Something Fishy

Oceana’s Dustin Cranor creates a big splash when advocating for protecting our oceans.

Oceana is on a 24/7 quest to use scientific research to drive policy change on behalf of the world’s oceans. It is the largest international non-profit organization focused on ocean conservation and marine wildlife protection, tackling ocean pollution, overfishing and seafood fraud. Though the organization is global in scope, it’s employees like Fort Lauderdale’s Dustin Cranor who are creating waves.

Cranor wasn’t always a conservation guru, but his public relations expertise was just what Oceana needed for its domestic programs. Cranor joined Oceana full time as leader of its communications team in July 2007. Just one year later, at age 25, Cranor was recognized in The Advocate magazine’s “Green” issue, featuring the nation’s top LGBT environmental movers and shakers.

As communications director for Oceana’s U.S. Campaigns, Cranor’s efforts have expanded Oceana’s reach beyond visible waters, overseeing issues of climate change, clean energy, seafood fraud, fisheries subsidies and overfishing. Cranor’s relocation from Washington, D.C. to Fort Lauderdale in 2010 established a beachhead for Oceana in South Florida. Cranor’s presence here was an “obvious choice for an ocean conservation organization,” Cranor explains, enabling Oceana to expand its influence to the prime real estate of the southeastern and Gulf coasts, and address oil spill prevention, decades of overfishing and seafood mislabeling. Last year, DNA testing by Oceana investigated seafood fraud in South Florida – and found that half of the 14 types of fish collected were misrepresented.

With Cranor’s leadership focused on South Florida, Oceana was able to host its first-ever South Florida inaugural SeaBlue event last year at the W Fort Lauderdale. This event raised more than $155,000, allocated directly toward ocean advocacy, fish fraud education and sea life protection.

“The community really came together,” Cranor, 30, says. “Florida really cares about the ocean because [its residents] live on it, fish from it, swim in it.”

As a native of land-locked Kansas, this country boy understood the concept of “out of sight, out of mind.” Not seeing an ocean until he was in college and doing most of his work on Capitol Hill, Cranor can’t keep his mind off the ocean. During one memorable day in Geneva, Switzerland, Cranor lobbied Congress against the huge subsidies given to the fishing industry and the overfishing it encourages – dressed in a big, red life-like fish costume. “Finley the Fish” became Oceana’s mascot, birthed out of a partnership with the World Trade Organization to address the issue of overfishing the subsidies are causing. “You see people in these costumes… I usually thought it was silly,” the good-natured Cranor says. “But I [became] that guy walking around with the big red fish.”

Cranor and his communications team are responsible for increasing awareness about the campaign and putting a face, or in this case a pucker face, to their efforts, making the fight to protect the oceans real. “We all have a job to do but luckily I have one that’s not only a lot of fun but that you feel good at the end of the day about, which I love,” he says.

Oceana’s long list of policy-based operations confronts the many crises occurring between the surface of the water and the ocean floor. With the continued efforts of Cranor, staff members worldwide and celebrities, such as Ted Danson and Kate Walsh, Cranor and Oceana are doing their parts to be a voice for the oceans.

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