The Beacon

Blog Tags: Overfishing

Hammerhead Shark Management Should Reflect Unique Evolutionary Traits, Scientists Say

A school of scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini)

A school of scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini). (Photo: Oceana / Rob Stewart)

Known for their mallet-shaped heads, hammerhead sharks are one of the most easily recognized—and favored—shark species. Their “hammers” give them a widened-view to scan for food, and they have enhanced sensory organs that can detect electrical fields from their prey. If that doesn’t make hammerheads cool enough, they can grow to incredible sizes—reaching 20 feet in length and weighing up to 1,000 pounds.


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Ask Dr. Pauly: What are bycatch and discards?

(Photo: Oceana)

Ocean conservationists talk a lot about "bycatch" and "discards." But what exactly do these terms mean? In each issue of Oceana magazine, fisheries scientist and Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly breaks down a commonly used fisheries term. In the recent issue, Dr. Pauly explains these technical terms and how they contribute to overfishing. 


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Ask Dr. Pauly: What are distant-water fishing fleets, and how do they affect overfishing?

(Photo: Oceana / Juan Cuetos) 

Maximum sustainable yield, bycatch and discards, exclusive economic zones, essential fish habitat. If you’ve ever read one of these terms and wondered what it meant, you’re in luck. In each issue of Oceana magazine, fisheries scientist and Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly breaks down a commonly used fisheries term.


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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: EU Fishing Subsidies


Yesterday, Oceana released the results of a six-month study on European Union (EU) subsidies to the fishing sector since 2000, and the results were shocking. Our report showed that 4.9 billion euros in subsidies were granted in the form of “state aid” for the fishing sectors, with most of this €4.9 billion ($6.3 billion) fueling overfishing and environmentally harmful practices. Our estimates show that of this €4.9 billion, only 1% can be identified as beneficial to the marine environment. To add insult to grave environmental injury, despite the EU’s commitment to transparency, we found that information on how tax payer money is being spent and allocated to these fishing subsidies is both scarce and unclear.  


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Brunei Becomes First Asian Country to Ban Shark Finning!

Brunei's strong ban on shark finning sets an admirable step for the rest of Asia to follow! Photo: Wikimedia Commons

We have some big news for  you –Brunei has become the first Asian country to adopt a nationwide shark fin ban! With his June 7 announcement, Sultan Hossanal Bolkiah’s decree officially banned the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam, as well as shark fin sales in the domestic market, and the importation and trade of shark products.


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Oceana Explores the Baltic!

20130607 - Trip Madrid - Malmö from Oceana on Vimeo.

On World Oceans Day this past Saturday, Oceana launched its first ever Baltic Sea coastal expedition. We’ve dedicated this mission to studying the Baltic coastline, and particularly Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Finland, where a number of unique and incredible areas will be explored


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Sawfish Designated as Endangered Species

The unique and magnificent sawfish gained new protections this week. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sawfish have a reason to breathe a little easier today: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has completed comprehensive status reviews under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and has determined that five foreign species of sawfish meet the definition of “endangered” under the Act. Of course, this “victory” is bittersweet: no one is celebrating the fact that sawfish species are endangered, but rather that they now will finally receive the protections they so desperately need to recover their numbers.


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Overfishing is Putting the Mediterranean at Great Risk

Morrocan fishing boat in the Mediterranean

© OCEANA | Carlos Minguell

As we wrote about last week, the EU has taken some major steps toward a strong Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). That could mean less overfishing, better protection for endangered species, and an overall healthier ocean. Just a day after that agreement was reached, it seems that the CFP principles are set up for their first test.


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Victory! EU Moves Towards Overhaul of Fisheries Policy

Bottom trawler at Sant Carles de la Rápita, Spain ©Oceana

Today the Fisheries Committee of the EU parliament voted to radically reform its fisheries management policies, for the better. After 18 months of negotiations the body voted to put in place new measures that would effectively end overfishing and greatly improve the way the EU manages its fisheries, the third largest in the world.

This marks a true turning point for the EU, one of the poorest managed, most overfished regions in the world. In recent years, the majority of its scientifically-assessed fisheries have been found to be overexploited, which is no surprise given that it is also home to a heavily subsidized and extremely powerful fishing industry that is estimated to be two to three times larger than what sustainable fishing limits would allow.

Among the new reforms to the law that governs fisheries in the EU, what is known as the Common Fisheries Policy, Oceana is especially excited about the following changes:

  • An obligation to set catch limits above maximum sustainable yield levels by 2015, in order for stocks to recover by 2020
  • A clear ban on discards with proceeds from the landing of unwanted catches reverted to a fund to be used for data collection and control
  • An obligation for the fishing industry to contribute to the costs of data collection and control
  • A funding freeze to fishers that do not comply with fishing rules, as well as a funding freeze to Member States that do not achieve the objectives set in EU fishing legislation
  • An obligation to adjust fishing capacity to reflect the new catch limits and a thorough assessment of the fishing capacity of Member States
  • The creation of a network of fish stock recovery areas

Executive Director of Oceana in Europe Xavier Pastor was exultant after the vote, saying:

“Today, we, EU citizens, have broken the EU governments’ tradition of overexploiting fisheries resources and destroying our natural marine heritage in favour of short-term interests that have put the industry in decline. Today, we have a first hopeful look towards a future where fish stocks are sustainably managed and coastal communities’ livelihoods are guaranteed by plentiful seas.”

Oceana has been fighting for these changes for years and we are nearing the finish line. The new reforms now go to a vote before the entire European Parliament early next year. Learn more about the great work our European office is doing.


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Report Links Overfishing to Piracy

Bottom trawlers embark from Roses, Spain in Catalonia. ©Oceana/Juan Cuetos

A report out this week, “Resources Futures” by the venerable U.K. NGO, the Chatham House, issues a clarion call for wiser management of the world’s finite resources. In the face of a more crowded planet in the coming century, as billions aspire to a resource-intensive western lifestyle, pressure on the world’s food systems and its reserves of raw materials could become more acute.

This is especially true for the world’s fisheries and the report singles out practices, like unnecessarily generous subsidies for fishing fleets and the wide-scale waste of discarded fish as adding to the global decline of fish stocks. Interestingly, the report also asserts that overfishing poses not only a major threat to food security, but to broader world security as well. The authors write:

“Given the importance of fishing to livelihoods in many poor and rural areas, over-fishing can have other effects on security. Analysts have linked the rise of piracy off the Horn of Africa in recent years, for example, with the inability of the Somali state to prevent the overfishing of Somali waters by European, Asian and African ships. The reduction in fish stocks essentially raises the cost of legitimate livelihood. As one account puts it, ‘in a region where legitimate business is difficult, where drought means agriculture is nothing more than subsistence farming, and instability and violence make death a very real prospect, the dangers of piracy must be weighed against the potentially massive returns.’ Some pirates have even used this as a justification for their actions, arguing that they are protecting their resources and that ransom payments should be seen as a form of legitimate taxation. Overfishing also played an important role in the development of piracy in Southeast Asia.”


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