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Oceana Magazine Summer 2011: CEO Note: The simplest victories are also the most effective

Save the oceans and you feed a lot of people. A billion people turn to the ocean as their primary source of animal protein. To save the oceans, you’ve got to do three things: set science-based quotas, protect nursery habitat and reduce bycatch.

And the very good news is that because many fish species are extremely fertile – laying eggs by the millions – abundant oceans do not require perfect quotas, habitat protection and bycatch management. Good, in most cases, is good enough.

However, words alone do not an abundant ocean make. Smart ocean conservationists like you want to know that Oceana’s campaigns produce results in the water. How do we make sure that our campaigns win policies that are enforced at sea?

One way Oceana assures that your contributions genuinely make a difference in the water is by carefully choosing where we work. We make a hard-headed assessment before we start campaigning in a country – and one of the key criteria is whether it can be trusted to carry through and enforce any policies we win.

We currently work in Chile, Belize, Europe and the United States, all generally law-abiding countries. As we continue to raise more resources – in under ten years our annual budget has steadily grown from $7 million to more than $20 million – our board of directors will carefully identify the next countries to benefit from Oceana’s campaigns.

Another way we assure that Oceana’s campaigns deliver is by carefully designing policy  outcomes that are easy to enforce, or in some cases self-enforcing. Our policy goals respect the reality of fishery management and the practical challenges faced by coast guards and other agencies charged with policing commercial fishing fleets along our coasts.

This is not an academic exercise. We are delivering policy changes that will make the ocean healthier and more abundant.

What’s an example of a self-enforcing policy? Belize’s 2011 ban on trawling in its entire national waters. The total ban eliminates the technical issues associated with defining and enforcing respect for no trawl zones. Moreover, any trawler entering Belizean waters is immediately suspect, and the domestic fishing fleet can be relied on to confront it even as it alerts the Belizean authorities to the intruder.

The requirement that sharks be landed intact – with fins naturally attached – is another example of a fishing regulation that is efficient to enforce. This anti-finning law, passed in the U.S. and Chile at Oceana’s insistence, is much easier to enforce than the European rules, which allow sharks to be finned at sea and thereby opens the door to at-sea discarding of the animals’ carcasses.

As countries around the world wrestle with closing big government budget deficits, designing efficient fishery enforcement is vital to protecting and restoring abundant oceans. You can be confident that Oceana’s campaign teams are proven experts at this art. Your gifts have made this possible.

Thank you for your continued generous support for Oceana. If you have not already contributed to our campaigns this year, please do so today.