By Terri Morgan, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SoquelTerri on Twitter
Photo- Ocean Champions
CAPITOLA >> A nonprofit organization headquartered in a small office in Capitola had a role in rallying voters in Florida to unseat an incumbent congressman it considered “Ocean Enemy No. 1” last month.
Ocean Champions, which works to elect political leaders who support ocean conservation, spent 60 percent of its nearly $500,000 budget to support Gwen Graham’s successful campaign to defeat Steve Southerland in Florida’s 2nd district.
“We targeted Southerland because of his terrible record on ocean issues,” said David Wilmot, the president and co-founder of Ocean Champions. “Our ability to play such an important role in defeating an incumbent member of Congress sends a message to all in Congress. Neglect and abuse the oceans and their wildlife at your own political peril.”
Ocean Champions, and its attached political action committee, also endorsed 58 additional pro-ocean candidates for national office, and saw 54 of them successfully win their races.
Ocean Champions plays a role in helping protect the health of the oceans, which is critical for the future of the planet, said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The organization also fills a unique niche in the battle to protect the oceans.
“They work in a way that’s complimentary but different than other efforts,” Spring said, adding that Ocean Champions also works to educate lawmakers about the issues. “The oceans are hard to explain if you don’t live on them, and making those connections is important.”
Even though the 114th Congress won’t be seated until Jan. 3, the small staff at Ocean Champions has begun mapping out a big agenda of important issues to target in 2015. Wilmot will make his second trip to the nation’s capitol since the midterm elections next week. He plans to meet with members of congress, senior staff members, ocean science and environmental groups, and others to discuss the challenges and opportunities to gain protection for the oceans.
Wilmot has identified five major issues. They include stopping so-called pirate fishing; labeling of sea food to prevent fraud and let people know where the fish they buy really came from; and continue efforts to support laws that prevent overfishing.
Other goals include reducing pollution to prevent ocean acidification, getting Congress to ratify an international agreement to help prevent harmful algae blooms, and continuing the battle to prevent offshore oil drilling on the California coast and the Atlantic seaboard.
“There is a lot to work on,” Wilmot said. “We recognize it will be a challenging congress (to work with) but there are some opportunities to move on some issues.”
That’s also a lot of work to be done by a small staff.
“We have a small team of three of us in Capitola and a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.,” Wilmot said. “The rest of our team is made up of consultants.”
Founded in 2004, Ocean Champions is funded largely by donations from individuals who support its goals.
For information about the organization, visit www.oceanchampions.org.
Link to original article: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/20141206/capitola-based-group-works-to-get-pro-ocean-candidates-elected