This tragic front page report from the International Herald Tribune shows that fishing subsidies have not only devastating effects on fish, but on the fishermen who catch them as well. In boom times, EU fishing subsidies encouraged Spanish fishermen to upgrade to larger, more destructive vessels, only to find their fishing quotas drastically reduced once the fish stocks were depleted.
Many fishermen now find themselves dependent on the government subsidies which are propping up an unprofitable industry that, in the EU, is two to three times larger than what sustainable limits allow. As the article says:
â€śThe impact has devastated much of Spainâ€™s coastal economy. It has also generated intensifying criticism of European Union policies that, environmental groups and experts say, have increased fishing communitiesâ€™ dependency on subsidies to make up for the decline in both revenues and fish populations, even as the bloc continues to pay generous subsidies to scrap older vessels to upgrade Europeâ€™s fleet. The new boats are typically bigger and more powerful, adding pressure on declining fish populations.â€ť
The article also references an Oceana study published last year that outlines the insanity of the European Unionâ€™s fishing subsidy policies. According to that study 13 of the 27 EU countries receive subsidies larger than the value of their catch.
A separate report in 2010, A bottom-up re-estimation of global fisheries subsidies, estimated that, worldwide, $16 billion in annual fishing subsidies directly promoted overfishing. The report stated, â€śThe role of subsidies to the issue of overcapacity and overfishing cannot be sufficiently emphasized.â€ť
Help Oceana fight to end these destructive and counterproductive subsidies and to restore the abundance of the oceans.
Weâ€™re pleased to announce that the Spanish government has put an end to proposed oil industry development that would have threatened the DoĂ±ana National Park, a World Heritage Site, after campaigning by Oceana and our allies.
Plans to build an oil refinery in the Gulf of Cadiz, not far from DoĂ±ana, would have led to higher ship traffic in the area and a higher risk of oil spills or accidents during the tankersâ€™ unloading operations. Oceana is currently working to create a Marine Protected Area in this section of the Gulf of Cadiz, which would be linked to the National Park.
DoĂ±ana National Park was established in 1993 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its marshes, streams, and sand dunes are home to plants and animals found almost nowhere else in the world.
Many migratory birds spend their winters in the park lands, and endangered species like the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx (one of the worldâ€™s most endangered cat species) call this area home. In the marshes of DoĂ±ana National Park, you can also find birds like the Avocet and the Purple Heron, both of which depend on the sensitive estuary habitats.
Increased oil tanker traffic could have potentially damaged the already vulnerable habitats of these animals.
Oceana identified the threats posed by the construction of this oil refinery in 2005, and has been campaigning against it with other conservationist groups. Oceana Europe is now calling on the Spanish government to enact similar protections for other marine protected areas.
Editor's note: This is a guest contribution by Oceana supporter Lauren Linzer, who lives on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, which are just off the west coast of Africa.
Along with many other nations around the world, Spain has been desperately searching for solutions to relieve the increasing financial woes the country is facing.
With a significant portion of its oil supply being imported and oil prices skyrocketing, attention to cutting down on this lofty expense has turned toward a tempting opportunity to drill for oil offshore in their own territory.
The large Spanish petrol firm, REPSOL, has declared an interest in surveying underwater land dangerously close to the Spanish Canary Islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. This would, in theory, cut down significantly on spending for the struggling country, providing a desperately needed financial boost.
But are the grave ecological repercussions worth the investment? There is much debate around the world about this controversial subject; but on the island of Lanzarote, it is clear that this will not be a welcome move.
Last week, protesters from around the island gathered in the capital city of Arrecife to demonstrate their opposition to the exploration for underwater oil. With their faces painted black and picket signs in hand, an estimated 22,000 people (almost one fifth of the islandâ€™s population) walked from one side of the city to the other, chanting passionately and marching to the beat of drums that lead the pack. Late into the night, locals of all ages and occupations joined together to express their dire concerns.
Besides the massive eyesore that the site of the drilling will introduce off the east coast, the ripple effects to islanders will have a devastating impact. The most obvious industry that will take a serious hit will be tourism, which the island depends on heavily. Most of the large touristic destinations are on the eastern shore due to the year-round excellent weather and plethora of picturesque beaches. But with the introduction of REPSOLâ€™s towers a mere 23 kilometers (14 miles) from the islandâ€™s most populated beaches, the natural purity and ambient tranquility that draws so many European travelers will be a thing of the past.
Oceana is a truly international organization, with campaigners at work in places from Alaska to Chile and Europe. And our leadership reflects that international agenda. Weâ€™re fortunate to have the vision of board members from around the world.
In the past week, two of our board members have spoken up on our behalf with essays in the Huffington Post, and I wanted to share their insight with you.
MarĂa Eugenia GirĂłn is a Spanish business leader as well as Oceana board member, and she reported on Oceanaâ€™s successful battle to get the government of Spain to issue mercury warnings on certain seafood. Spain is one of the worldâ€™s largest consumers of seafood per capita, so the warning is much-needed. The announcement came after Oceana was forced to sue the Spanish government to release its own reports that show high levels of mercury in Spanish seafood.
MarĂa writes in the Huffington Post:
As a Spaniard, I'm proud of our seafood tradition. Unfortunately, as a mother, I'm worried. There's a downside to our seafood habit: studies have shown that the mercury level in our blood is 10 times that of the average level in the US and in other countries.
The next step is to get Spanish grocery stores to post mercury warnings, much like the stores on Oceanaâ€™s Green List in the U.S. have done after our prodding.
Our chairman, Dr. Kristian Parker, is a marine biologist and citizen of Denmark. He reported on Oceanaâ€™s summer expedition in northern Europeâ€™s Baltic Sea. He writes:
Despite being surrounded by some of Europe's oldest cities, such as Stockholm and Copenhagen, the Baltic Sea doesn't get too much global attention. That's a shame, because the Baltic has provided fish for millions of people since the days of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, the sea is increasingly sick as a result of decades of pollution and overfishing.
The Baltic Sea expedition was the first of its kind launched by a nonprofit; the crew of campaigners and scientists covered 7,000 nautical miles, some of it in absolutely frigid conditions. Now back on shore, we will analyze all the good data the crew gathered to help make the case for additional protections for this important source of seafood in Europe.
Several other members of our board of directors, including board president Keith Addis and Susan Rockefeller, have also spoken out on Oceanaâ€™s behalf. Their commitment to the future healthy and vitality of our oceans is greatly appreciated, as is yours.
Our crew aboard the Ranger spotted this charming seabird near Spainâ€™s Gibraltar Strait.
Puffins feed by diving for fish underwater, using its strong wings to swim. They breed in large clifftop colonies, and the puffin parents take turns incubating the egg.
Puffins eat only a few species of fish, including capelin. As a result, commercial capelin fisheries in Canada, Norway, Iceland and Russia pose a threat for Atlantic puffins. Capelin are mainly used for fish meal and oil industry products.
Check out a slideshow of stunning photos from this year's Ranger expedition so far!
As you can see, these cetaceans have a bulbous head and short jaw, with flippers that almost look like elbows due to their sharp backward bend. Long-finned pilot whales feed mainly on deep-sea squid and octopus, and they are quite sociable, often living in groups of hundreds. They sometimes become disoriented in shallow waters and have been known to strand in large numbers.
Stay tuned for a new photo each week!
Spainâ€™s biggest newspaper, El PaĂs, featured Oceana prominently in this morningâ€™s cover story. The article describes Oceanaâ€™s unrelenting effort to make previously confidential research regarding unsafe mercury levels in large fish freely accessible to the public, highlighting an important victory with implications for the health of the Spanish populace and the transparency of the Spanish government.
Hereâ€™s the back story: in 2003, Spainâ€™s Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) conducted a large research study that documented levels of mercury and other heavy metals in large fish such as various sharks, swordfish, and bluefin tuna.
The results of the study were not good: 62.5 percent of the 128 mako shark samples and 54.2 percent of the swordfish samples contained high, unpermitted levels of mercury. Despite this alarming evidence, the results were never released due to concerns about its possible impact on the fishing industry.
Oceana could win 30.000â‚¬ (more than $40,000) to protect threatened seamounts in the Mediterranean, but only if you vote!
Our research catamaran, Ranger, is currently at sea for its annual expedition, and the crew recently made an incredible discovery in the depths of the Western Mediterranean Sea.
Using a deep-diving ROV, they discovered large colonies of deep-sea white coral, which is significant considering that most of the Mediterraneanâ€™s deep-sea coral reefs have already been destroyed by bottom trawling and longline fishing.
Most of the research conducted in the Mediterranean to date has found only dead coral; in fact, Rangerâ€™s crew found live colonies of deep-sea coral coexisting with large expanses of dead coral.
The reef, which Ranger found in Spainâ€™s Alboran Sea, is one of the richest and most threatened ecosystems in the Mediterranean, forming a habitat for species such as redfish, roughy, red seabream and countless others.
You can read the Rangerâ€™s on-board diaries for more on this yearâ€™s expedition.
Things could be looking up for the tigers of the sea.
Next month, 175 nations will meet in Doha, Qatar to discuss whether bluefin tuna will join the likes of pandas and elephants as endangered species under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
While France has joined Monaco in declaring its support for the ban, Spainâ€™s position remains in doubt.
Spain currently holds the EU presidency and the dubious honor of catching much of the Mediterranean's bluefin tuna. Yesterday, Oceana held an event along with Greenpeace, MarViva, Pew, WWF and Ecologistas en AcciĂłn urging Spain to support the ban.
Kofi Annan, Michael Douglas and Colin Firth, among many other public personalities, have signed on in support of the listing.
Oceana will be in Doha in March voicing our support for bluefin. Hereâ€™s hoping -- and stay tuned.