To coincide with the newest Rotary Area of Focus, Supporting the Environment, our Wednesday speaker was Samantha Siegel, representing the nonprofit, Oceana. Samantha now lives in Charleston, SC. She originally grew up between Rockville, Maryland (a DC suburb), and a small island in the Bahamas. Therefore she was well acquainted with the ocean. She became an activist in 2008 when the Angel Oak (400-year-old live oak) on John’s Island near Charleston was threatened by development.
Oceana’s mission is to protect the world’s oceans. It is the largest international advocacy organization with this cause. Oceana was established in 2001 and has several major focuses: offshore drilling, reduction of plastics, and elimination of shark fin trade. The primary reason this is important is “Save the oceans, feed the world”. 29 countries catch 90% of the world’s fish.
In terms of offshore drilling, all the east and west coast states oppose drilling. This issue has bipartisan support nationally. National legislation passed the US House ( HR 1941) and was sent to the Senate to halt drilling, but the legislation has stalled there. Local elected officials are very supportive in terms of opposing offshore drilling in South Carolina.
The goal with plastics is to reduce single-use plastics by 2024. Oceana has targeted Amazon first in this endeavor.
Shark’s are an important member of the ocean’s ecosystem, as well as being a source of food. There have been brutal harvesting of sharks for the sole purpose of making shark fin soup, which is a delicacy in the Orient. Shark finning is illegal in the US, but sale and trade of fins remain legal. Again, another act calling for shark fin sale elimination is held up in the US Senate – contact US Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to indicate your support for these bills.