At 5 p.m. Andy Sharpless is just sitting down for lunch. "I guess it's dinner now," he says with a laugh. As CEO of the nonprofit group Oceana in Washington, D.C., Andy works around the clock to protect worldwide marine habitats.
Thousands of Oceana members show equal dedication to the cause. "There are many things you can do for the ocean, but we focus on three or four projects that make a big difference―fast," Andy says. For each project, the campaign team has up to five years to enact government or corporate policy change. Oceana has achieved 15 key policy changes in the past six years.
The group has successfully safeguarded more than 1 million square miles of ocean from bottom trawling, a practice in which fishermen drag weighted nets along the sea floor. "It's similar to hunting rabbits with a bulldozer," Andy says. "You may catch rabbits, but you've destroyed the forest." Another victory was persuading Royal Caribbean cruise lines to upgrade waste-treatment systems aboard its 29 ships, meaning less sewage in the water.
Oceana has garnered support from politicians, celebrities, and food industry leaders such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, and recruited 300,000 "wavemakers" online. "We have the ability to move decision makers," Andy says. "With the right policies in place, we can replenish and ultimately save our oceans."