Staff Spotlight: Jackie Savitz - Oceana USA
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July 28, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Jackie Savitz

Going forward, The Beacon will feature one Oceana staff member every month, highlighting their role at Oceana and personal history with the oceans. The first spotlight is on Oceana’s vice president for United States Oceans, Jackie Savitz. Take a look below to learn more.

Having spent her childhood summers at the Jersey Shore, Oceana’s vice president for US Oceans, Jackie Savitz, fell in love with the oceans at a young age. She was scuba certified by age 16, and had conducted oceanographic research by the time she completed her undergraduate degree. Savitz has brought her lifelong life-long passion to Oceana, where she directs cutting-edge science-based campaigns that lead to positive improvements for the oceans on a global scale.  

Savitz joined Oceana in 2002, just shortly after its 2001 founding, so she’s played a crucial role in putting Oceana on the map as the leading international ocean advocacy group. Savitz had moved from senior scientist to campaign director and to deputy vice president for U.S. oceans before becoming the vice president for U.S. oceans. In this role, she leads all of Oceana’s advocacy and campaign work in the U.S. to restore fisheries and promote clean energy. She’s been interviewed by hundreds of newspaper outlets worldwide, appeared on expert panels, and spoken at three TEDx conferences while at Oceana.

“My favorite thing about Oceana is our focus—our ability to stay focused on a limited number of issues,” says Savitz. “In the environmental advocacy world, so many organizations try to cover everything. At Oceana, we can proactively make change because we stay focused on a limited set of important goals.”

During her tenure, Oceana has won dozens of victories for the oceans—so many, in fact, that Savitz has a hard time choosing which ones are the most significant! When she has to narrow them down, Savitz says getting that eight out of nine mercury-based chlorine plants to go mercury-free, getting the Department of Interior to place a five year moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic, and most recently, protecting  more than 300, 000 square miles of critical marine habitat for loggerhead sea turtles have been among the most fulfilling victories Oceana has achieved.

The most challenging part of the job—and working in ocean advocacy in general—is staying optimistic, especially with regard to climate change, says Savitz. For example, while the Obama Administration’s recent decision to approve seismic airgun testing for the Atlantic is disappointing, Savitz remains hopeful and isn’t giving up.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that we succeeded in putting tight restrictions on seismic blasting that will help protect marine life,” she says. “It still remains to be seen whether seismic companies are willing and able to meet the new stiffer requirements, and some may be dissuaded from moving forward.”

Even with setbacks like this, Savitz continues pressing onward to ensure the oceans are protected for generations to come. “The idea that the next generation won’t get to experience what I have along our coasts is totally unacceptable to me. We simply must protect our fisheries and marine ecosystems for those that come after us.”

Outside of the office, Savitz enjoys any activity that gets her in the water, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of Miami, and her interest in marine pollution led her to complete a master’s degree in environmental science with a focus on toxicology at the University of Maryland. Prior to working at Oceana, Savitz held positions at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Environmental Working Group, and the Coast Alliance.