Victories

Since 2001, Oceana has achieved dozens 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.

December, 2015

Government of Belize Announces Protections for Barrier Reef and World Heritage Sites from Oil Exploration

The Government of Belize has announced its intention to impose a permanent ban on offshore oil exploration along the Belizean barrier reef system and within the country's seven world heritage sites.  The Belizean barrier reef is the largest section of the MesoAmerican barrier reef, the biggest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and home to some of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystems on the planet.  The government’s announcement is a big step forward for the people of Belize, Oceana and ocean advocates everywhere.

Oceana’s Belizean team has been campaigning to ban offshore oil drilling in Belize’s ocean since we and our allies discovered in 2010 that massive oil exploration concessions had been granted throughout Belizean waters – including in its marine reserves, natural monuments and national parks. Having seen the devastating effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, however, Belizeans knew that even one accident could destroy this fragile marine ecosystem. Belize’s oceans provide jobs, food and cultural identity for its citizens, making protection of these areas a top priority.

Oceana, along with other Belizean organizations, successfully won judgments from Belizean courts that the permits issued by the government that allowed drilling violated Belizean environmental law. This judgment led to an initial moratorium on offshore drilling. In addition, working with other organizations in the country, Oceana’s team founded the Belize Coalition to Save Our National Heritage in December 2011. This coalition, which began with seven member organizations and grew to include 40 different groups, ultimately delivered more than 18,000 signatures to the Governor General's office calling for a referendum on offshore oil drilling and exploration. When just enough signatures were disqualified to prevent triggering an official referendum, the Coalition organized a national referendum of its own called "The People's Referendum." This initiative gave Belizeans an opportunity to vote on the issue, and they responded overwhelmingly. Approximately 30,000 Belizeans participated – with more than 95% voting against offshore oil activity.

From legal, economic, scientific and cultural perspectives, Belizeans agree offshore oil is a bad idea. We remain confident that the future will continue to reveal reasons why Belizeans should never risk our outstanding and globally unique resources with this type of activity. “This progress should be seen as a major accomplishment by and for the people of Belize,” says Oceana’s Vice President for Belize, Janelle Chanona.  

Oceana looks forward to reviewing the details of the Barrow administration’s plans, especially as it relates to the status of two marine protected areas not named in the release: the Turneffe Marine Reserve and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. Furthermore, as clarified by Prime Minister Dean Barrow via telephone today, Oceana looks forward to contributing towards of the efforts of the Ministry of Petroleum’s mandate to create stringent environmental mechanisms and strengthen existing frameworks to ensure that if the moratorium is ever lifted, Belize’s marine resources will be protected.  

In June 2015, Oceana suggested several conditions for consideration before the moratorium is lifted to the Government of Belize. They include the development of a comprehensive oil spill response plan, inclusive of adequate funds for implementation; a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment of petroleum operations in Belize’s territorial waters; revision of the Petroleum Regulations to include detailed requirements regarding the qualification of companies seeking to conduct offshore petroleum operations and the safety measures that must be taken during those operations; the creation of a common fund which offshore petroleum operations would contribute to and which would be held in trust and managed for the sole purpose of mitigating environmental damages caused during offshore petroleum operations; the appointment of an Environmental Pollution Control Board which would be charged to ensure compliance with the requirements of environmental standards and the relevant laws of Belize; amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations to include all offshore petroleum operations, including seismic testing, to the list of activities that require EIAs; an independently conducted cost benefit analysis of offshore oil development to Belize to determine if overall benefits substantially outweigh costs, and last but not least, that the people of Belize have approved lifting the moratorium via a referendum conducted pursuant to the Referendum Act.

Oceana takes this opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of Belizeans who continue to support the common cause of protecting our marine resources. Belizeans must remain active and proactive in this process. That is the only we can determine the future of the people and places that make us who we are.

February, 2011

A Poll to Measure People's Perception on Oil Exploration and Drilling in Offshore Areas (Country)

A random sample was selected of 4000 countrywide participants employing statistical technique simple random sampling employing random application software.  The application included a database of landlines countrywide.  Other statistical techniques were employed to ensure proportional representation of sample per target population per each district to ensure validity of results.  The poll was conducted via telephone and interviews were conducted by a team of trained interviewees.

An instrument was created which included 7 questions measuring the major constructs pertaining to perceptions on oil exploration and drilling in offshore areas. The instrument was tested employing face validity and other statistical tests to validate reliability of results.  Sample of the instrument is available for testing purposes.

The analysis was conducted employing SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Scientist) and included mainly frequencies and cross tabulations within each construct and variables of interest.  All results are shown in graphs and tabular statistical tables.  Tests were conducted within a confidence interval of 95% ( a margin of error of + - 5%).

October, 2009

Conservation Groups and U.S. Government Reach Agreement in Sea Turtle Lawsuit

Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network reached an agreement with the federal government in a lawsuit over violations of the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, the government failed to meet the 12-month legal deadline for responding to three separate petitions focusing on two sea turtle species in U.S. waters off the East and West coasts.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have agreed to respond to the groups’ petitions for increased protections for both leatherbacks in the waters off California and Oregon as well as North Pacific and western North Atlantic loggerheads by December 4, 2009, and February 19, 2010, respectively.

October, 2009

Mercury Bill Clears Committee in the U.S. House

Oceana was instrumental in clearing the Mercury Pollution Reduction Act (H.R. 2190) past a critical legislative hurdle, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), would require chlor-alkali plants to end their unnecessary use of mercury-based technology in chlorine and caustic soda production. Oceana is now working to ensure the bill’s passage in the Senate and on the House floor.

September, 2009

Deep-sea Coral Ecosystems Protected in South Atlantic

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved a plan to protect more than 23,000 square miles of known deep-sea coral from North Carolina to Florida from destructive fishing gear. Five years in the making, the vote will restrict the footprint of bottom trawls – one of the most nonselective fishing gears currently in use, capable of destroying thousand-year-old coral reefs and moving 18-ton rocks – and help to restore the long-term productivity of commercially valuable fish that take refuge in these rare corals.

August, 2009

Gulf Council Protects Sea Turtles from Bottom Longlines

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took its final step in an effort to protect threatened sea turtles from the bottom longline sector of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery. Specifically, the Council voted to close all bottom longline fishing shoreward of 35 fathoms (approximately 210 feet) from June to August, a time when large numbers of loggerheads were caught in previous years, and to restrict longline fishing of all vessels that have a history of catching at least 40,000 lbs of reef fish each year.

July, 2009

Krill Protected in Pacific Waters

Federal policymakers released the final regulations banning all fishing for krill in U.S. Pacific waters of California, Oregon and Washington. This action was led by Oceana and others and has had strong support from scientists, conservationists, fishermen, coastal businesses and local communities.

April, 2009

SATIIM and Indigenous Mayan Communities Supreme Court Victory is a Victory for all Belizeans

The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage and Oceana in Belize salute the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) for its ongoing efforts to have the indigenous rights of the Maya of Southern Belize respected. Madam Justice Michelle Arana's historic ruling on April 3'd 2014 affirmed those rights when the Supreme Court found that while the Government of Belize has the right to issue permits to explore for oil and even drill, they must consult with the members of the affected indigenous communities to determine what activities can happen on their lands as well as the forms of compensation to follow.

The lesson all Belizeans should take away from this issue is that we all have the inherent right to be part of a consultative and participatory process in the management of our resources--especially when political policies have the potential to cause irrevocable damage.