It's official - and unanimous. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to protect from bottom trawling some 180,000 square miles of previously unexploited ocean floor in the Bering Sea, particularly in the North.
The area is home to 26 species of marine mammals, including whales and walruses, as well as 450 species of fish and million of seabirds that flock to region from all seven continents.
Playing hard-nosed Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, actor Sam Waterston has thrown the book at the bad guys for years on TV's Law & Order.
Bad guys on boats and beaches better watch out now, too, because Waterston recently joined Oceana's Ocean Council, a panel of academic, business and philanthropic leaders who represent and support Oceana's efforts on the global stage. Also on the Ocean Council are actors Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammar.
We are very grateful for Sam's help. He gets it. He has closely followed the drumbeat of scientific reports about the rapid depletion of life in our oceans. Everyone recognizes and trusts him. He will be a huge help in the fight to bring the world's oceans back from the brink of irreversible collapse.
As big a fans as we are of Jack McCoy and Waterston, it turns out Sam is also a big fan of us: "The time to act is now, which is why I'm very happy to be working with an organization as effective as Oceana."
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall at a top level corporate meeting just to see what really goes on behind closed doors? Consider this nifty Power Point presentation your ticket in.
It turns out chlorine companies talk about Oceana in their meetings as much as Oceana talks about them. The Chlorine Institute held a meeting a few months back where one of the companies gave a formal presentation about being "In the 'Crosshairs' of an Environmental NGO."
Their presentation looks an awful lot like our presentations - outlining all of our tactics to stop seafood contamination which to them are challenges they need to overcome. It's nice to know that Erco has realized Oceana's in it for the long haul.
My favorite slide? "Essential survival tactics."
Last week we broke the story about French fishermen coordinating an attack on Oceana's research vessel, Ranger, in an attempt to get their hands on the pictures our crew has been taking of them using illegal driftnets.
Now everyone's talking about it, including our friends at NPR. They aired a segment on the confrontation on their top radio show All Things Considered. And footage of the assault is wracking up hits on youtube. Remember, you heard it here first.
The other day I told you how there's a good chance we could see an end to commercial overfishing subsidies through WTO negotiations. And, my organization is not alone in making the case to the World Trade Organization. At least 125 scientists from 27 countries feel the same way and sent a letter to WTO making it clear that "an ambitious outcome in the ongoing WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations is vital to the future of the world's fisheries," The scientists who signed the letter are a who's who of ocean fisheries scientists, including Daniel Pauly, Boris Worm, Jeremy B.C. Jackson,; Andrew Rosenberg,; Carl Safina, Callum Roberts; Larry Crowder, Wallace "J" Nichols. These leading experts made the stakes clear: "Fisheries subsidies," they note in the letter, "produce such strong economic incentives to overfish that reducing them is one of the most significant actions that can be taken to combat global overfishing." How's that for pressure?
You can see the full letter here.
Most ocean conservationists are on pins and needles in anticipation of the results of this week's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting. But I'm also thinking about another three letter acronym and how much good may be coming out of it. W-T-O. That's right, the World Trade Organization.
In Geneva (and at the current Doha round) there's serious talk of cutting government subsidies for commercial fishing - the fundamental driver for the unsustainable exploitation of the oceans. I just returned from there, where I met with Pascal Lamy - head of the WTO, and, together with Professor Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, briefed a large number of the delegates.
Government subsidies of $30-34 billion (to an industry whose dockside revenues are $80 billion) swell the global fishing fleet to something like 200% of sustainable capacity. It's no wonder that scientists predict the collapse of our fisheries by mid-century. These subsidies can only be eliminated through multi-lateral action, since all countries will refuse to unilaterally disarm in the race to capture the last wild fish. That makes the WTO the best place where real change can happen.
I made a pit stop in London to help fuel some media attention on the issue. Check out the terrific piece in Canada's Globe and Mail, liberally quoting economist Sumaila, author of the most recent global study on subsidies.
Like a chapter out of an adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson the research crew aboard Oceana's research catamaran, the Ranger, found themselves in peril amidst the clutches of a seven-ship band of angry fishermen wielding hooks.
The Ranger, at sea now for two weeks photographing the use of illegal driftnets in international waters off of France, was sailing peacefully when seven ships surrounded the vessel demanding cameras and other incriminating evidence. The angry commercial fishermen immobilized the Ranger's propellers with rope, and hurled fish (and four-letter words) at the crew.
Your TV just got a little smarter. As Amanda mentioned last month, the Sundance Channel has launched "The Green," a weekly primetime destination that showcases original series and documentaries based on the earth's ecology and "green" concepts for living in better harmony with the planet.
I'm personally excited about this project now that my favorite Seafood Contamination Campaign spokeswoman, Amber Valletta, has her very own spot. She joins the ranks of other thespians, athletes and supermodels using their fame for the good of the environment.
>>Check out this actress in action.
To you, this picture may just look like ants marching in a desert, but among ocean experts, this picture has gone as viral as Britney's shaved head. What you're seeing is an image of shrimp trawlers off the coast of China, taken from space. Those teeny, tiny specs are responsible for destroying huge swaths of seafloor and thanks to these images, which appeared in the prestigious journal Nature yesterday, scientists now have irrefutable visual evidence to prove what they could only conceptualize before.
The only thing worse than overfishing our oceans and driving species to the brink of extinction is the government paying to do it. That's been the case for far too long, as upwards of $30 billion (that's billion, with a "b") worth of subsidies are handed over to the fishing industry every year. A whopping $20 billion of that are used for things like boat repairs, fishing equipment and fuel; expenses that allow for increased and intensified fishing practices.