Today Oceana, a new international group dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans from destructive fishing and pollution, is launching a campaign, OceansAtRisk.com, to end the massive waste of marine life, the “bycatch” of U.S. fishing operations. The first step in the campaign is a formal petition filed with the Bush Administration, requesting it uphold laws to reduce destructive fishing.
Oceana is also releasing a report, Oceans At Risk: Wasted Catch and the Destruction of Ocean Life- A Report by Oceana which exposes the waste and destruction of marine life in U.S. fisheries, and the failure of the government to take action. Finally, Oceana is launching a citizen campaign at www.OceansAtRisk.com to persuade the Bush Administration and Congress to enforce the law and mandate near-zero levels of bycatch for all marine life.
“Our oceans are at risk. Around the world, each year, 44 billion pounds of fish plus hundreds of thousands of other marine animals are thrown overboard, dead and dying. Bycatch in U.S. waters is a key part of the problem but the U.S. government has failed to enforce laws to protect ocean wildlife unintentionally caught during fishing. This petition holds the Bush Administration accountable for its delay and inaction on illegal and wasteful fishing practices,” said Steve Roady, Oceana President.
“Industrial fishing vessels strip mine the ocean of life. From disappearing sea otters in Alaska to dying coral reefs in Florida, our oceans and the circle of life are clearly more at risk than ever. When we take too much life out of the oceans, we put our food supplies, our coastal economies, and even ourselves at risk,” said Dr. Michael Hirshfield, Oceana Vice President for Science.
Four federal laws require the U.S. government to reduce the bycatch of marine mammals, sea birds, endangered species, and fish – yet the government’s last report admitted it had not acted in an overwhelming majority of cases. The government has historically delayed and ignored bycatch solutions – for instance taking 15 years to require pingers on gillnets to protect porpoises and still has not required Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) big enough to save threatened adult sea turtles. In addition, the government admits that it has no accurate picture of the extent of the problem. On the east coast, less than two percent of fishing trips carry observers required to record data on bycatch.
Oceana’s petition calls on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to implement a program that would count, cap, and control wasteful fishing practices in U.S. fisheries. Should NMFS not respond in a timely manner, Oceana will consider legal action.
The Oceana report details how some large-scale commercial fishing operations use vast fishing nets that unintentionally strangle, drown, and crush billions of other fish, sea turtles, whales, sharks, dolphins, and seabirds. Other fishing gears such as bottom trawls bulldoze the ocean bottom for fish, scraping up virtually everything in their path.
Recent public opinion surveys in California, Florida, and New Jersey indicate that voters are seriously concerned about the oceans, believe that ocean conditions are worsening, and support steps to end bad fishing practices. In California, 84% of respondents favor stronger U.S. laws prohibiting bad fishing practices, and in Florida and New Jersey the figure is 83%.
Along with the launching of the OceansAtRisk.com campaign, Oceana and American Oceans Campaign announced they are joining forces to protect the world’s oceans. American Oceans Campaign, a fifteen-year old national non-profit environmental organization dedicated to safeguarding the vitality of US oceans and coastal waters, will be incorporated into Oceana, a brand new international non-profit ocean advocacy organization. The new organization resulting from this merger will be called Oceana and will bring a new surge of energy and expertise to protect the world’s oceans.
For more information, contact:
Robert Kaplan, 202-478-6130
Heather Weiner, 202-833-3900 x910