Since 2001, Oceana has achieved hundreds of concrete policy victories for marine life and habitats. From stopping bottom trawling in sensitive habitat areas to protecting sea turtles from commercial fishing gear, our victories represent a new hope for the world's oceans.
New Law in Peru Criminalizes Illegal Construction of Fishing Vessels
The Peruvian government enacted a law that criminalizes the illegal construction and modification of fishing vessels, which leads to overfishing and threatens artisanal fishers. In recent years, the size and fishing pressure of Peru’s fishing fleet has grown rapidly, in large part due to the illegal construction of new vessels and the modification of existing vessels, allowing them to hold more catch onboard. Prior to the new law, these practices were not classified as crimes and there was no legal way to stop the perpetrators. This growing issue put law-abiding artisanal fishers’ livelihoods and the health of Peru’s oceans at risk. Oceana campaigned with artisanal fishers and other allies to enact this new law, which will give prosecutors better tools, like destroying illegal vessels, to tackle illegal fishing and reduce overfishing in Peru’s seas.
New Law in Chile will Protect Kelp Forests and 50 Other Seafloor Species
Chile’s Congress passed the Benthic Law, which will improve the management of kelp – a key ecosystem for marine life and an important resource for artisanal fishers. Currently, kelp is often harvested illegally and there is little official information about its conservation status. The new law specifies proper techniques and tools for kelp collectors, including the regulation of the “barreteo” method – harvesting kelp from the base. The law also covers more than 50 commercial species that live on the seafloor such as sea urchins, crabs, and clams. The law establishes rules to determine which species and areas should be protected and where recovery plans must be put in place. Oceana campaigned for these changes to benefit Chile’s kelp forests, the numerous species that inhabit these unique ecosystems, and the 16,000+ artisanal fishers who rely on these areas for their livelihoods.
Mexico Creates Bajos del Norte National Park, New Protected Area in Gulf of Mexico
The Mexican government created Bajos del Norte National Park following a campaign and scientific expeditions by Oceana and its allies. This marine protected area (MPA) in the Gulf of Mexico covers more than 13,000 square kilometers (5,000+ square miles) – and brings the country closer to its goal of protecting 30% of its ocean by 2030. Located off the coast of Yucatan, the new MPA will conserve coral reefs, while also helping recover important commercial species like groupers, octopus, and spiny lobster. Bajos del Norte National Park will also connect with the nearby Alacranes Reef National Park to form a conservation corridor for migrating species like sharks and turtles. In 2021 and 2022, Oceana and Blancpain conducted two expeditions to the area. Our findings, and the subsequent joint efforts of national scientists, civil society organizations, fishers, and the Mexican government, made this new MPA possible.
Spain Designates Seven New Marine Protected Areas
The Spanish government designated seven new marine protected areas (MPAs) in three Spanish marine regions. These areas, rich in biodiversity and vulnerable ecosystems, will be part of the Natura 2000 Network, which includes the natural areas of greatest ecological value in the European Union. With this designation, the total marine area protected in Spain, including Natura 2000 areas and other areas, will increase from 12% to 21%, bringing the country closer to its goal of protecting 30% of its waters by 2030. The new MPAs will help protect key ecosystems and fisheries resources and provide climate refuges for species. Oceana campaigned for these new designations and contributed the scientific data on biodiversity hotspots collected during multiple expeditions. Oceana will continue to campaign to stop destructive fishing practices inside these areas.
President Biden’s Five-Year Plan Protects US Waters from Expanded Offshore Drilling
In the United States, the Biden administration finalized its Five-Year Plan for offshore oil and gas leasing – with the fewest number of proposed lease sales to date. The plan offers three lease sales in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, and fully protects the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Eastern Gulf of Mexico from new offshore drilling. This Five-Year Plan process began in 2018 under President Trump, who proposed 47 offshore drilling lease sales, the largest number ever proposed. Oceana was instrumental in stopping the expansion of drilling beyond the Gulf of Mexico and minimizing new lease sales in the Gulf. Oceana will continue to campaign with our allies to permanently protect U.S. coasts from new offshore drilling, which will help fight climate change and safeguard the communities, businesses, and wildlife that rely on a healthy ocean.
Spain Sanctions 25 Fishing Vessels for Disabling Public Tracking Devices
The Government of Spain sanctioned 25 Spanish-flagged fishing vessels for repeatedly disabling their automatic identification system (AIS). The sanctions, with fines of up to €60,000 (US$65,000), are a direct result of Oceana’s analysis and close collaboration with the Spanish administration. Oceana found the sanctioned vessels appeared to be fishing near Argentinian waters between 2018 and 2021 with their AIS trackers turned off. These vessels spent nearly twice as much time with AIS devices off as they did visibly fishing. Vessels are known to turn off their AIS trackers to avoid being seen, possibly to engage in fishing that is not authorized. Broadcasting AIS vessel location data is required by Spain and the European Union to guarantee safety at sea.
EU Sets Sustainable Catch Limits to Help Recover Fish Populations
The European Union set more sustainable catch limits for the fisheries it manages exclusively in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea for 2024. For Atlantic fisheries, 87% of the catch limits were set in line with scientific recommendations, nearly all the current catch by weight. Also this year, in the Western Mediterranean, fishing effort by destructive trawlers was reduced by 9.5% and catch limits were lowered for various deep-sea shrimps. Oceana and our allies campaigned for these changes across the EU and helped drive public support and engagement. Oceana will continue to campaign for sustainable fisheries management in EU waters.
New Law in Belize Gives People the Power to Protect Offshore Oil Moratorium
The Government of Belize passed a new law that requires any decision to open its ocean to oil and gas drilling to first be voted on by the Belizean people through a national referendum. Belize is home to 40% of the second largest barrier reef system in the world (and the largest in the Western Hemisphere). Belizeans’ lives are inextricably tied to the sea and a third of the country’s economy is driven by tourism and fisheries. This victory would not have been possible without campaigning by Oceana and its allies, who secured 22,090 signed petitions from Belizean voters to ensure that “people power” is at the center of decisions about the long-term future of the country’s reef, ocean, and the livelihoods its resources sustain. In 2017, Oceana, the people of Belize, and the Belizean government made history by unanimously passing an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in Belize.
Mediterranean Countries Can Now Penalize States who Fail to Tackle Overfishing and Illegal Fishing
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) created a sanction system that will allow it to penalize states that fail to tackle overfishing or illegal fishing by their fleets. This action, which is the result of campaigning by Oceana and its allies, is essential to restoring fish populations in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most overfished seas on Earth. Starting in 2025, the GFCM will be able to sanction countries that fail to take action when their trawl fleets fish in no-trawl areas, or if they fail to follow rules on fishing gear or catch restrictions. These penalties can include restricting fishing authorizations or reducing the allowed fishing days at sea. Prior to the GFCM’s decision, Oceana, ClientEarth, and the Environmental Justice Foundation prepared a legal analysis, which found that the GFCM could establish such a system. Oceana continues to urge Mediterranean countries to follow through on their commitments and restore fish populations and ecosystems.
U.S. State of Delaware Bans Plastic Foam Food Containers, Limits Plastic Straws
Following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, Delaware enacted a law to phase out plastic foam foodware and reduce other unnecessary single-use plastics. Specifically, the law prohibits restaurants and other food service establishments from providing polystyrene foam food containers, plastic beverage stirrers, and plastic cocktail and sandwich picks, and requires that single-use plastic straws only be provided at the customer’s request. Expanded polystyrene is a form of plastic foam, made from fossil fuels, and is commonly used for food containers and packaging. This disposable packaging is usually thrown away after a single use and breaks up into smaller pieces that are hard to clean up, disperse rapidly due to their lightweight nature, and can persist in the environment for decades. With this new law, Delaware joins a growing list of U.S. states and cities that have taken legislative action to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.