Laguna Blue

Meet three inspirational local leaders who are protecting our oceans and marine wildlife every day

Nancy Downes 

Oceana Campaign Organizer, Southern California

In Orange County, Nancy Downes is on the frontlines working to protect coastal communities from expanded offshore drilling and fighting single-use plastic pollution. Downes is the Southern California campaign organizer for Oceana, the largest international organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. She was previously the Southern California regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation for 12 years.

Downes is leading the charge in Orange County to build municipal and business opposition for new offshore oil drilling in the Pacific Ocean. The Trump administration is currently poised to expand offshore drilling to nearly all federal waters.

With offshore drilling, spills can happen at every point from exploration, production, transportation to use — spills that can tarnish pristine beaches and kill precious marine life. On the West Coast, offshore drilling threatens fishing, tourism and recreation amounting to $53 million in GDP and 746,000 jobs.

Oceana is also moving aggressively at the local, state and federal level to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. In California, Oceana is working to pass what would be the first U.S. state law to mandate source reduction of single-use packaging and disposable food ware. That includes plates, bowls, cups, stirrers and straws that otherwise could end up on Orange County beaches.

[QUOTE] “The value of the California coastline is priceless.  Use your passion for the ocean to do something to protect it.”

Rich German

Creator of Blue Laguna

Rich German has been paddle boarding off the coast of Laguna Beach every day for over a decade. And each day he captures stunning photos and videos of the incredible marine life he is blessed to witness. Rich has had countless encounters with the bottlenose dolphins that call our coastline home. Plus he has paddled alongside migrating gray whales, 100-foot long blue whales, humpback whales and even pods of Orcas. 

He is the creator of the photo book, Blue Laguna, which features many of his best images. His love for the ocean and marine life compelled him to found Project O, a non-profit committed to protecting the ocean.

In partnership with Oceana, Surfrider and other top ocean-protection organizations, Project O is about to launch the Blue City program. This collaborative effort will support cities in adopting best practice standards with the goal of being certified as responsible stewards of our ocean and waterways. This program will start with California coastal cities and then expand nationwide and internationally.

Rich is also currently leading the charge in Laguna Beach to ban mylar and latex balloons from being released into the air. These balloons are hazardous both to the environment and to the marine life that confuses them with food.

To Rich, the ocean is his church... his sanctuary. Paddleboarding is not only exercise but also his meditation and way to commune with nature. He loves to capture beautiful moments and share these with people who might never have the opportunity to see what he sees. 

Like Jacques Cousteau famously said “we protect what we love” and Rich’s hope is people will fall in love with the ocean and life in it so much that we will begin to do whatever we can to protect it, just like we would our own children.

[QUOTE] “I believe it is our moral, social and spiritual responsibility to protect the ocean and the sacred life living within.”

Peter Chang

CEO, Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Unlike whales and dolphins, seals and sea lions don't have to remain in water in order to survive. The animals beach themselves to be warm and dry when feeling ill. They seek rest on land for a variety of reasons and are not always in need of intervention. Pacific Marine Mammal Center staff is trained to recognize animals suffering from infections, malnourishment, pneumonia, and other conditions which can harm an animal's chance for survival. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center then rescues, rehabilitates, and releases its patients back to the wild once they are healthy again and their care is complete.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center rescues marine mammals that strand on 52 miles of Orange County coastline. The organization also inspires ocean stewardship through research, education and collaboration and is a part of the Large Whale Entanglement Response Team. Since its inception in 1971, Pacific Marine Mammal Center has rescued almost 9,000 marine mammals. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is 90% volunteer base and run entirely on public support. As we head into the busy season, Pacific Marine Mammal Center needs help from the community. The Center is open to the public every day 10am-4pm, to view its current patients and learn about the importance of environmental stewardship. For more information about what we do and how to get involved visit

[QUOTE]  “PMMC is in a very unique position, being one of a handful of organizations around the world authorized to work with, and learn from, live marine mammals.”

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