Oceana Magazine Winter 2013: Making Waves
Offshore Wind Energy Gains Momentum on the East Coast
On July 31, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held its first-ever competitive offshore wind lease auction. The government leased 164,750 acres off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts for offshore wind development, which will generate clean energy and provide much-needed jobs in local communities. Then in early September, BOEM held a second auction, leasing nearly 113,000 acres off the coast of Virginia Beach for wind energy development. Oceana has been a leader in getting Congress to extend critical tax credits needed to encourage offshore wind energy development, a cleaner alternative to dangerous and risky ocean oil drilling.
Aleutian Victory Protects Fish, Sea Lions
In July, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld necessary protections for the endangered Western Population of Steller sea lions in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. To help this endangered population of sea lions recover, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) placed limits on fisheries for important prey species, including Atka mackerel and Pacific cod. With more fish available for the sea lions, both the marine mammals and the Aleutian ecosystem could recover. When the Seattle-based fishing industry and Alaskan state government fought the limits instituted by the NMFS in court, Oceana joined the federal government and other organizations to successfully defend the catch limits.
Limits Set for Chinook Bycatch
After campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the U.S. North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to establish a firm limit on how many Chinook salmon can be killed as bycatch in the massive Gulf of Alaska bottom-trawl fisheries each year. Now, the bottom-trawl fisheries that usually target rockfish, cod, and flatfish can bycatch no more than 7,500 Chinook salmon each fishing season. The new rule will be implemented in 2014, and will also require all bottom-trawlers to deliver their salmon bycatch to a processing facility. There an observer can count the number of fish and collect scientific data, which will aid efforts to understand why Chinook populations are declining state-wide.
Chile Requires Tracking Tech on Boats
After campaigning by Oceana, the Chilean government now requires all fishing boats larger than 15 meters to have satellite positioning technology onboard by the end of 2013. This will allow Chile’s National Fisheries Service to monitor fishing vessels in real-time and enforce fisheries laws that safeguard fish abundance.
Forage Fish Gain Increased Protection
They may be tiny, but forage fish play a big role in the ocean’s food web. Now, thanks to Oceana’s work, U.S. government fisheries managers will consider how forage fish species fit in to the big picture of ocean health management. In April, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) adopted its first-ever Fishery Ecosystem Plan, which will prevent new fisheries from forming on hundreds of small-but-essential species. In September, the PFMC agreed upon a list of seven large groups of fish that it intends to protect through this effort, including smelts, saury, herrings, silversides, and pelagic squids. The hundreds of species included in this list are key food sources for predators, including Pacific Northwest salmon, tunas, rockfish, seabirds, and marine mammals, like sea lions and dolphins.
EU Adopts Discard Ban
In a watershed victory for fisheries management, the European Parliament and the Council of Fisheries Ministers adopted a discard ban in European Union waters. The ban will phase in during 2015, and will be fully in effect by 2019 at the latest.
Trawling Banned in Spain’s Balearic Islands
In July, the Spanish government agreed to prohibit bottom trawling on parts of the seamounts east of Cabrera and in the Mallorca Channel. The area is home to unique coral and rhodolites beds that were suffering from destructive illegal fishing, including bottom trawling. The government is required by law to protect these habitats, and Oceana successfully demanded that they ban destructive bottom trawling.
Shark Protections Continue in the US
As many as 73 million sharks are killed each year solely for their fins. Last May, aftercampaigning by Oceana and our allies, Maryland and Delaware became the first U.S. East Coast states to pass laws banning the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins within their borders, following similar decisions by Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon and Illinois. New York followed with their own ban in July. Oceana and the Humane Society have been leaders in the campaigns to pass these state-wide bans. An average of 68 percent of the shark fins imported into the U.S. went to the eight states that enacted these bans. This means—if effectively enforced—the bans could significantly reduce the demand for fins in the United States.
Seismic Airguns Delayed Again
Thanks to pressure from Oceana and other organizations, the U.S. Department of the Interior postponed a decision permitting seismic airgun use in 300,000 square miles of ocean on the east coast. The government’s own estimates predict that at least 138,500 dolphins and whales will be injured or possibly killed by seismic airguns. Oceana then delivered more than 100,000 petitions to Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Energy Ocean Management, insisting that airguns be kept out of our waters.