June 8, 2023
CEO Note: Five ways the oceans have progressed since last World Oceans Day
BY: Andy Sharpless
Today is World Oceans Day – a day to celebrate the far-reaching oceans that cover more than 70% of our planet and provide a home to most life on Earth. Despite their vastness, the oceans face human-caused threats like climate change, plastic pollution, illegal fishing, biodiversity loss, overfishing, and habitat destruction.
But the oceans are resilient, and with a little help, they can recover. Oceana and our allies have proven this with more than 275 victories that have helped protect and restore the world’s oceans. Here are five ways we’ve made progress since last year’s World Oceans Day:
- Protected ocean habitat: Safeguarding ocean habitat is key to restoring fisheries abundance, protecting livelihoods, and combating the worst impacts of the climate crisis. One of the latest marine protected areas (MPAs) Oceana helped establish is called ‘Pisagua Sea,’ located off Chile’s northern coast. Over the course of four expeditions, Oceana documented more than 150 species in the area, ranging from large schools of anchovies and jack mackerel to macroalgae forests to smaller organisms like krill and crustaceans. The new MPA is the first in the country to protect not only ocean habitat and species, but also the livelihoods of artisanal fishers, who rely on this place to support their community and local economy.
- Reduced single-use plastics: Single-use plastics are flooding our oceans – roughly two garbage trucks worth every minute. At Oceana, we’re campaigning to reduce and eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics at the source. We’ve won several plastics victories in the last year including a major law in Canada to phase out some of the most commonly found plastics polluting Canada’s shorelines and oceans by the end of 2023. Production, sale, and exports of plastic bags, cutlery, stir sticks, six-pack rings, straws, and some plastic takeout containers will be eliminated. Combined, the items banned will remove an estimated 33 billion units of single-use plastics from the waste stream.
- Safeguarded sharks: Much progress has been made to protect sharks – the ocean’s top predator – since the last World Oceans Day. The United States banned the buying and selling of shark fins, following significant campaigning by Oceana and our allies. This victory officially removes the U.S. from the unsustainable global shark fin trade, where fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up each year. Peru also made progress by including illegal wildlife trafficking as a form of organized crime. This victory will help protect hundreds of aquatic and terrestrial species, including sharks, which are highly prized for their fins in the illicit trade.
- Increased responsible fishing practices: Just a few weeks ago, Peru passed a new law that strengthens protections for the first five miles off the country’s coast and supports Peru’s artisanal fishers. The law will reinforce the ban on large-scale industrial fishing within the first five nautical miles and prohibit any gear that is harmful to the habitat and seafloor. Science-based fishing quotas and new measures to recover overfished species will also be established. Oceana supported artisanal fishers in their campaigning for this law, which will help protect ocean abundance, biodiversity, and livelihoods in Peru.
- Enacted measures to reduce illegal fishing: Oceana has made important strides to deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In Europe, Oceana campaigned for a rule that was adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an inter-governmental organization that oversees the conservation and management of fishes such as tunas and swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean. The rule prevents companies from providing services, such as insurance, satellite communications, and financial services, to fishing vessels known to be engaged in IUU fishing in the ICCAT regulatory area. The 52 member countries of ICCAT will be required to take effective and deterrent action against citizens and businesses that engage with and support IUU fishing. This achievement builds on Oceana’s ongoing campaign to deter companies associated with the fishing sector from supporting illicit fishing activities.
These victories mark major progress in protecting and restoring the world’s oceans, but there is still work to do. The oceans are our biggest ally in the fight against climate change, having absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat from human-caused carbon emissions. But there’s a limit to how much they can withstand. Oceana will continue to campaign for policies that help ensure the health of our oceans and the future of our planet. We look forward to celebrating more victories with you soon.