December 13, 2018
CEO Note: Oceana victories: Reducing plastics in Peru and banning bottom trawling in the Philippines
BY: Andy Sharpless
Oceana, with our allies, has won two major policy victories this past week that will help to make our oceans healthier and more abundant.
In Peru, Oceana and its allies won passage of a new law that will help to reduce the use of plastics and plastic pollution in one of the most important ocean countries on the planet. Peru’s Congress passed legislation, based on a proposal from the country’s Ministry of the Environment, banning the use of plastic bags and restricting other single-use plastics (including straws). The ban will take effect within the next three years. Peru is home to 32 million people and is the 49th largest economy in the world (according to the World Bank). The measures also include language that prohibits the use of plastics in Peru’s beaches, coast and the country’s many protected areas. This new law, which Oceana helped develop, will be good for Peru’s oceans and its economy as it will protect Peru’s abundant seas which are home to the world’s largest single-species fishery.
Worldwide, the vast majority of the plastic produced comes from virgin plastic and only a small portion – less than 10% – is recycled. Meanwhile, the use of virgin plastic grows by 4% every year. This means that if even by some herculean efforts, recycling rates double by 2030, there would still be far more plastic entering the ocean than now. We cannot recycle ourselves out of this problem. If the bath is overflowing, we don’t mop up the water; we turn off the tap. We need more governments to follow the lead of Peru and to take concrete steps to reduce plastic use and production if we are going to solve the plastics problem impacting our seas.
In the Philippines, following Oceana’s campaign, the government ended a loophole and effectively ended bottom trawling in municipal waters. In the late ’90s, the Philippines passed a law limiting industrial fishing in local waters but allowed smaller vessels – under three tons – to fish (with the intent of encouraging artisanal fishing in these water). This exception led to the creation of a new industrial fleet of “mini trawlers” that continued to operate near the coasts of the Philippines. Bottom trawlers destroy habitat, which includes ocean nurseries, by dragging heavily weighted nets across the ocean floor in pursuit of fish. These habitats can take centuries to recover.
The Government of the Philippines has now removed the loophole and established clear penalties – including fines and imprisonment – for the owners or operators of boats who continue to bottom trawl in municipal waters of the country. The government also mandated the decommissioning of all bottom trawl gear and reaffirmed the right of access – as intended in the original legislation – for artisanal fishers to municipal waters. It also created a working group, including NGOs, to monitor implementation of the bottom trawling ban. This victory comes directly from the hard work of Oceana’s team in the Philippines who worked with the government to develop these new guidelines.
Thanks to your support, Oceana is winning concrete policy victories that will help to save the oceans and feed the world.