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 Californiaâ€™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.
We have some good news from Chile -- Oceana has been fighting against the approval of a thermoelectric plant, Punta Alcalde, and we are excited to announce that the plantâ€™s permit was denied this week.
The plant was to be built in Huasco, which is already suffering from severe air pollution from four coal-powered thermoelectric power plants and an iron plant operating nearby.
Despite the already grim situation in Huasco, Punta Alcalde did not comply with the government requirements needed to ensure that the plant would not worsen the air quality of the area.
In Huasco and other industrial communities in Chile, these plants have been pumping warm water and pollutants into the oceans, destroying the local ecosystems and raising mercury levels in fish. On land, toxic clouds and heavy-metal contamination are sickening the local populations. A video from another such town, Ventanas, shows the human toll: the fishing industry there is devastated and people are dying with heavy metal contaminants in their bodies.
Oceana has been campaigning for better pollution standards in Chile and working to prevent the construction of new coal-powered thermonuclear plants. Give today to support our work to protect Chileâ€™s people and marine life from severe pollution.
Congratulations to our team in Chile for this significant step forward for the people and marine life of Huasco!
We have great news to share with you today! We recently asked you to help us protect manta rays from being made into leather by asking Alibaba.com to take manta ray products off their website. Nearly 40,000 of you responded by signing our petition, and Alibaba listened!
Last Friday, they called us to say that they will no longer be selling manta ray products. Today, we got their statement in writing and are proud to be able to announce their commitment to sustainability. In the past, theyâ€™ve taken down listings for shark fins and other unsustainable animal products. And now, thanks to your efforts, they will also refrain from selling animals protected under UN policies, including manta and devil rays.
We are amazed at the response we got from all our wonderful supporters on this topic. We here at Oceana would like to thank all of our supporters for sharing your voices, and weâ€™d especially like to thank Alibaba.com and their CEO Jack Ma for responding so quickly and positively. Thanks to all of you, manta rays are now swimming a little more safely.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Iâ€™m pleased to report two victories this week for some of the oceansâ€™ most threatened creatures.
First, Oceana and its allies won protections for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles with the establishment of the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks in the continental U.S. The area, nearly 42,000 square miles off the U.S. West Coast, protects the places where leatherbacks feed on jellyfish after swimming 6,000 miles across the ocean from Indonesia in one of the worldâ€™s greatest migrations.
Second, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of protections for endangered Steller sea lions. These majestic marine mammals compete with large-scale industrial fisheries for food and continue to struggle for survival in the western Aleutian Islands.
The court decision came after Oceana and our allies pressured the federal government to address the declining Steller sea lionsâ€™ population by limiting bottom trawling in important areas. In 2010, the government agreed that existing protections were not adequate and put in place new rules to allow more food for sea lions in the Aleutian Islands.
Naturally, the fishing industry was displeased and sued to invalidate the closure. Oceana, Greenpeace and Earthjustice teamed up with the government to uphold the protections, and we learned yesterday that we won.
Thanks to this decision, Steller sea lions will continue to have a chance to rebound. There is still more work to be done, though, because the court required the government to conduct a new analysis of the impacts of its decision. This process should help us better understand the effects of large-scale commercial fishing on sea lions and other ocean resources.
Thanks you for the support that makes these victories possible.
As of today, the oceanâ€™s largest sea turtle now has 41,914 square miles of Pacific Ocean it can call its own.
Oceana has been working for five years to protect habitat critical to the survival and recovery of the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle, and it paid off. Thanks to a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service, these magnificent reptiles will now be safeguarded off the U.S. West Coast.
Leatherback sea turtles migrate from Papua, Indonesia to the U.S. West Coast every summer and fall to feed on jellyfish â€” a 12,000-mile round-trip journey that is the longest known migration of any living marine reptile.
Sadly, these navigators encounter a gauntlet of threats as they make their journey across the Pacific such as poaching; ingestion of plastic bags which they mistake for their favorite food, jellyfish; and entanglement and drowning in longline and gillnet fishing gear.
Due to these threats Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 95 percent since the 1980s and as few as 2,300 adult female western Pacific leatherbacks remain. There have already been localized extinctions of leatherback sea turtles in India and the Sri Lanka and Malaysian populations have nearly disappeared.
Leatherbacks from Papua, Indonesia and those that feed off the U.S. West Coast, are one of the turtleâ€™s last strongholds in the Pacific Ocean. It is heartbreaking to think that a species that has been swimming the worldâ€™s oceans for more than 100 million years could indeed be wiped out by human actions.
In Singapore, weâ€™re seeing more proof that dedicated activists can make a difference in the world. Singapore is one of the shark fin capitals of the world, but thanks to an outcry from local customers, its largest supermarket chain, Fairprice, will be pulling fins from its shelves.
Shark fins are often cut from live sharks, which are then thrown overboard to die. The huge demand for fins, considered a delicacy, puts some shark species at risk of extinction.
And while shark fin is a culturally important food in Singapore, the tide is turning. A campaign by divers against shark fins caused one of Fairpriceâ€™s suppliers to launch an online attack ad that said â€śScrew the divers!â€ť
Luckily for sharks, the ad backfired. Not all Singaporeans are shark fin fans. Local groups like Project Fin have been fighting to create change from the inside out, and they are finally having an impact. In response to the ad, Singaporeans sent hundreds of complaints to Fairprice and suggested a boycott.
In response, Fairprice made the smartâ€”and surprisingâ€”decision to stop selling shark fins.
"It is encouraging to see FairPrice respond promptly to the public reaction. They can progress further by selling only sustainable food," said Jennifer Lee, founder of Project Fin.
Kudos to the Singaporean shark protectors for such a powerful victory in the wake of cultural pressure.
At last, the good news you've been waiting for: California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning the trade of shark fins.
California has joined the ranks of Washington State, Oregon and Hawaii, who have all passed similar bans. Oceana supported this legislation from the beginning, and we are thrilled that Governor Brown has passed it into law, completing a West Coast ban.
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a sharkâ€™s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die. Without fins, sharks bleed to death, drown, or are eaten by other species. In recent decades some shark populations have declined by as much as 99%.
Removing sharks from ocean ecosystems can destabilize the ocean food web and even lead to declines in populations of other species, including commercially-caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food web. While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade, so shark fins are imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place.
â€śToday is a landmark day for shark conservation around the globeâ€ť said Susan Murray, Oceanaâ€™s Senior Pacific Director. â€śThe leadership shown by legislatures and governors of California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii sends a strong message that the entire US West Coast will no longer play a role in the global practice of shark finning that is pushing many shark species to the brink of extinction.â€ť
A huge thanks to everyone who called your legislators and Governor Brown and helped secure this enormous victory for our oceans' top predators!
Stellar news for sharks today: Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law a ban on the trade of shark fins.
â€śBy signing this legislation the Governor took a very large west coast leadership role in initiating action to address a global problem,â€ť said Whit Sheard, Senior Advisor and Pacific Counsel for Oceana. â€śThis bill will do two things, help us move closer to ending the wasteful and unnecessary depletion of our oceanâ€™s top predators and serve as a model for Oregon and California as they have similar pending legislation.â€ť
While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning shark finning do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. As a result, fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with limited to zero shark protections in place. Similar legislation passed recently in Hawaii and Guam and is pending in Oregon and California.
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a sharkâ€™s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die.
Congrats to Oceanaâ€™s Pacific campaigners for helping win this great victory for sharks!
The good news just keep coming in Chile. Yesterday the Chilean Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit filed by the laboratory VeterquĂmica to prevent the Livestock and Agriculture Bureau (SAG) from disclosing information to Oceana.
The case began in 2009, when Oceana submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to SAG to access documents that the Bureau used to approve the use of quinolone-related antibiotics in Chileâ€™s salmon farming industry. The SAG denied the information due to the opposition of the laboratories VeterquĂmica, Recalcine and Centrovet, the main suppliers of these chemicals in Chile. Now the SAG has until April 5th to disclose the documents that supported its decision to approve such antibiotics.
For the second time in less than a year, Oceana has helped to defeat a coal-fired power plant on the coast of northern Chile. The CAP company announced last week that it was withdrawing its plans to construct the Cruz Grande thermoelectric power plant.
Cruz Grande was slated to be a 300-megawatt thermoelectric power plant in the region of La Higuera in Northern Chile, a few miles from the Choros-Damas and ChaĂ±aral island marine reserves, and near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, which is home to the worldâ€™s largest population of Humboldt penguins. The region also hosts communities of bottlenose dolphins, marine otters and many marine birds and mammals, including blue whales.
These creatures and habitats were at risk from the plantâ€™s emissions, which would have arrived quickly to the reserves. The plant would have used the areaâ€™s seawater to cool the plant, discharging it back into the ocean at higher temperatures. Oil spills from ships carrying coal to the plants would seep there in a few hours, and the local currents would retain the pollution within the area. Plus, mercury emissions from the plants would contaminate fish and mollusks like the Chilean abalone, damaging a crucial local industry.