Anne Earhart has worked for decades to defend coastlines and the marine environment throughout the world. As Founder and President of the Marisla Foundation, she has become a mainstay of environmental advocacy along the Pacific Coast and throughout the Pacific Rim. The MarislaFoundation has supported a broad range of groups, from community to international, that support ocean health, including sustainable fisheries and marine areas protection, to water quality and environmental health.
Q. As an environmentalist, and someone who really understands chemicals and toxins, can you explain how the chemicals we use on land actually affect the ocean?
A. We think of the ocean as a pristine place. Yet vast rafts of plastic, pooling in the great ocean gyres, exist. And every chemical and toxin we use on land, eventually makes its way to the sea. We think the ocean is limitless in its capacity to dilute anything we put in it. But these chemicals don’t go anywhere. They end up in the plants and animals and in the ocean. The higher you are on the food chain, the more you accumulate. Whales, tunas and other top predators carry particularly large loads of toxins.
Sperm whales that have never been in sight of land are highly polluted. You might want to think twice about that tuna you eat. These toxins affect the sea in ways that we can’t see and certainly don’t understand yet. We need to have a rational and safe chemical policy and laws in this country. These animals are the canaries in the coal mine. What is happening to them is happening to us. As go the sea creatures, so go we.
Q. Being a long time avid diver as well, what are your favorite things about diving, and also have you noticed any significant changes over the years in your diving experiences?
A. I’ve been lucky to dive in some amazing parts of the world, and few of these places are truly untouched by man’s hand. The reefs in Indonesia were gorgeous but there was not a shark to be found, they had all been finned. I have heard dynamite fishing while underwater and wondered how long it would be until the beauteous reef I was looking at would be decimated.
Thirty years ago in Southern California, the kelp was thick and abundant with a myriad of species. This year the kelp has come back and I hope to see a Marine Protected Area here and all around the globe really. I think these protected areas would give us a good start in restoring the health of the ocean and all its creatures.
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