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The Ocean Affair

Oceana's SeaChange Summer Party is OC's best party by (and for) the sea.

Ted Danson

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::  oceana.org

The challenges facing the world’s oceans can seem overwhelming. At one time not so long ago the general worldview was that the oceans are so huge, humans can’t do much harm to them. Now, things have flipped. The problems facing the seas are so vast and complex that some give in to pessimism and a feeling of helplessness. One Australian scientist wrote in The New York Times recently that all the earth’s coral reefs are doomed, and we should allocate resources not to saving them but to dealing with the ramifications of their loss.

And then there is Oceana, an optimistic international nonprofit that believes the world can turn around depleted fisheries and provide food for the world while still preserving the ocean ecosystems.

Anyone that has attended one of Oceana’s SeaChange Summer Parties in OC knows that this isn’t a group of Pollyannas. The organization’s leaders lay out the harsh challenges facing our oceans, including overfishing, ocean acidification, pollution, and global economic growth. It can be a sobering experience for some who like their charitable galas on the light and breezy side.

But Oceana also offers optimism, with proven results of global science-based campaigns that have been successful in protecting over 1.2 million square miles of ocean since 2001, and the sea species that live within. Each year, Oceana focuses on a small number of issues, concentrating efforts on getting significant, concrete results in a short period of time. In 2011 alone the group was successful in many complex battles, such as banning trawling in Belize and expanding marine reserves in Chile and Spain.

Those who attended the fifth annual gala at the Cahill family’s hillside Laguna Beach estate July 29 are an optimistic, can-do bunch drawn by Oceana’s successes – and the chance to rub shoulders with some celebs also committed to the cause. Oceana co-founder Ted Danson, Morgan Freeman and other special guests attended this year. Previous events in Laguna Beach have drawn big names like Diane Lane, Josh Brolin, Pierce Brosnan, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, and Diane Keaton. A highlight was Jeff Bridges singing a full set of songs from Crazy Heart the year that the actor won the Academy Award for that film. And the devilishly charming Jeff Goldblum almost always attends.

The celebs don’t come down to Laguna Beach just because we show them such a good time. They’re committed to the cause, and (to be honest) are here because the Orange County event is so successful financially for Oceana. Chaired again this year by the glamorous and dynamic duo of Valarie Van Cleave and Eve Kornyei Ruffatto, the SeaChange Summer Party has raised some $5 million over the past five years for ocean conservation in Southern California and around the world.

This year the event honored local Ocean Champions Tricia and Michael Berns and South Coast Plaza, enthusiastic supporters of the SeaChange Summer Party and the crucial work of Oceana. It’s a passion all who live by the coast should share: to save the seas. Or die trying.

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