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.
As 2013 rapidly approaches, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Oceana. Thanks to your support, we were able to achieve more than a dozen major victories for the oceans! You signed petitions to lawmakers and companies, submitted seafood samples and participated in rallies and events, and it made a difference. Here are five of the major victories we won in 2012 as a result:
1. Alibaba.com stops selling manta ray products
When Oceana discovered that the online international marketplace Alibaba.com was selling manta ray products, we asked for your help in stopping it. Nearly 40,000 of you responded by signing our petition, and Alibaba listened, removing manta ray leather products from the website.
2. Victories for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle
2012 was a good year for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles. We helped establish the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks in continental U.S. waters this year. The government designated nearly 42,000 square miles of critical habitat off the West Coast. The Pacific leatherback was also designated as California’s official state reptile following a bill sponsored and supported by Oceana with the support of thousands of California citizens and more than 30 conservation groups.
As you enjoy those last holiday cookies before the New Year comes with its resolutions, we’d love to share one final present for you to enjoy: we are thrilled to announce that last week, the country of Chile became the first in the world to protect all of its seamounts from the devastating effects of bottom trawling! Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless and actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson collaborated in an article published by the Huffington Post to share this excellent news with the world.
Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges that are home to an unbelievable array of sea creatures fed by the nutrient-rich water from the deep upwells. The destructive practice of bottom trawling, where large, heavy nets weighing as much as several tons each effectively clear-cut everything living on the seafloor, causes more direct and avoidable damage to the ocean floor and its creatures than any other human activity in the world. Although some of Chile’s seamounts have already been damaged or destroyed by the country’s fishing fleet, the December 20 decision closes any further trawling to Chile’s 118 seamounts until scientists have assessed these and other underwater ecosystems off the coast of Chile.
Our Chilean colleagues are really on a roll lately. Adding to their recent victories in Sala y Gomez and Punta de Choros, last week the Chilean government announced a drastic reduction in the fishing quota for jack mackerel and other fisheries, starting in 2011.
The triumph against overfishing comes after Oceana sent the Minister of Economy a report analyzing the annual quota set for jack mackerel during the past 10 years. The study, put together with data that Oceana obtained through Chile’s Freedom of Information Act, shows that between 2003 and 2010 the National Fisheries Council set the annual quota for jack mackerel at higher catch limits than was recommended by the Institute for Fisheries Development. In fact, in 2009 the quota was 87 percent higher than what was recommended by the agency.
As a result, the Minister of Economy went to a session of the National Fisheries Council to express his frustration, and in an unprecedented event, he asked them to set smaller quotas for next year.
Another hard-earned victory for Oceana Chile and the oceans!