'Sonic Sea' Screening Benefits Kids Ocean Advocacy Program

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Environment

An OPAK class at the seashore. COURTESY PHOTO

Can you imagine life on Cape Cod without the ocean?

Of course not. It’s a gruesome thought. So let’s join together in celebrating the waters both nearby and worldwide on the Second Annual World Oceans Day, Saturday, June 8. On that day the non-profit group Ocean Protection Advocacy Kids, Inc. (OPAK) will commemorate “One Ocean, One Cape Cod: A Marine Celebration” by screening the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Sonic Sea” at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, sponsored by Nauset Marine.

“‘Sonic Sea’ is appropriate for anyone with an interest in the ocean, exploration, and/or underwater acoustics,” Jeffrey Morgan, OPAK executive director, said in an email interview last week. “The ocean is full of noise and ‘Sonic Sea’ amplifies that for us.”

And who knew how noisy it can be underwater, and that manmade underwater noise pollution is an issue? “Sonic Sea” is a 60-minute film following a former U.S. Navy officer examining the effects of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life. The film is narrated by actress Rachel McAdams and features the musician Sting, a human rights and environmental activist, and renowned ocean experts such as Jean-Michel Cousteau, a son of Jacques Cousteau. The film was produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Imaginary Forces in association with Diamond Docs and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which is based in Yarmouth.

The film will be followed by a short talk by Katie Moore, deputy vice president of conservation and animal welfare at IFAW, who appears in the film. Light refreshments and raffle items from Lush Cosmetics, the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises and Cape Clasp will be available for purchase before the screening starts.

OPAK, based in Pembroke was co-founded by Morgan and Melanie Colby. Morgan grew up in Monroe, Conn., and spent his summers visiting his great-grandparents’ house in Harwich near Pleasant Bay, “a body of water that is almost impossible not to fall in love with,” he says.

Unlike many other casual visitors, Morgan began noticing things such as litter, the constantly-changing shoreline and that he saw fewer and fewer fishing boats. Later, when a student at Boston University, he enrolled in an introductory oceanography course that changed the trajectory of his schooling and career.

“I was an economics major going into the class and a marine science major when I left,” he says. “I was amazed how much we didn’t know about the ocean I grew up next to and even more amazed about how much we exploited it.”

While the oceans cover 71 percent of the earth’s surface, “there is only one ocean for all of us to use, enjoy and ultimately protect,” Morgan says. “People come to Cape Cod to go to the beach, see whales, enjoy local seafood and have a good time. Locals capitalize heavily on tourism and they can (and some already do) sneak in some education of ‘why’ it is important to responsibly use and enjoy our coast, so that we can protect the ocean for future generations.”

As for messages Morgan would like viewers of “Sonic Sea” to take away, the first is that the ocean is worth celebrating every day, not just on World Oceans Day. The second is that we need to appreciate how much human activity affects the natural world. “Sometimes it is hard to balance our needs and protection versus that of non-human life, which is brought to light in the film,” he says. “However, it can be done and must be done so that every future generation gets to enjoy the one Cape that we have.”

Morgan and Colby, who grew up on the Jersey Shore, founded OPAK “to make sure that the next generation has the tools to advocate for the ocean that we didn’t when we were younger,” Morgan says. This will be OPAK’s third summer of running marine science, art and advocacy workshops in Chatham. Last year 531 students participated and that number is on track to double this summer, Morgan says. The goal is not only for students to learn something new but to be “prepared to advocate for what they have discovered. We want what we teach to be more than just facts from a book or a field trip—we want our students to care enough to tell other people why it’s important to protect the ocean,” Morgan says. Summer programs are run from the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, the Chatham Community Center, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and the Cape Cod Media Center in Dennis. For more information on the summer programs, visit www.okapedu.org.

The proceeds from the “Sonic Sea” screening will go toward funding OPAK’s educational programs across Massachusetts. On Friday, June 7, OPAK will conduct its second annual beach cleanup with over 130 Monomoy Middle School students. In another program called “Songs of the Sea,” OPAK will lead students in investigating whale acoustics and encouraging students to write ocean songs to protect the whales.



“Sonic Sea”
Saturday, June 8, 8:45 a.m.
Chatham Orpheum Theater
Tickets are $12, available at www.opakedu.org/events or at the door
Proceeds benefit Ocean Protection Advocacy Kids, Inc. educational programming across Massachusetts.