The Beacon

Video: Andy Sharpless on Fish and World Hunger

Did you know that protecting our oceans could be an answer to world hunger? A few weeks ago our CEO Andy Sharpless gave a talk at TedxSF about how saving the oceans can help feed the world.

We think it’s a fantastic, thought-provoking presentation, please watch and pass it on:


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Video: Chile’s Shockingly Polluted Communities

Our team in Chile has produced a powerful video, and we are excited to share it with you.

The video shows dramatic images and real testimonies from the people of Ventanas, in central Chile, which is severely affected by the pollution from coal-fired power plants and a copper refinery.

Earlier this month, a toxic cloud appeared containing levels of sulfur dioxide 10 times higher than the maximum limit established by the World Health Organization. In response to this and several other major pollution events over the past year, Oceana has been calling on the government to close the industries that operate in that area, at least until a health inspection is completed, and someone is held responsible for the pollution.

Just watch:

Our campaigners in Chile are also working to prohibit the installation of new polluting or dangerous industries in areas already declared as highly polluted.  Sadly, Ventanas is just one example of many communities in Chile that are affected by severe pollution. The environmental costs of the thermoelectric industries and coal refineries are unfairly concentrated in these communities, and their residents are suffering from environmental discrimination.

Stay tuned for more videos that will feature other areas in Chile that are suffering a similar reality. Give today to support our work to protect Chile’s people and marine life from severe pollution.


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Chile to Expand Marine Reserves in 2012

A sea turtle in Hanga Roa Bay, Easter Island. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Great news today: The Chilean Government announced its intention to expand the Salas y Gómez marine reserve and to create a smaller reserve in Hanga Roa Bay – the harbor right off the main town and capital of historic Easter Island.  This new marine conservation plan for Easter Island is set to be established by the end of the year.

The government also announced the plan to develop an assessment and status report of the main fisheries of Easter Island.

Following an expedition in 2010 to Salas y Gómez Island, led by Oceana, National Geographic, and the Waitt Foundation, the Chilean President announced the creation of the original Salas y Gómez marine reserve. This no-take reserve protects 150,000 square kilometers around the island – an area larger than Greece. 

In 2011, Oceana and National Geographic Society partnered with the Chilean Navy and conducted an unprecedented expedition to study the marine area surrounding Easter Island and Salas y Gómez Island to assess their current states of conservation and potential need for new protection measures.  Using the baseline study developed from this collaboration, Oceana proposed the expansion of the Salas y Gómez marine reserve, Motu Motiro Hiva, to an area of 411,000 km2, making it the second largest no-take marine protected area in the world. 

These marine protected areas can only officially be declared after a referendum is conducted for the people of Easter Island, known as the Rapa Nui, and they give their approval for the proposals. 

Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its stone statues, called Moai. Salas y Gómez Island is a small uninhabited island 250 miles east of Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. It was described by Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow, as one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean. 

We’re excited to hear that Chile is electing to protect its invaluable marine resources in Easter Island and Salas y Gómez – and we’ll keep you posted as things progress.


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New Report: Widespread Seafood Fraud in LA

Red snapper is often mislabeled. [image via Wikimedia Commons]

Something’s fishy in Los Angeles.

That’s according to our new report, which found widespread seafood mislabeling in the LA-area. DNA testing confirms that 55 percent of the seafood our campaigners sampled was mislabeled based on federal law.

In May and December of 2011, Oceana staff and supporters collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The targeted species included those that were found to be mislabeled in previous studies as well as those with regional significance such as wild salmon, Dover or other regional soles, red snapper, yellowtail and white tuna. 

Among the report’s other key findings include:

  • Fraud was detected in 11 out of 18 different types of fish purchased.
  • Every single fish sold with the word “snapper” in the label (34 out of 34) was mislabeled, according to federal guidelines.
  • Nearly nine out of every ten sushi samples was mislabeled.
  • Eight out of nine sushi samples labeled as “white tuna” were actually escolar, a species that carries a health warning for it laxative effects.

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This Year's Christie’s Green Auction a Success

Last week, international art collectors, philanthropists, celebrities and designers convened for the third year in a row for Christie’s Green Auction.

Last year, the evening's festivities raised a record-breaking $2.4 million for four of the world's leading, science-based environmental nonprofits: Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, Central Park Conservancy and Conservation International.

The Green Auction’s companion online auction, powered by charitybuzz, will continue through Thursday, and includes a day with President Bill Clinton, a 13-day safari in Kenya and a volleyball lesson with Gabby Reece.

And if you can’t afford to bid on a safari or celeb experience, you can also text GREEN to 80888 to donate $10.

A huge thanks to everyone who has helped make this year’s auction a success!


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Ocean Hero John Halas Retires

John Halas (foreground, left). Photo credit: Judy Halas/Courtesy of John Halas

The Florida ocean conservation community said farewell to one of its greatest servants this week. John Halas, who was the winner of Oceana’s first annual Ocean Heroes contest, has retired after nearly 32 years of work protecting coral reefs in Florida.

Halas, a marine biologist and manager of the Upper Region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, has been working to protect coral systems in Florida since 1981. After observing coral damage caused by careless anchoring, he took it upon himself to develop an environmentally friendly anchor and mooring buoy system that prevents damage to coral reefs and has worked to implement this anchorage system in 38 countries.

We’re sad to see John go but wish him a very happy retirement!

Stay tuned for this year’s Ocean Heroes contest, which kicks off with nominations on World Oceans Day, June 8.


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Q&A: Sperm Whale Researcher Shane Gero

A mother sperm whale nursing her calf. [Image courtesy Shane Gero.]

The spring issue of Oceana magazine is now available online! We are especially excited about the Q&A in this issue, which I did with sperm whale researcher Shane Gero.

Gero, who wrote an incredible guest blog post for us last year, is working on his PhD at Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University, and is the lead researcher for the Dominica Sperm Whale Project.

He has has spent thousands of hours at sea observing families of sperm whales off the coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica. His research marks the first time that scientists have tracked individual sperm whales from birth into maturity, and it provides insights into sperm whale society, diet, genetics, communication and culture. Prepare to be amazed:

How did you become interested in sperm whales?

They are the largest of the toothed whales, among the deepest divers, have the planet’s largest brain, and they can be found in every ocean and most coastal seas and gulfs on the planet, so as a result they are a significant part of the ocean ecosystem. They also live in complex multi-level societies, have a highly sophisticated communication system, and show signs of culture – so there are lots of interesting questions to explore.

During your research have you become attached to any of the individual whales?

I don’t pretend that the animals know who I am, but I have followed some of these whales since birth. I have been there as they have played with their siblings, nursed from their mothers and through the toils and troubles of growing up. As a result, I feel an obligation to them to share their stories in an effort to ensure they have a healthy ocean in which to raise the next generation.

What do you see as the biggest threats facing sperm whales?

While whaling for sperm whales has largely stopped, humans are still the sources of the major threats to sperm whales. Chemical and heavy metals are being found in the tissues of animals from around the world, including those as far away as Antarctica, and animals can become entangled in fishing gear including longline and gill nets. But ocean noise is increasingly being seen as a major threat to cetaceans around the world.

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a sperm whale. Your world is mostly darkness. In order to stay connected with your family you play a constant game of Marco Polo. You see with sound. Now imagine a constant background noise from all around blurring the echoes. As humans it might compare to living in a rock concert your whole life, just asking your neighbor a simple question would be difficult.

Why do you think sperm whale conservation is important?

On an evolutionary timeline, sperm whales are among the oldest of the toothed whales. They have lived in the oceans for longer than modern humans have walked upright. Both the whales and humanity depend on the ocean for survival, so in some ways, I am not asking people to care about sperm whales specifically, I am just asking them to care. If more people feel the shared burden we all have to protect the oceans then I will have done my job.

Anything else you want to share about sperm whales or your research?

Ultimately, what I have learnt from these families of sperm whales thus far is simple. Love your family. Learn from your grandmothers’ experience. Be a good neighbor. Share the burden of your responsibilities by working together. Spend time with your older brother because eventually he moves away. And most importantly, life, it seems, is about the relationships one builds with those around them.


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Outrage Against Drilling in Canary Islands

A popular tourist beach in the Canary Islands that would be affected by drilling. © Lauren Linzer

Editor's note: This is a guest contribution by Oceana supporter Lauren Linzer, who lives on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, which are just off the west coast of Africa. 

Along with many other nations around the world, Spain has been desperately searching for solutions to relieve the increasing financial woes the country is facing. 

With a significant portion of its oil supply being imported and oil prices skyrocketing, attention to cutting down on this lofty expense has turned toward a tempting opportunity to drill for oil offshore in their own territory. 

The large Spanish petrol firm, REPSOL, has declared an interest in surveying underwater land dangerously close to the Spanish Canary Islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. This would, in theory, cut down significantly on spending for the struggling country, providing a desperately needed financial boost.

But are the grave ecological repercussions worth the investment?  There is much debate around the world about this controversial subject; but on the island of Lanzarote, it is clear that this will not be a welcome move.

Last week, protesters from around the island gathered in the capital city of Arrecife to demonstrate their opposition to the exploration for underwater oil.  With their faces painted black and picket signs in hand, an estimated 22,000 people (almost one fifth of the island’s population) walked from one side of the city to the other, chanting passionately and marching to the beat of drums that lead the pack.  Late into the night, locals of all ages and occupations joined together to express their dire concerns. 

Besides the massive eyesore that the site of the drilling will introduce off the east coast, the ripple effects to islanders will have a devastating impact.  The most obvious industry that will take a serious hit will be tourism, which the island depends on heavily.  Most of the large touristic destinations are on the eastern shore due to the year-round excellent weather and plethora of picturesque beaches.  But with the introduction of REPSOL’s towers a mere 23 kilometers (14 miles) from the island’s most populated beaches, the natural purity and ambient tranquility that draws so many European travelers will be a thing of the past. 


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‘To The Arctic’: Sneak Peek

We’re excited to be a partner of “To the Arctic,” a new IMAX film by MacGillivray Freeman coming out April 20.

The film, narrated by Meryl Streep, follows a mother polar bear and her two seven-month-old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home. Extraordinary footage brings you up close and personal with this family’s struggle to survive.

Check out the trailer, share it and spread the word!


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BBC Interviews Andy Sharpless at World Oceans Summit

Last month our CEO Andy Sharpless attended the Economist's World Oceans Summit in Singapore. He spoke to the BBC about the importance of sustainable fishing to the future of global food security, check out the interview and pass it on:


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