Oceana Magazine Summer 2010: Making Waves
Oceana launches Gulf of Mexico expedition
In August, Oceana launched an eight-week research expedition in the Gulf of Mexico to explore the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the marine ecosystem. The expedition combines Oceana expertise from around the globe, with scientists, photographers and campaigners from the U.S., Europe, Belize and Chile working to discover the effects of the oil spill on marine life.
Working from the Latitude, a 167-foot ship capable of sailing in shallow and deep waters, the crew planned to test for underwater oil that may have enormous effects on the marine ecosystem. In addition, the crew planned to study important seafloor habitats as well as the migratory marine life affected by the spill. This includes endangered sea turtles as well as rare whale sharks.
Check out www.oceana.org for the latest updates from the crew.
World’s largest deep-sea coral ecosystem protected
After five years of advocacy by Oceana and others in the conservation community and fishing industry, the United States protected more than 23,000 square miles of rare deep-sea coral from North Carolina to Florida from destructive fishing gear.
The protections encompass the largest continuous area of healthy deep-sea coral ecosystems known in the world. Deep-sea corals off the southeast coast include hundreds of pinnacles up to 500 feet tall that provide habitat for many species, including sponges that are being tested to develop drugs for the treatment of cancer, heart disease and more.
The plan restricts the use of bottom trawls, whose nets drag the ocean floor and have destroyed thousand-year-old coral reefs, including most of the Oculina Banks, an area of vulnerable deep-sea coral habitat off the east coast of Florida. The protections will also help restore the long-term productivity of commercially valuable fisheries in the area.
Oceana helps fishermen after Chilean earthquake
After the 8.8-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunamis struck Chile in February, Oceana sought a way to help the artisanal fishermen of Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago. The fishermen have been friends and allies in Oceana’s habitat protection campaign in Chile.
The town of Robinson Crusoe was especially hard-hit, and many of its residents died or disappeared. Those who survived awoke to a mess of debris wrought by the tsunami, including huge pieces of tin and steel building materials from houses that were destroyed by the tidal wave. The town’s fishermen were suddenly unable to go out on the water for fear of destroying their boats on the debris upon entering the bay.
Soliciting donations from Oceana staff, Board of Directors and Ocean Council, Oceana was able to collect more than $50,000 to help the residents of Robinson Crusoe clear the underwater debris. The clean-up effort is ongoing and will last six months.
Bluefin tuna season cut short
After continuous campaign work by Oceana, the European Commission closed the bluefin tuna purse seine fishery early for the third year in a row in June, another important measure to help this threatened species.
Bluefin tuna stocks are nearing collapse due to overfishing and illegal fishing. The population has decreased by 80 percent from levels before the industrial fishing era.
The tuna have become so popular as seafood that a bluefin can command prices up of $100 per pound or more in Japanese markets, resulting in high-stakes fishing for the coveted fish.
Oceana is also campaigning for the designation of marine reserves for the main spawning areas of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, the Balearic Islands, southern Tyrrhenian Sea and southern Malta.
Oceana Ranger discovers threatened deep-sea coral
During Oceana’s summer expedition, the crew aboard the Ranger discovered large colonies of deep-sea white coral in the western Mediterranean Sea. The finding is significant because most of the Mediterranean’s deep-sea coral reefs have already been destroyed by bottom trawling and longline fishing.
Half of the white coral reefs in the Atlantic have disappeared, and most of the research conducted in the Mediterranean has found only dead coral. But Ranger’s crew found live colonies of deep-sea coral coexisting with large expanses of dead coral.
The reef, located in Spain’s Alboran Sea, is one of the richest and most threatened ecosystems in the Mediterranean. White coral is intertwined with black coral, whip coral, glass sponges and other species that dwell at these depths, which form a habitat for species such as redfish, roughy, red seabream and more.
With the research gathered on Ranger, Oceana campaigns to increase the size and number of marine protected areas in order to prevent the loss of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the Mediterranean.