In response to two petitions submitted in 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to change the status of North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
The government also proposed listing loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.
Belize’s Ministry of Fisheries agreed to stop issuing fishing licenses to foreign fishing fleets in the country’s waters pending consultation with local fishermen. The decision came after Jamaican trawlers entered Belize’s southern waters in December, when Oceana called on the government of Belize to suspend all plans and proposals to allow foreign fleets in territorial waters.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took its final step in an effort to protect threatened sea turtles from the bottom longline sector of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery. Specifically, the Council voted to close all bottom longline fishing shoreward of 35 fathoms (approximately 210 feet) from June to August, a time when large numbers of loggerheads were caught in previous years, and to restrict longline fishing of all vessels that have a history of catching at least 40,000 lbs of reef fish each year.
Federal policymakers released the final regulations banning all fishing for krill in U.S. Pacific waters of California, Oregon and Washington. This action was led by Oceana and others and has had strong support from scientists, conservationists, fishermen, coastal businesses and local communities.
The Oregon state legislature passed a bill to establish Oregon’s first two marine reserves and a protected area in its coastal waters, and defined a two year process to evaluate and implement additional areas to build a network of protected areas and reserves. Oceana worked to identify the Important Ecological Areas off the Oregon coast and with a coalition of conservationists, scientists, and local communities, advanced a statewide proposal to protect Oregon’s coastal ocean ecosystem.
After Oceana’s advocacy work, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) put in place an emergency closure of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to bottom longline fishing gear from the reef fish fishery to protect sea turtles. The closure included all waters shallower than 50 fathoms for a period of six months. NMFS took this action after the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted (10-7) to ask them to do so. Oceana was instrumental in pushing both the Agency and the Council to take these actions to protect sea turtles.
Pacific Loggerheads Protected from West Coast Longlines
The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to maintain a standing prohibition on a West Coast-based high seas longline fishery. The vote will prevent the opening of a new swordfish fishery that would threaten migrating loggerhead sea turtles and other marine wildlife on the high seas of the north Pacific Ocean.
Oceana, along with other conservation organizations, helped advance legislation that would establish a national requirement to land sharks with fins attached. In March 2009, after significant advocacy by Oceana, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 81) to improve existing laws originally intended to prevent shark finning. The bill requires sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached, which allows for better enforcement and data collection for use in stock assessments and quota monitoring.
The European Court of Justice condemned France for using illegal driftnetsto catch bluefin tuna. Later in March, three owners of illegal driftnetting vessels in southern Italy were arrested after Oceana provided authorities with a variety of documentation and reported more than 150 vessels using this illegal fishing gear.