The Beacon

Blog Tags: Spain

Four reasons to be thankful for Oceana supporters

Original photo © OCEANA/Carlos Minguell | Jewel anemones (Corynactis viridis). Gunboat wreck, Portimão, Algarve, Portugal.

We’d like to send out a great big “Thank you” to all of our activists and supporters this Thanksgiving.

Oceana’s grassroots activists have taken action over 600,000 times this year—sending letters, calling legislators, joining demonstrations—and all this hard work has led to some amazing victories.

Oceana can only win protections for ocean creatures and ecosystems because of our supporters. Here are some of the victories they helped win this year:


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Victory! Basque Region of Jaizkibel to be "Special Area of Conservation"

This guy is really psyched about the victory, we swear. l © OCEANA / Félix Aguado

We're thrilled to report that last month, the Basque area of Jaizkibel has finally been nominated as a special area of conservation! Oceana made this recommendation back in 2010, and has been fighting for this nomination for years, making this victory all the sweeter to us. 


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The 2013 Ranger Expedition Has Set Sail!

© OCEANA / Carlos Minguell

This post comes to us from our Communications Officer in Brussels, Belgium, Angela Pauly, as the Oceana Ranger sets sail to explore the Mediterranean. 

Less than two months after our successful coastal expedition in the Baltic ended, we’ve sent out another team on board the Ranger, our research catamaran, to study a (very) little known escarpment (steep slope, rocky wall) in the Spanish Mediterranean just south of Cabrera National Park.


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EU Subsidies Hurt Both Fishermen and Fish

© OCEANA / Juan Cuetos

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:

“The impact has devastated much of Spain’s coastal economy. It has also generated intensifying criticism of European Union policies that, environmental groups and experts say, have increased fishing communities’ 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 Europe’s fleet. The new boats are typically bigger and more powerful, adding pressure on declining fish populations.”

The article also references an Oceana study published last year that outlines the insanity of the European Union’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, “The role of subsidies to the issue of overcapacity and overfishing cannot be sufficiently emphasized.”

Help Oceana fight to end these destructive and counterproductive subsidies and to restore the abundance of the oceans.


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Victory in Spain! National Park Saved from Oil Development

donananationalpark

Many birds make their homes in the wetlands of Doñana National Park ©Wikimedia Commons

We’re pleased to announce that the Spanish government has put an end to proposed oil industry development that would have threatened the Doñana 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 Doñana, would have led to higher ship traffic in the area and a higher risk of oil spills or accidents during the tankers’ 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.

Doñana 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 world’s most endangered cat species) call this area home. In the marshes of Doñana 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.


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Outrage Against Drilling in Canary Islands

A popular tourist beach in the Canary Islands that would be affected by drilling. © Lauren Linzer

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 island’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 REPSOL’s towers a mere 23 kilometers (14 miles) from the island’s most populated beaches, the natural purity and ambient tranquility that draws so many European travelers will be a thing of the past. 


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CEO Note: Our International Leaders Speak Up

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. We’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.

María Eugenia Girón is a Spanish business leader as well as Oceana board member, and she reported on Oceana’s successful battle to get the government of Spain to issue mercury warnings on certain seafood. Spain is one of the world’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.

María 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 Oceana’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 Oceana’s summer expedition in northern Europe’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 Oceana’s behalf. Their commitment to the future healthy and vitality of our oceans is greatly appreciated, as is yours.


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Photo of the Week: Atlantic Puffin

atlantic puffin

© Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Our crew aboard the Ranger spotted this charming seabird near Spain’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!


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Photo of the Week: Long-finned Pilot Whales

long-finned pilot whales

© Oceana/Carlos Minguell

The Ranger crew spotted these gorgeous long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) off the coast of Calahonda, Spain.

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!


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Oceana Uncovers Dangerous Mercury Levels in Fish

© Oceana/Juan Cuetos

Spain’s biggest newspaper, El País, featured Oceana prominently in this morning’s cover story. The article describes Oceana’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.

Here’s the back story: in 2003, Spain’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.


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