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Oceana Magazine Fall 2009: Making Waves

Ranger sets sail for Canary Islands

In August, Oceana’s Ranger set sail for its 2009 mission to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. This year’s expedition is supported by the Biodiversity Foundation.

For two months, Oceana’s Ranger and its crew of researchers and campaigners will document the seabed and seamounts surrounding the islands. Professional divers will photograph and film the area up to 40 meters depth; beyond that, the Ranger’s remote-operated vehicle will explore down to 500 meters. Little is known about the ocean floor surrounding the islands.

Since 2005, the Ranger has explored marine habitats in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Atlantic, documenting previously unseen species as well as illegal fishing. In 2007, the catamaran was attacked by French boats using illegal driftnets. The ensuing attention helped Oceana draw attention to the illegal nets and
give the final push for vigorous enforcement of the ban on this wasteful fishing gear.

The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity requires that 10 percent of the global marine environment be protected by 2012. Less than 3 percent of European waters is currently protected. To read updates from the crew members, visit The Ranger: Canary Islands Expedition (2009)


Oceana uncovers antibiotic abuse in Chile

Oceana played a key role in unveiling antibiotic abuse in Chile’s troubled salmon aquaculture industry, which threatens to create a public health hazard in the largest source for farmed salmon sold in the U.S. Using Chile’s Act for Access to Public Information, Oceana compelled the government to release previously unpublicized information about the level of antibiotic use at salmon farms in July.

As a result, the world learned that Chile uses 600 times the amount of antibiotics used by Norway, the only country that produces more farmed salmon. The antibiotics are intended to control diseases caused and easily spread by the crowded and unsanitary conditions in Chilean salmon pens.

According to the government data, Chile used 716,355 pounds of antibiotics in 2008, down from 848,397 pounds in 2007. Approximately a third of the antibiotics were quinolones, which are not permitted for use in livestock in some countries that import Chilean salmon, including the United States. The World Health Organization recommends that quinolones be reserved for human use to preserve their efficacy.

Earlier this year, Chile adopted a plan for the rational use and management of antibiotics in salmon farming, which included several Oceana recommendations – except for a total ban on quinolone use. Oceana continues to campaign for a quinolone ban.


Krill fishing banned in U.S. Pacific

In July, the United States banned fishing for krill in the Pacific Ocean in an action that culminates years of advocacy by Oceana and others, including scientists, conservationists, fishermen and local communities.

No krill fishing currently takes place in the U.S. Pacific, which extends from three to 200 miles off the West Coast. The new rule prevents krill fishing from occurring in the future. This preventative step is crucial to maintaining the marine ecosystem, which counts on krill as a bedrock species.

Tiny translucent creatures found in all the world’s oceans, krill form the foundation of the marine ecosystem by providing critical nutrition for salmon, whales, seabirds and many other animals. These shrimp-like crustaceans are heavily pursued by commercial fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean, with more than 100,000 metric tons of krill caught every year primarily to feed farmed and aquarium fish. As krill are fished out from the Southern Ocean, the industry will be forced to move into previously untouched waters. Thanks to the new measures, krill in the U.S. Pacific will not be subject to overfishing.

The proactive ban on krill fishing in the U.S. Pacific mirrors other Oceana initiatives to protect ecosystems before the introduction of industrialized fishing. In February, Oceana accomplished its goal of closing 150,000 square miles of the U.S. Arctic Ocean to industrial fishing before large boats follow melting sea ice into newlyopened Arctic waters.


Sea turtles protected from bottom longlines

In a move critical to saving threatened loggerhead sea turtles, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved new restrictions on bottom longline fishing off the west coast of Florida that will save hundreds of sea turtles each year.

The measures, if adopted by National Marine Fisheries Service, would reduce the number of vessels eligible to fish with bottom longline gear by 80 percent and ban bottom longline fishing from June to August in waters up to about 210 feet deep. In addition, the council also established a per-vessel limit of 1,000 hooks on board
and 750 hooks set up to fish during any fishing trip. The bottom longlines are used to catch reef fish like grouper, but also catch nearly 400 sea turtles every year on average. This is approximately ten times the number of sea turtles that the fishery is currently authorized to take under the Endangered Species Act. The vast majority of the sea turtles caught by the bottom longlines of the fishery are loggerheads, a species listed as threatened by extinction under the Endangered Species Act. The western Florida shelf – where the bottom longlines are catching loggerheads – is an important loggerhead sea turtle feeding area.

Sea turtle nesting in Florida has been on a severe downward trajectory since 1998, and this year has been one of the worst sea turtle nesting years on record. The loggerhead population has dropped by over 40 percent in the last decade.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will now consider the new longline regulations to determine if the new restrictions are sufficient to prevent the bottom longline fishery from jeopardizing the future of this threatened population of loggerhead sea turtles. The federal agency can also supplement the plan with additional turtle protections.