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 Managers Vote to Clean Up Swordfish Drift Gillnet Fishery
The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to clean up California’s swordfish drift gillnet fishery by considering placing the first ever “hard caps” on the numbers of several protected species that can be injured or killed in the fishery. These species include fin, humpback, and sperm whales and leatherback, loggerhead, Olive ridley, and green sea turtles. The Council will make a final decision on hard caps in the fall for implementation in next year’s fishing season. The Council also set a target to require 100 percent monitoring so that all catch and bycatch is counted on every trip no later than the summer of 2016. Additionally, federal fisheries managers will consider bycatch reduction alternatives for all other marine mammals, sharks, and fish species that are discarded in the fishery.
California Senate Passes Seafood Labeling Legislation
The California Senate passed seafood labeling legislation (SB 1138), with unanimous support. SB 1138 will begin to solve the complex problem of seafood fraud by requiring that all fish and shellfish be accurately labeled by their common names. Oceana works to expose seafood fraud in the U.S. and applauds the California senate for their widespread support. SB 1138 will now be considered by the state Assembly, where it must receive a unanimous vote by August 31 in order to go to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
Emergency Regulations Renewed to Protect Sperm Whales from California Fishery
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced emergency actions designed to protect endangered sperm whales from being caught in the California swordfish/thresher shark drift gillnet fishery. The regulations state the NMFS will shut down California’s drift gillnet swordfish fishery if a single endangered sperm whale is killed or injured by the destructive nets. Independent observers will now be aboard all drift gillnet vessels operating in offshore waters deeper than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters), where sperm whales are most often observed. The ruling also requires fishing vessels to carry vessel monitoring systems that track the real-time locations of all drift gillnet vessels off the U.S. West Coast.
National Marine Fisheries Service to Maintain Protections for Critical Rockfish Conservation Areas
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule to maintain approximately 12,620 square miles of existing conservation area in order to protect overfished rockfish populations off the U.S. West Coast. This decision was a direct response to scientific information submitted by Oceana, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). All three organizations are working together to ensure the recovery of overfished rockfish species and the conservation of ocean habitats. Cold-water corals and underwater reefs are among other seafloor habitats that will remain closed to bottom trawling under this final rule. Oceana, NRDC and other organizations have active conservation proposals before the Pacific Council that would designate parts of the “Rockfish Conservation Area” (RCA) as “Essential Fish Habitat” conservation areas, closed to bottom trawling.
Sardines Protected By Better Catch Limits
After campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted reduce the 2014 sardine catch levels by 33 percent to help halt dramatic declines in this important species. Since 2007, the Pacific sardine population has fallen by almost 979,000 tons and is at its lowest biomass in two decades, according to a population assessment released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October. Declines in the sardine population will negatively impact the many Pacific species that rely on these fish for food, including Chinook salmon, bluefin tuna, brown pelicans, dolphins, and large whales.
Chile Establishes Science-based Fishing Quotas
In late December, the Chilean government announced the first set of science-backed quotas for 2014. With guidance from scientific committees, the Chilean government set quotas for four critical species of fish: common hake, anchoveta, sardines, and jack mackerel. The reductions are dramatic—the government reduced the quota for common hake by 55 percent, for anchoveta by 65 percent in specific regions, and for sardines by 29 percent in specific regions. Chile’s first science-informed quotas are a tremendous step toward reforming fisheries and ensuring that the oceans remain a plentiful source of food.
Mediterranean Deep-Sea Corals Protected
Mediterranean countries and the EU decided to protect 11 species of deep-sea corals at the 18th COP to the Barcelona Convention. They also decided to implement the Action Plan on Dark Habitats, a scientific document drafted in part by Oceana, which will enable the creation of marine protected areas in deep-sea habitats like seamounts, submarine canyons, and caves. Many of these deep-sea habitats are unprotected, despite being extremely vulnerable to human activities like pollution, overfishing, and climate change.
Arctic Drilling Halted for 2014
In late January, Shell’s new CEO announced that the company will not pursue any exploration drilling in the Arctic Ocean in 2014. This news came days after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Department of the Interior violated U.S. law in deciding to hold drilling Lease Sale 193, during which Shell and other oil companies purchased leases in the Chukchi Sea. This ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by Oceana and a coalition of conservation and Alaska Native partners, represented by Earthjustice. Shell encountered numerous problems and violations during its 2012 exploration attempt, including an incident when its drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground during a winter storm. Currently, there is no proven technology that would allow companies to drill safely in the Arctic. Despite Shell’s attempts, no exploration wells have been completed in the Arctic Ocean in more than 20 years.
Shark Fin Bans Upheld
Last year, NOAA challenged state shark fin bans across the country, suggesting that they might be preempted, or overruled, by federal law. State shark fin laws protect sharks by banning the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins, effectively shutting down the market for shark fins. In response to NOAAs actions, Oceana launched a public awareness campaign, running high-visibility Metro ads at stations near NOAA’s offices and sending a letter to NOAA signed by more than 24,000 activists urging the agency not to jeopardize state bans and their benefits for sharks. In early 2014 NOAA removed its challenge to California, Maryland and Washington’s shark fin laws. We are confident that NOAA will also drop their challenges in the remaining five states.
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, 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. However, Oceana also acknowledges that the EU must move further to make a clean break from harmful subsidies, including recognizing risks associated with certain environmentally harmful subsidies, like those for new engines and the temporary cessation of fishing activity.