When former Secretary of State Leon Panetta was growing up in Monterey, Calif., he caught "tons" of sardines before watching Cannery Row collapse in part due to overfishing.
"I saw the impact of losing a very important resource," Panetta said during a roundtable discussion as part of the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series. That's why Panetta, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the operation targeting Osama bin Laden, became an advocate for ocean conservation.
Panetta was chairman and commissioner of the Pew Oceans Commission, and spearheaded establishment of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
And during the roundtable discussion, Panetta praised the Florida's congressional delegation for supporting policies aimed at preserving oceanic resources, and particularly applauded residents of Sarasota County for recognizing the importance of the coastline.
"We tend to take our oceans for granted and we can't afford to do that," Panetta said. "I think it's important to the life of our oceans that we do everything possible to maintain what is probably the most important resource we have."
Also during the discussion, Panetta denied that politics played a role in the Obama administration's response to the 2012 Benghazi attack, and advocated providing military aid to Ukraine following Russia's annexation of Crimea. He also said the U.S. should restore missile defense systems along Russia's border and push to develop alternative energy sources.
"if Russia wants to begin taking steps to restoring the old Soviet Union, then I think we have to take steps to basically implement a containment policy." Panetta said. "Which is what we used against the Soviet Union effectively."