Writing an Effective Ocean Advocacy Letter

Earlier this year, Andrew issued his Summer Science Outreach Challenge: Write an Op-Ed.  Inspired, I thought I would straight up steal Andrew’s idea and give a few tips on writing an effective advocacy letter, the type of letter you’d send to a government official to ask them to help protect the ocean.

In my conservation career I’ve written hundreds of letters to all levels of government, from agency staff to presidents.  Advocacy letters are one of the more effective tools in the arsenal of conservation tactics.  They are a great way of communicating a message directly to a targeted person (assuming the letter gets read, of course!) and are a great way to kick off a discussion on protecting the ocean between concerned citizens and government officials.  Here are a few tips: Read More

Time to release the Kraken ! Addressing controversial questions in marine conservation

A few years ago, we organized a group of marine conservation scientists to meet to discuss, and list,  the most urgent issues that need to be studied. The resulting paper  came up with 71 questions which urgently needed to be addressed, because a lack of an answer was severely impeding marine conservation. However, during this exercise we also came up with a list of other questions – these were issues that were controversial, that everyone  knew were important, but were unwilling to raise as being an issue. These were the Voldemorts of marine conservation questions (they that shall not be named), the elephant (or elephant seal) in the room questions …. or as we more aquatically termed them: “the kraken in the aquarium” questions.


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Huge win for orca advocates as #SeaWorld announces an end to circus-style shows, orca breeding and pledges more conservation


orca SeaWorld Orca-Shutterstock

Earlier today SeaWorld announced to the media that it was making major changes in its practices when it comes to marine wildlife. The announcement comes after years of bad publicity and failing stock prices as the result of the documentary Blackfish, criticism from marine mammal and marine conservation scientists and an unrelenting social media campaign by online activists. The changes announced are a major paradigm shift for the company and include:

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WhySharksMatter interviews Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: Should scientists be advocates?

Earlier this year, Andrew, Amy and I wrote a series of posts called “get to know your fry-entist” which expressed our views on science and advocacy. I was happy to see that last week’s Ecological Society of America meeting had an entire symposium dedicated to this important topic. It was entitled “above the din but in the fray”, and had an impressive list of speakers. I was particularly excited to see Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island’s presentation. Senator Whitehouse is a friend of marine conservation, and is in fact married to a marine biologist.

Sadly, I was not permitted to videotape the Senator’s stirring  speech… but he was gracious enough to participate in a brief interview.

I would like to thank Senator Whitehouse for taking the time to meet with me (he was in the convention center for approximately 30 minutes, which included his 20 minute speech), as well as Katie from ESA and Lisa from the Environmental Defense Fund for putting me in touch with him.