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.
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, 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.
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.
The Philippines Issues New Rules to Help Stop Illegal Commercial Fishing
The Philippines national government issued new rules that require vessel monitoring for all commercial fishing vessels and to establish a new electronic reporting system for fisheries catch data. This decision is a major victory for transparency in the Philippines and comes after campaigning by Oceana, local governments, and other allies. Mandatory vessel monitoring will make it possible for the government to stop all commercial fishing boats from illegally fishing in and depleting the country’s municipal coastal waters. These fishing grounds are reserved for small-scale fisherfolk, who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods and food security. Oceana will continue to campaign for the government to enforce these rules and promote responsible fishing practices.
California Protects Whales and Sea Turtles from Entanglements in Crab Fishery
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife published new regulations to reduce entanglements of endangered humpback whales, blue whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles in the state’s commercial Dungeness crab fishery, following campaigning by Oceana and our allies. In recent years, whales have ventured closer to shore in search of food and subsequently into Dungeness crab fishing grounds, resulting in a major increase in entanglements off the U.S. West Coast, which can often prove fatal. At least 56 whales were entangled in 2016 alone, according to the federal government. California’s new regulations require closures or reductions in the number of traps in certain Dungeness crab fishing areas when higher concentrations of whales or sea turtles are present. The regulations also allow for the use of approved alternative fishing gear that lowers the risk of entanglement, such as “pop-up” or “ropeless” gear, in areas closed to conventional gear.
California Begins Phase-Out of “Walls of Death” from Waters
Oceana delivered $1 million to the government of California to officially activate a 2018 state law to end the last large-mesh drift gillnet fishing for swordfish in the U.S. by January 2024. The law establishes a voluntary transition program for fishermen to surrender nets and state permits and incentivizes the use of clean gear. Generous donors including the Marisla Foundation, Cinco Hermanos Fund, Sue J. Gross Foundation, the Offield Family Foundation, and others provided the necessary funding to secure this victory. For years, Oceana and our allies campaigned for the California bill to end this destructive form of fishing, which is notorious for its indiscriminate catch of marine life including whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. Oceana is also campaigning for a federal law to end the use of drift gillnets nationwide.
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina Protected from Offshore Drilling for 10 Years
U.S. President Trump withdrew the waters off Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina from offshore oil and gas leasing for 10 years. This was a reversal of President Trump’s previous plan to open nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling, threatening more than 2.6 million jobs and nearly $180 billion in GDP in pursuit of only two years’-worth of oil and just over one year’s-worth of gas at 2018 consumption rates. This victory follows years of campaigning by Oceana, its advocacy partner Oceana Action, and its many allies. The campaign organized opposition from coastal communities, business owners, and elected officials from both political parties. Oceana continues to campaign for permanent federal-level protections of all U.S. waters from expanded drilling.