Along with setting science-based fishing quotas and reducing bycatch, habitat protection is one of the key pillars of Oceana’s work to save the oceans and feed the world. Protected areas where habitats are safe from damage allow species to thrive and populations to rebound.
But it’s hard to fight for habitat protections if you don’t know what you’re trying to save. How do you protect something that nobody has seen?
This question has been the basis for Oceana’s recent expeditions. In Europe, we just completed our first-ever expedition in the North Sea. Oceana scientists explored waters off the coasts of the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark for two months, covering almost 2,000 nautical miles and documenting up to 700 species in 13 areas of interest, including places that had been largely un-explored before now.
Oceana is gathering this data in support of establishing and expanding marine protected areas (MPAs) in the North Sea. Our findings will be shared with stakeholders – scientists, government officials, conservation allies and more – to help influence policymaking. The protected areas Oceana is advocating for will help preserve biodiversity and restore depleted fish stocks in northern Europe.
Similarly, Oceana recently completed a a research expedition off the coast of Southern California in the Channel Islands and farther offshore. The ocean environment off Southern California is truly a unique place, where a series of faults, banks and seamounts makes for a diverse seafloor unlike any other off the U.S. west coast. It’s also a largely undocumented and pristine habitat where seafloor ecosystems could be threatened by the expansion of destructive bottom trawling.
Oceana believes that fishing in these areas should only occur with methods that will not harm the seafloor. We are working to protect more of these vulnerable habitats from bottom trawling while fighting to prevent already-protected areas from being reopened to destructive fishing practices. In November, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet in Orange County to make a critical decision regarding protections for Essential Fish Habitat, including some of the areas we just documented. Please take a moment to sign our online petition asking the Council to extend protections off the U.S. west coast.
Oceana’s scientific expeditions are a vital part of our success. Our findings help Oceana push for new policies that will protect amazing places and help rebuild healthy oceans. Ultimately, our research at sea informs policymaking in the halls of power around the world.