Wild Oceans was born back in 1973 as the National Coalition for Marine Conservation in the lovely coastal city of Savannah, Georgia. I showed up 5 years later – with a girlfriend, 2 dogs and a VW bug; in other words, everything a young man needs except a job – and I was lucky enough to get hired as NCMC’s first paid employee, for which I am forever grateful.
Because of my love of books and writing on the one hand, and nature and the outdoors on the other, I’d spent years jumping back and forth between majors in English Literature and Wildlife Management, before ending up with a degree in Environmental Conservation from the University of New Hampshire.
My mixed science and humanities education turned out to be perfect for understanding the science behind ocean issues and effectively communicating our positions to both policymakers and the public. I highly recommend it. The sciences and liberal arts together teach critical thinking, seeing the big picture, coming at problems from different angles and, above all, seeking ways for humankind to co-exist with the natural world.
My timing wasn’t bad either. The organization – an environmental group comprised of fishermen –was a novelty in the 1970s and marine fish conservation itself was a brand-new endeavor. I was lucky enough to be there at the birth of ocean fish conservation: the Magnuson-Stevens Act (enacted 1976) was just being implemented. I attended some of the earliest Regional Fishery Management Council meetings and worked on the first Fishery Management Plans.
As the art and science of ocean fish conservation evolved, we played a pivotal role in that evolution, one I look back on as an expanding circle of concern for all marine life and habitat, because fish are inseparable from the world they live in, as are we.
But through it all our focus has remained on the fish and fishing. One of my early mentors used to say the quality of fishing is the quality of life. As a passionate angler, he meant it literally. But I’ve come to see he’s right in a broader sense, too.
Keeping the oceans wild to preserve the future of fishing is not just a slogan . Here’s what I believe. First off, we have to learn to coexist with the sea rather than simply exploiting it while setting aside designated areas for preservation. Co-existence means fishing as part of the natural system, sharing the resource with a myriad of other creatures of the sea and respecting its natural limits. In turn, when fishing is seen by the non-fishing public as ecologically-sustainable while providing fresh, local seafood, jobs in shore-side communities, and recreation for millions of Americans, public support for this kind of fishing can serve as a bulwark against competing industrial uses that would leave little space for wild fisheries and the wild oceans that sustain them.
Finally, check out the other “I Am Wild Oceans” pages if you haven’t already. The future is in good hands. The leadership of Pam Lyons Gromen and Theresa Labriola is widely acknowledged and praised by their peers, the highest compliment there can be. I’m proud that they are true keepers of the Wild Oceans flame, while being completely unique talents. As the late, great jazzman Ornette Coleman once said of his band: “I don’t want them to follow me. I want them to follow themselves, but to be with me.”
And because WE are Wild Oceans, we’ve never been stronger or more effective.