Since 2001, Oceana has achieved hundreds 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.
Endangered Shortfin Mako Shark Gets a Fighting Chance at Survival with New Protections
The North Atlantic shortfin mako shark, which has been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species since 2019, is now protected from fishing for two years. Specifically, fishers are prohibited from keeping any short fin mako sharks they catch, as well as shipping them or landing them at any port. Many longline fishers targeting swordfish and tuna also catch mako sharks, often keeping them to sell commercially. The decision, which was made by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), will allow the species to begin to recover. This victory would not be possible without campaigning from Oceana and our allies, who rallied support for the ban from U.S Members of Congress and government officials.
Brazil Publishes Vessel Tracking Data for its Commercial Fishing Fleet
Brazil’s industrial fishing vessel data were made publicly available through the Global Fishing Watch (GFW), a platform founded by Oceana, Google, and SkyTruth. This will allow anyone in the world to monitor more than 1,400 fishing vessels in real-time for free on the GFW platform. The data available on GFW follows campaigning by Oceana in Brazil to increase transparency and traceability at sea and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The victory also follows the launch of the OpenTuna initiative, developed with support from Oceana and GFW, which publicizes tracking data from Brazil’s tuna fleet on the OpenTuna website.
California Enhances Protections for Endangered Pacific Leatherbacks
California designated the Western Pacific population of leatherback sea turtles as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Pacific leatherbacks are the most endangered sea turtle in the Pacific Ocean with their population having declined 95% over the last 30 years. The added California designation will enhance efforts by the state to study, protect, and recover these turtles and their habitat. The CESA listing follows campaigning by Oceana and allies and recent regulations in California to reduce the risk of entanglements to Pacific leatherbacks, blue whales, and humpback whales in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The regulations also allow for approved alternative fishing gear that lowers the risk of entanglement, such as “pop-up” gear, to be used in areas closed to conventional gear.
Protections Restored for Critical Marine Habitat in New England
President Biden signed an executive order that reinstated protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. The marine monument, which is roughly the size of Connecticut, is the first of its kind in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean and was first established in 2016 to protect vulnerable deep-sea coral and sponge gardens from destructive fishing methods. This monument includes diverse corals and sponges on the seafloor, serves as a nursery for commercially important fish species, and is home to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Oceana has campaigned for years in New England to identify and protect deep-sea coral areas from destructive fishing methods, while maintaining robust fisheries, as part of its “freeze the footprint” strategy.
California Laws Reduce Single-Use Plastic Waste
California enacted two new laws to curb harmful single-use plastics, which pollute our oceans and harm marine life. One of the new laws opens the door to refillable glass beverage bottles by removing requirements that prevented bottles from being preserved and refilled by beverage producers. This change will create new jobs while also reducing waste. The second law will require single-use plastic food and beverage accessories — including utensils and condiment packages — to be provided upon request only for takeout and delivery. This will greatly reduce ocean-bound plastic waste in California as discarded plastic foodware is consistently among the top 10 waste items most found at beach cleanups across the state.
Delaware Protects Marine Life, Coast from Balloon Pollution
Following campaigning by Oceana and coalition partners, Delaware enacted a new law prohibiting intentional balloon releases statewide. Balloons released into the air can enter the oceans where they can harm and choke marine life. Delaware joins Maryland and Virginia in banning balloon releases, which will help protect marine life in the region and the roughly 225,000 jobs in the three states that depend on a clean coast.
Brazil’s Leading Food Delivery Service, iFood, Commits to Deliver Plastic-Free Meals by 2025
Brazil’s largest home food delivery service, iFood, publicly committed to deliver 80% of orders free from plastic cutlery, plates, cups, napkins, and straws by 2025, following a campaign co-led by Oceana and the United Nations Environment Program’s Clean Seas Campaign. They will also set public reduction targets by 2023 for additional categories of plastics in food deliveries: plastic containers, sachets, and bags. Additionally, iFood has committed to transparency by publicly disclosing data on its plastic footprint, and also to subjecting these disclosures to an independent audit, which will be made public. With the target reductions in place, iFood will stop 1.5 billion single-use plastic items per year from entering the environment. Oceana continues to campaign for other food delivery services to follow suit.
Orca Habitat Expanded in the United States
The Biden-Harris administration has expanded critical habitat protections for endangered Southern Resident orcas along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. The new protections span across nearly 16,000 square miles in the Pacific. With only 74 orcas remaining, the Southern Resident orca population is threatened with extinction. Their survival depends on the abundance of Chinook salmon, whose numbers have also declined. This critical habitat designation will help ensure these orcas have clean ocean waters free of disturbance. Oceana continues to campaign to protect orcas, salmon populations, and marine habitats.
Fisheries Management Councils Restored in Brazil, Increasing Transparency
Following campaigning by Oceana and allies, Fisheries Management Councils (FMCs) were restored in Brazil after the government created a new framework for fisheries decision-making, “Rede Pesca Brasil.” FMCs, which the government previously terminated in 2019, support transparent and participatory decision-making process for Brazil’s fisheries. The 10 FMCs will allow the government, scientists, fishers, and NGOs to discuss important topics including fishing quotas and destructive forms of fishing like bottom trawling. Oceana continues to campaign to further modernize and stabilize Brazil’s fisheries law and make FMCs legally mandatory.
California Funding Protects Whales, Dolphins, and Sea Turtles from Deadly Drift Gillnets
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new budget that included $1.3 million to get deadly drift gillnets out of the water. This destructive form of fishing is notorious for its indiscriminate catch of marine life including whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. In September 2020, Oceana delivered $1 million to begin to phase out the last large-mesh drift gillnet fishing for swordfish in the U.S. by January 2024 as outlined in a 2018 California state law. The law establishes a voluntary transition program for fishermen to surrender nets and state permits and incentivizes the use of cleaner gear. To date 50% of active fishermen have been compensated for turning in nets and permits, representing 20 miles of nets out of the water. Oceana continues to campaign for a federal law to end the use of large mesh drift gillnets nationwide.