This has been a landmark year for the ocean. The tireless work of ocean advocates—like you—has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve had quite a busy year, and we’re proud to have played our part in working towards a better ocean.
Please join me in celebrating a few of the successes we’ve had over the past year:
We engaged communities to take action on ocean acidification.
Important species like oysters and crabs that fuel the nation’s seafood industry are at risk due to the increasing acidity of seawater. Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Acidification team led the drive to introduce two new bipartisan federal bills to tackle this serious challenge, and we garnered support for additional federal funds for research and monitoring. We also co-authored papers in several science journals to raise awareness of this growing threat to coastal communities, and were pleased to see coastal states promoting legislation to combat this massive problem.
We made progress on smart ocean planning.
Our Ocean Planning program protects marine ecosystems while balancing ocean uses like shipping, fishing and recreation. Five years ago, ocean planning in the U.S. was a long-sought dream; today we are months away from ocean plans for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We also celebrated construction of Deepwater Wind, the country’s first offshore wind farm located in Rhode Island, which we’ve showcased as a model of sustainable development, supported by fishermen and conservationists. We, along with industry and conservation partners, are working to make smart ocean planning the new status quo for how our ocean is managed and protected.
We helped keep risky offshore drilling out of the U.S. Arctic Ocean.
This year, President Obama protected nearly 10 million acres of important habitat off Alaska’s coast, Shell retreated from offshore oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea and the Administration cancelled two Arctic offshore lease sales. These decisions are huge victories for all of those—including Ocean Conservancy—that continually pressed for protections from risky development. Still, our work is not done. Although drilling is no longer imminent, Shell has signaled continued interest in the region and the Administration is still considering new leases. In the coming year, we will continue our fight against future drilling and for a more resilient Arctic marine ecosystem.
We redoubled our efforts to restore the Gulf of Mexico following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
In the years after the BP disaster polluted the Gulf with nearly 5 million barrels of oil, damage to fishing communities and marine wildlife continues to emerge. Roughly 4 to 8 billion oysters were lost, and bottlenose dolphins are expected to take 40-50 years to recover. The historic $20.8 billion settlement announced this year will help us address spill impacts and achieve long-term restoration goals. The inclusion of over $1 billion for ocean restoration—as well as separate funds to monitor long-term spill effects—were major victories. Ocean Conservancy remains steadfast in ensuring that every dime of funding is directed as intended.
We led the way in tackling ocean plastics.
This year we were thrilled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup. Thanks to millions of volunteers, we have protected marine wildlife by removing more than 200 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways over the last three decades. We are also leading a growing coalition of influential partners through the Trash Free Seas Alliance®
to keep trash and plastics from entering the ocean in the first place. With our Alliance partners we released a first-of-its-kind report, Stemming the Tide, which outlines specific solutions to reduce the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean by 45 percent.
As 2015 comes to a close, we are proud to reflect on everything our teams and our supporters have accomplished this year. These successes are your successes. We are also excited for all of the progress we can make in 2016: We’re ready to continue to make strides towards a healthier, more sustainable ocean.