Oceana’s blog about the latest ocean news, policy and science.
This story appeared as an editorial on the Huffington Post, authored by Susan Murray, Oceana VP for the Pacific, and Dr. Jeffrey Short.
25 Years Later: Why Alaska Can’t Afford another Exxon Valdez
By Jeffrey Short and Susan Murray
The oceans are a massive place, and scientists are still discovering some of the very basic facts of life for many marine creatures. Take the loggerhead sea turtle — until this month, scientists weren’t sure where young loggerheads went during the first few years of their life. But with the help of tiny transmitters, researchers recently discovered where young loggerhead sea turtles journey during these mysterious “lost years.”
Here’s a very simple way to protect marine life—keep drift gillnets out of California waters. Fishermen use this fishing gear to target swordfish and thresher sharks, but they also catch and kill dozens of other important marine species. In 2011, for every five swordfish the fishery landed, one marine mammal was killed and six fish—including sharks and tunas—were tossed overboard dead or dying.
We can all agree that wasting food is unacceptable. So why are U.S. fisheries allowed to throw away perfectly edible seafood? Many fisheries toss fish and other species overboard, usually dead or dying, simply because it’s not the type of seafood they are trying to catch. And the government allows this wasteful practice. A new Oceana report published this week reveals nine of our country’s most wasteful fisheries.
Atlantic fisheries kill hundreds of loggerhead sea turtles every year, as turtles are caught as bycatch and become trapped or drown in nets. This killing, however, can easily be avoided. There are known, proven solutions to this problem, like requiring more vessels to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs). But federal agencies continue to ignore the problems at hand and allow fisheries to operate in harmful ways.
Last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council rejected a proposal to expand the use of drift gillnets off California. The decision was paired with a request to extend emergency regulations to protect sperm whales from entrapment in drift gillnets until permanent protections go into effect. The meeting in Sacramento drew unusually high numbers of public comments, including more than 40,000 written comments from Oceana supporters alone. It's a step in the right direction when it comes to getting the destructive form of fishing gear out of California waters.
Nearly one year ago, I wrote to you to announce that Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed a monumental reform to the Chilean Fisheries Law, requiring that scientific advice guide fishing quotas for important commercial species. I’m now pleased to report back that the law is already making a difference, putting Chile on track to dramatically rebuild its fisheries, which will benefit both fishermen and ocean health.