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.
California Protects Hundreds of Forage Fish Species in State Waters
The state of California safeguarded hundreds of species of forage fish, the ocean’s smallest schooling fish, from new and directed fisheries in all ocean waters of the state unless and until it can be demonstrated these tiny but critical fish, squids and krill can be caught without causing harm to the ecosystem and disrupting the ocean food web. With this decision, protections are now in place prohibiting directed fishing for these forage species in all U.S. ocean waters on the West Coast from shore out to 200 nautical miles. Along with Oceana’s previous victory prohibiting a West Coast fishery for krill, now roughly 70 percent of the total weight of forage species in ocean waters off the West Coast is now protected from directed fishing. Forage fish support an array of wildlife, including sea lions, whales, dolphins, birds, and even bears and wolves, in addition to important species of recreational and commercial fish like tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, and rockfish. These landmark protections are the result of over a decade of campaigning by Oceana and its allies which include conservation groups, businesses, fishermen and policymakers.
U.S. Takes Action to Protect West Coast Sardines from Overfishing for Third Consecutive Year
The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to keep the U.S. West Coast Pacific sardine fishery closed for the upcoming commercial season. This was because scientists estimated the sardine population in the water to be 86,586 metric tons and that there needed to be a population size equivalent to at least 150,000 metric tons necessary in order to support a commercial fishery. This was the third year in a row where the commercial fishery was closed because of low sardine populations. Three years earlier, after the crash of the sardine population, Oceana led the fight and secured an emergency closure of the fishery, and the fishery has not opened since. Ensuring that there are enough sardines in the water for fishing also ensures that there are enough sardines remaining in the sea to feed and support wildlife that depends on them for survival, including brown pelicans, humpback whales, and sea lions. These decisions will also strengthen and speed up the rebuilding of sardine populations as ocean conditions become more favorable which, at greater abundance, have the potential to provide healthy seafood meals for many people as well.
New Pact Commits Nations to Rebuilding a Healthy Mediterranean Sea
Ministers and high-level representatives from Mediterranean countries signed a historic declaration to address the fisheries crisis in the region. The ministerial declaration, Malta MedFish4Ever, will be the blueprint for cooperation and the sustainable development of fisheries for all coastal states in the Mediterranean over the next 10 years. For years, Oceana has campaigned for catch limits, better enforcement and habitat protections in order to rebuild depleted Mediterranean fish stocks. A recent study commissioned by Oceana revealed that Mediterranean catches could increase by 200 percent in some areas if managed effectively. The MedFish4Ever agreement is a critical political commitment to rebuilding Mediterranean fisheries.
Philippines’ Protected Area Management Body Adopts Vessel Monitoring Requirement in the Tañon Strait to Combat Illegal Fishing
Vessel monitoring, a key measure for effective law enforcement, will be required for all commercial fishing vessels entering the Tañon Strait. One of the Philippines’ largest marine protected areas, the Tañon Strait is the country’s very first protected seascape to require vessel monitoring for all transiting commercial fishing vessels. A 161-kilometer strip which connects the Visayan and Bohol Seas, the Tañon Strait lies between the islands of Cebu and Negros and hosts 63 percent of the country’s coral species, plus 14 out of the country’s 26 species of whales and dolphins. It is a rich fishing ground for artisanal fishers who live along its coast but is faced with pressures such as illegal commercial fishing, pollution and unplanned coastal development projects. Oceana campaigns for responsible fisheries management throughout the Philippines and is a key force in driving protection and better management for the Tañon Strait and other municipal waters.
President Obama Protects Fish, Whales and More from Dangerous Seismic Airgun Blasting in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean
The Obama administration formally denied all pending permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. Seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for potential oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, was originally proposed in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Oceana helped mobilize more than 120 East Coast municipalities, over 1,200 elected officials and an alliance representing over 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families in publicly opposing offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting. These individuals and groups became involved to protect the area’s nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product from dirty offshore drilling activities. Oceana will continue to advocate for the United States’ transition away from expanded offshore drilling and toward a cleaner energy economy, including the development of renewable energy sources such as offshore wind.
President Obama Protects Important Areas of Atlantic Ocean from Offshore Drilling
The Obama administration moved to permanently protect important areas of the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling. Using his authority under section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, President Obama is withdrawing 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean from future mineral extraction, protecting 31 canyons that extend from Heezen Canyon offshore New England to Norfolk Canyon offshore of the Chesapeake Bay. This announcement follows several recent historic moves by the Obama administration to decrease America’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels, including the removal of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from the five-year program (from 2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. Over the last two years, Oceana has supported a powerful grassroots movement against offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic Ocean. As of today, more than 120 East Coast municipalities, over 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing over 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting.
Brazil’s ‘Red List’ Reinstated to Protect 475 Endangered Aquatic Species
Oceana successfully pushed for the reinstatement of Brazil’s “Red List,” which ensures the protection of 475 species. After months of suspension, Oceana’s efforts led directly to the judicial decision that reestablished the Red List. The species protected under the list include sharks, rays, groupers and other marine and freshwater fish.
Government Proposes New Federal Rule to Require Turtle Excluder Devices in Skimmer, Pusher-Head and Wing Net Shrimp Trawls
The Obama administration released a proposed rule to require Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) – metal grates inserted into shrimp nets that allow sea turtles and other ocean wildlife to escape – in U.S. skimmer, pusher-head and wing net shrimp trawls, which would save as many as 2,500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year. In May, Oceana released a report calling on the Obama administration to implement a “simple solution” to ensure domestic, wild-caught shrimp are more sustainably caught. On World Sea Turtle Day on June 16, Oceana, One More Generation and local children delivered more than 12,500 letters and drawings from kids across the country to the White House urging President Obama and Secretary Penny Pritzker to save threatened and endangered sea turtles in U.S. waters.
Critical Marine Conservation Measures for Sharks and Sea Turtles Approved in Brazil
At the first meeting of the Tuna Fisheries Management Council, Oceana secured the approval of important marine conservation measures. The measures include a fishing ban for all hammerhead shark species in Brazil’s tuna fisheries; the mandatory use of circle hooks in all Brazilian longline fisheries (a requirement that will protect sea turtles and sharks); a rejection of leases that would have allowed Chinese fishing vessels and purse seiners to participate these fisheries; and a formal commitment from the government to develop a management plan for tuna fisheries within six months. Oceana’s presence at the meeting was critical to obtaining the approval of these measures.
Executive Order to create the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area in Alaska
President Obama issued an Executive Order creating the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area in Alaska. The order recognizes the importance of the region, increases local participation in management decisions, and helps protect the region from potential impacts associated with industrial activities like shipping, industrial fishing, and oil and gas leasing. Kawerak, Inc., the Bering Sea Elders Group and the Association of Village Council Presidents, which together represent more than 70 federally recognized tribes in the region, were instrumental in making this action possible. The Northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait region provides important habitat and is a migration corridor for thousands of bowhead and beluga whales, hundreds of thousands of walruses and ice seals and millions of migratory birds. The ocean ecosystem is critical to the food security and culture of the indigenous peoples of the region and is facing dramatic impacts from climate change and other industrial threats. In 2014, Oceana and Kawerak, Inc. published the Bering Strait Marine Life and Subsistence Use Data Synthesis, which brought together the available Indigenous knowledge and Western science on the region. The synthesis and other information about the Northern Bering Strait and Bering Sea region can be found here. This scientific information, along with our advocacy on freezing the footprint on bottom trawling, stopping the expansion of offshore oil and gas activities and protecting the Arctic from increased shipping helped inform President Obama’s action.