Ted Danson is playing a role that many people might not recognize.
The Hollywood actor, who is widely recognized as Sam Malone from the television show "Cheers," flew into Juneau Wednesday afternoon to participate in the nonprofit Oceana Board of Directors meeting here this week.
Danson founded the American Oceans Campaign in 1987 to bring national attention to ocean environmental issues. It later merged with Oceana in 2001 to bring the cause to a global level. Oceana's Pacific Region office is in downtown Juneau.
"It's a board meeting where we decide how we've done up to this point and what we're going to do next," said Danson, an Oceana board member. "But I think it's specifically geared for us to get to know Alaska, and get to know the Pacific in general."
Jim Ayers, director of the Pacific Region for Oceana, said Danson has been an outspoken leader for ocean conservation movement.
"Different people have seen different Ted Danson movies and maybe even speeches, but he is one of the kindest, more interesting people I have met in my life - and I know a lot of kind, interesting people," Ayers said. "But Ted, he's just a great human being, very gentle human being, but very conscientious and very focused on ocean conservation."
Danson said he is looking forward to his visit to Juneau and the opportunity to thank and talk with the people who have been involved with Alaska's ocean conservation work. He said visiting Oceana's locations in Spain, Chile and the United States have made big impressions on him.
"I walk away really owning (into) the organization more when you actually go to Madrid, and Santiago, and Juneau, you really begin to understand the accomplishments of the organization and kind of the hugeness of the problems that we're tackling."
Danson said he wants people to understand that Oceana is not trying to "throw bricks" by pointing fingers, but rather is working toward finding solutions to problems.
"What you want to do is to stabilize fishing practices so that you have sustainable fishing," he said. "I love fish. We all want to eat fish, so it's not about stopping that or being nasty to the fishermen. It's about having sustainable fisheries and that means protecting the habitat and managing the fisheries in a way that they can be sustained."
Danson said that in his nearly 20 years of ocean activism he has seen small, incremental changes but has seen a large change in the awareness of the issues.
"You can talk to any school kid now and they get it. They do understand that the oceans are not this limitless place where you can dump all of our waste," he said. "They do get, you know, that we live a toxic lifestyle and can't just keep junking and cleaning it up."
Danson said he is particularly proud and impressed by the changes that have taken place in Alaska, such as the closure of 250,000 square miles to trawl fishing off the Aleutian Islands and the pollution controls imposed on the cruise ship industry. He said the fight has been an uphill battle.
"It's so hard to get people to focus on oceans. It's much easier to focus on land and that bird and that bear," he said. "It's very hard to convince people that that big, beautiful, huge ocean that looks stunning has a problem. It's kind of out of sight, out of mind."
He said he hopes everyone joins the dialogue to work toward solutions, regardless of political affiliation. Everyone is affected by oceans and fisheries, he said.
"It can't be a liberal thing. It can't be a political thing," Danson said. "It cannot or we will lose - all of us will lose."
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