sharpless had encouraging words: “Oceana’s teams are winning battles that will give the corals a chance.”

The massive undertaking was organized this season by Oceana board vice chairwoman Valarie Van Cleave along with Elizabeth Wahler and event vice chairman Jeff Blasingame. Major support came from Tricia and Michael Burns, Jean and Tim Weiss, Janet and Carl Nolet, Teresa and Doug Pasquale, Bonnie Lee and Justin Pham, Danni Sun, Carol and Dennis Berryman, Laura and Lou Rohl, Suzie Kim, Michael Silvers and Valaree Wahler.

An impressive list of corporate sponsors included South Coast Plaza, Chanel, Latham & Watkins LLP, Gucci, BNY Wealth Management, Crevier Foundation, Marisla Foundation and Pfleger Foundation.

The summer party concluded with a special performance by the talented and beautiful Katharine McPhee, who brought the audience to its feet with her rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”

With proceeds from tickets, auction and underwriting gifts, Oceana raised $1.2 million to help save our oceans from us and for us.

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B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.