Protections Advance for Great Whites in California
Following campaigning by Oceana, great white sharks off the California coast have been awarded ‘candidacy’ status under the California Endangered Species Act, which means the state will consider an array of possible management measures that can be put into place to reduce bycatch of white sharks.Possible measures include time and area closures of the fisheries where white sharks are caught, modifications to fishing gear, and strict limits on how many of the sharks may be captured incidentally as bycatch. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will now embark on a one-year in-depth status review of the population. Once the review is complete, the Commission will vote on whether or not to officially list white sharks as threatened or endangered.
After campaigning by Oceana, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced new regulations for the Atlantic scallop fishery that will require Turtle Deflector Devices (TDDs) in areas and during times when sea turtles are known to be present.
The scallop fishery has long been a threat to sea turtles, who get caught up and drowned in the heavy equipment. TDDs are expected to reduce sea turtle mortality by at least 56 percent when compared to former dredges that force them into heavy chain bags where they were dragged and often drowned.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Oceana in a suit that will require commercial fisheries from North Carolina to the Canadian border to monitor and report the amount of bycatch, or untargeted marine life, they discard. The decision is a triumph against one of the biggest problems facing our oceans today. Tons of fish are wasted and thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks and sea birds are injured or killed every year as bycatch.
U.S. Government Proposes Endangered Status for U.S. Loggerhead Sea Turtles
In response to two petitions submitted in 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to change the status of North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
The government also proposed listing loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.
Gulf Council Protects Sea Turtles from Bottom Longlines
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took its final step in an effort to protect threatened sea turtles from the bottom longline sector of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery. Specifically, the Council voted to close all bottom longline fishing shoreward of 35 fathoms (approximately 210 feet) from June to August, a time when large numbers of loggerheads were caught in previous years, and to restrict longline fishing of all vessels that have a history of catching at least 40,000 lbs of reef fish each year.
Pacific Loggerheads Protected from West Coast Longlines
The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to maintain a standing prohibition on a West Coast-based high seas longline fishery. The vote will prevent the opening of a new swordfish fishery that would threaten migrating loggerhead sea turtles and other marine wildlife on the high seas of the north Pacific Ocean.
Sea Turtles Protected from Gulf Longlines
After Oceana’s advocacy work, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) put in place an emergency closure of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to bottom longline fishing gear from the reef fish fishery to protect sea turtles. The closure included all waters shallower than 50 fathoms for a period of six months. NMFS took this action after the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted (10-7) to ask them to do so. Oceana was instrumental in pushing both the Agency and the Council to take these actions to protect sea turtles.
Increased Funding for Observers
From 2003-2009, Oceana advocated increased funding for observer programs to members of the United States Congress. These efforts helped increase available funding for fishery observers from around 14 million dollars to approximately 32 million dollars.
Reducing Salmon Bycatch in the Pollock Fishery
The world’s largest fishery took the first step toward reducing wasteful king salmon bycatch. After pressure from Oceana and its allies, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved forward on capping salmon bycatch in the Alaska pollock fishery.
Measures to Reduce Fishing Waste Stand Up in Court
A federal appeals court let stand conservation measures approved by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries, and supported by Oceana, to limit the amount of discards from large bottom trawling vessels. The regulations require large “head and gut” bottom trawl vessels in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to retain and utilize a larger portion of the fish they catch, as opposed to keeping only the most economically valuable species and throwing the rest overboard.
According to NOAA estimates, these regulations will prevent 110 million pounds of groundfish from being wasted as unwanted bycatch each year, and serve as an incentive for vessels to fish more carefully, limiting bycatch of corals and other marine animals.