I want to let you know how Oceana is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, first and foremost, I want to make it clear that Oceana’s thoughts are with you, your friends and family and everyone impacted by COVID-19 – whether in terms of their health, jobs or community. We hope that you are safe and well.
So, what is Oceana doing to respond to this situation?
First, as a science-based, policy-oriented organization, we are following the fact-based guidance of the medical community and governments of the countries in which we work. We are taking measures to help flatten the curve of this virus, including working remotely, canceling events and moving to virtual meetings where possible. We will work to protect the health of our staff, our supporters and our partners around the world.
Today, 35 key Oceana managers from all our countries and our headquarters team here in Washington, DC conferred via video conference for more than two hours on COVID-19. The situation is already quite serious in some of our countries. Our Spanish team, our Peruvian colleagues and our Luzon Philippines campaigners are all mandated by their governments to shelter in place and are permitted outside only for very limited and essential reasons. Today we learned that cases and deaths are rising everywhere we work.
Discussing the fast-moving situation together, we made decisions that will help protect our staff. We also started to make prudent changes in our action and campaign plans, which we will review with our board of directors in the first-ever video conference meeting of our board next month.
Tomorrow, I will meet via a videoconference call with all our staff worldwide. Going forward, every weekday in the coming weeks, we will hold a call-in meeting focused on COVID-19 for our key managers worldwide. I have asked to be told immediately if any one of our more than 250 staff worldwide become sick or are known to have been exposed to the virus. If so, we will take steps to notify and protect our other staff and to help the affected staff and their families.
Additionally, since being founded in 2001, we have built lasting relationships with artisanal fishers and coastal communities around the world. Together, we’ve protected more than 4.5 million square miles of ocean, helped to rebuild and protect the abundance of fisheries, and defended very ways of life. Oceana’s achievements would not be possible without our allies. Our teams will continue to stay in touch and support our partners and help them, as best we can, to get through this crisis.
Oceana will also continue its campaigns and work to win policy victories that protect our oceans. The oceans provide sustenance and jobs for hundreds of millions of people around the world. They are an essential source of life’s biodiversity on this incredible, and now seemingly smaller-than-ever, planet. We, and the world, need healthy and abundant oceans in the wake of this pandemic and other future global challenges to come.
Right now, the threats to abundant oceans remain real. Sadly, while the world’s focus on COVID-19 is entirely appropriate, it does not slow the overfishing and pollution that threaten our incredible marine resources. You can count on Oceana to stay fully engaged – now from our homes and from safe social distances – in the battle to restore and protect healthy oceans. We carry on.
Finally, in crises like this one, we encourage all our friends and supporters to make informed decisions with reliable information. I encourage you to consult the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control for information on how you can take precautions against COVID-19 to keep yourself and your community safe.
Please stay in touch – we need your support and guidance more than ever. Together, we can come through this crisis and also work to save the oceans and help feed the world.