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.
Chile Rejects Dominga Mining Project, Protects Marine Life
Following campaigning by Oceana and its allies, Chile’s Ministers Committee unanimously rejected the Dominga port mining project, which threatened one of the world’s largest biodiversity hotspots, the Humboldt Archipelago. The project would encroach on an important feeding area for species including blue whales, fin whales, sea lions, bottle-nosed dolphins, sea otters, and sea birds, many of which are classified as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This area is also home to the majority of the world’s vulnerable Humboldt penguin population. Dominga would put the area’s ecosystems and economic activities, including tourism and artisanal fishing, at risk. The Ministers Committee previously rejected the Dominga project in 2017. Yet again, the company behind Dominga, Andes Iron, says it will appeal the decision. Oceana is campaigning for the creation of a marine protected area to prohibit all future industrial projects in this area.
New Chile Law Increases Transparency in Salmon Farming, Reduces Threats to Marine Life
A new law in Chile will regulate the destructive impacts of the salmon farming industry, following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, including artisanal fishers. The law requires Chile’s Fisheries Service to publish data on the use of antibiotics, antiparasitics, mortalities, and the number of salmon produced by company. Oceana has campaigned for these companies to increase transparency by disclosing this information. The waste generated by enormous numbers of fish packed into pens and excessive use of antibiotics leaks into the ocean and harms marine life. Consequently, bacterial resistance can develop, which threatens marine and human health. The new law also establishes substantial fines for each salmon release and requires farms allowing releases to suspend operations. Salmon are not native to Chile and have no natural predator when they go into the wild, which threatens the ecosystem and local marine life. Artisanal fishers will now be able to catch released salmon, which will further reduce the threat to the marine environment.
German and Dutch Marine Protected Areas Closed to Destructive Fishing Gear
Following joint recommendations by Germany and the Netherlands, the European Commission closed over 3,500 square kilometers (over 1,350 square miles) of the North Sea to bottom trawling, and prohibited the use of destructive fishing gears such as gillnets, trammel nets, and driftnets across an additional 1,700 square kilometers (over 650 square miles). These fisheries restrictions cover parts of existing marine protected areas (MPAs) designated for the protection of reefs, sandbanks, and endangered marine species such as the harbor porpoise. Oceana researched these important areas during expeditions in 2016 and 2017, published proposals for their protection, and campaigned for their adoption.
Canada Strengthens Emergency Measures to Protect Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales
Amid a crisis facing critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, Oceana and its allies successfully campaigned for the Canadian government to strengthen its emergency measures to protect this species from deadly ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear. Since these measures were strengthened over the last three years, there have been no known right whale deaths in Canadian waters. Prior to these improvements, 21 right whales had been killed in Canadian waters between 2017 and 2019. These strengthened measures include increasing vessel slowdown zones, ensuring fishery closures can be triggered by any sighting, including acoustic detections, and starting the fishing season earlier so that there is less overlap with the time right whales are in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Oceana is now campaigning to make protection measures for right whales permanent along the East Coast of Canada and the United States to give these whales the best chance of survival.
United States Protects Whales, Dolphins, Sea Turtles from Deadly Drift Gillnets
Following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the United States will end the use of the large-mesh drift gillnets in its federal waters. These are mile-long, nearly invisible nets set overnight to capture swordfish. In the U.S., large mesh drift gillnets are currently only in use off the coast of California, where they entangle, injure, and kill thousands of other ocean animals each year including whales, dolphins, sea lions, endangered sea turtles, sharks, and other important fish species. This victory follows the completion of a multi-year voluntary transition program in California to compensate swordfish drift gillnet fishermen for turning in their permits and nets. The program, which was partially funded by Oceana, also incentivizes the use of more selective gear, such as deep-set buoy gear, to catch swordfish. As a result, roughly 50 miles of large-mesh drift gillnets have now been removed permanently from the ocean. The new law aligns state and federal policy to ban the use of this indiscriminate gear in all U.S. waters, and all remaining federal permits will be phased out over the next five years.
Shark Fin Trade Banned in the United States
The United States Congress passed a law to ban the buying and selling of shark fins, following significant campaigning by Oceana and our allies. This victory officially removes the U.S. from the unsustainable global shark fin trade, where fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up each year. Just as rhino and elephant populations have declined due to the demand for their horns and tusks, the shark fin trade is jeopardizing the continued survival of many shark species. Global oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by more than 70% over the last 50 years, with overfishing as the primary cause. Oceanic whitetip sharks, great hammerheads, and scalloped hammerheads have declined globally to critically endangered levels according to the IUCN. The demand for shark fins incentivizes overfishing and shark finning, which the U.S. has banned for years, the cruel and wasteful practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and throwing its body back overboard where it drowns, starves to death, or is eaten alive by other fish. By making it illegal to buy or sell shark fins in the U.S., Oceana and our allies helped bring the world one step closer to ending the devastating global shark fin trade.
Amazon Publicly Reports on Plastic Packaging Footprint for First Time
Amazon, the largest retailer in the world, publicly reported on the amount of plastic packaging it uses for the first time. This disclosure came in response to Oceana’s campaign and efforts to estimate the company’s plastic packaging footprint for the past three years. The packaging Amazon uses, particularly plastic film, is not readily recyclable and is harmful to marine life. In a December 2022 blog, Amazon reported it used 97,222 metric tons (or 214 million pounds) of plastic packaging for orders shipped through its fulfillment centers in 2021. This figure does not include all plastic packaging used in orders sold through the company’s websites, including orders from third-party sellers. Despite the exclusion, this is an important step toward increased transparency for the company. Oceana and our allies will continue to urge Amazon to report on its plastic packaging footprint on a regular basis going forward and to reduce its overall use of single-use plastics.
Two Largest Cities in US State of California Ban Plastic Foam
San Diego and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in the U.S. state of California, banned expanded polystyrene, the plastic foam often used to produce single-use cups, plates, and other foodware, following campaigning by Oceana and its allies. Because of its brittle texture, expanded polystyrene easily breaks up into tiny pieces that quickly disperse into the environment and can be mistaken for food by animals. Retailers and restaurants in both cities will be prohibited from distributing or selling plastic-foam foodware and other expanded polystyrene products. Both cities also instituted additional measures to cut down on plastic: The Los Angeles City Council expanded the city’s single-use plastic bag ban and instructed all city departments to develop zero-waste plans for city buildings and events, while the San Diego City Council made utensils and straws available to customers by request only.
New International Rule Requires Countries to Investigate and Deter Companies from Engaging with Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Vessels
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an inter-governmental organization that oversees the conservation and management of fishes such as tunas and swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean, adopted a new rule that will prevent companies from providing services, such as insurance, satellite communications, and financial services, to fishing vessels known to be engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the ICCAT regulatory area. The 52 member countries of ICCAT will be required to take effective and deterrent action against citizens and businesses that engage with and support IUU fishing. Campaigning by Oceana in Europe was key to securing this victory. This achievement builds on Oceana’s ongoing campaign to get companies that do business with the fishing sector to avoid supporting illicit fishing activities.
Mediterranean Countries Agree to Mandatory Disclosure of Vessels Allowed to Fish in Restricted Areas
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the regional fisheries management organization covering the Mediterranean and Black Sea, will now require countries to disclose key enforcement information for vessels that are allowed to fish in Fisheries Restricted Areas. Member countries of the GFCM must now report key information for these vessels, including their target species, and when and where they are fishing. The GFCM also agreed to publicly list vessels that are authorized to catch overfished deep-sea shrimp and hake in the Strait of Sicily. Both decisions were the direct result of campaigning by Oceana in Europe.