I have several good news items to share with you this week.
First, I am happy to announce that our trawling ban in Belize is now official. Belize is home to a major portion of the world’s second largest reef system as a well as a thriving local fishing community, and the ban protects both these essential elements of Belizean life.
Belize is one of only a few countries in the world to completely ban trawling. We won this important victory with the help of the local community, our staff in Belize and Sir Thomas Moore, a longtime supporter of Oceana’s work around the world.
Second, we have made great strides in our campaign to save sharks. As top predators, sharks are essential to a healthy ocean, and a hundred million sharks are killed every year by the industrial fishing industry – mostly for their fins.
Late last year, we won an incredible victory to protect sharks with the passage of the Shark Conservation Act, which banned shark finning in the United States. Now, we are on the verge of gaining two more important victories to protect sharks.
In Chile, the Senate has passed a law banning shark finning in Chilean waters. Chile has an enormous amount of ocean under its control, and a finning ban would be a major boost for sharks. Now the law awaits a vote in Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, akin to the U.S.’s House of Representatives.
In the U.S., Oceana has been working closely with a coalition of supporters, including other non-profit organizations, chefs and educators to pass legislation in California to ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins. California is one of the largest markets for shark fins outside Asia.
This legislation comes on the heels of similar bills passed in Hawaii late last year and the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam in early 2011. A Washington state bill to ban trade of shark fins is steaming through the legislative process, and a similar bill has been introduced in Oregon.
All these protections are sorely needed for sharks, some species of which have dipped to perilously low populations.
We’re also working in Europe to protect sharks. I’ll keep you updated as we earn more victories for the oceans’ greatest predators.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.