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OCEANA Benefit Brings Out Socialites, Celebrities

By Janet Walker

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OCEANA, the international ocean conservation organization, recently launched the opening of its New York office with a celebrity packed benefit on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, his wife Dee and daughter Ally.

Hollywood producer and OCEANA Chairman, Keith Addis along with award winning actor and activist, Sam Waterston of Law & Order fame, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger his wife Dee and, daughter, Ally Hilfiger were on hand to lend support to the environmental protection group.

OCEANA hosts Brenda and Alexander von Schweickhardt with Mermaids in background.

Also attending, film producer & OCEANA council member Sue Cohn Rockefeller, fashion designer John Varatos and his wife Joyce, Grammy Award winning lyrist and Bill and Hillary Clinton friend and supporter, Denise Rich along with, Madonna producer, Nile Rodgers and Mick Jones.

Actor Sam Waterston, Sue Cohn Rockefeller, Fashion desiger John Varatos and, wife, Joyce, along with hosts, Brenda and Alexander von Schweickhardt.

Alexander and Brenda von Schweickhardt, hosted the event in their luxurious Madison Avenue duplex penthouse. The first floor of the magnificent apartment served as the arrivals staging area with guests passing lounging mermaids as they walked the circular staircase leading to the opulent second floor. Elegant wait staff circled with a variety of hor’d’orves and themed drinks. A second floor open bar served the more than three hundred guests who offered their support.

Ted Danson and Glenn Close at a recent OCEANA Gala.

When asked why she decided to join OCEANA, Mrs. von Schweickhardt explained, “I recently got involved with OCEANA because every summer I spend a lot of time in the water in the Mediterranean and every summer I’m bitten by jelly fish, I’m swimming in plastic and every year I get so fed up with pollution  destroying the oceans. For years and years I’ve seen personally what is happening to the oceans.”

She continued, “OCEANA actually came to me serendipitously with friends and I found out what they were doing and I said, ‘How can I help?’ And they said, ‘Host our party.’ And I said, ‘Done. Absolutely we’ll do that.’ Because I really believe that we need to help the world’s oceans as I’ve seen firsthand really what is happening to them.” She went on to add, “OCEANA has an amazing group of people involved and we’re here tonight to raise money and to support the preservation and restoration of the World’s oceans."

Nile Rodgers and Mick Jones.

Sam Waterston, OCEANA board member, actor, and activist agreed to be interviewed and stated when asked why he joined OCEANA’s effort, “Well, as is very commonly the case, I became involved with OCEANA through friends. I was fertile ground for it as I grew up by the sea in New England. I had taken it [the sea]for granted.

He continued, “I grew up right after WWII and the seas had a significant rest due to the war. I grew up in super abundance of everything. I thought that was how it was. I was outraged when I discovered, that while I thought I was watching, all that abundance had been drained out. Then everything was under stupendous pressure.  I found out that this local problem was national and then international and then worldwide and so I was a pushover by that time.” He paused, “There would be so much we could save. The seas are responsive in a way that other ecosystems are not.”

Dassi Olarte Kanavos (r) and Jean Shafiroff and Daniel Goldner.

Janet Walker: “What are the initiatives set by OCEANA?”
Sam Waterston: “One of the things that convinced me to be a member of this organization, in the first place, is that it has campaigns and it sets due dates. So at this time OCEANA is halfway to getting the Clorox factory’s to stop using Mercury in their processing; they are on the verge of important success with Bluefin Tuna.”

“I don’t know if you are aware that Dr. Jane LubChenco at NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has said if no alternative is found she will back Monaco’s initiative to call Bluefin Tuna an endangered species.  This is one of the things OCEANA has been advocating. And they have succeeded in getting the Arctic Ocean studied before it’s exploited. If they fail they know it; if they succeed they know it.”

OCEANA spokesperson actress January Jones and friend.

Janet Walker: “What do you attribute the sudden popularity of OCEANA?” 
Sam Waterston: “I think in the last two years the penny has dropped in regards to the environment. Tonight is an example, this wouldn’t have been possible two years ago because people simply weren’t aware enough to know that they should be here. Something has happened in the whole culture. I keep double checking. I hope this isn’t just happening in my head because it seems like something real is going on.  The amount of attention that is paid to the oceans by comparison to the all the other environmental initiatives that are going on and the amount of money being donated and devoted to study and preservation is very small. So, there’s a wide world of opportunity to make a difference.”

Peter Cervinka, Denise Rich and Brenda and Alexander von Schweickhardt.

Following up with other celebrity supporters the same sentiment was echoed by songwriter Denise Rich who added when asked why she decided to join OCEANA’s effort, “I’m friends with the von Schweickhardt’s. I’m a member of Sea Keepers. So I believe very much in anything that preserves our planet.”

Linus Roache and Bettina Alonso (r) and Sue Cohn Rockefeller and Julie Gilhart.

Bettina Alonso, OCEANA’s VP of Global Development also stopped to answer a few questions.
Janet Walker: “What do you do for OCEANA?”
Bettina Alonso: “I opened the Office in New York three years ago and I been with OCEANA five years. I started developing programming in Europe and in about two years I got promoted to be the VP of Global Development based in New York.”

Janet Walker: “What are OCEANA’s goals? Short term, let’s say six months, and long term, three years?”

Bettina Alonso: “Definitely to increase our presence and awareness in New York. By having a really strong personality in NY where people will recognize our name.  I started by myself two years ago. It’s pulling the right people together, expanding our group of supporters. We’re going to have more events. That’s the short term goal. Long Term? I hope soon we can have a Gala: A Blue Gala, An Ocean Gala, A Water Gala sometime around May 2011.”

OCEANA’s Target Campaign

Founded in 2001 OCEANA is the largest ocean protection group in the world.  With an international presence and global strength the worldwide team is dedicated to restoring, implementing and protecting the world’s oceans.  Similar to investigative news reporters, they search and expose those violators of law, guard against illegal fishing and dumping of dead and dying marine life and campaign for change.

Morgan Freeman, Glenn Glose and Ted Danson.

OCEANA has a fourfold target stop campaign that includes Bottom Trawling; Dirty Fishing; Over Fishing Subsidies and Food Contamination.

Multi-ton bottom trawlers, similar to strip mining land or clear cutting a forest, cuts a swath through the ocean’s floor in search of a greater catch. This practice destroys all marine life including coral that has stood for generations. It leaves the ocean floor barren, a wasteland without opportunity to regenerate. The sea floor resembles Ground Zero after the bottom trawlers have passed over it: barren, desolate and unrecognizable.

Damien and Nicole Woody (r) and Angela and Steve Kilcullen.

Destruction of ocean species by industrial fisheries are in stages, largest fish first, which include, Swordfish, Sharks and Tuna. After the industrial fishing industry depletes these species they move, like predators, onto the next largest in the food chain destroying and depleting these large schools of fish located through extensive and high tech sonar systems until the marine life left is destroyed and the ecosystem breaks down.

Actress Tanna Frederick and actor Noah Wyle and Jeff Goldblum at a recent OCEANA Gala in Santa Moncia, CA.

Dirty Fishing is the result of these extensive floating industrial fishing factories that go after the big catch. Approximately 16 Billion pounds of unwanted, dead and dying fish, caught during the big catch, are routinely discarded, tossed overboard, to rot and contaminate the waters.

Michelle Rella, Tom and Natasha Silver.

Overfishing Subsidies is basically defined as the governments of the world financially subsidizing fisheries that operate at a loss. Overfishing depletes the oceans. Subsidies keep the business going. OCEANA is working for the passage of an agreement at The World Trade Organization that will eliminate fishing subsidies.

Seafood Contamination from PCB’s, sewage, mercury and other hazardous materials that are dumped, without thought, into the ocean making it the world’s biggest garbage dump, is another area that OCEANA is targeting and winning.

Sarah Langham and Sir Thomas Moore.

The cruise line industry is a main target for OCEANA. Sewage from a one week cruise generates 210,000 gallons of black water. Black water is raw sewage mixed with oil, feces and other waste. It is dumped into the ocean. The next level of sewage dumped into the oceans by the Cruise Ship industry is gray water. Gray water is generated from laundry, hotel and food services and any other waste water used in daily life. It is mixed with pollutants and dumped into the ocean. 

Wendy Sutter, Phillip Glass and Sue Cohn Rockefeller.

OCEANA’s efforts after lengthy lobbying and direct target campaigns have resulted in a major victory in the Cruise line industry. The efforts by OCEANA concluded with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the second largest Cruise line in the industry, initiating an over haul of the waste management systems of their entire fleet, at a cost of over 100 million dollars.

This is a major victory for OCEANA and for the oceans, for the planet and for each and every person who cares about the planet and the oceans. 

OCEANA has over 300,000 supporters, members and e-activists in over 150 countries. You can become one by following the link below.


For more information on OCEANA: www.oceana.org
For more information on NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov


All pictures, except where noted, courtesy of Lawlor Media Group: www.lawlormediagroup.cpm

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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