Growing up in southeast Kansas, Dustin Cranor didn’t get much experience with beaches and oceans.
He’s made up for it since then, and was recently promoted to the post of communications director for U.S. Campaigns for Oceana, the largest advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans.
“I don’t even remember eating seafood before I left Kansas,” he said in a telephone interview from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Cranor joined Oceana in 2007 and was originally based in Washington, D.C., as communications manager. He relocated to Fort Lauderdale in 2010.
He said that the organization’s mission is to protect the oceans and sea life by changing policy at the governmental level. That’s not just the U.S. government, but governments around the world.
“A lot of my new job will be what I did before, which includes taking scientific data and making it accessible to the public,” Cranor said. “The problem is to get the information out there and get people to care about it enough to write to their people in Congress.”
He said that he has also helped roll out some important new initiatives for Oceana. One of them is seafood fraud or the mislabeling of seafood.
“This has been a huge issue with us,” Cranor said. “Of 1,215 fish samples collected by Oceana from 674 retail outlets in 21 states, one-third of the fish were found to be mislabeled, based on DNA studies.”
He said it’s is important, for both economic and health reasons, for people to know exactly what fish they are eating.
For example, only seven of the 120 red snapper samples collected actually were red snapper, meaning that people often pay higher prices for a less expensive fish. Also, tilefish, often sold as red snapper, can have a high mercury content and it is recommended that pregnant women and children avoid it.
A whopping 84 percent of the white tuna samples collected were escolar, a fish which can cause serious digestive issues for some people who eat more than a small amount of it.
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“If you go to a restaurant and order red snapper, they should be able to say how and where it was caught, so ask questions,” Cranor said. “If possible, try to order the whole fish.”
Another big issue is the proposed testing in the Atlantic of the seismic airgun, which is used to find oil and gas deposits deep underneath the ocean floor.
“The government itself estimates that the testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will kill or injure 138,000 whales and dolphins, not to mention what it could do to commercial fisheries,” Cranor said.
Obviously, Oceana strongly opposes seismic airgun testing. On the other hand, the organization strongly supports investment tax credits for offshore wind development.
“If properly developed, offshore wind could power the United States four times over,” Cranor said. “Actress Kate Walsh of ‘Private Practice’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ joined at Washington in April to lobby Congress to expand offshore wind.”
Ted Danson, star of the beloved classic TV series “Cheers” is another celebrity supporter of Oceana. In fact, he helped create the American Oceans Campaign in 1987, which eventually became Oceana in 2001.
“He, Kate Walsh and Angela Kinsey of ‘The Office’ are great to work with,” Cranor said. “Celebrities help provide us with access and media attention we wouldn’t get otherwise.”
Oceana’s message is a vital one, he said, for the health of the entire planet, not just the oceans. Alternate, cleaner forms of energy such as offshore wind are desperately needed to save the very air we breathe.
“According to a recent report, there are now 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and 350 was supposed to be the limit for us to continue as we have been,” Cranor said. “This is the highest level in 800,000 years.”
And, of course, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.
The need to feed earth’s billions is another problem that can be solved by healthy oceans.
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“Andy Sharpless, our CEO, has written a book called ‘The Perfect Protein’ telling how our oceans can feed the world,” Cranor said. “Land-based protein won’t be able to do it.”
While problems are still huge, including a garbage patch in the Pacific that is larger than the state of Texas, Cranor said that a lot of good things are happening.
“Our oceans can rebound,” Cranor said. “We’ve seen that when programs are put into place. You can’t bottom trawl now, which destroys coral. They’re putting turtle excluders into shrimp nets now, so that turtles which get caught up in them can escape. Our shark protection efforts are also paying off. All the West Coast states ban shark finning now, and we’re starting to see it on the East Coast.”
The southeast Kansas native has been a part of these good things, and in 2008 was recognized as one of the nation’s top environmental movers and shakers in “The Advocate’s” inaugural “Green” issue.
The son of Cheryl and Steve Cranor, he grew up in Bartlett and graduated from Labette County High School, Altamont, where he was a national qualifier in debate and forensics and served as Kansas state SkillsUSA president. He was also active in 4-H, showing swine, horses , cattle and sheep.
Cranor graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2005 with a degree in political science and communications. For a time he was a financial sales representative at Arvest Bank, Fayetteville, Ark., before moving to Washington, D.C. There he accepted a position at TheWadeGroup, Inc., a public affairs firm.
“I was able to work on large cases from the start, and also worked on campaigns for Oceana,” Cranor said. “They recruited me for this job.”