If the state-by-state battles being waged by GOP contenders are any indication, the 2012 political race is in full swing and there is a long and winding campaign trail ahead.
However, not all political battles being waged in Washington are for the White House.
Gaining political support for the ocean is on the radar of one prominent D.C.-based political advocacy organization this election year. The non-profit Ocean Champions helps elect Congressional officials who support healthy ocean policies.
“For us, it all starts with getting the right guys into office,” said Ocean Champions’ Executive Director Mike Dunmyer. ”It doesn’t matter how good an advocate you are, if the guys you’re talking to don’t care about your issue.”
They will be running their own political campaign this year to defend current ocean champions in Congress facing tough races, such as Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
So far, Ocean Champions’ efforts have helped elect 30 U.S. Congressional members. This election year they will be working to ensure that the current champions remain in office, while helping to elect 10 more.
Ocean Champions is a non-partisan advocate for important ocean policy issues, such as fish conservation. Last year they worked to thwart attacks on the major U.S. law managing fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and are planning to continue the fight to protect the ocean conservation law from being dismantled in 2012.
“Our intent it to keep the current version of Magnuson intact, thus protecting annual catch limits and other accountability measures,” said Dunmyer.
In 2011 they worked to block the Republican-sponsored Jones Amendment, which would have prohibit federal funds to implement new catch-share programs. Catch shares are seen from both sides of the fish debate — fisherman and conservationists – as an effective fisheries management tool.
Scouring the future political scene for new ocean champions is also a priority for the group, who gave an early 2012 election endorsement to California Assemblyman Jared Huffman.
Ocean Champions does much of the weeding for its members, by finding and endorsing ocean advocates in public office and helping citizens find and vote for candidates that advance ocean conservation in their districts.
“The only way we can help the good guys win is if we have the money to support them, and member donations are the only vehicle we have for raising that critical money,” said Dunmyer.
For ocean advocates and political junkies, the 2012 ocean champions’ race, might be exactly what you were waiting for to jump in.
— Annie Reisewitz, Director of Communications at Strategic Ocean Solutions
Follow Annie on Twitter @annelore