A letter from Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation
When I stand next to the ocean, I am influenced once again by her magic. I realize that deep mystical pull of my spirit toward the water’s edge has always been present.
I yearn for the sand between my toes, the splash of water on my face, and the crust of dried salt on my skin. I am invigorated by the fragrance of sea-scented air, and I celebrate how being at the ocean changes my mindset from work to play.
I relax … watch the waves … absorb the vastness of the thin blue horizon.
And when I have to leave, I dream of returning.
It is the summation of those feelings that led me to begin my work in ocean conservation and continues to inspire me decades later. Being near the ocean instills a renewed commitment to improve our human relationship with her – to implement changes that turn harm to good.
In this year alone, I have taken 68 flights, covered 77,000 miles, visited four new countries, and one new city. Before you gasp, I offset my carbon emission for all that travel with contributions to a blue solution – SeaGrass Grow.
I have experienced the ocean this year in a myriad of different ways: through the white veil of a snowstorm, a surface covered with thick green sargassum, mysteriously through San Francisco’s famous fog on cat’s feet, and from the lofty perch of a royal palace facing the Mediterranean. I saw ice flows surrounding Boston, shimmering turquoise from a catamaran in the Caribbean, and through the leafy vista of eucalyptus and pines on my beloved California coast.
My travels reflect my worries about our stewardship as we strive to understand specific problems and work to address them. We are losing the Vaquita Porpoise (less than 100 remain), we are spreading plastic waste in the sea despite our successes to ban plastic bags and bottles, and our reliance on fossil-fuel generated power continues to turn our ocean more acidic. We are overfishing the seas’ abundance, overbuilding upon her shores, and we are not prepared for a planet with 10 billion souls.
The scale of what is needed requires both collective action and individual commitment, as well as political will and follow-through implementation.
I am grateful for what I can do for Mother Ocean. I serve on several boards all working to make responsible decisions for our ocean (Surfrider Foundation, Blue Legacy International, and Confluence Philanthropy). I am a Commissioner for the Sargasso Sea Commission, and I run two non-profits, SeaWeb and The Ocean Foundation. We advise the first ocean-centric investment fund, the Rockefeller Ocean Strategy, and created the first blue carbon offset program, SeaGrass Grow. I share time and knowledge with those who seek to do their part for the ocean. I avoid plastic, I raise money, I raise awareness, I do research, and I write.
I look back at 2015 and see some wins for the ocean:
- A historic agreement on Cuba-USA cooperation on marine conservation and research
- The Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary was doubled in size,
- Our High Seas Alliance project played a leadership role in crafting and promoting the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly to develop a new legally-binding treaty for the conservation of marine life beyond national territorial waters
- The Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 was signed into law
- Mexico taking action to slow Vaquita bycatch
We continue to focus our efforts on doing better by the ocean and the life she sustains – including ours.
We at The Ocean Foundation have devoted ourselves to craft ideas and generate solutions in support of the sea. We task ourselves to inspire others to join us to insure healthy seas for the current generation and for those that follow.
We can and will do more next year. We can’t wait to get started.
May the ocean live in your heart,
Quoted or adapted from Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker
I know it was only this morning I was in that different place; but it already feels like a week ago.
The greater the contrast the journey draws between home and away, the sooner the trip will feel as if it took place in the distant past.
I sometimes think that there are cities so different in sensibility, culture, and history… That really they should never be joined by a nonstop flight; that to appreciate the distance between them such a journey should be broken into stages.
Blessing of place sometimes comes from the air itself, the smell of the place. The smells of cities are so distinct that it’s disconcerting.
From the sky, the world looks mostly uninhabited; after all most of the earth’s surface is water.
I have a bag permanently packed.