Scientific indicators of ocean health point in the wrong direction. The annual global catch of wild fish has been declining since the late 1980s, after steadily rising through all prior human history. Three-quarters of all commercial fisheries are overfished or fully fished, according to the United Nation’s FAO. And counts of the biggest marine fish species – the marlins, tunas, sharks and the like – show that their populations are at 10 percent of their levels just fifty years ago.
This astonishing decline in a food source vital to a billion people is caused by overly aggressive industrial-scale fishing.
The good news is that this is a fixable problem. Coastal states set the rules for commercial fishing off their shores, all the way out to 231 statute miles. If these governments will simply enforce scientific quotas, protect nursery habitat and reduce bycatch, their oceans will rapidly return to abundance. The simple point is that huge parts of the ocean can be restored and protected by national action.
The overfishing that drives ocean depletion is also funded by taxpayer subsidies. These payments to commercial fishing fleets (mostly in Europe and Asia) allow them to keep fishing at levels that are not commercially or ecologically sustainable. The good news is that this also is a fixable problem. Limits on fishing subsidies (like those for many other industries) can be set by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and other countries are right now pressing the WTO to establish rules that will eliminate the subsidies that drive overfishing. Ten years ago, a small group of people met to consider a bold proposal. These people knew what was happening to the oceans, and they knew that the most effective lever to save the ocean was rapid policy action.
They were so frustrated that they decided to create a new NGO whose only job would be to deliver policy change that would restore and protect abundant oceans. Oceana is that organization.
The good news is that our founders’ vision has delivered results. Today, thanks to the support of Oceana supporters like you, we have a record of more than two dozen important policy victories that are helping to restore abundant oceans. One of our longstanding trustees is Ted Danson, the gifted television and film actor. Ted’s pride in what we are accomplishing is captured in a book he has written which has just been published by Rodale. His book’s title is “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”
Thank you for your generous support of Oceana. We win ocean protections because you make it possible. I hope you are pleased with the good news reported in this issue of our magazine. With your continued support, we will continue to deliver good news to you and the oceans.
Oceana is grateful for the grants, contributions, and support it has received from dozens of foundations and companies and thousands of individuals. Oceana wishes to thank all of its supporters, especially its founding funders as well as foundations and individuals that in 2010 awarded Oceana grants totaling at least $500,000: Arcadia Fund, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Oak Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sandler Foundation, Zennström Philanthropies and Ricardo Cisneros. For more information, please see Oceana’s annual reports at www.oceana.org/annualreport.