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The Crowd: An event for ocean conservation

Orange County hostesses Valarie Van Cleave and Eve Kornyei pulled out all the stops Saturday evening, as Hollywood and Washington, D.C. glitterati converged on the Laguna Beach estate of Karen and Bruce Cahill for the 4th annual SeaChange dinner and fundraiser.

It was a smashing success attracting some 400 guests. The al fresco gathering on the spectacular hillside of the Cahill villa, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, raised more than $900,000 for Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation society. It’s headquartered in the nation’s capital.

This was an evening of great passion centered on a cause that effects every creature on the planet, both on land and under the sea. Oceana is both a watchdog and an instrument of leadership working with multiple layers of worldwide government, business and culture.

In spite of criticism of such efforts from voices advocating no restriction on the pursuit of free enterprise as they harvest the bounty of the world’s oceans, Oceana works through legislative action to ensure that enterprise unchecked and imbalanced does not decimate such finite resources.


Surely, responsible world citizens have learned via example over the last century that the Earth’s resources are not a free-for-all grab in a climate of laissez-faire entrepreneurship, or one that’s open to the first to take.

In decades past when the world population was much smaller and the planet seemed more vast and indestructible, one well-known example illustrates the effect of unchecked entrepreneurship: Whalers nearly wiped out the population of nature’s giant waterborne mammals for their oil. Closer to home, the Pacific along the Orange Coast was once the habitat for one of the world’s largest schools of sardine and abalone, though it was overfished to elimination some half-century ago.

Today, Oceana fights to ensure the survival of many ocean habitats not just off American shores, but wherever the need for conservation exists. One such effort focuses on the protection of the ocean’s shark population being overfished in a horrific manner to satisfy the desire for shark fin soup, an east Asian delicacy. Shark fishermen have for some time been catching the fish, cutting off the fins and throwing the creatures back in the ocean to drown rather than harvesting the entire shark for food.

The task is great. Not only is achieving international legislation against such behavior extremely difficult to create and then enforce, but teaching the moral and ethical imperative to cultures that have considered such fishing acceptable for generations is tantamount to a world shift, a revolution of thought and ideology.


The big question centers on how business and free enterprise can coexist with conservation. To take a stand that such coexistence is not only possible but imperative, major O.C. leaders of business, government and society came forward Saturday evening in Laguna Beach to support Kornyei and Van Cleave.

Major support came from underwriters David C. Copley, Tricia and Michael Berns, Deborah and Larry Bridges, Cynthia and Steve Fry, Eve Kornyei and beau Michael J. Ruffato, Harriet and Sandy Sandhu, Sandi and Ron Simon, and Valarie Wahler. Significant financial underwriting also came from the Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation, South Coast Plaza, Wells Fargo, Mutual of America, Burgess, Lady LUX, Neiman Marcus and Surterre Properties, to list a few.

As in years past, the event was sprinkled with glamour as a contingent of seriously dedicated Hollywood celebrities lended their formidable names, faces and talent to the evening.

This season’s party starred Academy Award nominees Josh Brolin and his wife Diane Lane, who fronted the affair. The super-talented couple joined the likes of Ted Danson, Aimee Teegarden, Angela Kinsey, Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Q’orianka Kilcher, Oscar Nuñez and Austin Stowell mingling in the crowd, sharing dinner and conversation.

Fittingly, the message that our oceans are indeed the source of nourishment for a vast majority of the human population was not lost on the crowd. Others sharing the vision of conservation cooperating with enterprise for the protection of future generations included Carolyn Hotchkis, Wendy and Rick Aversano, Julie and Peter Hill, Dwight Manley, Gena and Nick Reed, and Sutton and Christina Stracke.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.