As you enjoy those last holiday cookies before the New Year comes with its resolutions, we’d love to share one final present for you to enjoy: we are thrilled to announce that last week, the country of Chile became the first in the world to protect all of its seamounts from the devastating effects of bottom trawling! Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless and actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson collaborated in an article published by the Huffington Post to share this excellent news with the world.
Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges that are home to an unbelievable array of sea creatures fed by the nutrient-rich water from the deep upwells. The destructive practice of bottom trawling, where large, heavy nets weighing as much as several tons each effectively clear-cut everything living on the seafloor, causes more direct and avoidable damage to the ocean floor and its creatures than any other human activity in the world. Although some of Chile’s seamounts have already been damaged or destroyed by the country’s fishing fleet, the December 20 decision closes any further trawling to Chile’s 118 seamounts until scientists have assessed these and other underwater ecosystems off the coast of Chile.
The Chilean Fishing Law passed last Wednesday not only protects vulnerable underwater ecosystems from bottom trawling, but also requires that the Chilean fishing industry’s catch limits must be in line with scientific recommendations. In the past decade, catch limits for three of Chile’s major fisheries – anchovy, jack mackerel and hake – have exceeded scientific recommendations by 78 percent, 87 percent, and 193 percent, respectively, which makes this decision all the more important and meaningful. Fishing fleets will also be required to reduce the amount of bycatch discarded. Ironically, evidence has shown that fishing requirements for reduced bycatch and science-based quotas is actually usually a boon to fishing fleets, ending the boom and bust cycle of overfishing and actually increasing the yields of their fisheries. In fact, a report in Science published earlier this year found that by setting sensible science-based quotas and protecting habitat, the world’s fisheries could produce up to 40 percent more fish.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the country of Chile is the tenth largest exporter of fish and fishery products in the entire world, a fact that is particularly striking when contrasted with Chile’s other statistics: 59th largest in population and 37th largest by area. In other words, Chile is a world superpower when it comes to the oceans. Here’s to hoping that many other countries around the world are inspired to follow Chile’s example, and add ocean protection to their New Year’s resolutions!