The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fisheries

CEO Note: The Government Shutdown and the Oceans

(Photo: Oceana / Carlos Suarez)

After 16 days Congress has finally ended the government shutdown. But while thousands of workers are able to return to work, our oceans will continue to suffer from Congress's misguided bickering.

Yesterday I partnered with actor and ocean activist Ted Danson to discuss just how harmful the government shutdown was for our oceans. In an editorial for the Huffington Post, we revealed how the shutdown affected critical ocean research, and how it could continue to impact fisheries management through next year. 


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Congress Targets Fishery Rebuilding Requirements, Ignoring Record of Success

(Photo: RPG Master)

As Congress returned this week from its month-long recess, the House of Representatives wasted no time in criticizing important conservation provisions of our nation’s foremost fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). In a hearing on Wednesday before the Natural Resources Committee, many participants—including fisheries scientists, fishery managers, and representatives of the seafood industry—made the case for revising the rules for how fish stocks are rebuilt under the MSA despite the law’s robust record of success in bringing vulnerable fish populations back from the brink of collapse.


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2012 in Review: Oceana's Top Five Victories

Sharks, like this great white, won several major victories in 2012. Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

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.


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California Begins to Reel in Seafood Fraud

Red snapper is often mislabeled. [image via Wikimedia Commons]

With the help of sustainable seafood guides such as Seafood Watch, we can make informed decisions about what type of seafood to buy based on mercury levels, the type of fishing gear used, and the health of the fishery.

But those guides are undermined if the fish itself is mislabeled. Oceana recently uncovered through DNA testing that in Los Angeles County, 55% of commonly swapped seafood was indeed labeled incorrectly.

This means that we may only be getting the fish we ordered half the time. Seafood fraud is unfair to consumers who may be faced with health risks from consuming seafood with higher contaminant levels, or who are paying more for a less desirable substitute. We should be empowered to consume seafood we think is best for our health and we have the right to be served the seafood we are paying for.

The frustrating part is that there is little oversight on the long journey seafood takes from the ocean to our plate -- from transport to processing, to labeling, to shipping, and finally to grocery stores or restaurants. This extensive journey with little oversight and labeling leaves plenty of room for key information to be lost and for fraud to occur.

So what can be done about seafood fraud?

California is taking a step forward to begin tackling this problem at the state level through new legislation. Senator Ted Lieu introduced Senate Bill 1486, sponsored by Oceana, to require labeling of seafood at large chain restaurants (with 19 or more facilities).

If the bill passes and is signed into law by Governor Brown, chain restaurants will be required to provide information on seafood items ordered including what the species of seafood is; in what country it was caught; and whether it is farmed or wild-caught.  So rather than just seeing “Fish sandwich” on the menu, customers will have the information needed to make informed decisions based on health, sustainability, and buying local.

The Senate Health Committee passed the bill at the end of the day yesterday.  A huge thanks to the more than 5,000 Oceana Wavemakers in California who weighed in support of this bill with their legislators!

Despite trying to make the best eco-conscious decision, we are being swindled and deceived. Not only is it unjust to consumers, but to the environment and to those fishermen using more responsible practices.

We’ll keep you posted as this legislation progresses, and thanks again for your support.


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World Bank Launches Global Partnerships for the Oceans

© Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Today the World Bank announced a new international alliance called the Global Partnerships for the Oceans and we are excited to announce our involvement!

It’s a collaborative partnership in every sense with many of the world’s top conservation organizations, private interests and the World Bank pooling their resources and energies to help tackle the toughest issues facing our oceans like overfishing, marine degradation and habitat loss.

Oceana understands the need to protect our oceans for their beauty and splendor, but we also recognize that there’s more at stake here. It’s not just about the environment. It’s also about the millions of people who rely on the oceans to keep them healthy and well fed—and the millions more who will rely on them in the future.

Oceana’s CEO Andy Sharpless said it best: “This global partnership couldn’t come at a better time. At this moment we’re looking at two diverging lines: world population, on a steady ascent, and global fish catch, on a steady decline. If we reverse this latter trend with better fisheries management, we could have enough wild seafood to feed the 9 billion people projected to live on our planet in 2050. No longer is this issue solely about ocean conservation - it’s also about humanity and saving the oceans in order to feed the world.”

We’re advocating for better ocean management to meet this challenge. By ensuring our oceans are productive enough to feed a growing population we’ll improve biodiversity and strengthen key habitats in the process, which will make the oceans healthier, too.

Oceana’s model for saving the oceans is just one of many. But that’s what makes this partnership so great. We’re uniting conservationists from all corners, public and private. It’s the complementary collaboration that makes this alliance so strong and well rounded.

The news of the alliance was first announced today at the World Oceans Summit in Singapore, which brought together many of the world’s leaders in ocean conservation including our very own CEO Andy Sharpless.  

 


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Oceana Sues on Behalf of Loggerheads

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Fishing gear should be killing fewer sea turtles, not more – and today we filed a complaint with the government saying just that.

Oceana’s complaint is in response to the U.S. government’s decision in October 2010 to allow eight East Coast fisheries to harm 14 times more threatened loggerhead sea turtles – raising the limit from 42 to 610.

Oceana is disputing the U.S. government’s decision to allow these fisheries to injure and kill more loggerhead sea turtles without adequately assessing the aggregate impacts of the fisheries on this species. The fisheries harm leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtles as well, and those species also would benefit from proper assessments of the fisheries’ impacts.  

Oceana’s complaint addresses eight federal fisheries, including those for monkfish and for summer flounder, scup and black sea bass, which are responsible for the highest levels of sea turtle bycatch in the region.

Oceana is calling on the U.S. to implement simple solutions to protect and restore sea turtle populations in the Atlantic, including turtle escape hatches in trawls, adopting adequate monitoring of fisheries that catch sea turtles, capping the allowable catch of sea turtles and where necessary, closing areas for fishing when and where sea turtles are present.


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California’s Calamari Thanks You!

risso's dolphin

Risso's dolphins also thank you - squid is their favorite food. © NOAA

If you are one of the 3,600 ocean-loving Californians who spoke up for squid, we want to thank you!

You urged the state’s wildlife managers to maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem by not re-opening the market squid fishery after it was closed early when the maximum catch had been fished (118,000 tons or 236 million pounds).

I’m happy to report that the Fish and Game Commission listened, saying it will keep the fishery closed until next season, which opens in April. They also welcomed your request for better management of these critical fish species by adopting a policy that will guide how they manage these small fish and invertebrates into the future.

Forage species like squid, herring, and krill are the base of the ocean food pyramid, feeding everything from the charismatic humpback whale to the commercially important salmon fishery.

There is currently no state policy guiding management of forage species -- this would be the first of its kind.

This is a very exciting step forward and will ensure that fisheries managers start asking the right questions when determining how many forage fish to take out of the ocean. For example: How much squid do Risso’s dolphins need to be healthy? How much krill does the endangered blue whale eat? What’s the current population of dogfish sharks and how much herring do they need?

Also, let’s not forget that forage species are not only critical to a healthy ocean ecosystem, but to California’s economy as they bring in billions of dollars in revenue annually through coastal sectors like recreational and commercial fishing, tourism, and hospitality industries.

Without enough forage species recreational fishers will have to go elsewhere to find their sport fish, restaurants will have a more difficult time getting enough sustainably fresh and wild seafood for their menus, and whale-watching boats will have less diverse wildlife to show people who come all the way to California’s beautiful coast to see whales, seals, dolphins, and seabirds.

Stay tuned as we move toward better fishery management, and thank you again for weighing in!

Ashley Blacow is Oceana's Pacific Policy and Communications Coordinator.


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New Study: Climate Change Threatens Global Fisheries

As world leaders prepare for international climate change negotiations next week in Durban, South Africa, a new study out this week depicts the widespread threats that climate change presents for marine fisheries.

The bottom line? Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are presenting very long-term if not irreversible threats for the oceans.

Economists and top fisheries scientists at the University of British Columbia published a paper on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change that outlines the many challenges fisheries face from climate change, and how this can impact the global economy and hundreds of millions of lives. 

Global marine fisheries are underperforming, mainly from rampant overfishing, but climate change also creates several serious threats to the future productivity of fisheries. These chemical and physical changes linked to climate change such as decreased oxygen levels, changes in plankton communities and plant growth, altered ocean circulation and increased acidity can disrupt the basic functioning of marine ecosystems and thwart any potential recovery of global fish stocks. 

The study outlines how impacts can scale up from changing ocean conditions to the global economy, but the authors note that the true scope of impacts to employment are hard to predict.


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U.S. Gov’t Fails to Protect Sea Turtles, Again

A loggerhead hatchling in North Carolina. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

While the U.S. government continues to dawdle, loggerhead sea turtles continue to suffer. (Yes, they need your help!)

Yesterday the U.S. government failed to meet its legal deadline for issuing a final rule providing additional protections for loggerhead sea turtles, whose populations have faced severe declines over the last decade.

Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed legal petitions in 2007 urging the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to uplist North Pacific and northwest Atlantic loggerheads from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

Then, a year ago, the government proposed to list loggerheads as endangered in response to a court-ordered settlement over prior delays. It has now failed to take timely action by missing the legal deadline to issue a final rule within one year.


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Oceana Opens Copenhagen Office

A duck perched near Oceana's new office in Copenhagen. © Oceana

Big news from across the pond: Oceana is growing.

We have just opened a new office in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and one of Europe’s greenest cities. Copenhagen is perched between two major bodies of water: the brackish Baltic Sea to the east and the North Sea and Atlantic to the west.

While the Baltic region has provided enormous amounts of seafood historically -- most famously, cod -- today the Baltic faces pressure from industrial fishing. In addition, Copenhagen is an important city for diplomacy, and Oceana’s European offices in Madrid and Brussels will be well complemented by a team in Copenhagen.

The leader of our new Copenhagen office is a familiar face at Oceana. Anne Schroeer has worked as an economist for Oceana in Madrid for years, and she brings an intimate knowledge of fisheries and European diplomacy to the job. She will have her hands full in the coming months staffing the new office and planning her campaigns, which will include on-the-water expeditions.


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