On Sunday evening, Ted Danson, Morgan Freeman, Alexandra Cousteau and dozens of others attended a fundraising soiree for Oceana at a Laguna Beach hilltop ocean view home known as Villa dei Sogni. The Oceana organization works on campaigns to help the Earth's seas thrive once again.
Freeman was on hand discussing issues. But he wasn't talking about acting or directing. He was sharing his concerns about the health of the world's oceans. Freeman is an avid sailor and, for the past 45 years, he has witnessed the destruction of the "blue water."
"[We have been] filling up the oceans with garbage and mercury," said Freeman. "We have two major life support systems on the planet ... the forest and the ocean. And what do you think we're doing to both of them? We're doing our best to destroy them. That's not in our own interest. We're not shooting ourselves in the foot by doing that ... we're shooting ourselves in the head."
"To talk about it sounds hopeless," said Freeman. "But we have to educate people. Oceana is busy trying to do that. This is reversible."
Since 2001, the Oceana organization has asked scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates to work together for the protection of marine flora and fauna and their habitats.
The organization has achieved several goals already in 2012. To name only a few, sea turtle deflecting devices must be used by the Atlantic scallop fishing industry, Chile has increased the size of two marine preserve areas, and the California Senate Committee on Health passed a seafood labeling bill affecting "human health, environmental sustainability, and consumer protection."
Acting as master of ceremonies for the evening was Oceana senior advisor Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
"Ocean conservation is very close to my heart," said Cousteau, "and Oceana is a very special organization. Growing up as a Cousteau, I was introduced to the ocean at the youngest of ages ... I was fortunate enough to see a lot of really beautiful places. But I've also watched them disappear."
"The urgency is very real," said Cousteau. "and the work that Oceana does I think is really addressing the critical issues and offering concrete and meaningful solutions."
Cousteau believes that overfishing has to be addressed, more marine protected areas have to be created, and people need to make different decisions about how they live and consume.
She encouraged the eating of sustainable seafood. She added that wallet-sized guides to sustainable fish, available through the Monterey Bay Aquarium, are available to help diners make better choices at restaurants.
Cousteau said, "We always eat the same 12 or 15 species. Don't choose orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, swordfish or tuna. So many of these species are on the brink of collapse or endangered. Choose other options. Here in the United States, there are almost 700 species of fish that are not only edible but tasty."
She added that humans must be mindful of what they put down the drain, because whatever goes down the drain winds up in the ocean.
"Industrial agriculture," said Cousteau, "in a lot of ways is contributing to 'dead zones' like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. So choosing locally sourced, sustainable organic produce at a farmers' market or at [another local market which supplies these products] is actually a really good way to help the ocean."
Actor, author and producer Ted Danson is on the Oceana board of directors and has been working towards ocean conservation for 25 years.
"We're fishing in such a destructive and wasteful way around the world," said Danson, "that our fisheries are collapsing. The United Nations says one-third of our fisheries are in collapse. Here we have one of the best sources of protein to feed the world and we're wasting it. We could actually end up not having it at all."
"By the year 2050," said Danson, "there are going to be 9 billion of us. This isn't just about saving fish. This is really about feeding the world. We have this amazing resource. We know what to do. We go country by country and make sure we work with them so that their fishing management practices are sustainable. Fish populations do come back when given the right treatment and given the chance."
Danson said, "Basically, [Oceana's programs] are all designed to make sure that our grandkids will have fisheries that are healthy. It's no longer this idealistic ... 'oh let's save the fish.' We really are talking about world hunger. We're talking about feeding the world."
Actress, singer and vegan Renee Olstead attended the fundraiser because she cares about the environment.
"Oceana is a beautiful cause," said Olstead. "The ocean can be 'rebuilt' if we make progress and change now. It's one of those things where it's not too late. It's not a hopeless cause. You can't just surrender. If we take action, we can make a difference. We can make the world beautiful for generations to come."