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.

September, 2015

Landmark Decision to Protect Endangered Sea Turtles, Dolphins, and Whales

The Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted hard limits on the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles that can be injured or killed in the California-based swordfish drift gillnet fishery. If too many endangered species are caught over a two-year period, the fishery will be shut down for the remainder of the fishing season. Drift gillnets — stretching a mile in length and 200 feet below the ocean’s surface — target swordfish and thresher sharks in federal ocean waters off California. Yet they create a deadly trap for all ocean wildlife that swims in their path. On average, the swordfish drift gillnet fishery throws overboard 64 percent of its catch, much of it dead or dying. Marine mammals feeding off the coast of California are regularly ensnared in these invisible nets and they drown when they are not able to surface for air. According to the Council decision, hard caps will be set for the following nine wildlife species: endangered fin, humpback, and sperm whales, short-fin pilot whales, and common bottlenose dolphins; as well as for endangered leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, and green sea turtles (see table, below). Federal fishery observers are expected to monitor 30% of the fishery to determine if the caps are hit in the next two fishing years, and fishery monitoring will increase to 100% in 2018 according to the Council action.

July, 2015

Louisiana Now Requires TEDs Enforcement on Shrimp Trawl Vessels

Since 1987, Louisiana has remained the only state to not enforce federal regulations requiring that shrimp otter trawl vessels use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs)—openings in nets that allow turtles to escape when accidentally caught. But in July, Louisiana reversed state law with the passage of House Bill 668, allowing Louisiana state officials to enforce TEDs on shrimp otter trawl vessels. The Louisiana shrimp industry supported the bill, with the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, made up of industry stakeholders, officially voting in favor of reversing the 1987 law partly to help improve the conservation rating of their shrimp. Oceana has previously exposed the amount of bycatch in the Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery, and has worked for years to get Louisiana on board with federal law.

June, 2015

Texas Becomes 10th State to Ban Trade of Shark Fins

Texas became the 10th state in the U.S. to ban the sale of shark fins after signing a house bill into law. Texas had recently emerged as a hub for shark fins, with the state’s fin trade growing by 240 percent since 2010. This move also makes Texas the first state in the Gulf region to pass a shark fin sale ban, and follows several fin trade bans in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington. Shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, but most states still import and export fins. The shark fin trade is largely responsible for millions of shark deaths per year and is significantly driving their decline. Oceana has campaigned against the shark fin trade for years, and has previously won victories at the state and Federal levels to establish and uphold shark fin bans in other states.

June, 2015

Deep-Sea Corals Protected from Destructive Fishing in the Mid-Atlantic

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved a proposal to protect over 35,000 square miles of ocean habitat, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Kentucky, from trawl and dredge fishing where deep sea corals live. This strategy is part of a coral conservation plan to protect known coral areas from current fishing efforts. Oceana has been working for more than a decade to identify and protect deep-sea corals from harmful fishing gears in United States waters and around the world.

June, 2015

A Small Consession for Halibut in the Bering Sea

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted for a slight reduction to the Pacific halibut bycatch limits of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) groundfish fisheries. In the last 10 years (2004-2013), approximately 82 million pounds of mostly juvenile halibut have been wasted as bycatch in the federal groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea. The amount of halibut discarded as bycatch by the groundfish fisheries still exceeds the catch of the halibut fisheries in the region that catch halibut for human consumption. The action may result in an approximately 11 percent reduction from the average halibut bycatch, and might save up to 645,000 pounds of halibut from being wasted next year. The lower halibut bycatch limits may be in place by 2016 and would mostly affect the industrial bottom trawl fleet that catch large volumes of lower value flatfish for export to Asia.

May, 2015

Federal Fisheries Council Votes to Close West Coast Sardine Fishery

The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted at its April meeting to close the Pacific sardine fishery early for the remainder of the 2015 season, and to keep the fishery closed during the 2015 to 2016 season. A new scientific assessment by the National Marine Fisheries Service finds the sardine population has collapsed by 91 percent since 2007, and that the population is estimated to be at 96,688 metric tons, far below the 150,000 metric tons required for fishing to occur. The fishery crash is causing ecological effects on marine wildlife, which may have widespread and lasting implications. The Council’s action marks an important first step towards recovering this important forage fish. Moving forward, Oceana is requesting the Council overhaul its fishery management plan to account for ecosystem needs and increase the amount of sardines that must be left in the ocean before fishing should be allowed to occur in the future.

April, 2015

Federal Fishery Council Votes to Quickly Close this Season’s Pacific Sardine Fishery

Responding to concerns over a crashing Pacific sardine population, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (“Council”) voted this afternoon to close the commercial sardine fishery off the U.S. West Coast for the remainder of the current season. Oceana applauds the Council for responding quickly to concerns of overfishing, and the dire effects inflicted on marine wildlife due to the lack of prey.

April, 2015

Federal Fisheries Council Votes to Close West Coast Sardine Fishery Next Season

The Pacific Fishery Management Council  voted yesterday to close the directed Pacific sardine fishery off the U.S. West Coast for the 2015-16 fishing year starting July 1. Oceana requests the Council take immediate emergency action to close the Pacific sardine fishery for the remainder of the current season, which is scheduled to end June 30. With approximately two thousand tons of unmet catch left in this season’s quota, the Council will consider emergency action for the current season later this week. 

March, 2015

Seven Groups of Forage Fish Protected from Commercial Fishing

The United States’ Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action to protect seven groups of forage fish species offshore of Washington, Oregon and California from development of new commercial fisheries. These groups — round and thread herring, mesopelagic fishes, Pacific sand lance, Pacific saury, Silversides, Osmerid smelts, and pelagic squids (other than Humboldt squid) — include hundreds of important forage fish species that play important roles in the California Current ecosystem. The decision comes as part of the Council’s first-ever fishery ecosystem plan that strives to proactively manage fisheries, and is critical for these species given that demand for the ocean’s tiny fish has drastically increased in recent decades for aquaculture feed. Oceana has called on the Council since 2009 to protected currently unmanaged forage species so that they can remain an abundant prey source for marine predators. 

March, 2015

Federal Government Announces Final Action Plan for Seafood Fraud and Illegal Fishing

The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud announced its final action plan to tackle these issues. Since 2011, Oceana has worked to stop seafood fraud and ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Oceana has released several studies over the past few years that uncover seafood fraud, such as a 2014 study revealing that America’s favorite seafood – shrimp – was misrepresented in 30 percent of the 143 products tested and a 2013 similar study that found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 fish samples it tested nationwide were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines. President Obama directed agencies to work together to develop a robust plan to address seafood fraud and illegal fishing at Secretary of State John Kerry’s Our Ocean conference in June 2014, and Oceana applauds President Obama’s commitment to addressing seafood fraud and illegal fishing.