It’s been a big week for our U.S. oceans. Just this week, Oceana and our allies won two important victories that will help protect biodiversity and increase abundance in U.S. oceans. We also advanced an important milestone in the battle to save sharks from the fin trade:
- Won New Protections for Corals, Sponges, Underwater Canyons off U.S. West Coast: On Monday, NOAA Fisheries issued final regulations to protect more than 140,000 square miles of seafloor habitat off the U.S. West Coast from destructive bottom trawling. This decision by NOAA is in response to years of scientific input and advocacy by Oceana to more than double the spatial extent of seafloor protections off California, Oregon and Washington from the impacts of bottom trawl fishing gear. Once the new regulations take effect on January 1, 2020, 90 percent of the seafloor in U.S. ocean waters off the West Coast will be off limits to bottom trawling (!). You can learn more about this victory through this fun story map.
- Fishery Council Blocks Return of West Coast Longlines, Safeguarding Sea Turtles, Marine Mammals and Sharks: On Wednesday, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted overwhelmingly not to pursue the return of a U.S. West Coast pelagic longline fishery. Pelagic longlines are a harmful fishing method that has been prohibited off the West Coast for decades due to excessive bycatch of unintended species including marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, marlins and sharks. Despite its dangers to marine life, there has been pressure on the Council to expand the use of pelagic longlines on the high seas. The Council’s decision is a major win for the oceans that resulted from continued pressure from Oceana and our allies – including birding and sport fishing communities, ecotourism operators, Members of Congress, and the state of California – for over a decade.
- National Shark Fin Trade Ban Goes To The Senate: On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to ban the sale and trade of shark fins. This nationwide prohibition on the trade of shark fins will reduce the international fin trade, improve enforcement of the current finning ban, and perhaps most importantly, reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation, in a way that will encourage other countries to act accordingly. Although shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, fins can still be bought and sold throughout much of the United States. These fins are imported from countries that have ineffective shark finning bans or otherwise inadequate protections in place for sharks. This important legislation passed by the House has been three years in the making and is a bright spot of bipartisanship in Congress. We have some amazing champions on both sides of the aisle. We now have to engage them in the Senate.
These are significant advances, and only a fraction of the more than 200 that Oceana has won since its founding in 2001.