Ocean Advocate

One half of the oxygen in every breath you take comes from the ocean. Not only is it essential to life on this planet, the ocean is by far the earth’s largest habitat. Despite this, it has become the dumping ground for plastics, as well as absorbing much of the carbon and heat from the use of fossil fuels. The plastics crisis and the sources of global climate change are huge problems, with complex stakeholder networks and hard tradeoffs to make.

But there is a third threat to the ocean that is completely unnecessary and solvable, the product of unregulated industries and corruption: unlimited industrial fishing. While the climate crisis is destroying the reefs and plastics are killing the wildlife, industrial fishing is eliminating one species after another. Tom believes it is worth fighting hard — now — to save the ocean during our lifetimes. It will take a change in global awareness and a fundamental shift in the way we approach the extraction of resources from the global commons that is the ocean.

Garibaldi fish in giant kelp forest

Creating Empathy for Life in the Ocean

William Shakespeare wrote, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” If there has ever been a time when we need to start thinking of the world as kin, it is now. The ocean is a truly global commons, owned by no one and benefiting everyone. But life in the ocean is in peril — serious near-term peril. We need a wave of global awareness about what is happening and how to turn it around. But people will only protect something if they know that it matters. If they love it, they may act to save it. Tom is in love with life in the ocean, and is privileged to travel around the world to dive in places where marine life still thrives. With his underwater photography and video, he hopes to bring back and share what he sees, to create empathy and connection with the ocean. One touch of nature, one beautiful image, can remind us that we are all kin, and will help us realize that the ocean is our inheritance to enjoy and our legacy to preserve.

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Colorful Lives: Photographic Stories from the Ocean | EG Conference | Carmel, CA | May, 2015
Experience the colorful lives of underwater animals through the lens of art photography. Learn about the surprising sex lives of famous animated fish, the bizarre mating habits of punk-rock nudibranchs, and the majestic grace of the largest fish in the ocean. See the adorable playfulness of sea lions up close, and then consider the message they have for us about our relationship to the ocean.

Ocean Advocate Landing Scuba Diving

The Generation That Will Save the Ocean | TEDx Mountain View | March, 2016
Earth’s ocean is in immediate peril from climate change, pollution, and unsustainable fishing. We have one generation left to save it. Who will be the people to change attitudes and behavior of billions around the world? They are the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists, and activists who were born digital and raised social. What will they need to do to turn the tide?

Ocean Advisor Landing Deep Hope

Opening Our Eyes to Life in the Deep Ocean

The ocean is the largest habitat for life on earth, spanning 70% of the surface and supporting life throughout its two-mile average depth. Yet we have far more data about the surface of the moon than the ocean. Founded by world-renowned scientist Sylvia Earle, Deep Hope is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the exploration of the ocean at depth. It is building submersibles that will safely bring scientists and private citizens to witness first-hand what is happening in the Mesopelagic Zone, between 200 and 1000 meters deep. Trips to the deep ocean are precious, yet they lead to discoveries about new species, how the oceanic food chain works, and how human impact is affecting it. Tom is an officer and member of the Board of Deep Hope, and also supports Syvlia on Mission Blue, her organization dedicated to creating marine-protected areas around the world.

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Ocean Advocate Landing Ocean Eleders

A Voice for the Ocean

Ocean Elders brings together global leaders to use their collective influence to help protect the ocean’s habitat and wildlife. Since its founding, the coalition has worked closely with partners to advocate for the creation, continued protection and/or expansion of marine-protected areas; the creation and implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water; a new treaty for the high seas; and the protection of marine wildlife. Tom is a technical advisor to the organization. The Elders include Sir Richard Branson, James Cameron, Jean-Michel Cousteau, José María Figueres, Jane Goodall, Ted Turner, E.O. Wilson and other influential world leaders.


Ocean Advisor Landing Opln

A Virtual Community to End Ocean Plastic Pollution

The Ocean Plastics Leadership Network (OPLN) is a diverse group of leaders, organizations and interests, coming together with one common goal – to end the flow of plastics into our oceans. Tom was party to the original Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit, a boat trip on the North Atlantic Ocean gyre that brought together people from industry, science, activist groups, policy analysts, and other stakeholders in the pipeline of plastics from consumer to ocean pollution. This experience created a virtual community that is now in allegiance to work toward a global treaty on ocean plastics. Tom advises OPLN on organizational intelligence and  technology, and documented the Summit trip with underwater photography.

Read more | opln.org

Tom Gruber Testimonial Dave Ford Founder and Executive Director Ocean Plastics Leadership Network
Dave Ford | Founder and Executive Director, Ocean Plastics Leadership Network
“Tom’s dedication, passion, and mission to heal our ocean align deeply with everything we’re working towards at the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network. As an advisor and ambassador, Tom has helped us navigate an extremely challenging landscape between our activists and industry members. Tom’s calming presence has helped us build trust between arch enemies. He was in the open ocean for hours 500 miles off the coast of Bermuda in the Atlantic Gyre, not only taking powerful, heart-breaking pictures but also helping the 165 plastics executives we had out there with us feel comfortable in an extreme situation. With his camera and with people, his steady hand helped our participants relax in a scary experience for many (snorkeling in the open issue with 2 miles between there are the bottom. Tom views that collective action is necessary to solve the plastics crisis and that we’re only going to get there with cross-disciplinary leadership.”