Oceana is the largest international conservation organization focused exclusively on the ocean conservation. With offices in North America, South America and Europe, Oceana works on strategic, directed campaigns to achieve outcomes that will return the oceans to their former levels of abundance. The group claims to use science in identifying problems and solutions. They also claim that their scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates achieve tangible and reasonable results for the oceans.
The problem – as identified by their website is that “The oceans are vast, but they are not immune to human influence. We have already altered or destroyed many marine ecosystems and driven million-year-old species to the brink of extinction. According to a study published in Science, less than 4 percent of the oceans remain unaffected by human activity.”
Specifically, Oceana says the main problem is that “We are taking too many fish out of the water. In the last few decades, commercial fishing has evolved into a high-tech, heavily subsidized industry that uses cutting-edge electronics, computer systems, huge amounts of fuel and miles of gear to find and catch more fish in remote places formerly out of bounds to fishermen.”
Oceans says that according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 75 percent of seafood species are overexploited, fully exploited or recovering from depletion and need more effective and precautionary management.
Another problem is that there are too many pollutants in the water. “Mercury is a toxic pollutant emitted by land-based industrial plants. This mercury finds its way back into our food chain via our seafood with potentially serious consequences. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one in 10American women has enough mercury in her blood to pose a risk of neurological damage to her developing baby.”
According to Oceana, offshore fish farming, does not take the pressure off wild seafood species, but results in increased overfishing to feed the farmed fish as well as the despoiling of seafloor habitat. Concentrated fish waste dropped from open-water pens covers the ocean bottom, choking both oxygen and life.
Carbon dioxide emissions are making the oceans warmer and more acidic. As a result, corals and other creatures at the base of the ocean food chains have trouble forming shells. Without a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, many of the world’s coral reefs will disappear and entire ocean ecosystems may collapse.
Another concern is that destructive fishing practices, including driftnets, longlines and bottom trawls ruin ocean ecosystems by indiscriminately killing fish and other wildlife, including seabirds and marine mammals. Each year, Oceana estimates more than 16 billion pounds of bycatch are thrown overboard thanks to wasteful fishing techniques. “Bottom trawls drag heavily weighted nets along the ocean floor in search of fish or crustaceans is a practice akin to clearcutting a forest in order to catch a rabbit. Centuries-old habitats such as coral gardens are destroyed in an instant by bottom trawls, pulverized into barren plains. Endangered sea turtles drown on longline hooks while sharks have their fins sliced from their bodies, which are then tossed overboard.”
Oceana was created in 2001 to identify practical solutions and make them happen. In many cases, laws governing fishing and pollution already exist but need to be tightened, strengthened or enforced.
Some of their “victories” include the California Senate designating the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle as California’s official state marine reptile, sea turtles gaining protection from scallop dredges, the Oregon House passing a bill making Oregon’s first network of marine reserves and marine protected areas, and the EU voting in favor of strictly protecting 10 threatened species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean Sea, under the Barcelona Convention. These species, including hammerheads, tope, and shortfin mako, have declined dramatically in numbers – some by as much as 99 percent during the last century – while others have vanished from parts of the Mediterranean where they were once common.