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Oceana Magazine Fall 2011: Making Waves

Full West Coast Ban on Shark Fins Achieved

After months of work by Oceana along with WildAid, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Humane Society, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation banning the sale, possession and trade of shark fins. This monumental law allows California to join Washington, Oregon and Hawaii in protecting sharks, all of which passed similar laws in the last year.

The law essentially means that shark fin soup will no longer be sold on the U.S. West Coast. It complements legislation passed in 2010 that ended shark finning in U.S. national waters.

Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. Shark finning is a shocking practice in which a shark’s fins are sliced off at sea and the animal is thrown back in the water to bleed to death or drown. 

According to government data, approximately 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States came through California last year, making California the hub of the U.S. shark fin market.

Sharks have been on the planet for more than 400 million years, but populations around the world are crashing. They play a vital role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems, but due to their slow growth rate and low level of reproduction, sharks are especially vulnerable to fishing pressure.


New Report Uncovers €3.3 Billion in E.U. Government Subsidies for Overfishing

An Oceana report released in September revealed that the European Union’s fishing fleet received €3.3 billion ($4.5 million) in government subsidies in 2009, more than three times the European Commission’s official estimates.

In the report, “The European Union and Fishing Subsidies,” Oceana showed that 13 European countries pay more in subsidies than the value of the seafood caught.

The enormous, taxpayer-supported subsidies prop up a fishing fleet that is two to three times the size needed in order to fish sustainably, resulting in overfishing that is neither economical nor ecological. Subsidies to pay for fuel to travel to far-flung countries to search for fish account for almost half of the subsidies paid to European countries, the report found. Spain, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Italy paid out the most in subsidies.


Belize’s Local Fisheries Protected from Damaging Gillnets

Following campaigning by Oceana, the Belizean fisheries ministry established bans on gillnets in all of Belize’s rivers, most importantly at the head of Belize’s rivers, as well as a partial ban and new regulations on the use and size of gillnets in Belize’s ocean.

Gillnet is the general term used for nets that catch fish by catching their gills in small openings. The excessive and improper use of gillnets, particularly at the heads of rivers, harms Belize’s fish and sea life. Oceana will continue to push for greater control of gillnets and other forms of destructive fishing gear.


Harmful Antibiotic Use Curbed in Chile

Official government statistics show that antibiotic use in Chilean farmed salmon has dropped 19 percent between 2007 and 2010 – a direct result of Oceana’s successful campaign to reduce antibiotic use.

In addition, the use of quinolones, a powerful class of antibiotic that is banned in agriculture and aquaculture in the U.S., dropped by 96 percent in the same time period, despite the lack of an official ban on these drugs.

Salmon farms in Chile used antibiotics in huge amounts prior to Oceana’s campaign, up to 300 times more than used in Norway, the only country that produces more farmed salmon.

Antibiotics were needed because the salmon were raised in crowded pens that fostered disease.

By reducing the allowed antibiotics, Oceana ensured that the salmon farming industry would have to keep salmon in cleaner, less dense pens, leading to healthier seafood for consumers and less damage to the natural environment surrounding the farms.


U.S. Court Rules that Fishing Industry Must Count Bycatch

After a long battle, Oceana succeeded in compelling the U.S. government to develop a binding system to reliably measure bycatch on the East Coast. Bycatch is the fish and wildlife that is thrown overboard, dead or dying, in the process of catching seafood.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service is required by law to establish a system to accurately and precisely count and report bycatch, but until Oceana’s legal victory, its Northeast region found excuses not to do so. After the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the federal government has been directed to establish a system for reporting bycatch that it will actually follow, including determining how many observers are needed on board commercial fishing vessels in New England and the Mid Atlantic.

Bycatch is one of the greatest problems facing the oceans today. It damages marine ecosystems by needlessly killing fish and wildlife, and it contributes to overfishing, further threatening our wild seafood supply. Worldwide, 16 billion pounds of bycatch are thrown overboard every year. The government needs to know the extent of bycatch in order to control it.