A new year has brought us a new U.S. Congress. While there has been a changeover in power on the political stage, I am hopeful that the new Congress will continue a great tradition of truly bipartisan support for ocean conservation.
In recent years, we’ve seen incredible progress from both ends of the political spectrum. President Bush established one of the world’s largest marine reserves in the Pacific as he was leaving office, and President Obama recently ended offshore drilling for much of the American coastline. Just last month, the outgoing Congress unanimously passed a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.
It works internationally, too. In Chile, the conservative President Sebastián Piñera established a huge marine reserve around Sala y Gómez Island. President Piñera is a friend to business – but he’s also a friend to the ocean, proving that these two impulses are not mutually exclusive.
And in Belize, our campaign to end trawling ended in success without ever becoming a divisive political issue.
Looking ahead to 2011, I have bright hopes for even more victories for our oceans. Here is a sampling of our goals for this year.
• On the global stage, we expect major steps forward in ending the harmful government subsidies that fuel unsustainable fishing.
• In the U.S., we expect more protections to save endangered sea turtles and sharks.
• In Belize, we’ll work to protect the country’s extraordinary marine heritage from offshore drilling.
• In Chile, we hope to protect Patagonia from expanded salmon aquaculture, and to expand the Sala y Gómez Island marine reserve to an even larger protected area.
• And in Europe, we’ll push for more protected areas including a sanctuary for rare sharks in the Canary Islands, and promote the expansion of clean offshore wind energy.
An ambitious agenda? Absolutely. But in the wake of a remarkable 2010, I have more confidence than ever that the oceans will be in a better place at the end of this year.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.You can follow him on Twitter @Oceana_Andy.