The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Oceana in a suit that will require commercial fisheries from North Carolina to the Canadian border to monitor and report the amount of bycatch, or untargeted marine life, they discard. The decision is a triumph against one of the biggest problems facing our oceans today. Tons of fish are wasted and thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks and sea birds are injured or killed every year as bycatch.
At international delegation passed new conservation measures that will protect more than 16.1 million square miles of seafloor habitat in the North Pacific Ocean from bottom trawling and other bottom contact gear. Participating nations, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, Russia, China, Korea and Taiwan, PoC (Chinese Taipei), acted on a commitment they made at the United Nations General Assembly to enact interim conservation measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, like seamounts, deep-sea corals and hydrothermal vents, in international waters. Oceana and others have been working to advance these measures since 2006.
In recognition of ongoing severe declines in the Western population of Steller sea lions and the failure of the overall population to meet pre-established recovery criteria indicating improvements in the status of the population, the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented new protections for the species. The new measures, which limit fishing in the western Aleutian Islands, are a necessary first step toward better conservation and management of the Aleutian Islands ecosystem.
The Belizean government announced that all forms of trawling were banned in the country's waters. Oceana in Belize collaborated with Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s administration to negotiate the buy-out of the two shrimp trawlers. With this ban, Belize has become one of the first countries in the world to institute a complete and permanent ban on trawling in all its waters.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Senate version of the Shark Conservation Act, clearing the final hurdle to ending shark finning in U.S. waters. The Shark Conservation Act improves the existing law originally intended to prevent shark finning. It also allows the U.S. to take action against countries whose shark finning restrictions are not as strenuous, labelling the U.S. as a continued leader in shark conservation.
Though failing to improve protections for bluefin tuna, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) increased the number of shark species prohibited for retention in ICCAT fisheries. Specifically, the group improved conservation measures for oceanic whitetip sharks, hammerhead sharks and shortfin mako sharks. In addition, ICCAT put in place new measures to reduce sea turtle mortality, such as the use of sea turtle dehooking and disentangling gear as well as mandatory collection and submission of sea turtle bycatch data.
Chile Creates Marine Reserve Around Salas y Gómez Island
Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of Salas y Gómez Marine Park, a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers around Salas y Gómez island. The decision came after a preliminary expedition to Salas y Gómez by Oceana, National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation, in which they found abundant populations of vulnerable species such as sharks and lobsters and unexpectedly high biodiversity in deeper waters.
The new park expands Chile’s total marine protected area more than 100 times, from 0.03% to 4.41%.
Fifteen years after the UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets, and seven years after the EU instituted a ban, Morocco has passed an amendment banning the use, possession, manufacture or sale of driftnets. The penalty for breaking Morocco’s new law ranges from three months to one year in prison and fines between approximately $550 and $110,000. Oceana has been working in Europe for years to stop the use of this illegal fishing gear in the Mediterranean.
The Chilean Senate’s Fisheries Committee unanimously agreed that the Chilean government should establish a 200 nautical mile marine protected area around the Island of Salas y Gómez, near Easter Island. Oceana and National Geographic have been promoting the protection of this area, which still remains virtually unexplored, and which may well be one of the last pristine vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Pacific.
After continuous campaign work by Oceana, in early June the European Commission closed the bluefin tuna purse seine fishery early for a third year in a row, further confirming the overcapacity of the fishing fleet. The assigned quota was reached one week earlier than expected, and the Commission’s decision came despite the fleet reduction plans implemented and the absence of the Italian fleet in the seas.
Bluefin tuna stocks are nearing collapse due to overfishing and illegal fishing; stocks have decreased by 80% from existing levels before the industrial fishing era.