Last Sunday, Laguna Beach was painted blue as Orange County sea activists and Hollywood elite came together to celebrate Oceana and water conservation at the fifth annual SeaChange Summer Party. A private coastal villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean was the backdrop for a beautiful banquet and auction where bidders made their contribution to the protect the world’s oceans. Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of ocean explorer and filmmaker, Jacques Yves Cousteau and the newly appointed senior advisor for Oceana; CSI star and board of director member for Oceana, Ted Danson; actor turned jazz musician, Jeff Goldblum; Academy Award winner, Morgan Freeman; and many others hailed from Tinsel Town with the goal of protecting the world’s oceans.
Currently, the oceans are in a fragile state because of irresponsible fishing practices and other problems. Garnering support and taking action, Oceana is working to reduce and reverse this condition and restore the waters of the world. Ted Danson explained that fisheries are collapsing as a result of destructive and wasteful practices. “More and more boats are going out and taking in more and more fish and the United Nations says that one-third of our fisheries are in collapse,” he said. “Really, what we’re concerned about is the health of our fisheries.”
He went on to explain that as massive bottom troll boats fish, they crush coral reefs – the nurseries for many edible fish populations – into gravel pits, destroying entire ecosystems. “So, here we have one of the best sources of protein to help feed the world and we’re wasting it – and can actually end up not having it at all. In the year 2050, there’s going to be 9 billion of us. So, this isn’t just about saving fish or fisherman, it’s really about feeding the world,” Danson explained.
To help alleviate this problem, Oceana, with the help of its supporters, goes from country to country and works to ensure that fishing practices are sustainable so fish populations return. Oceana also has preserved over a million square miles of ocean floor around the globe where trolling is prohibited.
In accordance with Danson, Morgan Freeman said, “You know, we have two major life support systems on the planet: forest and ocean. And what do you think we’re doing to them? We’re doing our best to destroy both of them. It’s not in our best interest. We’re not shooting ourselves in the foot by doing this, we’re shooting ourselves in the head.” However, the Academy Award winning actor believes this behavior is reparable and that education is the key to recovery. “It’s reversible, but the hard part is educating people to the danger of what we’re doing … Filling our oceans up with garbage like mercury and thereby completely destroying most of the reefs around the world – when you talk about it, it sounds hopeless. But, we have to educate people. Oceana is busy trying to do that and that’s very admirable.”
As emcee, Alexandra Cousteau began the dinner portion of the night recalling dives with her grandfather, she also relayed his message to partygoers. “My grandfather knew what he was doing. He always said that people protect what they love, and they love what they know,” she explained. “That’s why the SeaChange community is so important and such a powerful vehicle for Oceana and ocean conservation. This community lives with the ocean everyday. We surf it, we dive it, we swim in it, we walk by it and gaze at it. We have learned to love the ocean and by joining us here tonight, you are helping us to protect it.”
Over 400 guests attended SeaChange and raised over a million dollars in just one night to help preserve the world’s oceans. The majority of revenue came from the impressive live and silent auctions. From yoga to shopping sprees, attendees had much to choose from and were happy to do so on behalf of such a worthy cause. Selly and Jeff Straight from Irvine had high hopes for their bids on the silent auction for Neiman Marcus and South Coast Plaza shopping experiences and expressed gratitude for being able to participate in the festivities. “I think (Oceana) is an amazing organization and this is a world-class event at a beautiful location. I think everything that they’re doing for the oceans is so important. We take so much from the world and it’s really our evening to give back,” said Selly.
During the high-energy live auction, everything from Harry Winston jewelry to a seven-day Caribbean voyage on the Hemisphere, the world’s largest superyacht catamaran, was up for grabs. But perhaps the biggest surprise was the 2012 Fisker Karma. Merging luxury and sustainability, the car comes complete with solar panels, reclaimed wood and touch screen interface. The car was purchased by Don Hueston from Corona Del Mar for $107,000. “I’m so excited. It’s such a fantastic car; it has leading edge technology and it’s for a great cause. We really support the cause and this is one way of giving back,” he said.
After the auction, special guest and ocean lover Morgan Freeman took the stage to deliver a powerful speech, citing chapter 58 of Herman Melville’s classic novel, “Moby Dick.” “Melville brilliantly depicted the prevailing view of the oceans of his time: ‘The appalling ocean, our destructor. Our enemy that we must try to master before it tries to master us.’ Well, we’ve made some progress since then … But, Melville’s depiction of the sea as infinite, alien and evil still prevails throughout much of the world. This is one of the reasons our oceans have been allowed to be pushed so close to the brink,” he said. “We need people who love and understand the ocean and speak up for it – people like you, the ocean heroes of SeaChange. I have the utmost faith seeing and feeling the spirit of the people in this event tonight and having worked with the dedicated people at Oceana that this can happen, that we can save our oceans, and I look forward to continue to work with all of you to do just that.” Morgan’s speech elicited a standing ovation.
To bring the night to a memorable conclusion, guests were serenaded by Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra with special musical guest Renee Olstead before mingling under the stars and taking the nights message home with them.
While the soiree itself was beautiful, elegant and sure to be remembered, its message left guests with a strong desire to take action and get involved with Oceana. As summer comes to an end and summer activities of playing on the beach, sailing and snorkeling become precious memories, there’s no better time to stop, look at the ocean’s fragile state and take part in it’s preservation so that these memories can exist for those in generations to come.
Danilae Smith with Morgan Freeman
To become an Oceana Wave Maker and become a part of the solution, please visit Oceana.org