All of us at Oceana are optimistic about our prospects in 2006. Part of this optimism is hardwired into our campaigners' psyches. But a large part of it is rooted in the fact that we've scored so many victories during 2005. We've proven to ourselves - and to any reasonable observer - that together with your active support, we can win vital protections for the world's oceans.
I started to make a list of these victories to share with you. Here are some of the highlights of 2005:
o Protecting Corals: In the Pacific, Oceana's approach to deep-sea coral protections successfully closed more than half a million square miles of seafloor to bottom trawling. The closures are the largest ever in U.S. waters, and will help pave the way for similar protections of critical seafloor habitat elsewhere against clear-cutting by trawlers.
o Bycatch Limits: We released a scientific report which, for the first time, measured the total wasted catch in US fisheries - it's equal 28% of the entire USA commercial fishery landings. Our Stop Dirty Fishing Campaign also won precedent-setting "hard caps" (or strict limits) on the accidental killing of marine wildlife (called "bycatch" for short) by commercial fisheries in New England.
o Protecting Our Seafood: We launched our first international campaign that focuses on the threat to our health from mercury in seafood. We're pushing the national grocery stores to give their shoppers important information about the FDA's health warning about tuna and swordfish and other mercury-laden fish. Along with this "right to know" campaign, we're targeting out-dated chlorine manufacturing plants that continue to needlessly release huge amounts of mercury.
o Exploring the Seas: Ranger, a 71-foot sailing catamaran, became Oceana's newest team member and floating campaign research office. Sailing more than 10,000 miles from San Francisco through the Panama Canal to the Mediterranean, our Ranger crew captured hundreds of hours of underwater footage showing astounding marine wildlife and the threats they face everyday.
o Making Oil Dumping a Crime: Thanks to Oceana, 30 European nations are now establishing criminal penalties for the discharge of oily water at sea by any ship operating in European waters or any European ship operating anywhere in the world. This affects half the world's shipping tonnage, and addresses a chronic source of ocean oil pollution equal, every year, to more than three big oil tanker wrecks.
o Ending Secret Backroom Deals on Chilean Fisheries: Oceana's lawyers won a change in the rules for fishery policy-making in Chile that will stop government officials from keeping secrets. Now they must publicly disclose the information they use to set quotas and other rules for commercial fishing companies operating along Chile's massive 2,600-mile coastline. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and shining light on these previously hidden decisions will help the public interest to defeat narrow, short-sighted commercial interests
I can't wait to see what Oceana's campaign teams can win in 2006 for the world's ocean wildlife and the billion people who depend upon them for food. We have a small window - perhaps twenty years - in which to prevent the irreversible collapse of our oceans and their incredible wildlife. With your support, 2005 has been a year of accomplishment. I will continue to update you on what we are doing and how you can help. I hope together we can make 2006 the best year yet for the oceans, the countless creatures that make it their home and the vast numbers of people whose lives depend on them.