On the heels of yesterday’s final public hearing from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP), international ocean advocacy group Oceana today joined Environment California at a press conference in San Francisco to urge passage of California legislation aimed at improving the health of the oceans. Oceana called the bills key steps toward the USCOP goal of fundamental ocean management reform.
Erin Simmons, Oceana’s West Coast Organizer, called on the legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to swiftly pass and sign into law two bills that would prevent sewage and wastewater from being dumped by cruise ships off the California coast, and one that would restrict bottom trawling in state controlled waters.
“Our oceans are dying, and these bills represent common sense ways that we can start healing them,” said Simmons. “For the first time in decades, we have a real opportunity to improve the way we manage the oceans, both here in California and nationally, and we owe it to future generations to take advantage of it.”
Oceana, which in May won an 11-month campaign to force Royal Caribbean Cruises to install Advanced Wastewater Treatment technology fleet-wide, has been fiercely advocating for stronger state and federal cruise pollution laws. AB 2093, introduced by State Assemblyman George Nakano, D-53rd, would prohibit the discharge of graywater from cruise ships into state waters. AB 2672, introduced by Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-21st, would set the same limitations on sewage. Current law allows the cruise industry to dump wastewater anywhere, while sewage is only required to be treated within three miles of shore by antiquated and ineffective Marine Sanitation Devices.
“Royal Caribbean, the world’s second largest cruise line, realized the harm that its waste can do to the seas, but evidently the other cruise companies have ignored the wake-up call. We’re calling on the government of California to do what the cruise industry won’t and end this harmful pollution off our coasts,” said Simmons.
Oceana has also been campaigning to restrict the destructive practice of bottom trawling, a form of industrial fishing in which large, bag-shaped nets are dragged across the ocean floor, clear-cutting everything in their path. Trawling nets often catch and kill many non-targeted marine organisms (bycatch), and they can do great harm to ancient coral forests and other essential parts of marine ecosystems. Senate Bill 1459, introduced by Sen. Dede Alpert, would restrict bottom trawl fishing in all state waters while allowing bottom trawl fisheries to continue operating in approved areas beyond three miles from shore. It would also cap the number of vessels permitted to bottom trawl, restrict them from vulnerable habitats, and ensure that they use state-of-the-art bycatch reduction devices.
“We are proud to stand with Oceana in an effort to finally manage highly destructive bottom trawl gear. This gear scrapes along the seafloor, gobbling up everything in its path, crushing kelp and other ocean plants, leaving only clouds of sediment and debris in its wake. It is time to employ alternative fishing gear that does not cause this damage,” said Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California, the state’s largest sportfishing association.