Magazine article Sunset

Superheroes of the Deep

Magazine article Sunset

Superheroes of the Deep

Article excerpt

For our second annual Coastal Heroes Awards, Sunset honors five people who have done amazing work in protecting and preserving the West's greatest treasures the Pacific Ocean and it's thousands of miles of shoreline.

'AULANI WILHELM

HONOLULU"

PAPAHÀNÀ"U: ..... MOKUÀKEA MARINE NATIONAL MONUMENT

Don't even try to pronounce the monument's imposing name, which combines the Hawaiian words for "mother earth" and "father sky." Just consider the magnitude of the monument, stretching 1,200 miles northwest from Kauai. Aulani Wilhelm began work on the reserveto-be in 2000. Since 2006, she's served as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration superintendent of this world nearly untouched by man - atolls, coral reefs, and open ocean containing more than 7,000 species.

Unforgettable moment? "I was at Kure, the farthest island and the oldest. It was as if I could feel an ancestor's hands on my shoulders, telling me, 'Slow down. Look around here. Pay attention.'"

Language lesson. "There's a Hawaiian phrase that describes the monument: 'aina momona. It means literally 'fat land/ but also rich land, an overflowing of abundance."

Who's on top? "I was diving and came face to face with a giant trevally fish as big as me. They've been around since the time of the dinosaurs. That puts you in your place."

INFO papahanau mokuakea.gov

TEO-DANSON

LOS ANGELES

OCEANA

You may know him as the evil Arthur Frobisher in Damages. But Ted Danson is also an ocean policy wonk who's helped push Oceana into the front ranks of sea-focused environmental organizations. Current campaigns include fighting reef-destroying bottom trawlers and overfishing - in July, Ted testified before Congress about the latter. In early 2on, he'll publish a book about his conservation work called, by no coincidence, Oceana.

Why write a book? "Because what's going on with our oceans is a potential environmental disaster that can be avoided. It's exciting - it's not doom and gloom "

Favorite beaches? "I am a sucker for Southern California. I grew up going to LaJoIIa, Del Mar, San Clemente. I love them."

INFO oceana.org

DUANE-SILVERSTEINi

BERKELEY

SEACOLOGY

The world's 100,000-plus islands are ground zero for climate change, rising ocean levels, and species loss. That's where Seacology - which Duane Silverstein has headed since 1999 - comes in. The global nonprofit's mission is protecting islands' natural and cultural environments by linking the two. In return, say, for agreeing to preserve a coral reef, islanders receive a new water system or health clinic.

Why islands? "It's like when they asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. He answered, 'That's where the money is.' Islands are where the degradation is happening."

Why Seacology works. "We provide funding for things [islanders have] wanted for years. It's not much money in U.S. terms - say $30,000 for a new school - but it's more than they can afford."

Favorite Pacific island? "I'm a diver, so I'll start with Palau. At Blue Corner, you hook onto the reef and watch the undersea world go by."

INFO seacoiogy.org

SHARA FISLER

SANDIEGO

OCEAN DISCOVERY INSTITUTE

Who doesn't love the ocean? Kids who haven't had a chance to experience it. As executive director of the tuition-free Ocean Discovery Institute, Shara Fisler introduces kids (from kindergarten to college, many from underprivileged backgrounds) to marine science and conservation. One promising statistic: More than 80 percent of ODI high school students go on to four-year colleges. …

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