Great news in the battle against illegal fishing: Morocco has passed an amendment banning the use, possession, manufacture or sale of driftnets.
Known as â€ścurtains of death,â€ť driftnets are a type of illegal fishing gear that can be nearly 100 feet high and 12 miles long. Because they are so passive and indiscriminate, driftnets snag whateverâ€™s in their path, including many marine mammals and other endangered species.
The UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets 15 years ago, and the EU instituted a ban seven years ago, but many French, Italian and Moroccan vessels have continued using them.
Well, itâ€™s official: oil has now made land in every Gulf Coast state.
With the sight of oil on a Texas beach, itâ€™s clear that this spill is a full-out assault on the Gulf Coast.
And the news just keeps getting grimmer in Louisiana. Over the weekend, tar balls were sighted in Lake Pontchartrain, which borders New Orleans. That spells trouble for the regionâ€™s remaining working fishermen, many of whom have taken their boats to the lake since fishing in the Gulf came to a halt.
More than 115,000 people have signed our petition to stop offshore drilling. Will you?
Last week I met Cherie Pete, who operates a mom-and-pop style sandwich shop called Mawâ€™s in the marshy lowlands of Boothville, LA â€“ about two hours south of New Orleans.
Normally recreational fishermen stop by her shop to fuel up before deep-sea fishing trips in the Gulf. But with fishing restricted in most federal waters off the coast of southern Louisiana, Peteâ€™s clientele base has disappeared.
â€śNormally weâ€™d be swamped at this time,â€ť she told me. Instead, the shopfront was nearly empty with only a few customers trickling by to purchase a cool drink in the 100-degree heat (including Brian Williams of NBC News who made a stopover with his camera crew.)
Emily Peterson, a southern Louisiana native and Foundations Associate here at Oceana, has been in Louisiana witnessing the effects of the oil spill. She sent us this dispatch from a teach-in she attended.
Yesterday evening a crowd of New Orleans residents attended a teach-in to discuss the oil spill tragedy unfolding in our backyard on the Gulf. The event offered residents an opportunity to learn the facts and ask questions in a non-politicized environment, and to build a sense of solidarity to cope with this unprecedented environmental and cultural tragedy.
We received the following dispatch from Carter Lavin, an Oceana supporter, environmental activist and energy-issue blogger, about his experience volunteering in the gulf. You can read more from him here.
Two weeks ago I had this idea that I would fly down to New Orleans and sign up to help clean up oil from the beaches of southern Louisiana. I would then catch one of the dozens of buses that were going from Jackson Square to the beaches for the clean up along with hundreds of other volunteers. We would spend the whole day there, clean up the beach, rescue a pelican or two and then head home.
I learned a few things about the clean up effort rather quickly. I learned that southern Louisiana does not really have beaches to clean; itâ€™s nearly all marshlands. This means most clean up efforts have to be done from a boat, or the places are only boat accessible. Plus, you need to be certified to clean up hazardous materials, which requires 40 hours of training.
The federal government has closed commercial and recreational fishing in a wide swath of the Gulf as a result of the oil spill, which is a serious economic blow to the region.
There is anger and bewilderment in New Orleans. Five years after Katrina comes the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, which continues to gush 210,000 gallons of oil into the gulf every day.
Last Saturdayâ€™s rally, organized by the Sierra Club with the support of Oceana as well as local groups such as the Gulf Restoration Network, drew several hundred supporters to Lafayette Square Park with the mantra, â€śClean It Up!â€ť
Speakers included local fishermen, wildlife experts, and politicians. The message to BP and the federal government was clear: cap the spill, clean it up, and never let it happen again.
When John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1600s he reported that oysters "lay as thick as stones." Now they are at about 2 percent of their historic population, and in 2008 the federal government declared the blue crab fishery a commercial failure.
The Bay has seen much better days, and so have its watermen. Such is this premise of a new documentary by Laura Seltzer, â€śThe Last Boat Out." Wednesday evening I attended an advanced screening of the documentary, which is narrated by Oceana board member Sam Waterston.
The 30-minute film portrays the Chesapeake Bay's watermen as an endangered species themselves, fighting to stay afloat amid shrinking populations of crabs, oysters and fish -- their historic bread and butter.
Filmmaker Laura Seltzer focuses on a pair of middle-aged brothers who are struggling to continue the family business on the water. They represent a few of the 2800 remaining watermen, who have seen a 70% decline in 30 years.
Nutrient pollution is a big part of the problem, as Seltzer demonstrates. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture, wastewater and fertilizer deplete the bayâ€™s oxygen, creating dead zones that canâ€™t sustain life.
Yesterday, a few of us attended a staff briefing on Capitol Hill on ocean acidification and fisheries put on by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.
There were representatives from the fishing communities of the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf of Mexico and Maine. They were requesting that additional resources be channeled towards ocean acidification research so that we can better understand how fisheries are and will be impacted by rising ocean acidity.
The Whisky Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Oregon has already experienced massive collapses in their oyster stocks due to rising ocean acidity, and theyâ€™ve been doing a lot of research on their own to monitor changes in pH. Their representatives called for a comprehensive system of measuring pH so that they and other hatcheries can adapt to changes and not be driven out of business by ocean acidification.
This group of fishers also recognized that while it is important to figure out ways to adapt to the changes that are already happening, without a true cap on carbon dioxide and serious decreases in emissions, these fisheries will not have a future.
[Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a marine scientist at Oceana.]
One day in December, the residents of the seaside village of Punta Gorda in Belize looked out to the horizon and saw something unexpected: Jamaican fishing boats. They had arrived, unannounced and without permits, to fish in Belizeâ€™s diverse waters.
Many of Punta Gordaâ€™s local fishermen still work the shallow waters inside the Belize Barrier Reef from individual canoes using age-old methods to provide lobster, shellfish and reef fish for Belizeans, as well as a small but thriving export business. The Jamaican boats, with more sophisticated commercial gear, offered no such promise for the local economy or the continued sustainability of Belizeâ€™s fisheries.
A few unpermitted Jamaican fishing boats may seem like a local hurly-burly, and after an uproar the boats were turned away by Belizean authorities. But Oceana has discovered that the fight to protect Belizeâ€™s waters from exploitation has just begun.
Other countries with larger fleets, namely Chinese Taipei and Spain â€“ Europeâ€™s largest and most aggressive fishing nation â€“ have already approached the government of Belize about moving into the deep waters beyond the Belize Barrier Reef.