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From Miami to Maine, spreading the word about the oceans

Margo Pellegrino canoed 2,000 miles to publicize the plight of the oceans.

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There's no better way to beat summer heat than by making a beeline for the nearest body of water. Maybe you've canoed on a lake at camp or spent family vacation time at the beach this season.

But can you imagine spending every day on the water for more than two months? That's what Margo Pellegrino of Medford Lakes, N.J., did. Beginning in May, she paddled her 20-foot outrigger canoe nearly 2,000 miles – all the way from Miami to Camden, Maine!

Ms. Pellegrino didn't row her boat just for fun, though. She made many stops along her journey to tell people about the state of the world's oceans. Overfishing, too much coastal development, and water pollution are just some of the problems that she highlighted.

Ms. Pellegrino had already known the sea was in trouble. But she got a wake-up call in late 2005 when she read about what happened to Easter Island long ago. This tiny island in the South Pacific was almost completely deforested by the 18th century. It is thought that inhabitants used up so much timber that their forest ecosystem collapsed. With few resources left, islanders found it hard to survive, and their numbers dwindled.

She didn't want the same thing to happen to our ocean ecosystems or to the people who depend on them for food and income. So she started to think of a long canoe trip as a way to publicize the plight of the oceans.

Through her voyage, she wanted to inspire everyone to take better care of the sea that all people share in common. "It's really possible to do anything that you set your mind to do, with the [right] amount of planning and determination," she said by cellphone while waiting for fog to clear in Hull, Mass.

A big part of protecting the oceans, says Ms. Pellegrino, is just visiting them. "Once you're out there, you can really appreciate what you need to protect. That's an important part of conservation. My own feeling is that we don't get outside enough to really enjoy what we have."

Everything about the ocean needs protecting – from water quality to fish to coastal areas. People in the recreation industry depend on clean water and clean beaches to bring them customers who want to surf, snorkel, or lie in the sun. Fisherman depend on thriving fish populations for their livelihoods. And if you eat fish or like to visit the beach, then healthy seas are probably important to you, too.


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