Oceana was established by a group of leading foundations — The Pew Charitable Trusts, Oak Foundation, Marisla Foundation (formerly Homeland Foundation), Sandler Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund — after a 1999 study they commissioned discovered that less than 0.5 percent of all resources spent by environmental nonprofit groups in the United States went to ocean advocacy.
No organization was working exclusively to protect and restore the oceans on a global scale. To fill the gap, our founders created Oceana: an international organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting specific, science-based policy campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals.
The Ocean Law Project — also initiated by The Pew Charitable Trusts — was absorbed into Oceana in 2001 as Oceana’s legal arm. In 2002, Oceana merged with American Oceans Campaign, founded by actor and environmentalist Ted Danson, to more effectively address our common mission of protecting and restoring the world’s oceans.
Since its founding, Oceana has won more than 200 victories and protected more than 4.5 million square miles of ocean. Find out more about how Oceana is helping to save the oceans victory by victory.
Why the Philippines?
The Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity. Home to richly diverse ecosystems, the waters of the Philippines have the highest level of nearshore diversity in the world. There are more species of coral in 20 hectares of the Central Visayas of the Philippines than the entire Caribbean. From manta rays to mangroves, enclosed seas and more than 7,100 islands, this archipelago nation has it all.
These marine waters also support highly productive fisheries, providing livelihoods and food for millions of people. The Philippines ranks in the top 15 fishing nations worldwide, producing an annual catch of more than 2 million metric tons, valued more than $3 billion in 2009. Fish is served at every meal, representing 56 percent of animal protein intake and 12 percent of all food.
Unfortunately, 75 percent of the fishing grounds in the Philippines are currently overfished. Even though total catches at the national level have not yet crashed, signs suggest these catches have been maintained by overfishing new species and new areas over time. Fishers now bring home fewer large fish, and reef fish have declined between 70 and 90 percent, leading to major losses to coastal economies.
Illegal fishing also remains a problem despite recent improvement in fisheries enforcement. Commercial fishers continue to enter municipal waters and foreign fleets continue to poach high-value species. Destructive fishing — like the capture of young fish before they can grow to adulthood— is a significant threat to the health of fish populations and the livelihoods of fishermen.
Because so many people rely on fish for food, and with so many people living in coastal communities, the Philippines provide a critical opportunity for work to improve fisheries. The country’s highly productive fisheries, if managed properly, can be harnessed to feed the growing Philippine population and secure the livelihoods of many. Therefore, achieving food and economic security for the Filipino people means that marine conservation, habitat protection and sustainable fisheries must be the goal of both national policies and local communities.
What will Oceana do in the Philippines?
In the Philippines, Oceana intends to support the government in its goal to promote national policies that protect the Philippines’ vast marine resources. We will use the law to ensure that fish and fishers receive the protections they deserve. We will offer technical expertise to aid the government in its goal of establishing sustainable catch limits, reducing discards and protecting spawning habitat. We also plan to carry out scientific expeditions to educate the public about the importance of healthy oceans and the role they play in the economy of the Philippines by providing food and jobs. Ultimately, our goal is to work to ensure that the Philippines achieve sustainable fisheries and healthy oceans for the benefit of all Filipinos.