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.
New Law in Belize Gives People the Power to Protect Offshore Oil Moratorium
The Government of Belize passed a new law that requires any decision to open its ocean to oil and gas drilling to first be voted on by the Belizean people through a national referendum. Belize is home to 40% of the second largest barrier reef system in the world (and the largest in the Western Hemisphere). Belizeans’ lives are inextricably tied to the sea and a third of the country’s economy is driven by tourism and fisheries. This victory would not have been possible without campaigning by Oceana and its allies, who secured 22,090 signed petitions from Belizean voters to ensure that “people power” is at the center of decisions about the long-term future of the country’s reef, ocean, and the livelihoods its resources sustain. In 2017, Oceana, the people of Belize, and the Belizean government made history by unanimously passing an indefinite moratorium on offshore oil in Belize.
Mediterranean Countries Can Now Penalize States who Fail to Tackle Overfishing and Illegal Fishing
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) created a sanction system that will allow it to penalize states that fail to tackle overfishing or illegal fishing by their fleets. This action, which is the result of campaigning by Oceana and its allies, is essential to restoring fish populations in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most overfished seas on Earth. Starting in 2025, the GFCM will be able to sanction countries that fail to take action when their trawl fleets fish in no-trawl areas, or if they fail to follow rules on fishing gear or catch restrictions. These penalties can include restricting fishing authorizations or reducing the allowed fishing days at sea. Prior to the GFCM’s decision, Oceana, ClientEarth, and the Environmental Justice Foundation prepared a legal analysis, which found that the GFCM could establish such a system. Oceana continues to urge Mediterranean countries to follow through on their commitments and restore fish populations and ecosystems.
U.S. State of Delaware Bans Plastic Foam Food Containers, Limits Plastic Straws
Following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, Delaware enacted a law to phase out plastic foam foodware and reduce other unnecessary single-use plastics. Specifically, the law prohibits restaurants and other food service establishments from providing polystyrene foam food containers, plastic beverage stirrers, and plastic cocktail and sandwich picks, and requires that single-use plastic straws only be provided at the customer’s request. Expanded polystyrene is a form of plastic foam, made from fossil fuels, and is commonly used for food containers and packaging. This disposable packaging is usually thrown away after a single use and breaks up into smaller pieces that are hard to clean up, disperse rapidly due to their lightweight nature, and can persist in the environment for decades. With this new law, Delaware joins a growing list of U.S. states and cities that have taken legislative action to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
Philippines Requires Rebuilding of Sardine Fisheries
Following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the Philippine government announced it will require all 12 of the country’s fisheries management areas (FMAs) to implement a national plan to rebuild sardine fisheries by March 2024. Sardines are a key resource in the Philippines, accounting for 15% of the total fish catch and the nation’s marine fisheries. They are also an affordable, nutrient-rich protein, making them a popular choice in many Filipino households. This high commercial demand, however, has led to rampant overfishing and population decline. Oceana advocated for this science-based management plan, which was approved in 2020, to help restore the health and long-term abundance of the species. The comprehensive plan includes rules for catching sardines, closed seasons, and limits on juvenile catch. It also requires measures to empower artisanal fishers, such as opportunities for fishers to generate alternative income during closed seasons. Oceana will continue to work with artisanal fishers, coastal communities, and governmental officials to ensure the plan is properly implemented across the FMAs.
Chile Approves New Marine Protected Area in Iconic Humboldt Archipelago
The Council of Ministers for Sustainability in Chile approved the creation of the Humboldt Archipelago multi-use marine coastal protected area (AMCP-MU in Spanish), marking one of the country’s most important environmental achievements. The new protected area, which measures more than 5,700 square kilometers (2,200 square miles), will safeguard one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in Chile, while also promoting sustainable development for local communities. This national designation will raise the environmental assessment standards for potential industrial development projects in the Humboldt Archipelago area, including for the Dominga port mining project, which Oceana and our allies campaigned against and fought in court for years. Dominga and other similar projects would encroach on this important feeding area for many marine species including blue whales and the vulnerable Humboldt penguin population. Industrial projects also threaten the ‘upwelling’ phenomenon that occurs in the Humboldt archipelago, which fertilizes the water and allows phytoplankton, the base of the food web, to flourish. The new protected area also preserves artisanal fishing and eco-tourism, both of which are sustainable and critical to supporting the local economy.
Philippines Requires Commercial Fishing Vessels to Install Monitoring Devices
President Marcos of the Philippines issued a memorandum directing the Fisheries Bureau to implement vessel monitoring rules and install devices to track location, speed, and catch in all commercial fishing vessels greater than 3.1 GT in the country. This rule, which follows significant campaigning by Oceana and our allies, will help prevent and deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which accounts for up to 40% of the fish caught in the Philippines. Additionally, requiring tracking devices will help deter commercial fishing vessel encroachment into municipal waters that are reserved for artisanal fishers. Such encroachment has resulted in overfishing, habitat destruction, and fish stock depletion, which threatens coastal communities and artisanal fishers, who rely on a healthy ocean for food security and to support their livelihoods.
EU Requires Tracking Systems for All Its Fishing Vessels
The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council agreed a new law that requires all European Union (EU) fishing vessels, including 49,000 small-scale vessels, to install and use tracking systems by 2030 at the latest. Tracking systems have numerous benefits for the ocean, including promoting sustainable fisheries by increasing transparency about fishing activities. Simultaneously, they empower fishers by involving them in fisheries management, and they enable rapid emergency response in the case of safety issues at sea. The law also requires more transparency from EU countries, which must now disclose national enforcement actions, including the annual number of infringements detected and sanctions imposed. They must also set up a digital traceability system to provide key information (species and origin) to authorities for all seafood products on the EU market. This law, which follows campaigning by Oceana and our allies, will enhance transparency, optimize fishing efficiency, and help combat illegal fishing.
Brazil’s Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Bottom Trawling in Rio Grande do Sul
In a 9-1 vote, Brazil’s Supreme Court upheld a law in the state of Rio Grande do Sul that bans industrial bottom trawling, a highly destructive form of fishing that clear-cuts the seafloor. Prior to the 2018 ban, bottom trawling was depleting fish stocks, threatening marine biodiversity, and destroying habitat, all of which the local community relies on to support their livelihoods. Oceana campaigned alongside artisanal fishers to pass this law in 2018, which safeguards the entire state’s 630-kilometer long coast and the first 20 kilometers offshore (more than 13,000 square kilometers). Since then, local communities have seen many fish stocks recover. The Supreme Court decision reinforces the importance of this law to ensuring the sustainable livelihoods for more than 20,000 families who rely on artisanal fishing in Rio Grande do Sul.
Public Database in the Philippines Increases Transparency at Sea
The Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources officially launched the Fisheries National Administrative Register, a free database that features information on Philippines-flagged commercial fishing vessels with previous violations under the country’s amended Fisheries Code. The register also includes information on foreign-flagged vessels involved in poaching in Philippines waters, including the penalties previously imposed. Oceana’s campaigning was key to ensuring this register was published and made publicly available. Public information is a key factor in deterring illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and promoting transparency at sea.
New Law in US State of Maine Sets Density Limits for Future Salmon Farms
Following campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the U.S. state of Maine passed a law that establishes limits on stocking density for new marine salmon farms, making it harder for developers to build monster aquaculture operations in the state’s waters. This new law follows a proposal by Norwegian-based company American Aquafarms in 2021 to build an extremely large salmon farm in Frenchman Bay, just half a mile offshore of Acadia National Park. Stocking density — the amount of fish by weight packed into an area — is a key metric of salmon and other marine finfish aquaculture. Higher stocking densities are often associated with diminished fish health and water quality. Ocean-based fish farms are inherently risky as they often also use vast amounts of pesticides and chemicals to prevent disease and parasites, which can impact the surrounding marine ecosystems.