This month, Oceana marks 10 years of working to restore Europe’s oceans to their former levels of abundance. The marine conservation began work in Europe at a time when the state of both stocks and habitats in the Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean was alarming, destructive fishing practices were rampant, marine protected areas were few and far between, and few fish stocks were managed sustainably.
“10 years ago, Europe’s seas were ravaged by overfishing and managed with little to no regard to sustainability. Since then, overfished EU fish stocks in the Atlantic for example, have dropped from 94% to 39%,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “Europe’s seas have undergone a remarkable improvement in this past decade, and we are proud to have contributed to it. We have a long way to go, particularly with regards to harmful subsidies and deep-sea fishing, but we are on the right track.”
Since the launch of its European headquarters in Madrid in 2003, the international marine conservation organisation has taken a unique results-oriented approach to effecting policy change through a targeted number of campaigns covering the main threats to Europe’s oceans. Oceana’s campaign against illegal driftnet use in the Mediterranean was successful, while its efforts to curb mercury contamination saw the Spanish government finally disclose a hidden report on the dangerous amounts of mercury in commonly consumed seafood. A large number of sharks and rays were finally granted protection in large part thanks to the organisation’s work, and in collaboration with other NGOs, Oceana has worked to ensure the newest reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is as effective as possible.
Oceana is a pioneer in garnering first-hand scientific information that is used to ground conservation proposals. Oceana launched its first expedition in 2005 and since then has successfully accomplished 12 forays into the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea, and the Atlantic, documenting never before seen habitats, as well as illegal and destructive fishing practices to increase available knowledge about the marine environment. With the help of an underwater robot, the organization has had the unique opportunity to focus on little-known, deep-sea areas which are often neglected, discovering new species and rare or endangered habitats along the way.
An online database of over 130,000 images and hundreds of hours of video footage also sets Oceana apart, bringing stunning images of marine life to the public. These images are freely shared with research bodies, universities, scientific institutions and other entities, which are often even invited to collaborate with Oceana and take part in expeditions.
“Oceana has mobilized an incredible team across three European offices, that works together to achieve science-based policy victories. Without the hard work of our campaigners, scientists, and other experts and the support of our donors, and the public, I’m certain that our seas would be in worse shape,” concluded Ricardo Aguilar, research director of Oceana in Europe.
Learn more: Oceana in Europe