Ocean conservation should not be a matter of partisan division. Unfortunately, to a greater rather than lesser degree, it is. The Democrats line up on the side of government-sponsored global protectionism, the Republicans favoring Laissez-Faire capitalism and non-interference from government regulation of private business. Despite the philosophical chasm, there has been a meeting of divergent minds, specifically in American politics, on issues vital to oceanic welfare.
Friday night in Laguna Beach, citizens whose political fortunes land on both sides of the aisle came together to raise $1 million for an organization called Oceana. It was the third annual SeaChange, held at the estate of Karen and Bruce Cahill that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
"We are proud to share that our efforts have helped put a stop to the inhumane slaughter of sharks," Oceana Board of Directors Chairman Keith Addis said, explaining to the audience that uncontrolled over fishing of sharks, specifically for the harvest of fins to satisfy a worldwide demand for shark fin soup, had created a significant natural imbalance in the ocean's food chain. "Fisherman catch the sharks, cut off their fins, then throw them back into the ocean where they sink to the bottom and drown."
Such inhumane practice is unacceptable to any decent human being, regardless of political affiliation. Clearly, without some important governmental supervision, not just on the part of the United States, but in cooperation with other nations, mankind's reckless nature in pursuit of a buck will eventually create irreversible damage to the oceans and then to mankind itself.
SeaChange Oceana in general attracts major celebrity support. Those taking a cynical view might claim that the attendance of such famous faces as Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Ted Danson, Sam Waterston, Morgan Freeman, Diane Lane, Mark Paul Gosselaar, Eric Balfour and Kristin Bauer, all front and center Friday evening for Oceana, are just window dressing.
The celebrity support is far more important than simple sizzle to attract the public.
"We invited January Jones, the co-star of the popular television series 'Mad Men' to Washington D.C. to attend a conference on the work of Oceana," Addis said. "Jones was so moved by what she experienced that she told me it had been one of the most important days in her life."
Addis said that he requested a meeting between Jones and Sen. John McCain. An eight-minute slot had been set aside in the senator's schedule to meet with her and hear about Oceana. Addis told the crowd that more than an hour later Jones had made a serious impression on McCain. From that seemingly insignificant celebrity connection, one of America's most prominent Republican leaders became involved in the cause of ocean preservation helping to bridge the political gap in an effort to find a reasonable balance between doing what is decent and humane to protect the sea, while still enabling the millions of people who make their living off the ocean to do so.
It is a delicate balance, not without great challenge. On this one Friday evening on the California coast, the challenges were put aside while the message was indeed loud and clear. The Hollywood crowd mixed with generous local patrons brought together by glamorous Chairwomen Valarie Whiting and Eve Kornyei, both attired in "ocean blue" summer frocks in keeping with the party theme.
Among the generous were Marsha and Darrel Anderson, Tricia and Michael Berns, Leslie and Dino Cancellieri, Nadine and Robert Hall, Karen and Jack Swickard, Hal Harley, Maralou and Jerry Harrington, Susan and David Rockefeller, and Jennifer and Anton Segerstrom.
Also supporting Oceana were Sue and Ralph Stern, Diana Martin, Nancy and L.D. Christiano, Gail and Ron Soderling, Idit and Moti Ferder, Beverly Factor, Lilly and Paul Merage, Joyce and Tom Tucker, and Valaree and Robert Wahler.
The evening began with a sunset cocktail reception where the celebrities greeted the local patrons. A fabulous served dinner followed on the expansive lawn of the Cahill estate. Auction items were literally "world-class" culminating in a vacation stay at a European villa owned by Sting and Trudie Styler. The "priceless" item sold in excess of $100,000. Auction co-chairs deserving significant praise were Slane Holland Lightburne and Barbara Hughes.
Bridges, co-host of the event and recent Academy Award winner for his leading role in "Crazy Heart" entertained the crowd on his guitar with a full blown 45-minute performance. Also entertaining the crowd was Graham Phillips, a Broadway voice, joining Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown. Finally deserving mention, Oceana Chief Executive Andrew Sharpless, in from Oceana's Washington, D.C., global headquarters, delivered an eloquent thank you to the crowd while impressing the donors with the importance of the work to be accomplished. Sharpless reminded his rapt audience of the fact that the majority of our Earth is ocean, and from the sea, all life is sustained on Earth. Human beings do not have the right to take this for granted. Our very survival depends on our responsible stewardship.