Oceana Magazine Spring 2013: CEO Note: How do we know that we are winning for the oceans?

As a reader of this magazine, you understand that the oceans provide protein to people at a vast scale – marine fish are today equal to eggs in their share of humanity’s animal protein diet. You also are likely to be a snorkeler, surfer, beachgoer, sailor, diver or a recreational fisherman and to have some of your life’s happiest memories colored in sandy, salt-water surfside hues. You want to deliver an ocean filled with seals, salmon and sea bass to the future for reasons that are both practical and poetic. You want the ongoing ocean collapse to stop.

Oceana, with your support, is succeeding in restoring abundant oceans. “That sounds like good news,” you are thinking, “but just how do we know that we are winning for the oceans?”

Oceana was founded a little more than a decade ago by a group of very sophisticated foundations that knew the facts of ocean collapse. They were profoundly disappointed by policy-makers’ response and the sadly too often ineffective efforts of existing NGOs. So these philanthropists launched Oceana and gave us very hard-headed and practical instructions. Deliver measurable improvements in ocean health, and do it quickly. They declared that Oceana would not, like many NGOs, conduct “programs” but would instead run campaigns with specific and concrete goals and short deadlines. Our success, or failure, would be measurable and we would be accountable for results

That business-like model means that goal setting is fundamental to how we operate, and each year we recommend detailed goals for approval to our board, and report, in detail, on progress (or lack thereof) on every one of our existing goals.

Our goals this year are a cause for great optimism. Building on a decade of policy campaigning in Europe together with our allies in government and other NGOs, we have committed to delivering a 40% increase in the abundance of European ocean fisheries by the year 2020. We are, in short, committing to assuring that before the decade is over, there will be a lot more fish in the water.

Europe’s famously depleted ocean fisheries can be rebuilt because policies stopping overfishing have finally been adopted by the European Union. Fishing quotas will be set to allow spawning stocks to rebuild. Nursery habitat will be protected from bottom trawling. Bycatch and at-sea discards will be curtailed.

This is a victory not just for Oceana, but for all the scientists, policy-makers and NGOs that have fought to stop the short-sighted practices of the industrial scale commercial fishing fleets of Europe. It is also a victory for the rest of the world, because we believe Europe is showing, on a very large scale, that ocean fishery recovery is achievable.

Already, the share of European ocean catch whose quotas are within sensible scientific limits is up to 50% from less than 10% a decade ago.

Everywhere Oceana works – Europe, USA, Chile and Belize – Oceana is succeeding in restoring abundant oceans. We know this because we set ourselves the goal of winning scientific quotas, protecting habitat and reducing bycatch. Soon, we will be able to follow Europe’s lead and measure our progress by seeing more fish in the ocean – measurable increases in ocean abundance.

If you like eating fish, and if you want to make sure that a planet soon to have 9 billion people can feed everyone, this is very good news. Think how it will feel to go to the beach, and know that the watery 71 percent of the planet by which you stand is abundant and healthy. That will be good for the creatures of the sea. And it will be very good for us creatures of the land.

Thank you for your generous support of Oceana. I hope you will help us again this year.

For the Oceans,

Oceana is grateful for the grants, contributions, and support it has received from dozens of foundations and companies and thousands of individuals. Oceana wishes to thank all of its supporters, especially its founding funders as well as foundations that in 2012 awarded Oceana grants of $500,000 or more: Adessium Foundation, Arcadia Fund, Oak Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sandler Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, and VELUX Foundations.