A synergy for the sea in alliance

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Two local organizations are joining forces this year in an effort to help keep the world’s oceans healthy and productive.

The Blue Ocean Institute, an environmental advocacy organization founded by scientist, author and Amagansett resident Dr. Carl Safina, will begin a partnership this year with the newly formed School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, or SoMAS, at Stony Brook-Southampton.

The heads of the two organizations, Dr. Safina and Dr. David Conover, dean of SoMAS, say the partnership will pair the advanced research done by marine science students and professors with the public opinion advocacy of the Blue Ocean Institute as part of a push toward better protection and management of ocean species.

Blue Ocean will bring a real-life viewpoint, they say, to the laboratory work of SoMAS’s students, and the school will give Blue Ocean a connection with some of the leading marine environmental researchers.

“The school wants to have a component that is engaged in some of the real world management and communications issues that we are dealing with,” Dr. Safina said recently from his home in Amagansett. “And from a Blue Ocean standpoint, we’re interested in working more directly with students in the academic environment. They have students interested in getting involved with management issues, consumer information and writing in scientific journals.”

Dr. Safina is an adjunct professor at SoMAS, which was made a separate school by Stony Brook this year. The school’s marine science field research facilities are based at the marine sciences center at the former Southampton College, now Stony Brook-Southampton.

Dr. Conover said that pairing the school and Blue Ocean adds a component to the scientific base of the school that it is currently lacking.

“Marine policy is not one of the strengths here at Stony Brook, since most of our scientists are hard-core research scientists,” said Dr. Conover. He has used Dr. Safina’s first book, “Song for the Blue Ocean” to teach one of his freshman seminar classes, he added.

“Here is an organization that is focused on advocating for better management of the resource of the ocean,” Dr. Conover said, “and has a mission that dovetails with the public more than what we do here. It is a great complement.”

Dr. Safina established the Blue Ocean Institute in 2003 to call on ordinary citizens to demand better protection of fish and other marine species, such as birds and sea turtles. It has offices in East Norwich, Long Island.

The group’s “Sea Ethic” implores citizens to include the ocean in their communal sense of humanity and its well-being. It publishes the “Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood,” which tracks fishing methods, regulations and stock sizes of popular food species and highlights which ones are managed well and harvested in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.

Striped bass, weakfish, black sea bass, mahi mahi and shellfish including clams, mussels and oysters top the list of local species that the group points to as good seafood choices. The program also has a new service by which consumers can check the desirability of a fish species by text message.

Most recently, the group has begun reaching out to religious organizations to ask them to promote marine conservation as an ethical matter. Dr. Safina says he is also developing a television series.

Since it took over Southampton College two years ago from Long Island University, Stony Brook’s SoMAS has become the only program offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in marine science in New York State.

The school’s faculty includes four winners of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The school’s research on climate change pairs naturally with protection of the marine environment, Dr. Conover said, since the two are inseparable—the oceans will be the engine of climate change and all of its species, including humans, will be along for the ride.

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