The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog
Have you eaten any seafood yet this summer? If the answer is yes, do you know where it came from?
We recently launched a new campaign to combat seafood fraud, a practice that often misleads consumers about the seafood they purchase in order to increase profits. Recent studies have shown that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish such as red snapper and wild salmon. Fish fraud not only hurts our wallets, but marine conservation and human health as well.
But don’t just take my word for it. In a few short weeks, you’ll have the chance to test your own seafood IQ at our second major East Coast event, Oceana’s 2011 Hamptons Splash party, which takes place July 30th at a private beachfront estate in Southampton, New York. Test your seafood savvy with a blind taste test and a seafood pop quiz. You might be surprised how easy it is to be duped.
After you’re done tasting, sit back and listen as Oceana board member Ted Danson reads from his new book “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them,” and enjoy musical entertainment provided by the Honey Brothers, featuring Oceana Ambassador Adrian Grenier.
Events like the Hamptons Splash party play a crucial role in our fundraising efforts, enabling us to launch new campaigns like seafood fraud. In short, they help us to continue winning victories on behalf of the oceans.
Even if you are unable to attend, you can still support us by visiting the event’s online auction, hosted by charitybuzz, which features artwork, travel opportunities and more, all benefiting our work. I urge you to visit the auction anytime today through Tuesday, August 2nd.
Best of luck bidding -- and tasting -- and thank you for supporting Oceana and Hamptons Splash.
Great news! Chile’s Congress has voted unanimously to ban shark finning -- and I’m proud to announce that it’s a direct result of our work.
The bill, which Oceana drafted and campaigned for, will end the brutal practice of shark finning, in which a shark’s fins are sliced off and the shark is thrown back into the water to suffocate or bleed to death. The new bill requires sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached.
This victory follows on the heels of a very similar ban passed by the United States Congress last December. Chile’s adoption of the same approach is heartening at a time when sharks are in serious trouble around the world.
Up to 78 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, and Chile has become a major shark fin exporter. A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Oceana revealed that between 2006 and 2009, Chile exported more than 71 tons of shark fins from 8 different species.
With the passage of this bill, Chile joins a growing list of countries leading the way in shark conservation. This legislation will help protect shark populations and ocean health in Chile and beyond.
Congratulations to our Chilean colleagues, and thanks to supporters like you, whose support makes it possible for us to win significant victories like this one.
I want to update you on a needless tragedy that continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
As I told you in May, Oceana uncovered government data showing that the shrimp fishery has been violating sea turtle protection rules, which likely has caused thousands of endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic to be needlessly killed by shrimp trawls.
It’s been more than a month since our discovery, but the government is still standing by and watching as the sea turtles deaths continue.
Our campaigners uncovered official government documents showing that shrimp trawlers required to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) are often using them improperly or not at all. TEDs are escape hatches for sea turtles, who need to reach the surface to breathe. The documents even show that some shrimpers have deliberately sewn TEDs shut—condemning any sea turtle they catch to death.
Shockingly, there are some types of shrimp trawls, like “skimmer trawls” that are not even required to use TEDs at all. Instead, these trawls are supposedly required to limit the length of time they tow their nets to prevent sea turtles from drowning. However, the government documents show that these time limits are not enforceable and demonstrate that TEDs should be required for these shrimp trawls as well.
In part as a result of pressure from Oceana, the government has announced that it will be conducting a formal analysis of the shrimp fishery’s impact on threatened and endangered sea turtles and will be considering options for additional protections.
This is a pathetically slow response. It is appalling that the fishery is allowed to continue operating despite evidence that shrimpers in the region are likely responsible for the death of record numbers of sea turtles. Oceana has called for the immediate closure of the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery until and unless adequate sea turtle protections are established and enforced.
Sea turtles have been swimming in the oceans for millions of years, and now they are being unnecessarily pushed toward extinction. It's time to give sea turtles a breather. The government should act immediately to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Oceana’s new Seafood Fraud campaign kicked off Wednesday with an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. As the Washington Post reported, it wasn’t just a press conference; it was also a seafood pop quiz.
Our campaigners asked audience members to identify skinless fillets of halibut and fluke by sight, and did the same for red snapper vs. hake and for farmed vs. wild salmon. Then they conducted a taste test between tilapia and vermilion snapper.
The result? While a few fish-savvy folks passed the tests, many people couldn’t tell the difference, which is a simple illustration of how easy it is to fool seafood consumers.
That’s one of the key points of our new report, “Bait and Switch,” which explains how consumers are frequently served a completely different fish species than the one they paid for. Seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish such as red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, according to recent studies.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana; this post also appeared on Politico.
Why do we take terrible risks to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere along our coasts?
Most people would say we drill to protect ourselves from big fluctuations in the price of a gallon of gas that are caused by the major upheavals in the Middle East. Look at this chart (data from the Energy Information Administration):
Their argument is that the more oil we can produce domestically, the lower the price we’ll pay at the pump. It’s not that they like the sight of oil wells off our beaches. The main reason they are doing so is they think it will save them money – especially as gas prices approached $4 a gallon recently.
This idea is not only intuitively appealing, it is repeatedly, and unambiguously, promoted by important government officials from both parties. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La) defended new legislation that would expand offshore oil drilling, saying “this bill would do more to lower gas prices at the pump than any other plan.” Sarah Palin criticized President Barack Obama, “His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump.”
I have several good news items to share with you this week.
First, I am happy to announce that our trawling ban in Belize is now official. Belize is home to a major portion of the world’s second largest reef system as a well as a thriving local fishing community, and the ban protects both these essential elements of Belizean life.
Belize is one of only a few countries in the world to completely ban trawling. We won this important victory with the help of the local community, our staff in Belize and Sir Thomas Moore, a longtime supporter of Oceana’s work around the world.
Second, we have made great strides in our campaign to save sharks. As top predators, sharks are essential to a healthy ocean, and a hundred million sharks are killed every year by the industrial fishing industry – mostly for their fins.
Late last year, we won an incredible victory to protect sharks with the passage of the Shark Conservation Act, which banned shark finning in the United States. Now, we are on the verge of gaining two more important victories to protect sharks.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
I wanted to give you advance notice of Christie’s Green Auction: A Bid to Save the Earth on March 29th at New York’s Rockefeller Center. This special event premiered last year, raising an unprecedented $2.4 million for Oceana, Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Central Park Conservancy.
I applaud Christie’s for its vision and initiative; every item up for bid is donated by generous supporters, and Christie’s is waiving all customary auction fees so that all proceeds benefit the groups.
A Bid to Save The Earth will include the live auction at Christie’s on March 29th as well as an online silent auction at Charity Buzz that started yesterday.
The auction features coveted celebrity experiences, upscale eco-vacations and other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You can bid to win a day shadowing President Bill Clinton; a three-day getaway on the luxury super yacht Lady Sheridan during the Cannes Film Festival offered by the owners and Burgess Yachts; and a ten-night trip featuring the exceptional wildlife of Tanzania and the stunning beaches of Mozambique offered by Nomad Tanzania, Vamizi Island and Journeys by Design.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana. You can follow him on Twitter @Oceana_Andy.
Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began a three-month-long oil spill. In the later months of last year, after the gushing oil well had finally been capped, some people – politicians and TV talking heads, really – tried to convince Americans that the Gulf had recovered.
It’s true that we still don’t know the extent of the damage wrought by last summer’s oil disaster. The subsurface gusher created a whole new scientific challenge when it came to understanding exactly what was going on. And we’ve said that it would be years before we understand the true cost of the disaster.
Just recently we got a sign that not is all well in the Gulf. Since January, more than 80 bottlenose dolphins have turned up dead – and half of those are newborn or stillborn calves. The government is calling it “an unusual mortality event.”
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Last week, the federal government released a report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. In some ways, the Commission got it exactly right. After extensive study, the Commission concluded that:
• The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was not an isolated incident, and
• It was the result of systemic failure in the oil industry and its government regulators.
But where the Commission failed was in its recommendations for the future of the oil industry in America. While acknowledging that offshore drilling can never be safe, the Commission declined to recommend removing the cap on liability for drilling disasters like the Deepwater Horizon. Explaining this decision on national television, Chairman Reilly said that some Commission members worried that removing liability limits for disasters would cause the international oil companies to transfer operations to countries that limited their risks from failures like the one this summer in the Gulf.
A new year has brought us a new U.S. Congress. While there has been a changeover in power on the political stage, I am hopeful that the new Congress will continue a great tradition of truly bipartisan support for ocean conservation.
In recent years, we’ve seen incredible progress from both ends of the political spectrum. President Bush established one of the world’s largest marine reserves in the Pacific as he was leaving office, and President Obama recently ended offshore drilling for much of the American coastline. Just last month, the outgoing Congress unanimously passed a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.
- New York, the New Windy City? Posted Mon, April 14, 2014
- Drill, Spill, Repeat: Shining a Light on the BP Gulf Disaster 4 Years Later Posted Tue, April 15, 2014
- Hands Across the Sand Posted Wed, April 16, 2014
- A Big Day for Little Fish Posted Fri, April 11, 2014
- Reducing Bycatch Casualties, One Whale at a Time Posted Mon, April 14, 2014