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Oceana Magazine Spring 2014: Making Waves

Arctic Ocean Safe from Drilling for 2014

Thanks to campaigning by Oceana and our allies, there will be no oil drilling in the U.S. Arctic Ocean in 2014. In late January, Shell’s new CEO announced that the company will not pursue any exploration drilling in the Arctic Ocean in 2014. His announcement came days after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Department of the Interior violated U.S. law when it held Lease Sale 193, during which Shell and other companies purchased oil drilling leases in the Chukchi Sea off of Alaska. This ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by Oceana and a coalition of conservation and Alaska Native partners represented by Earthjustice

The court ruled that the government drastically underestimated the scale of the planned oil extraction and, as a result, failed to fully evaluate the harm that drilling and oil production would do it the Arctic Ocean. Shell also released poor fourth-quarter earnings and stated that it will cut exploration and development expenditures, like those the company has made in the Arctic.

Oceana and our allies have warned that there is currently no way to drill safely in the Arctic’s harsh environment. Shell’s problematic 2012 exploration attempts—highlighted by an incident when its drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground during a winter storm—clearly demonstrated that current technologies are unprepared for the Arctic’s challenges.

Chile Sets First Science-Based Quotas

Chile is on track to dramatically rebuild its fisheries, thanks new science-based fishing quotas for important species, including common hake, anchoveta, sardines, and jack mackerel, all of which are overfished. Following a 2013 reform to the Chilean Fisheries Law, the Chilean government recently announced the country’s first science-based fisheries quotas for 2014, set with required advice from scientific committees. The government reduced the quota for common hake by 55 percent, for anchoveta by 65 percent in specific regions, and for sardines by 29 percent in specific regions. The only increased quota was for the jack mackerel fishery, which is recovering after previous quota reductions. Reducing quotas will allow these serious-overfished species time to recover and rebuild, to the benefit of fishermen and ocean health. Oceana will continue to advocate for science-based management, and will continue to support the scientific committees as they face pressure from the commercial fishing industry to raise quotas prematurely.

Lower Catch Levels to Help Pacific Sardines Recover

Pacific sardine populations off the U.S. West Coast are crashing, but newly reduced quotas will allow this critical species to rebuild. After campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the Pacific Fishery Management Council reduced the 2014 sardine catch quotas by more than 70 percent of 2013 levels to help halt the decline and give the fishery time to recover. Since 2007, the Pacific sardine population has fallen by nearly a million tons and is at its lowest biomass in two decades, according to a recent government population assessment. Most of the sardines caught by the fishery are not fed to people—instead they are turned into fishmeal, bait, fish oil, and pet food. Declines in the sardine population will harm both fishermen and the many ocean species that rely on these small, but important, fish for food, including Chinook salmon, bluefin tuna, California sea lions, brown pelicans, dolphins, and large whales. Oceana will continue to push for a full closure of the sardine fishery until assessments can show that the population is fully recovered.

Limited Fisheries Subsidies Help Rebuild EU Fisheries

Thanks to sweeping fisheries reforms, the European Union is on track to increase the amount of fish caught in the EU by a full 40 percent over current levels by the year 2020. In late January, the European Parliament and European Council reached an agreement to significantly limit harmful subsidies that enable overfishing, leading to the collapse of many of Europe’s fisheries. This result comes after years of campaigning by Oceana and our allies. The new legislation, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, will stop subsidized overfishing in multiple ways. It prohibits subsidies for new boats, which encourage overfishing by building up unnecessarily large fishing fleets. Additionally, the few remaining equipment subsidies are limited by a budget ceiling and will be denied to operators with a record of illegal fishing. The legislation also doubled funding for fisheries management and data collection, which will help set appropriate fishing quotas. Finally, the bill also introduced funding to identify and manage marine protected areas, which protect biodiversity and improve the health of our oceans. The deal must still be approved by the plenary of the European Parliament, and a final bill is expected in early 2014.

EU Common Fisheries Policy Takes Effect

Last May, the European Parliament and the Council of Fisheries Ministers approved major reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy, which help rebuild Europe’s depleted fisheries to robust, sustainable levels. The Common Fisheries Policy went into effect on January 1, 2014, establishing a ban on discards, an obligation to subject all species to catch limits, and required landing sizes for Mediterranean species. Oceana scientists estimate that, together with recent reductions in harmful fisheries subsidies, the new policy will increase the amount of fish caught in the EU by a full 40 percent over current levels by the year 2020.

Mediterranean Deep-Sea Corals Protected

In December, Mediterranean countries and the EU decided to protect 11 species of deep-sea corals at the 18th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, a regional convention to prevent pollution in the Mediterranean. They also decided to implement the Action Plan on Dark Habitats, a scientific document drafted in part by Oceana, which will enable the creation of marine protected areas in deep-sea habitats like seamounts, submarine canyons, and caves. These areas are important spawning or nursery areas for marine life, including some commercial fish species. Yet many of these deep-sea habitats are unprotected, and are extremely vulnerable to human activities like pollution, overfishing, and climate change.