The Peruvian government made a public commitment to make its national vessel tracking data publicly available through Global Fishing Watch. This means data for all of Peru’s fisheries will be made public, including for the country’s famous anchoveta fishery which has historically been the world’s largest fishery by weight. This decision will make Peru’s enormous and important fisheries transparent and accountable to governments, fishery managers, seafood suppliers and buyers, journalists, researchers, nonprofit organizations and citizens around the world and assist in the responsible management of these ocean resources. The commitment, which was announced at The Ocean Conference hosted by the United Nations in New York City, was the result of Oceana's collaboration with the Peruvian government to increase transparency of commercial fishing in Peru's waters.
The state of California safeguarded hundreds of species of forage fish, the ocean’s smallest schooling fish, from new and directed fisheries in all ocean waters of the state unless and until it can be demonstrated these tiny but critical fish and invertebrates [or say fish, squids, and krill] can be caught without causing harm to the ecosystem and disrupting the ocean food web. With this decision, protections are now in place prohibiting directed fishing for these forage species in all U.S. ocean waters on the West Coast from shore out to 200 nautical miles. Along with Oceana’s previous victory prohibiting a West Coast fishery for krill, now roughly 70 percent of the total weight of forage species in ocean waters off the West Coast is now protected from directed fishing. Forage fish support an array of wildlife, including sea lions, whales, dolphins, birds, and even bears and wolves, in addition to important species of recreational and commercial fish like tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, and rockfish. These landmark protections are the result of over a decade of campaigning by Oceana and its allies which include conservation groups, businesses, fishermen and policymakers.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to keep the U.S. West Coast Pacific sardine fishery closed for the upcoming commercial season. This was because scientists estimated the sardine population in the water to be 86,586 metric tons and that there needed to be a population size equivalent to at least 150,000 metric tons necessary in order to support a commercial fishery. This was the third year in a row where the commercial fishery was closed because of low sardine populations. Three years earlier, after the crash of the sardine population, Oceana led the fight and secured an emergency closure of the fishery, and the fishery has not opened since. Ensuring that there are enough sardines in the water for fishing also ensures that there are enough sardines remaining in the sea to feed and support wildlife that depends on them for survival, including brown pelicans, humpback whales, and sea lions. These decisions will also strengthen and speed up the rebuilding of sardine populations as ocean conditions become more favorable which, at greater abundance, have the potential to provide healthy seafood meals for many people as well.
Ministers and high-level representatives from Mediterranean countries signed a historic declaration to address the fisheries crisis in the region. The ministerial declaration, Malta MedFish4Ever, will be the blueprint for cooperation and the sustainable development of fisheries for all coastal states in the Mediterranean over the next 10 years. For years, Oceana has campaigned for catch limits, better enforcement and habitat protections in order to rebuild depleted Mediterranean fish stocks. A recent study commissioned by Oceana revealed that Mediterranean catches could increase by 200 percent in some areas if managed effectively. The MedFish4Ever agreement is a critical political commitment to rebuilding Mediterranean fisheries.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) agreed on a recovery plan for the severely depleted Mediterranean swordfish. The plan includes a reduction of catches and the adoption of a quota system, enforced by monitoring and control measures to prevent illegal fishing and improve transparency in fishery management and trade. Oceana has been campaigning for over a decade for the implementation of a recovery plan for the overfished Mediterranean swordfish. While Oceana applauds this critical step toward better management, it will continue to campaign for a stronger recovery plan aligned with scientific advice to protect the Mediterranean swordfish.
Oceana in Europe campaigned with our colleagues in the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition for the prohibition of deep sea bottom trawling in the North East Atlantic waters. This victory provides increased protection for vulnerable marine ecosystems and deep-sea sharks. The European Parliament, Council and Commission reached an agreement that bans all trawling below 800m depth and that stops bottom fishing activity below 400m if the presence of vulnerable marine ecosystems is demonstrated. These actions protect 4.9 million km2 – an area larger than the EU itself.
Following campaigning by Oceana, three Fisheries Restricted Areas were created by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) in the Strait of Sicily, protecting 1,493 square km between Italy, Malta and Tunisia from bottom trawling and preserving nursery areas for hake and deep-sea rose shrimp. The commission also prohibited commercial harvest of red coral. These decisions will help protect vulnerable habitats and allow fisheries in these important Mediterranean marine ecosystems to recover.
Thanks to a new regulation by the European Union, Denmark, Germany and Sweden will cease all fishing activity on sensitive bubbling reefs and end fishing with damaging bottom gear (such as bottom trawls) over reefs in protected Danish waters of the Baltic Sea and Kattegat. The new measures are the first of their kind in the Baltic Sea, and were jointly proposed by the three Member States. The regulation covers 10 Natura 2000 protected areas—which are the backbone of marine protected areas in the EU. Oceana has conducted multiple expeditions in the Baltic Sea that exposed the ecological significance of this region, and has campaigned for years for sustainable fishing and habitat protections.
In the fall of 2015, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of the largest marine park in the Americas, Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park. The new park is a no-take zone which extends for 297,518 square kilometers (114,872 square miles), protecting the high level of abundance and biodiversity found in the area surrounding the Desventuradas Islands. Oceana worked closely with leaders (and fishermen) from the Juan Fernandez Islands, federal government representatives and officials in Chile and with National Geographic to achieve this result. In 2013, Oceana and National Geographic organized a joint expedition to film, photograph and report on the remarkable variety and profusion of sea life in the Desventuradas – including lobsters nearly two feet long and weighing close to 15 pounds. Based on the findings from the expedition, Oceana and National Geographic created a comprehensive scientific report and a proposal for the large marine park for which Oceana campaigned for over the next two years. The Desventuradas islands are uninhabited except for a Chilean naval base and when fishermen from the Juan Fernández archipelago travel (more than 800 kilometers) to fish for lobsters. The Juan Fernández community supported the proposal and ultimately presented it to the Chilean government.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted at its April meeting to close the Pacific sardine fishery early for the remainder of the 2015 season, and to keep the fishery closed during the 2015 to 2016 season. A new scientific assessment by the National Marine Fisheries Service finds the sardine population has collapsed by 91 percent since 2007, and that the population is estimated to be at 96,688 metric tons, far below the 150,000 metric tons required for fishing to occur. The fishery crash is causing ecological effects on marine wildlife, which may have widespread and lasting implications. The Council’s action marks an important first step towards recovering this important forage fish. Moving forward, Oceana is requesting the Council overhaul its fishery management plan to account for ecosystem needs and increase the amount of sardines that must be left in the ocean before fishing should be allowed to occur in the future.