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.
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.”
National Marine Fisheries Service implements new protections for Steller sea lions
In recognition of ongoing severe declines in the Western population of Steller sea lions and the failure of the overall population to meet pre-established recovery criteria indicating improvements in the status of the population, the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented new protections for the species. The new measures, which limit fishing in the western Aleutian Islands, are a necessary first step toward better conservation and management of the Aleutian Islands ecosystem.
U.S. District Court ruled in favor of protecting Steller Sea Lions
The State of Alaska and a Seattle-based commercial fishing industry sued to overturn new protections for Steller sea lions that limited fishing in areas important to the Steller sea lions’ survival. Oceana intervened in the lawsuit to help the government defend the new measures necessary to prevent jeopardy to Steller sea lions and to protect their critical habitat. The federal district court in Alaska rejected the industry arguments and upheld the protections, which limit bottom trawling and fishery removals of Steller sea lion prey in critical areas. The court required the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare an environmental impact statement evaluating changes to the management of the fisheries by March 2, 2014.
Offshore Drilling Halted in Belize
Belize’s Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the government of Belize null and void, effectively ending the government’s immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years.
The Court’s decision was in response to a lawsuit brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. In 2011, after collecting the 20,000+ signatures required to trigger a national referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether or not to allow offshore oil drilling in Belize’s reef, the government disqualified over 8,000 of these signatures effectively on the basis of poor penmanship – stopping the possibility of a vote. Oceana answered by organizing the nation’s first ever “People’s Referendum” in 2012 in which more than 29,000 people from all around the country cast their votes. In this historic vote, 96% voted against offshore exploration and drilling.
Portugal Nominates Gorringe Seamounts for MPA
Portugal has nominated the rich ecosystem of the Gorringe Bank as a new Marine Protected Area (MPA). Since 2005, Oceana has worked to draw attention and recognition to this bank, and to bring its spectacular seamount ranges into the network of marine protected areas. An Oceana expedition to the area in October 2012 documented species never before seen in these seamounts, including branching black coral, roughskin dogfish, and others. Unfortunately, the expedition also documented the invasive presence of litter, debris, and fishing gear, particularly in the rocky seabeds of the banks.
Shell Retreats on Arctic Drilling
Shell Oil Company announced that it will not attempt to drill exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2013. This announcement comes in the wake of Shell’s disastrous 2012 drilling season, which left both of its drilling vessels disabled in Alaskan waters awaiting transport to Asia for repairs. The company also faces investigation by the Coast Guard, notices of violation of the Clean Air Act from the Environmental Protection Agency, and a 60-day review by the Department of the Interior. Oceana has called on the Department of the Interior to suspend activities in the Arctic Ocean and to fundamentally reconsider how it makes decisions about Arctic Ocean resources.
Dramatic Reforms for Europe’s Fisheries
The European Parliament approved major reforms to the Common Fishery Policy, a law that manages all European fisheries. Members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a comprehensive reform policy that includes amendments – many of which were drafted by Oceana – that require member states to fish all stocks at sustainable levels by 2015 and comply with a strong EU-wide discard ban, and puts an end to the practice of “discards”, throwing dead unwanted fish back into the sea. Oceana campaigned for years to make sure that this once in a decade opportunity to reform the failed EU fisheries policy was not wasted.
Investment Tax Credit for Offshore Wind Saved
Congress passed legislation crucial to the future of the country’s clean energy future. As part of the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal, the U.S. Congress voted to extend the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a financing tool for offshore wind that makes investment in the clean energy industry much more attractive. The ITC technically expired at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and, if left expired, could have jeopardized a new industry with the potential to generate tens of thousands of jobs and enough electricity to power the country four times over. Fortunately, the tax credit was extended at the eleventh hour.