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.
Endangered Shortfin Mako Shark Gets a Fighting Chance at Survival with New Protections
The North Atlantic shortfin mako shark, which has been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species since 2019, is now protected from fishing for two years. Specifically, fishers are prohibited from keeping any short fin mako sharks they catch, as well as shipping them or landing them at any port. Many longline fishers targeting swordfish and tuna also catch mako sharks, often keeping them to sell commercially. The decision, which was made by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), will allow the species to begin to recover. This victory would not be possible without campaigning from Oceana and our allies, who rallied support for the ban from U.S Members of Congress and government officials.
Mexico Ushers in Greater Transparency by Publicly Tracking Fishing Vessel Activity
The Mexican government released its fishing vessel data on a publicly available government portal and is being uploaded into Global Fishing Watch (GFW), a platform that monitors fishing vessels worldwide using satellite technology. This victory greatly increases transparency in the industry by allowing the public to monitor where, when, and how often fishing vessels in Mexico’s seas are operating. This victory would not be possible without campaigning by Oceana and our allies. Oceana first requested fishing vessel data from the government in 2018 but was denied. Oceana successfully appealed the decision to the National Institute of Information Access (INAI) and the government’s fisheries agency delivered fishing vessel data from 2012 to June 2018 to Oceana. The agency has since published more data on an online portal and will continue to update the data monthly. GFW, which was co-founded by Oceana, has uploaded Mexico’s data from 2020 and is awaiting data for 2021 and 2022. Based on this newly released data, Oceana published a report in May 2021 that found 236 instances of possible illegal fishing in seven of the country’s marine protected areas.
Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean Strengthens Transparency Requirements for Fishing Vessels
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the regional fisheries management organization covering the Mediterranean and Black Seas, adopted a recommendation to improve its Authorized Vessel List. GFCM member countries are now required to report which vessels are allowed to fish inside Fisheries Restricted Areas, helping authorities spot which fishing vessels are operating within the law and those that are not. This victory is a direct result of campaigning by Oceana, who highlighted the weaknesses of the previous list and secured support for the new recommendation from the EU and other GFCM members. The decision will help ensure that Fisheries Restricted Areas provide real protection to critical fisheries habitats and fragile deep-sea ecosystems.
Major Global Insurance Company AXA XL Introduces Transparency Requirement for Insured Fishing Vessels
Following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, AXA XL, one of the largest international insurers, now requires International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers for all fishing vessels and refrigerated cargo vessels it insures. IMO numbers are unique identifiers that can be used for monitoring and tracking vessels, and do not change even if a vessel changes ownership, flag, or name — a common tactic used by illegal fishers to avoid detection. By requiring IMO numbers, AXA XL is reducing the risk of insuring vessels engaged in illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing and increasing transparency in the fishing sector. Their decision sets a leading example for other companies to follow, including those outside the insurance sector.
Brazil Publishes Vessel Tracking Data for its Commercial Fishing Fleet
Brazil’s industrial fishing vessel data were made publicly available through the Global Fishing Watch (GFW), a platform founded by Oceana, Google, and SkyTruth. This will allow anyone in the world to monitor more than 1,400 fishing vessels in real-time for free on the GFW platform. The data available on GFW follows campaigning by Oceana in Brazil to increase transparency and traceability at sea and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The victory also follows the launch of the OpenTuna initiative, developed with support from Oceana and GFW, which publicizes tracking data from Brazil’s tuna fleet on the OpenTuna website.
Major European Marine Insurance Companies Take Action to Deter Illegal Fishing
Leading European-based marine insurance companies AXA XL, British Marine, DUPI Underwriting Agencies BV, Generali Group, and the Shipowners’ Club introduced improved measures to avoid insuring vessels engaged in illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing. These newly adopted screening processes are a direct result of Oceana’s campaigning. The five companies will now be better able to identify and deny coverage to known illegal operators, making it harder for such vessels to continue operating.
California Enhances Protections for Endangered Pacific Leatherbacks
California designated the Western Pacific population of leatherback sea turtles as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Pacific leatherbacks are the most endangered sea turtle in the Pacific Ocean with their population having declined 95% over the last 30 years. The added California designation will enhance efforts by the state to study, protect, and recover these turtles and their habitat. The CESA listing follows campaigning by Oceana and allies and recent regulations in California to reduce the risk of entanglements to Pacific leatherbacks, blue whales, and humpback whales in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The regulations also allow for approved alternative fishing gear that lowers the risk of entanglement, such as “pop-up” gear, to be used in areas closed to conventional gear.
Protections Restored for Critical Marine Habitat in New England
President Biden signed an executive order that reinstated protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. The marine monument, which is roughly the size of Connecticut, is the first of its kind in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean and was first established in 2016 to protect vulnerable deep-sea coral and sponge gardens from destructive fishing methods. This monument includes diverse corals and sponges on the seafloor, serves as a nursery for commercially important fish species, and is home to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Oceana has campaigned for years in New England to identify and protect deep-sea coral areas from destructive fishing methods, while maintaining robust fisheries, as part of its “freeze the footprint” strategy.
California Laws Reduce Single-Use Plastic Waste
California enacted two new laws to curb harmful single-use plastics, which pollute our oceans and harm marine life. One of the new laws opens the door to refillable glass beverage bottles by removing requirements that prevented bottles from being preserved and refilled by beverage producers. This change will create new jobs while also reducing waste. The second law will require single-use plastic food and beverage accessories — including utensils and condiment packages — to be provided upon request only for takeout and delivery. This will greatly reduce ocean-bound plastic waste in California as discarded plastic foodware is consistently among the top 10 waste items most found at beach cleanups across the state.
Delaware Protects Marine Life, Coast from Balloon Pollution
Following campaigning by Oceana and coalition partners, Delaware enacted a new law prohibiting intentional balloon releases statewide. Balloons released into the air can enter the oceans where they can harm and choke marine life. Delaware joins Maryland and Virginia in banning balloon releases, which will help protect marine life in the region and the roughly 225,000 jobs in the three states that depend on a clean coast.