CEO Note: What Do The Recent Election Results Mean for The Oceans?

Nov 15, 2014 by

A glimpse at table corals in the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, located in the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument. George W. Bush established the marine monument during his presidency, and President Obama  recently expanded it. (Photo: USFWS – Pacific Region / Flickr Creative Commons)

As many of you know, important elections recently took place in the United States, Europe, and Brazil. So as a supporter of ocean conservation, you may be wondering just how these elections will impact Oceana’s work to protect and restore the world’s oceans.

The good news is that ocean conservation is a truly bipartisan issue. If you are fearful that the oceans will suffer under conservative leadership, just remember that some of the biggest victories for the oceans in the last two decades occurred under conservative governments.

For example, the first version of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law crafted to sustain marine fisheries in the U.S., garnered bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The MSA was subsequently rewritten and strengthened several times, with overwhelming support from both sides of the political aisle.

President George W. Bush used the 1906 Antiquities Act to establish four marine national monuments in the Pacific. Earlier this year, President Obama built on Mr. Bush’s legacy by expanding the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument to six times its previous size, protecting a total of 490,000 square miles of our marine environment.

So we at Oceana are optimistic that we can continue to win victories for our oceans in the new political climate. And, we believe that Oceana’s focus on saving the oceans to feed the world gives us a new opportunity to mobilize bipartisan support — because science shows us that, with better management, fisheries can and will rebound, creating more food and jobs around the world.

In the United States, voters just elected a majority Republican Senate. We believe that the new majority will be interested in jobs and smart fisheries reform, like controlling bycatch and implementing seafood traceability. Both of these measures protect American workers: Controlling bycatch means there are more fish in the sea for fishermen to catch, while putting traceability in place will help boost the appeal of American seafood and minimize the attractiveness of illegally caught fish, as consumers will finally be able to find out the true source of their seafood.

In Europe, recent elections resulted in a more conservative European Parliament and, subsequently, a more conservative European Commission. The Commission will now be headed by Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg while the Fisheries and Environment Commission will be headed by Karmenu Vella of Malta. According to Oceana’s European senior vice president, Lasse Gustavsson, the new commission is very focused on jobs and growth and will therefore be very interested in the idea of restoring European fisheries, creating more jobs in the sector and exporting more fish abroad. We will have opportunities to work in Europe to smartly implement  recent reforms to maximize abundance and improve how the EU manages its ocean habitat.

Brazil recently re-elected its incumbent President, Dilma Rousseff, and we are optimistic that we will continue to be able to work with her administration. Oceana’s vice president for Brazil, Monica Peres, formerly worked in the government’s Department of the Environment and is already making progress in launching Oceana’s campaigns. She reports that our philosophy of saving the oceans to feed the world is already gaining traction within several sectors in Brazil.

I am optimistic that Oceana will continue to win meaningful campaign victories for the oceans in these new political climates. We’ve been successful in working with all sides of the political spectrum in the past and are confident that our efforts to save the oceans to feed the world will strongly resonate with these newly elected governments and result in more wins for the ocean in the future.

For the oceans,
Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer

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