Victories | Oceana USA


Since 2001, Oceana has achieved dozens 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.

June 2021

Oceana and Allies Protect Over 25,000 Square Miles of New England Deep-Sea Corals from Destructive Fishing

In the United States, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule to protect over 25,000 square miles of deep-sea coral habitat in New England’s Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine from destructive fishing gear, following years of campaigning by Oceana and allies. The action protects centuries-old corals and fish habitat from destructive bottom trawling, which is like clear-cutting the seafloor. The area protected is roughly equivalent to the size of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, combined, bringing the total protected deep-sea coral areas in the U.S. Atlantic to nearly 86,000 square miles. Oceana continues to campaign to identify and protect deep-sea coral areas from destructive fishing methods, while maintaining robust fisheries, as part of our “freeze the footprint” strategy.

May 2021

Washington State Bans Polystyrene Foam, Limits Ocean-Polluting Single-Use Plastic at Restaurants

U.S. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that limits the use of unnecessary single-use plastic across the state, following campaigning by Oceana and our allies in the Pacific Northwest. The new law bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of certain expanded polystyrene foam products, including foodware, packing peanuts, and foam coolers. It also requires dining establishments to only provide single-use plastic utensils, straws, cold-beverage cup lids, and condiment packaging if requested by customers. Finally, the law establishes post-consumer recycled-content standards for plastic beverage bottles, personal care products, home cleaning products, and trash bags. Many of the items this law limits or bans are unlikely to be recycled and often make their way into our oceans, where they can harm marine life and ecosystems. Washington is now the first state on the West Coast and the seventh in the country to ban polystyrene foam food containers, as well as the first state to ban foam plastic coolers.

May 2021

Maryland Protects Marine Life from Choking on Balloons

Following campaigning by Oceana and coalition partners, Maryland enacted a new law prohibiting intentional balloon releases statewide. Balloons released into the air can eventually enter the oceans where they can harm and choke marine life. Under the new law, a person who is at least 13 years old, or an organization, cannot intentionally release balloons or organize balloon releases. Reducing single-use plastics, including balloons, is critical to the health of Maryland’s coasts and waterways and the 96,000 jobs in Maryland that depend on a clean coast. Oceana continues to campaign to stop plastic pollution by urging other local, state, and federal decisionmakers to pass policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.

March 2021

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 and allies to stop plastic pollution at the source by urging government decisionmakers to pass policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.

November 2020

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.

October 2020

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.

October 2020

Gulf of Mexico Deep-Sea Corals Now Protected from Destructive Fishing

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.

October 2020

Seismic Airgun Blasting Efforts Halted in Atlantic Ocean

Oceana and a coalition of groups filed suit in U.S. federal court and won a ruling stopping the government from granting permits allowing this dangerous and deadly practice and effectively stopping it from going forward in the Atlantic Ocean as planned. Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean to search for oil and gas beneath the seafloor, which can injure or kill marine animals from zooplankton to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Oceana, our allies, and thousands of coastal communities and businesses have campaigned against this dangerous practice for years. This long-fought legal battle challenged the issuance of Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs), which are federal government-issued permits needed by seismic companies to harass and harm ocean animals while blasting the Atlantic Ocean. 

September 2020

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.

September 2020

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.