This page provides answers questions frequently asked by Oceana’s community of ocean activists in response to the Netflix movie Seaspiracy.
What did the Oceana representative mean when she said “sustainability” is not defined?
To be clear, she meant that it can be confusing for consumers who try to buy “sustainable” seafood, not that Oceana does not have a definition for sustainability. We do have a definition (below), and we also know that it is possible to successfully put in place science-based management of fisheries and to create more abundance. In other words, we can save the oceans and feed the world. You can learn more about this in the following question in this FAQ (“How do you define sustainable fishing?”)
The former Oceana staffer featured in the film was a key leader in our campaigns against illegal fishing. She was asked a question about consumer seafood guides in the course of a two-hour interview, which was selectively edited.
The filmmakers could have interviewed the Oceana representative about her years of work with Oceana to stop illegal fishing. She could have told filmmakers about how she, Oceana and allies helped make the European Union’s fishing fleet more transparent and accountable. Or how Oceana organized global insurers to cut a financial lifeline to illegal fishers.
How do you define sustainable fishing?
Oceana campaigns for science-based management of fisheries, which has been shown to help increase ocean abundance and biodiversity. A key concept in successful management of fisheries is “Maximum Sustainable Yield” which is a widely used and accepted definition for fisheries management and science. This is the relevant definition of sustainability for Oceana’s campaigns which are focused on putting in place more science-based management in national waters, where most of the world’s fish are caught.
Fishing (both small scale and commercial) can and must be done sustainably, such that habitats, fish stocks and coastal communities thrive. There are proven examples from all over the world of fishing communities that have taken it upon themselves to preserve the fish stocks in their nearby waters, as well as examples of national-level policy that has been effective in regulating and rebuilding fish stocks.
When supporters ask about information helpful to buy sustainable fish we direct them – as we do on this Oceana web page – to respected and independent science-based groups that publish this kind of information and link to more information discussing the complications of finding sustainable seafood. Oceana does not do this as we are focused, as mentioned above, on campaigning for more science-based fisheries management.
Do you support the fishing industry?
Oceana opposes those who profit from overfishing and the destruction of the seas. We fight and stop destructive commercial fishing practices by winning policy victories around the world. We believe with enough support we can stop destructive fishing around the world, and in so doing, make the oceans significantly more abundant.
We work with partners and organizations around the world to develop sustainable fishing options that support the needs of these communities and the biodiversity of the oceans. In the Philippines, we work with municipal governments and coastal communities to protect their waters from illegal and destructive fishing practices like dynamite blast fishing and bottom trawling. In Brazil, we partnered with local small-scale fishers in the state of Rio Grande do Sul to pressure the government to put an end to destructive bottom trawling that risked the livelihoods of these coastal communities.
Making all fishing illegal because destructive industrial fishers are a problem is counterproductive and hurts the hundreds of millions who rely on seafood for their livelihoods and to feed their families. We need tough regulations that can stop undue harm from the big industrial fisheries, which is why we’ve campaigned for and won more than 225 victories.
Does Oceana receive funding from fishing industry?
No, Oceana does not take funding from commercial fishing companies, or aquaculture companies or fossil fuel companies. Our funding comes from foundations, more than ten thousand individuals and a small number of responsible companies. We have millions of supporters worldwide. You can find our fundraising details in our annual reports, which publicly disclose this data every single year.
Why not just stop eating fish?
People have the right to choose what they eat, and adopting a vegan diet is a choice that some of us can make. Unfortunately, it is not a realistic choice for hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend on coastal fisheries – many of whom are also facing poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Oceana campaigns to save the oceans for both the people who depend on them and to protect the marine animals (and other forms of life) who live in them.
Save the Oceans and Feed the World is what Oceana does, and it’s a necessary and practical way to support the 690 million people around the world who right now do not have enough to eat. Consider people who live on small islands, in coastal communities or for whom fishing and eating seafood is a tradition, a way of life, a central cultural fact.
The fact is that without science-based fisheries management, there will be more illegal fishing and not less. More destruction of the seas and not less. More people and communities will suffer from hunger and malnutrition. If you care about the oceans, you need to support trusted conservation organizations like ours.
Is it possible to fight illegal fishing?
Oceana has been successfully fighting to stop illegal fishing – and its horrible impacts – for years. Oceana, through Global Fishing Watch, spotlights and works to stop illegal fishing – and by extension, the human trafficking which can also take place alongside it – around the world by bringing transparency to illicit activity at sea. We’re helping ensure illegal fishers can no longer hide in the dark.
Global Fishing Watch, which was co-founded by Oceana with Google and SkyTruth, enables the opponents of illegal fishing to use global satellite and other data to find, track and hold accountable industrial boats engaged in illegal fishing and other such activities. By advocating for policies that establish science-based fisheries management, protect critical habitats and enforce measures to restore ocean abundance, Oceana is helping to systematically and effectively crack down on illegal fishers.
Why do you campaign to reduce plastic pollution?
Oceana’s campaigns are focused on winning victories that increase ocean abundance by putting in place science-based fisheries management and by stopping destructive fishing. We now also campaign to win reduction of plastics because plastic chokes, strangles, and kills marine life. Plastic production is expected to quadruple by 2050, and plastic virtually never goes away — polluting ocean ecosystems and risking marine life. We have to address this issue.
Seaspiracy cites a study by Laurent Lebreton and colleagues that uses a model to predict that “at least 46% (of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) was comprised of fishing nets.” This statistic is specific to this one area. However, the movie fails to cite best available science — a study published by Eunomia — that fishing gear accounts for only 10-20% of marine plastic globally. The vast majority — at least 80% — comes from land-based sources. Global Ghost Gear Initiative is one group specifically dedicated to solving the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide. Addressing the issue of ghost gear alone will not resolve the ocean plastic pollution crisis when it accounts for at most 1/5 of all pollution and pollution from other sources is rapidly increasing.
Do ocean animals and marine life benefit from oil spills?
Marine life and our oceans do not benefit from oil spill disasters. When in 2010 the BP exploratory rig Deepwater Horizon exploded, it killed 11 workers and set off the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Oil gushed from the seafloor for 87 days, ultimately spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 170,000 sea turtles, 800,000 birds, and trillions of larval fish and invertebrates were killed. More than a decade later, the impacts are still felt today.
Oceana campaigns to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters, and we have won. We helped win a ban on all expanded offshore oil drilling of the U.S. We stopped the planned drilling for oil on Belize’s Mesoamerican Reef (the second largest barrier reef in the world), and won a ban on all offshore drilling in Belize. We also helped to stop new drilling in the U.S. Arctic Ocean.
You can also access Oceana’s statement on Netflix’s Seaspiracy here.