Group calls Republican lawmaker ‘Ocean Enemy No. 1’

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The advocacy group Ocean Champions has an advocate of its own in filmmaker and former marine biology professor Randy Olson.

Writing in the opinion pages of the New York Times, Olson supports the group’s strategy of identifying a member of Congress as “Ocean Enemy No. 1” and then doing all it can to seek that lawmaker’s defeat in the next election.

This year, Ocean Champions, which describes itself as the only political voice for the oceans, has targeted U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.

“Congressman Southerland seems to believe that any attempt to conserve fish, protect critical habitat or simply balance short-term use of ocean resources with long-term sustainability violates his rights as a citizen,” the group said at its website.

Olson said the latest poll Ocean Champions has commissioned gives challenger Gwen Graham a slight lead.

In 2006, Olson said, Ocean Champions labeled California congressman Richard Pombo an “Ocean Enemy” and not only worked successfully for his defeat in that election, but also helped defeat him in 2010 when he tried to return to Congress.

Ocean Champions chairwoman Samantha Campbell told Olson that her group’s strategy is working.

“Just look at our record of accomplishments — we’ve backed 52 members who are now serving in the 113th Congress, we recently orchestrated a bipartisan effort to defeat legislative action that would have killed funding for a sustainable fishery program, and played a major role this summer in the passage of the first piece of freestanding ocean legislation this Congress — a bill to combat harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and dead zones,” she said.

Olson admits to being a big fan of Ocean Champions.

“So let me offer a view that will probably offend some conservation folks,” he said in his opinion piece. “I sometimes look at paralysis on marine conservation issues and think, ‘Why doesn’t someone just go to D.C. and fix this?’ Ocean Champions is one group I’ve seen over the past few decades that has really taken this sort of real-world philosophy and put it into action for the oceans.”

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