What do Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and the Prince of Monaco have in common? They have both become unexpected world leaders in ocean conservation.
Last month, Venezuela became one of the first countries to outlaw bottom trawling, the most destructive form of industrial fishing. The weighted nets used by trawlers obliterate seafloor habitat and indiscriminately kill marine wildlife. Chavez and his countrymen correctly noted that the industrial trawlers were decimating Venezuela’s fish populations, leaving local fishermen in the lurch while profiting the trawlers’ foreign owners.
Chavez will invest $32 million to convert or decommission the 263 trawlers operating in Venezuelan waters. One local fisherman representative rejoiced: “Our parents’ spirits are watching and celebrating together with us – they’ve finally eliminated the evil practice that destroyed our marine coasts.”
An ocean away, the Prince of Monaco made another precedent-setting step: He banned the sale of endangered bluefin tuna in any Monaco restaurants. You already know that the Atlantic bluefin is among the most endangered seafood species in the world, and that scientists say it will go commercially extinct under the current unsustainable fishing quotas.
Between Monaco and Venezuela, we are seeing recognition that our oceans need protection now. The science is solid. I hope these two countries – which are so different in so many ways – can demonstrate that ocean conservation is something we can all support.
[Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana]