A federal judge ruled against the Trump administration for violating federal law by failing to use all available scientific evidence to end the overfishing of dusky sharks in U.S. waters. The ruling, in response to an Oceana lawsuit filed by Earthjustice, requires the federal government to do more to end the rampant overfishing that has plagued dusky sharks. Dusky shark populations off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts have plummeted by at least 65 percent in the past two decades as a result of bycatch – the capture of non-target fish and ocean wildlife.
A Federal judge ruled in favor of Oceana in a lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to withdraw a proposed rule to place strict limits on the number of protected species that can be killed or injured in the California-based swordfish drift gillnet fishery.
Despite 30 years of management measures aimed at reducing bycatch, the California swordfish drift gillnet fishery had remained one of the nation’s dirtiest fisheries, killing more dolphins than all observed U.S. West Coast fisheries combined. Thanks to a years-long campaign by Oceana and our allies, a new law will clean up the fishery, phasing out the use of drift gillnets through a buyout transition program and incentivizing the use of cleaner fishing gear. These measures will eventually eliminate nets that have frequently entangled, injured and killed marine mammals like whales, dolphins and sea lions as well as endangered sea turtles, sharks and other important fish species.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved a plan to protect over 300 square miles of deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Mexico. The plan, titled “Amendment 9,” will protect 21 distinct areas, ranging from Florida to Texas, which scientists have identified as special coral habitats. Oceana has worked for more than a decade to identify and protect deep-sea corals from harmful fishing gears in United States waters and around the world, and has won victories for corals in the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific.
In a unanimous vote, the Pacific Fishery Management Council acted to protect more than 140,000 square miles of seafloor from bottom trawling, a destructive fishing practice in which heavy fishing gear is dragged across the seabed. This action will safeguard a unique variety of coral gardens, sponge beds, rocky reefs, and deep-sea ecosystems that provide nurseries, food and shelter for many species — including lingcod, sablefish, flatfish, sharks, rays and more than 60 species of rockfish — important for both ocean abundance and commercial and recreational fishing. This victory for ocean diversity will more than double the area of protected seafloor in U.S. waters off California, Oregon, and Washington. The fishery council's action will also restore fishing opportunities by opening some historic fishing grounds that were previously closed to bottom trawling while overfished rockfish populations recovered. This outcome comes after a decade of campaigning by Oceana and its allies and builds on previous work which secured more than 135,000 square miles of West Coast seafloor protections in 2006. Once these new measures are implemented, more than 90 percent of the U.S. West Coast's Exclusive Economic Zone (3-200 miles from shore) will be protected from bottom trawling.
Today, hundreds of species of the ocean’s smallest schooling fish are protected from the shoreline to 200 miles out to sea and from Washington’s northern border to California’s southern border to ensure a healthy and productive ocean into the future. New regulations put in place on Saturday, April 15 by the State of California prohibit new fisheries from developing on certain species of forage fish from zero to three miles unless and until it can be demonstrated these tiny, but critical fish can be caught without causing harm to the ecosystem. With similar regulations in place in Washington and Oregon state waters (0-3 miles) and in federal waters coast-wide (3-200 miles), this action by California is the last piece of the puzzle completing sweeping protections that now apply to all U.S. ocean waters on the West Coast from shore out to 200 miles.
Today, federal fishery managers voted to keep the U.S. West Coast Pacific sardine fishery closed for the upcoming commercial season. With an estimated 86,586 metric tons (mt) of sardine remaining, and 150,000 mt necessary for fishing to occur, this will be the third year in a row there are not enough sardines to support a fishery.
Members of Congress announce the introduction of a new bill to ban the trade of shark fins in the United States. The bipartisan Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 was introduced today by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP) and Ed Royce (R-CA). While the act of shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins continue to be bought and sold throughout the United States.
Effective today, NOAA Fisheries closed the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area—more than 25,000 square miles of southern California ocean waters—to drift gillnets targeting swordfish. The closure is intended to protect endangered Pacific loggerhead sea turtles from entanglement and drowning.
The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule today prohibiting the development of new commercial fisheries for forage species in all federal ocean waters offshore Washington, Oregon, and California (3-200 nautical miles). These regulations implement a unanimous decision by the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council which voted in March 2015 to proactively protect forage fish.