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.
Maryland Protects Marine Life from Choking on Balloons
Following campaigning by Oceana and coalition partners, Maryland enacted a new law prohibiting intentional balloon releases statewide. Balloons released into the air can eventually enter the oceans where they can harm and choke marine life. Under the new law, a person who is at least 13 years old, or an organization, cannot intentionally release balloons or organize balloon releases. Reducing single-use plastics, including balloons, is critical to the health of Maryland’s coasts and waterways and the 96,000 jobs in Maryland that depend on a clean coast. Oceana continues to campaign to stop plastic pollution by urging other local, state, and federal decisionmakers to pass policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.
Chile Protects Oceans from Single-Use Plastics, Mandates Refillable Bottle
The Chilean government unanimously passed an ambitious law reducing single-use plastic pollution from the food and beverage industries, following campaigning by Oceana. The law prohibits all eating establishments from providing plastic tableware, such as cutlery, straws, and Styrofoam utensils. It also requires delivery and take-out facilities to only provide disposable tableware made from materials other than plastic or made of certified plastic. The law requires stores to actively display, sell, and receive refillable bottles and will only allow single-use bottles if they contain recycled material that was collected in Chile. Refillable bottle systems are a pragmatic and immediate solution to decrease the 21 to 34 billion single-use plastic bottles that pollute the ocean every year. This legislation would not have been possible without a report by Oceana and Plastics Oceans Chile which found that over 23,000 tons of single-use plastics are used in restaurants, bars, cafes, and delivery food companies every year in Chile, as well as a report from Oceana on the benefits of using refillable bottles over single-use bottles. Most of these plastic items end up in landfill or pollute the ocean, where they can harm marine life and ocean ecosystems.
Chile’s Environmental Court Reinforces Need for Science-Based Fisheries Management Following Legal Challenge by Oceana
Chile’s Environmental Court ruled in favor of Oceana and allies by confirming Subpesca’s (the government’s fisheries agency) increase of the fisheries quota for southern hake in 2019 was illegal. Oceana argued that Subpesca lacked proper scientific evidence to justify the increased quota for southern hake – a species overexploited since 2013. Chile’s 2013 Fisheries Law requires scientific committees to establish quotas based on scientific recommendations. This was the first time that the Environmental Court oversaw a fisheries case and challenged a decision made by the Ministry of the Economy. The ruling sets an important precedent that fishing quotas must follow the recommendations of scientific technical committees.
Washington State Bans Polystyrene Foam, Limits Ocean-Polluting Single-Use Plastic at Restaurants
U.S. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that limits the use of unnecessary single-use plastic across the state, following campaigning by Oceana and our allies in the Pacific Northwest. The new law bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of certain expanded polystyrene foam products, including foodware, packing peanuts, and foam coolers. It also requires dining establishments to only provide single-use plastic utensils, straws, cold-beverage cup lids, and condiment packaging if requested by customers. Finally, the law establishes post-consumer recycled-content standards for plastic beverage bottles, personal care products, home cleaning products, and trash bags. Many of the items this law limits or bans are unlikely to be recycled and often make their way into our oceans, where they can harm marine life and ecosystems. Washington is now the first state on the West Coast and the seventh in the country to ban polystyrene foam food containers, as well as the first state to ban foam plastic coolers.
Virginia Protects Oceans from Polystyrene Foam and Balloon Pollution
U.S. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed two bills into law to reduce plastic pollution across the state. The laws prohibit the use of polystyrene foam for food service containers, including takeout boxes and cups, and ban the intentional release of balloons into the environment. Both polystyrene foam and balloons contribute to the 33 billion pounds of plastic entering our oceans every year. A 2021 report by Virginia Clean Waterways found that balloons are among the deadliest and most common types of marine debris found on Virginia’s beaches. The governor’s action follows campaigning by Oceana to stop plastic pollution at the source by urging local, state, and federal decisionmakers to pass policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.
Scotland Creates New Marine Protected Area
The Scottish Government announced the designation of a new Scottish Nature Conservation marine protected area (MPA) for the Southern Trench, which is located off the northeast coast of Scotland. This MPA will grant protection to a rich array marine life including minke whales, elegant sea pens, and tube anemones. Oceana has been calling for protection of the Southern Trench since 2017, based on the findings from Oceana’s at-sea expedition. Oceana continues to campaign for Scotland to strengthen the protection of Southern Trench and other sites by banning destructive bottom-towed fishing gear in all Marine Protected Areas.
Spanish Supreme Court Upholds Expansion of Mediterranean’s Second-Largest Marine National Park
Spain’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the expansion of Cabrera Marine National Park. This expansion makes it the second-largest marine protected area in the Mediterranean and the first to protect deep-sea corals. Following more than a decade of campaigning by Oceana and our allies, including six research expeditions, the Spanish government increased the size of Cabrera National Park from 100 to 900 square kilometers in February 2019. Carbopesca, a fishermen’s association promoting the interests of longline fishing, appealed to revoke the expansion. Oceana acted as an intervenor in the case and submitted information justifying the expansion.
Measures Taken on U.S. West Coast to Save Critically Endangered Orcas from Extinction
For the first time, the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted ocean salmon fishing regulations to help save critically endangered Southern Resident orcas from extinction. Only 75 of these orcas remain, and their survival relies on the abundance of their preferred prey, Chinook salmon. Sixteen Southern Resident orcas have died since 2015, some showing signs of malnutrition and starvation. Chinook salmon populations are also struggling due to a combination of fishing pressure, habitat loss, and dams that obstruct spawning. Oceana and our allies campaigned for the new measures, which include fishing reductions and area closures if Chinook salmon numbers off the coast of Washington and Northern Oregon drop below 966,000. This will help ensure that Southern Resident orcas have enough salmon to eat.
Oceana and Allies Protect Deep-Sea Corals in the Gulf of Mexico
In the United States, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule to protect 13 coral areas. These areas, which span from the U.S.- Mexico border to the Florida Keys, include a series of deep-sea canyons, reefs, and coral areas that have been identified as important habitat for iconic species such as sharks and grouper. This action comes following campaigning by Oceana and newly protects nearly 500 square miles of coral habitat, bringing the total protected deep-sea coral areas from Rhode Island to Texas to more than 61,000 square miles. Oceana has been campaigning for years to identify and protect deep-sea coral areas from destructive fishing methods like bottom trawling, which is like clear-cutting the seafloor, and has won additional victories in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Oceana, Coastal Communities, and Businesses Prevent Harmful Seismic Airgun Blasting in U.S. Atlantic Waters
Oceana and a coalition of groups filed suit in U.S. federal court that successfully delayed seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic, preventing this dangerous and deadly practice from going forward in the Atlantic Ocean as planned by the oil industry. Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds ever experienced in the ocean, which can injure or kill marine animals from zooplankton to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. This victory follows campaigning by Oceana, our allies, and thousands of coastal communities and businesses.