The Beacon: admin's blog

NY Times Talks to Oceana About Seafood Fraud

Right now on the New York Times TimesCast Oceana senior scientist Kimberly Warner is discussing Oceana's landmark National Seafood Fraud Report issued today. You can watch that interview above and read the Times' take on this sweeping investigation.

The report found that one third of the seafood that was DNA tested nationwide, from 1,215 fish samples in 21 states, was mislabeled.

Get educated about seafood fraud and check out our report to see how seafood fraud affects you.

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British Chef Ready to Fight for Fish

British chef, television personality and Oceana friend Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall is taking the fight against overfishing to the streets with a march to the Houses of Parliament on February 25 and an email campaign to designate 127 new marine conservation zones around Britain.

If you're an Oceana supporter across the pond we hope you'll join Chef Hugh in his fight to secure a sustainable fishing future for the U.K. As the above video points out, of Britain's more than 434,000 square miles of ocean a little over 5 square miles are fully protected. A further 90 percent of the U.K.'s ocean is vulnerable to destruction by bottom trawling and scallop dredging which, though out of sight for most of us, can devastate seafloor communities and juvenile fish habitat.

Learn More about Hugh's campaign at

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Oceana Visits Dr. Oz

Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell dropped by the set of Dr. Oz yesterday to talk seafood fraud with the doc in a segment about mislabeled foods.

In December Oceana released its seafood fraud report for New York City which found that 39 percent of seafood tested in the area, was something other than what was advertised on the menu. The report mirrored other Oceana reports which found that seafood fraud was a widespread problem in other metropolitan areas like Boston, Los Angeles and Miami.

Click the links below for parts 2 and 3 of Beth's appearance.

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Oceana and National Geographic Launch Expedition to the End of the World

The DeepSea prepares for a dive

Today we’re proud to announce that Oceana and National Geographic are embarking on a truly unprecedented expedition to one of the most remote and unexplored areas on earth, the Desventuradas Islands.

530 miles west of the desolate Atacama Desert in Chile are the islands San Felix and San Ambrosio, which together make up the Desventuradas. Apart from the occasional lobster fisherman and a small contingent from the Chilean navy the islands are uninhabited and the waters around them unexplored.

Assembling an all-star team of scientists and explorers, including researchers from the University of Hawaii, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Catolica del Norte in Chile, Oceana and National Geographic will launch into the depths of the Desventuradas using the one-of-a-kind DeepSee submarine, a three person vessel that will provide our team with 360 degree views of the underwater environment. The DeepSea can dive almost 1,500 feet, and features a separate tethered camera system that will allow us to investigate depths of over 13,000 feet.

The Desventuradas are one of the last truly wild places in the ocean and little is known about the ecosystem of this nearly pristine area. The expedition will provide the foundation of a scientific report that could help to establish a protected area. Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana and co-leader of the expedition, explains:

 “If we do not know this ecosystem, we cannot gauge its actual value or whether it is exposed to damage from activities such as fishing. This scientific expedition will give us insight into its ecological importance and will determine if it requires some form of protection.”

The voyage will be similar to joint expeditions between Oceana and National Geographic taken in 2010 and 2011 to Sala y Gomez and Easter Island, also off of Chile, that documented the profusion of life inhabiting Chile’s seamounts, vast underwater mountain ranges where nutrient rich water upwells to fuel a kaleidoscopic abundance of marine life.

As a result of Oceana’s work in Chile’s waters the Chilean senate recently voted to stop bottom trawling on all 118 of Chile’s seamounts and to overhaul its fisheries with one of the most progressive and scientific management systems in the world.

The expedition that launches today was made possible in part thanks to the generous support of Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Keep up with our expedition through our South American office  and through National Geographic’s Pristine Seas website. And remember to check back here for updates.

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Chile's Seamounts Up Close

Take a dive and witness one of the most remote but ecologically diverse habitats in the world: the seamounts off of Chile. Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges where nutrient-rich water from the depths comes up to the surface and fuels an explosion of colorful marine life. In these coral gardens fish and other animals concentrate to feed and breed before colonizing other areas of the ocean. The above video, put together by our office in Santiago captures this wealth of beauty and diversity and outlines its threats.

Thanks to the relentless campaigning of Oceana the protections discussed in this video came to pass last month as the Chilean senate voted to close all 118 of its seamounts to bottom trawling as a precaution and radically overhaul the country's fisheries regulations. Oceana supporter Ted Danson and Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless discussed these landmark changes in a recent Huffington Post article:

In the course of a year Chile has gone from a country in which the fishing industry makes its own rules, plowing unseen wonders to oblivion and driving species to the brink, to one in which the interests of the ecosystem come first. Ironically, when this approach is embraced it usually works to the advantage of fishing fleets, ending the boom and bust cycle of overfishing and actually increasing the yields of their fisheries.

Learn more about the great work our team in South America is doing.

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Victory! Congress Extends Tax Credit for Offshore Wind

Coming soon to a coast near you. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Congress has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons this holiday season, but news out of the Capitol this week could not be better for the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.

As part of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, Congress voted to extend the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a crucial financing tool for offshore wind that makes investment in the clean energy industry much more attractive.

The ITC technically expired at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and, if left expired, could have jeopardized a new industry with the potential to generate tens of thousands of jobs and enough electricity to power the country four times over.  Luckily, the tax credit was extended at the eleventh hour.

Oceana ocean advocate Nancy Sopko praised Congress’ decision to renew the ITC:

"We couldn’t be happier that the ITC - the most critical tax incentive for the offshore wind industry - has been extended as part of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal.  The inclusion of the ITC provides invaluable certainty to the financial sector that the offshore wind industry is a viable job-creating industry in the U.S. and helps to jumpstart this domestic clean energy resource. We need to capitalize on this great momentum to complete the transition to clean and renewable energy sources, like offshore wind, to reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels, create long-term domestic jobs, combat climate change and take the lead on clean energy development in the world."

Nancy Sopko, Oceana advocate and Corry Westbrook, Oceana federal policy director, thank Congressman Pascrell (D-NJ) for his leadership on offshore wind.

This huge victory would not be possible without your support. By passing the ITC, the United States has signaled that it is serious about developing the untapped wealth of clean, renewable wind energy off its shores.

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NYC Seafood Fraud Report Making Waves

What's on your plate? Source: wikimedia commons

Spurred by Oceana’s seafood fraud report for New York City released last week, Sunday’s New York Times took a broader look at the widespread practice of food mislabeling.

Oceana’s initial report, which was also covered in the Times, included a number of eyebrow-raising findings.  After analyzing 142 samples, Oceana found that 56 of them, or 39 percent tested in New York City, were something other than what was advertised on the menu.

It also found that 100 percent of sushi restaurants tested in the area sold mislabeled fish, that 94 percent of “white tuna” was, in fact, escolar (a fish which can cause gastrointestinal problems in some diners), and that 79 percent of red snapper was mislabeled, in one instance being switched with tilefish, which is on the FDA’s do not eat list because of its high mercury content.

Chef Tom Colicchio was not shocked by this latest round of fraud uncovered by Oceana. “This has been going on for as long as I’ve been cooking,” he says in the article. 500 chefs, from Eric Ripert to Mario Batali have signed a letter calling on Congress to end to seafood mislabeling.

The article suggests that diners can arm themselves with a baseline of seafood-related knowledge to fend off fraudulent menu items:

“If a restaurant claims to have fresh Maine diver scallops in July, it helps to know that the tightly regulated bivalves can be harvested only from December to March. (And that they are rarely taken from the sea by actual divers.) Fresh wild Alaska salmon should not be on plates in January.”

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Victory! EU Moves Towards Overhaul of Fisheries Policy

Bottom trawler at Sant Carles de la Rápita, Spain ©Oceana

Today the Fisheries Committee of the EU parliament voted to radically reform its fisheries management policies, for the better. After 18 months of negotiations the body voted to put in place new measures that would effectively end overfishing and greatly improve the way the EU manages its fisheries, the third largest in the world.

This marks a true turning point for the EU, one of the poorest managed, most overfished regions in the world. In recent years, the majority of its scientifically-assessed fisheries have been found to be overexploited, which is no surprise given that it is also home to a heavily subsidized and extremely powerful fishing industry that is estimated to be two to three times larger than what sustainable fishing limits would allow.

Among the new reforms to the law that governs fisheries in the EU, what is known as the Common Fisheries Policy, Oceana is especially excited about the following changes:

  • An obligation to set catch limits above maximum sustainable yield levels by 2015, in order for stocks to recover by 2020
  • A clear ban on discards with proceeds from the landing of unwanted catches reverted to a fund to be used for data collection and control
  • An obligation for the fishing industry to contribute to the costs of data collection and control
  • A funding freeze to fishers that do not comply with fishing rules, as well as a funding freeze to Member States that do not achieve the objectives set in EU fishing legislation
  • An obligation to adjust fishing capacity to reflect the new catch limits and a thorough assessment of the fishing capacity of Member States
  • The creation of a network of fish stock recovery areas

Executive Director of Oceana in Europe Xavier Pastor was exultant after the vote, saying:

“Today, we, EU citizens, have broken the EU governments’ tradition of overexploiting fisheries resources and destroying our natural marine heritage in favour of short-term interests that have put the industry in decline. Today, we have a first hopeful look towards a future where fish stocks are sustainably managed and coastal communities’ livelihoods are guaranteed by plentiful seas.”

Oceana has been fighting for these changes for years and we are nearing the finish line. The new reforms now go to a vote before the entire European Parliament early next year. Learn more about the great work our European office is doing.

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Oil Still Leaking From Deepwater Horizon Site

On Thursday BP and the Coast Guard took a stealthy cruise in the Gulf of Mexico to look for oil leaking from the site of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. That’s right, two and a half years after the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, oil is still leaking near the infamous Macondo well. A miles-long oil sheen was spotted 50 miles off the Louisiana coast in September.

And, reminiscent of the early days of the disaster, BP is again not making the scope of the problem clear, according to Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA.) who, along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), has repeatedly asked BP for underwater video and information regarding the size of the slicks. BP has denied those requests citing ongoing litigation.

"Back in 2010, I said BP was either lying or incompetent. Well, it turns out they were both,” said Markey. “This is the same crime scene, and the American public today is entitled to the same information that BP was lying about in 2010 so that we can understand the full dimension of the additional environmental damage."

Last month, BP settled its criminal penalties with the federal government for $4.5 billion. This settlement was a fraction of what it could have been, and Oceana has determined that BP still rightfully owes the American taxpayer as much as $50 billion for additional violations of the law and for the devastation wrought by the 2010 spill.

Now BP faces civil charges and potentially tens of billions of dollars in natural resource damages. If the Justice Department is truly serious about holding BP accountable for its actions in the Gulf, it should pursue those charges in full.

In the meantime, BP needs to make sure crude oil stops leaking into this sensitive ecosystem and most of all it needs to level with the public about what is happening in the Gulf.

Check out our real-time map of spills reported in the United States, powered by SkyTruth, and learn more about how we can end our addiction to offshore drilling.

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DOE Gives $28 Million Boost to Offshore Wind

The Department of Energy wants wind ©Oceana

News yesterday that the Department of Energy had awarded $28 million to a range of innovative offshore wind projects around the country came as, dare we say it, a breath of fresh air?

In total, seven projects will be receiving $4 million each. These projects range from “icebreaking” turbines in Lake Erie to an array of six-megawatt floating deep-sea giants off of Coos Bay, Oregon, as well as turbines that employ cutting-edge foundation design off the coast of Virginia.

The investment hopefully signals that the country is ready to become a leader in offshore wind technology, and is serious about its commitment to an industry that is still in its infancy in the United States (though it’s well-established overseas).

Much of the attention in recent years has been focused on the opportunity of offshore wind in the Atlantic. But these latest projects, which dot both coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and even the Great Lakes, demonstrate the wide-ranging abundance of the country’s wind resources.

An economic analysis prepared for the Department of Energy found that by 2030 the domestic offshore wind industry could create 200,000 jobs, bring in over $70 billion in annual investments and create 4,000 gigawatts of clean power. That is enough to power the entire United States four times over. 

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