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News and Media

News and Media

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Hello, my name is Scott Sheckman and I am the executive Director of Ocean Defenders Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots marine conservation organization based in Southern California. Ocean Defenders is comprised of highly skilled scuba divers, boaters, mechanics, engineers, and ocean lovers of all types and trades who work together in concert to help remove abandoned and derelict commercial fishing gear, focusing on lost traps, nets and lines that present long-term hazards to marine wildlife including threatened and endangered marine mammals. Our current range is the coastal waters off Orange and Los Angeles Counties, including a recent campaign off Catalina Island that has been closely followed by major media outlets in 2009.

It's a dirty job, but we love doing it!

I'd like to thank Secretary Salazar and the entire Department of the Interior (including this esteemed panel) for the opportunity to speak at this remarkable federal-level public hearing – a real treat for those of us that still believe democracy can work, if properly provided the chance. I have learned much here today, and in many ways, I'll be echoing the passionate voices that have already spoke against any new offshore oil/gas exploration and drilling along the U.S. coastlines.

However, I think it's a real shame that we all had to take valuable time out our mutually busy schedules and add more Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on such a beautiful California day to debate the restoration of a smart moratorium that was put in place by smart folk a long time ago for many smart reasons.

I feel it's obvious – the village has spoken here today – the risks associated with offshore fossil fuel exploration and drilling are not worth the measly reward. In fact, the deadly pollution risks are not worth ANYTHING.

We now live in a time and age that perhaps none of us want to be in – a time and age when the entire human race is faced with unprecedented and extreme Climate Change caused directly by human activities on this planet, especially the explosive and relentless exploitation of carbon-laden fossil fuels. This is the same life-giving climate that allowed the human race to flourish, multiply bountifully, and reign over every corner of the Earth. And now that same life-giving climate is at severe risk of drastic downturn due to our collective reckless exploitation of its resources and life force. But you already know that!

Obvious to us now, these humongous stores of hydrocarbons were uniquely sequestered by the natural environment over the eons, thereby allowing the level of carbon in the atmosphere to decrease and provide us with our familiar human-friendly climate. While these fossil fuels have greatly improved our quality of life in many ways over the last 200 years or so, the question is not whether $5/gallon gas is too much for our relatively new republic to handle, but whether we will all be lucky enough to see $10/gallon gasoline in our lifetimes – a prince closer to the real cost involved when we factor in the finite source materials and the environmental impact associated with its manufacture and consumption.

Ocean Defenders specialized in restoring delicate marine habitat to its natural state, thereby hopefully allowing wildlife to live, feed, and reproduce as designed by their evolution, despite all the other man-made challenges such as pollution, warming waters, extreme noise from military, industrial and recreational sources, and of course, unremitting over-fishing to the point of commercial extinction for some species.

Ocean Defenders takes on our vital life-saving mission because we can, because we should, and because we represent a large group of underwater explorers and appreciators who utilize relatively low technology to take our bodies and senses where humans do not naturally live – a light-challenged world barely noticed by humans until the mid-20th century. As Jacque Costeau began to show the world many decades ago, it's a miraculous, beautiful blue realm filled with mysterious life forms that pre-date the oldest land-based plants and animals. As you know, all life started in the sea, and we humans cry saltwater tears.

We divers can clearly see, similar to our land-based counterparts witnessing speedily melting glaciers, that this underwater kingdom is disappearing and regressing to it's slimy origins, right before our eyes in relatively short human lifespans. Ocean Defender's work will be in vain is oil/gas exploitation, especially on or near the water, overshadows the fragile marine environment with dangerous risks of toxic spills, not to mention all the other dirty and toxic releases associated with routine fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

While Ocean Defenders highly support the development and implementation of cleaner/safer renewable energy as a viable alternative to the finding and burning of greenhouse producing energy sources, these green alternatives, too, must be developed with care and consideration for wildlife. Renewables based upon the ocean (on or in) require thorough research and debate before they, too, present themselves as a serious hazard to natural way of things. In the last 50+ years, scientists have learned the hard way that anything that doesn't naturally belong on or in the ocean poses threats to wildlife feeding, migration and reproduction.

We humans and Americans have been provided a wonderful, but double-edged gift – the brilliant minds and will power to either ruin or save the planet from ourselves, and for ourselves. As you've heard before and today from many intelligent experts, time is short and we need to act as soon as possible. The good news is that we still can change direction before hitting the iceberg dead ahead. But time is running out fast.

Many years before I was born, the U.S. made a commitment to put a Man on the Moon in less than a decade. I realize that sounds cliché, but it remains one the best examples of American will power and ingenuity. With that said, our leadership should be able to convert the country to a safer/cleaner green energy grid with smartly-planned renewables at the center by 2020 if not sooner. To avoid other catastrophes, these renewable energy sources must be chosen wisely so they do not negatively impact natural habitats and wildlife, especially if related to fresh and saltwater habitats and resources.

The timely conversion to a clean/safe green national power structure in not just a choice. Many experts and laymen consider it a strict and necessary mandate to ensure our very survival as an intelligent and civilized human civilization. The Department of the Interior can greatly help lead the way, right here and now. Please reverse bad policy decisions made by previous public servants with dubious intentions, and pave the way to cleaner, safer, healthier future for all American and world-citizens alike.

Thank you for your generous time and consideration."

Scott Sheckman
Acting Executive Director
Ocean Defenders Alliance