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.
Washington State Signs Seafood Fraud Bill
On May 20, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed into law House Bill 1200, which tackles seafood fraud in the state. Oceana’s recent seafood fraud testing found that 18 percent of fish sampled and sold in Seattle were mislabeled. More than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, but less than 1 percent of it is ever inspected by the government specifically for fraud. Washington’s new bill will combat seafood fraud by requiring that fish and shellfish be labeled by their common names, especially cracking down on mislabeling species of halibut and salmon.
Chinook Salmon Bycatch Limit Set for Gulf of Alaska Bottom Trawlers
The bottom trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska will now have to avoid catching Chinook salmon as bycatch or risk closing their fisheries. A new rule, recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, establishes a limit on the number of Chinook salmon that can be killed as bycatch each year in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl fisheries. If trawlers targeting rockfish, cod, and flatfish catch more than 7,500 Chinook salmon as bycatch they will have to stop fishing for the season. The rule also requires that all Chinook salmon caught by bottom trawlers be delivered to a processing facility, where observers will count the number of salmon and collect scientific data or biological samples.
Marine Mammal Take Permits Denied for California Swordfish Drift Gillnet Fishery
The National Marine Fisheries Service took a major step toward protecting sperm whales by declining to issue a required marine mammal take permit for California’s swordfish drift gillnet fishery. Last month the government issued a draft permit for the fishery to kill and seriously injure endangered sperm, fin, and humpback whales. More than 13,000 comments were submitted in opposition to the permit, prompting the NMFS to reverse course. This fishery catches and discards more than 100 protected whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions on average each year, as well as thousands of sharks and other non-target fish.
Trawling Ban in Key Habitats of the Balearic Islands
The Spanish government issued a protection order to prohibit trawling on the summits of Mallorca Channel seamounts and in the coral reef east of Cabrera. Oceana fought for the protection of these beds for seven years. Until now these unique habitats, including coralligenous communities and rhodolites beds, were continuously subject to degradation because of illegal fishing.
Court Upholds Protections for Steller Sea Lions in the Aleutian Islands
On July 23, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld necessary protections for the endangered western population of Steller sea lions. The measures were put in place by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2010 to reduce competition between large-scale commercial fisheries and endangered Steller sea lions. This population of sea lions has declined by more than 80 percent, and sharp declines continue in places with limited protection, like western Aleutian Islands. Oceana and Greenpeace, represented by Earthjustice, joined the federal government in successfully defending the regulations against legal attacks from the Seattle-based fishing industry and Alaskan state government. This victory will help ensure the recovery of this species and the continued health of our ocean’s ecosystems.
Emergency Rules Implemented to Protect Endangered Sperm Whales from California Drift Gillnets
On September 3, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued emergency regulations that will shut down California’s drift gillnet fishery if a single endangered sperm whale is caught. The fishery kills more whales and other marine mammals than any other fishery along the U.S. West Coast and has one of the highest bycatch rates in the country. These rules will also require independent observers on all drift gillnet vessels operating in offshore waters deeper than 6,500 feet. The rules will be enforced by requiring new vessel monitoring systems tracking the locations of all drift gillnet vessels off the U.S. West Coast.
Seismic Airgun Use Prevented on the Atlantic Coast
The Department of the Interior postponed a decision on whether to allow seismic airgun use in 300,000 square miles of ocean off the Atlantic coast. This is the third time Oceana has successfully helped delay the decision. The government’s estimates predict that seismic testing would disrupt critical behaviors like feeding, calving, and breeding for many marine creatures, including dolphins, whales, and loggerhead sea turtles. At least 138,500 dolphins and whales will be injured, or possibly killed, if airguns are allowed in the mid-Atlantic. Coastal fisheries in seven states would also be impacted, as airguns can lower catch rates between 40 and 80 percent.
Rep. Markey (MA) introduces SAFE Seafood Act following Oceana report
Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, applauds United States Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) today for introducing the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Actto address the growing problem of seafood fraud, which can come in many different forms – from mislabeling fish and falsifying documents, to adding too much ice to packaging. If passed, this bill would help stop seafood fraud by requiring full traceability of all seafood sold in the U.S., from boat to plate.
This legislation follows the release of a new Oceana study, which found that one-third, or 33 percent, of the 1,215 fish samples it collected from 674 retail outlets in 21 states were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. Rep. Markey was joined in the legislation by original co-sponsors Walter Jones (R-NC), John Tierney (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL).
New York Ends Shark Fin Trade
With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature on July 26, New York became the eighth state to ban the shark fin trade in the United States. Shark finning is a brutal practice: Fishermen haul live sharks onto boats where their fins are sliced off, and the sharks are then thrown back into the water, alive, to drown or bleed to death. Current reports estimate that over one hundred million sharks are killed every year, most only for their fins, which are often used in shark fin soup. Taking effect July 1, 2014, the law bans the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins. Violations are punishable by up to 15 days in jail and $100 fine for each fish.
With his signature, Governor Cuomo closes a major market for shark fins, both as consumers and as a trading hub: New York City has been one of the largest markets for fins outside of Asia, and is the largest port-of-entry on the East Coast. Together with Illinois, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, and Maryland, New York has effectively closed the majority of the U.S. market for shark fin soup. Beth Lowell, Oceana Campaign Director said, “New York said ‘no’ to shark fins today. The widespread support for this ban shows that sharks are worth more in the oceans than in a bowl of soup. By reducing the demand for their fins in New York, we can help to protect sharks worldwide.”
EU Bans All Shark Finning
As of 6 July, 2013, all sharks caught in European waters or by European vessels will have to be landed with their fins still naturally attached. Celebrating the arrival of the long-awaited, strict EU ban on shark finning, Oceana welcomes the new EU regulation’s entry into effect, on Saturday. It ends nearly a decade of battle to close several enforcement loopholes that had weakened the previous EU policy. In particular, an exemption used only by Spain and Portugal had allowed some vessels to remove shark fins at sea, which made it extremely difficult even to detect when finning had occurred. Since the beginning of its work in Europe, Oceana has campaigned for a strict ban on shark finning as one important aspect of improved shark fisheries management in the EU.
“At long last, the EU has a real and enforceable ban on shark finning, with global implications,” commented Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “The EU catches more sharks than any country in the world, and plays a key role in regional fisheries management organisations where finning remains an acknowledged problem. After ten years with a flawed ban in place, it can now make a serious effort to tackle the issue internationally.”