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.
Federal Fisheries Council Votes to Close West Coast Sardine Fishery
The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted at its April meeting to close the Pacific sardine fishery early for the remainder of the 2015 season, and to keep the fishery closed during the 2015 to 2016 season. A new scientific assessment by the National Marine Fisheries Service finds the sardine population has collapsed by 91 percent since 2007, and that the population is estimated to be at 96,688 metric tons, far below the 150,000 metric tons required for fishing to occur. The fishery crash is causing ecological effects on marine wildlife, which may have widespread and lasting implications. The Council’s action marks an important first step towards recovering this important forage fish. Moving forward, Oceana is requesting the Council overhaul its fishery management plan to account for ecosystem needs and increase the amount of sardines that must be left in the ocean before fishing should be allowed to occur in the future.
Amended Fisheries Code Becomes Law in the Philippines
Republic Act 10654, which amends the Philippine Fisheries Code, became law in February 2015 after Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III allowed amendments to the 1998 Philippine Fisheries Code to lapse into law — a deliberate inaction in the Philippines that allows items to become law. Under RA 10654, which cracks down on illegal fishing and helps rebuild fisheries, sanctions have been raised to as high as $45 million (PHP) for commercial fishing violators and $2.4 million (PHP) for poachers. Additionally, the amendments call for the installation of a Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) system on all flagged Philippine fishing vessels that help identify commercial vessels operating illegally in Philippine waters, and call for it to be unlawful to intentionally tamper with, switch off or disable the vessel monitoring system.. By passing these amendments, the Philippines avoided penalties by the European Union for failing to meet its standards on sustainable fishing practices.
Oceana Halts Construction of $1.4 Billion Power Plant Project
A $1.4 billion power plant project, known as Punta Alcade, in Chile has been cancelled by multi-national energy company Endesa. Punta Alcade would have been built in the coastal town of Huasco, which is already heavily polluted with five existing power plants. The project’s owner, the multi-national energy company Endesa, attributed high costs associated with environmental requirements as part of its reasoning for withdrawing from the project. Oceana in Chile and its allies campaigned against Punta Alcade’s construction for four years as part of its work to establish clean energy technology throughout Chile and move away from fossil fuel emissions.
Chile Permanently Bans Bottom Trawling Around Its Seamounts
Chile became the first nation in the world to permanently ban bottom trawling around all of 117 seamounts located within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Chile finalized the new regulation after six years of campaigning by Oceana, who first addressed the issue in 2009 by proposing amendments to Chilean Fisheries Law for protecting vulnerable and sensitive habitat. Oceana also conducted expeditions to many of Chile’s seamounts over the past few years, such as around Salas y Gómez, Easter Island and the Juan Fernández islands, to document important marine diversity and call for protections. Now, 68,065.63 square kilometers of Chile’s waters are protected from bottom trawling.
Seven Groups of Forage Fish Protected from Commercial Fishing
The United States’ Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action to protect seven groups of forage fish species offshore of Washington, Oregon and California from development of new commercial fisheries. These groups — round and thread herring, mesopelagic fishes, Pacific sand lance, Pacific saury, Silversides, Osmerid smelts, and pelagic squids (other than Humboldt squid) — include hundreds of important forage fish species that play important roles in the California Current ecosystem. The decision comes as part of the Council’s first-ever fishery ecosystem plan that strives to proactively manage fisheries, and is critical for these species given that demand for the ocean’s tiny fish has drastically increased in recent decades for aquaculture feed. Oceana has called on the Council since 2009 to protected currently unmanaged forage species so that they can remain an abundant prey source for marine predators.
Federal Government Announces Final Action Plan for Seafood Fraud and Illegal Fishing
The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud announced its final action plan to tackle these issues. Since 2011, Oceana has worked to stop seafood fraud and ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Oceana has released several studies over the past few years that uncover seafood fraud, such as a 2014 study revealing that America’s favorite seafood – shrimp – was misrepresented in 30 percent of the 143 products tested and a 2013 similar study that found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 fish samples it tested nationwide were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines. President Obama directed agencies to work together to develop a robust plan to address seafood fraud and illegal fishing at Secretary of State John Kerry’s Our Ocean conference in June 2014, and Oceana applauds President Obama’s commitment to addressing seafood fraud and illegal fishing.
EU Moves Away from Harmful Subsidies
European Parliament and the Fisheries Council reached a political agreement on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, the financial mechanism that will allow the implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy over the next seven years. Previous fisheries subsidies schemes have given priority to short-term economic interests at the expense of sustainability in fisheries, using taxpayer’s money to increase fleet capacity and fund overfishing. Oceana supports the efforts of the European Parliament and Council to stop this toxic pattern, and shift spending towards beneficial measures such as control and data collection.
Denmark Proposed Marine Protected Areas in Kattegat
Denmark presented plans for six new marine protected areas (MPAs) in Kattegat, which connects the Baltic and North Seas. The new MPAs will be protected from dangerous human activity, such as bottom trawling, which disturbs seafloor habitat. The new MPAs have been selected in part from Oceana’s findings of rare Haploops crustaceans and horse mussel communities during the expeditions in 2011 and 2012. Oceana first proposed protections for the area in 2011. With these new MPAs, Denmark is taking a leading role in Europe in protecting these vital soft-bottom habitat.
Spain Announces Law to Fight Pirate Fishing
Spain, which is Europe’s largest fishing country and the biggest importer and exporter of seafood products in the European Union, has become the first Member State to take action against pirate fishing. Spain introduced a new fisheries law that imposes stronger penalties on Spanish citizens found to be involved with pirate fishing anywhere around the world. The new Spanish fisheries law, 33/2014, is the translation into Spanish legislation of the EU’s illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing regulation, which requires all EU member States to take action against citizens and companies found to be involved in any IUU fishing activities anywhere in the world. Under this new law, the Spanish government will be able to act against Spanish citizens who are benefiting from illegal fishing.
Federal Government Takes Action to Recover Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finalized regulations that help recover the western Atlantic bluefin tuna population, which have declined by more than 80 percent in recent decades from overfishing and bycatch. As part of the Final Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, NMFS will now close certain parts of the Gulf of Mexico and areas off North Carolina during the spring to protect spawning bluefin from longlines. In addition, the federal government is also implementing a strict limit on bluefin bycatch. Once fishermen reach their individual quota on bluefin bycatch, they will have to either stop fishing activity or obtain additional quota from other fishermen. Finally, NMFS will also require video cameras on longline fishing vessels to help improve data collection that currently relies solely on outside observer coverage.