Our Year in Review
by Pam Lyons Gromen, Executive Director
2019 was an extraordinary year for Wild Oceans. Our long-time leader Ken Hinman stepped down after 41 years serving as our organization president and joined our Board of Directors. Rob Kramer, the former President of the International Game Fish Association, stepped in and hit the ground running as our new president. We welcomed new talent to our Board of Directors with the additions of Frankie Labriola and Peter Truslow. And we moved – now headquartered in Tallahasse, Florida.
What has not changed is our steadfast commitment to our mission. So while it was a year of big changes, it was also a year of big victories. Thank you for being an integral part of our success! Here are the highlights from 2019:
Longlines Kept Out of West Coast Waters. For over 20 years, Wild Oceans has fought to keep longlines out of Pacific waters off the West Coast. When the threat of a new longline fishery emerged again, Pacific Program Director Theresa Labriola rallied our sportfishing allies in the region, and the proposal was soundly defeated.
Atlantic Menhaden Chesapeake Bay Cap Defended. The integrity of the Chesapeake Bay Atlantic menhaden catch cap came under attack when Omega Protein, an industrial reduction fishery operation, flagrantly blew past its catch limit, set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), by more than 30%. Wild Oceans worked together with a strong coalition of fishing, wildlife and environmental groups to demand that Omega Protein be held accountable. We appealed to the Secretary of Commerce to shut down Omega Protein’s operation in Reedville, Virginia unless and until the Canadian-owned company agreed to comply with the cap. The Secretary agreed.
Sustainable Gear Authorized for the West Coast Swordfish Fishery. In September, the Pacific Fishery Management Council authorized Deep Set Buoy Gear to target swordfish. The Pacific Council’s decision marks a major milestone in Wild Oceans’ campaign to transition the swordfish fishery away from drift gillnets, which indiscriminately kill a long list of other ocean wildlife, including marlin, sharks, sea turtles and whales. Deep Set Buoy Gear has negligible bycatch and promotes fresh locally-supplied seafood and community-based employment.
Atlantic Herring Forage Plan Approved. NOAA Fisheries approved the New England Council’s Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Plan. The action features a new catch control rule that leaves substantially more fish in the water as forage and establishes a buffer zone, extending 12 nautical miles from the shore, where industrial mid-water trawling is prohibited to protect sensitive habitat, feeding grounds, and other fisheries dependent on herring. This ground-breaking victory for forage fish was 4 years in the making!
New Plans Developed to Conserve Atlantic Mackerels. Small mackerels are critically-important prey for highly migratory fish, like sharks, billfish and wahoo, and their abundance off the East Coast not only sustains the predators, it sustains recreational fishing activity that is vital to the U.S. economy. Wild Oceans worked this year to protect unmanaged mackerels from industrial-scale fishing, securing a fishery management plan for chub mackerel in the Mid-Atlantic and initiating an amendment to safeguard bullet and frigate mackerel through the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Management Plan in the South Atlantic.
Big Fish and Forage Fish Rebuilding Plans Underway. Populations of big fish predators and the forage fish they depend on are threatened when they are removed from the ocean faster than they can reproduce. Wild Oceans staff members serve as advisors to national and international fishery management bodies, and this year, they provided recommendations to end overfishing and rebuild North Pacific striped marlin, Pacific bluefin tuna, Atlantic striped bass and Atlantic mackerel. We also successfully fought an industry-led effort to increase the allowable ocean bycatch of severely-depleted river herring and shad.
Healthy Ecosystems Prioritized. Prioritizing ecosystem health in fisheries management will help ensure that our oceans resources are available for future generations. Wild Oceans succeeded in advocating for ecosystem goals and objectives in initiatives led by the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. Also this year, NOAA Fisheries published a series of Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management (EBFM) Implementation Plans for each region, including Atlantic Highly Migratory Species. Wild Oceans provided detailed recommendations for the EBFM Implementation Plans, a continuation of our long-term efforts to support NOAA’s move to EBFM.