Top leaders share concern for our oceans - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Top leaders share concern for our oceans

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Gov. Sebastian Anefal Gov. Sebastian Anefal
Lyle Laverty Lyle Laverty
Dan Basta Dan Basta
Gov. Togiola Tulafono Gov. Togiola Tulafono
Jim Connaughton Jim Connaughton

By Howard Dashefsky - bio | email

KONA COAST, Hawaii (KHNL) - Five leaders speak out on the health of our planet's oceans.

Differing views, but shared concern from governors of two island territories and three top U.S. Policy makers.

They took a dive trip off the Big Island's Kona Coast.

The people on this dive trip are a who's who of key environmental decision and policy makers.

They're on the Big Island to discuss the health of the world's coral reefs and on this day to get a close up look at Hawaii's reefs and undersea life.

"We're surrounded by the entire Pacific Ocean, our lifestyle is pretty much dependent on marine resources," said Sebastian Anefal, Governor of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia.  "There's a lot of need as development comes in for us to do things in a more sustainable fashion."

On board, along with the Governor of American Samoa, the Bush Administration's top environmental man, the Chief of America's Marine Sanctuaries and an Assistant Secretary of Interior. They may have different approaches toward solving the myriad problems facing our oceans, but they're united in this view.

"We have some amazing challenges in front of us to keep these systems healthy," said Assistant U.S. Interior Secretary Lyle Laverty.  We've been talking about changes that are taking place in the landscape of America."

This dive spot seems pristine, healthy and robust, with abundant fish and coral.

"On the dive today you said healthy. A lot of fish. Well the first time you dove here. I suspect that fish were larger and more abundant in the fairly recent past," said Dan Basta of the National Marine Sanctuaries.  "Because you just entered it now, it looks healthy and great to you, so the baselines shift.  That's the problem we have in getting people to understand that there really is a problem."

Dan Basta is in charge of 16 marine sanctuaries from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He's adamant that outside the sanctuaries where things are improving, overall ocean and coastal health is not good.

"We've got to motivate, in our case 303 million Americans to this purpose so they understand everything they do every day, even if they live in Colorado, is related to things in the ocean, because they are," said Basta.

He explains one of the big problems is shifting baselines. The oceans are so vast and ever changing, it's hard for us to wrap our minds around their enormity, but also around the specific things that impact them.

Still most of these ocean leaders remain optimistic about the future.

"I'm hopeful, absolutely. I'm hopeful," said Togiola Tulafono, Governor of American Samoa.

"I'm extremely hopeful. I'm an optimist," said Jim Connaughton of the White House Council on Evironmental Quality.  "I'm very hopeful for the American situation, because Americans are very quick to seize on a problem and when they understand the problem they're quick to act."