OCEANA Hosts Celebrity Studded Benefit

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OCEANA, the international oceanic conservation organization, recently launched the opening of its New York office with a celebrity packed benefit on posh Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Hollywood producer and OCEANA Chairman, Keith Addis along with award winning actor and activist, Sam Waterston of Law & Order fame, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger his wife Dee and, daughter, Ally Hilfiger were on hand to lend support to the environmental protection group.

Also attending, film producer and OCEANA Council member Sue Cohn Rockefeller, fashion designer John Varatos and his wife Joyce, Grammy Award winning lyrist, and Bill and Hillary Clinton friend and supporter, Denise Rich along with, Madonna producer, Nile Rodgers and Mick Jones.

Alexander and Brenda von Schweickhardt, hosted the event in their luxurious Madison Avenue duplex penthouse. The first floor of the magnificent apartment served as the arrivals staging area with guests passing lounging mermaids as they walked the circular staircase leading to the opulent second floor. Elegant wait staff circled with a variety of hors d'oeurvres and themed drinks. A second floor open bar served the over three hundred guests who offered their support.

When asked why she decided to join OCEANA, Mrs. von Schweickhardt explained, "I recently got involved with OCEANA because every summer I spend a lot of time in the water in the Mediterranean and every summer I'm bitten by jelly fish, I'm swimming in plastic and every year I get so fed up with pollution destroying the oceans. For years and years I've seen personally what happening to the oceans."

She continued, "OCEANA actually came to me serendipitously with friends and I found out what they were doing and I said, 'How can I help?' And they said, 'Host our party.' And I said, 'Done. Absolutely we'll do that.' Because I really believe that we need to help the world's oceans as I've seen firsthand really what is happening to them." She went on to add, "OCEANA has an amazing group of people involved and we're here tonight to raise money and to support the preservation and restoration of the World's oceans.

Sam Waterston, OCEANA board member, actor and activist, agreed to be interviewed and stated when asked why he joined OCEANA's effort, "Well, as is very commonly the case, I became involved with OCEANA through friends. I was fertile ground for it as I grew up by the sea in New England. I had taken it [the sea] for granted.

He continued, "I grew up right after WWII and the seas had a significant rest due to the war. I grew up in super abundance of everything. I thought that was how it was. I was outraged when I discovered, that while I thought I was watching, all that abundance had been drained out. Then everything was under stupendous pressure.  I found out that this local problem was national and then international and then worldwide and so I was a pushover by that time." He paused, "There would be so much we could save. The seas are responsive in a way that other ecosystems are not."

Janet Walker: "What are the initiatives set by OCEANA?"

Sam Waterston: "One of the things that convinced me to be a member of this organization, in the first place, is that it has campaigns and it sets due dates. So at this time OCEANA is halfway to getting the Clorox factory's to stop using Mercury in their processing; they are on the verge of important success of Bluefin Tuna."

"I don't know if you are aware that Dr. Jane LubChenco at NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has said if no alternative is found she will back Monaco's initiative to call Bluefin Tuna an endangered species.  This is one of those things OCEANA has been advocating. And they have succeeded in getting the Arctic Ocean studied before it's exploited. If they fail they know it; if they succeed they know it."

Janet Walker: "What do you attribute the sudden popularity of OCEANA?"  

Sam Waterston: "I think in the last two years the penny has dropped in regards to the environment. Tonight is an example this wouldn't have been possible two years ago because people simply weren't aware enough to know that they should be here. Something has happened in the whole culture. I keep double checking. I hope this isn't just happening in my head because it seems like something real is going on.  The amount for attention that is paid to the oceans by comparison to the all the other environmental initiatives that are going on and the amount of money being donated and devoted to study and preservation is very small. So, there's a wide world of opportunity to make a difference."

Following up with other celebrity supporters the same sentiment was echoed by songwriter Denise Rich who added when asked why she decided to join OCEANA's effort, "I'm friends with the Schweickhardt's. I'm a member of Sea Keepers. So I believe very much in anything that preserves our planet."

Bettina Alonso OCEANA's VP of Global Development also stopped to answer a few questions.

Janet Walker: "What do you do for OCEANA?"

Bettina Alonso: "I opened the Office in New York three years ago and I been with OCEANA five years so I started developing programming in Europe and in about two years I got promoted to be the VP of Global Development based in New York."

Janet Walker: "What are OCEANA's goals? Short term, let's say six months, and long term, three years?"

Bettina Alonso: "Definitely to increase our presence and awareness in New York having a really strong personality in NY where people will recognize our name.  I started by myself two years ago. It's pulling the right people together, expanding our group of supporters. We're going to have more events that's the short term goal. Long Term? I hope soon we can have a Gala. I hope we can soon have a Gala: A Blue Gala, An Ocean Gala, A Water Gala."

Founded in 2001 OCEANA is the largest ocean protection group in the world.  With an international presence and global strength the worldwide team is dedicated to restoring, implementing and protecting the world's oceans.  Similar to investigative news reporters, they search and expose those violators of law, guard against illegal fishing and dumping of dead and dying marine life and campaign for change.

For more information on OCEANA: www.oceana.org

For more information on NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

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