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Oceana (non-profit group)

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EstablishedOctober 2001; 22 years ago (2001-10)
Type501(c)(3) non-profit group
PurposeOcean conservation
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
MethodsLobbying, litigation, and research
James Simon
Revenue (2017)
Staff (2017)
Volunteers (2017)

Oceana, inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ocean conservation organization focused on influencing specific policy decisions on the national level to preserve and restore the world's oceans. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in Juneau, Monterey, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Portland, Toronto, Mexico City, Madrid, Brussels, Copenhagen, Geneva, London, Manila, Belmopan, Brasilia, Santiago, and Lima,[1][2][3] and it is the largest international advocacy group dedicated entirely to ocean conservation.[4]

Currently, Oceana has a staff of about 200 and 6,000 volunteers, and it has almost 50 million dollars of revenue (as of 2017).[2] Oceana takes a multi-faceted approach to ocean conservation; It conducts its own scientific research in addition to making policy recommendations, lobbying for specific legislation, and filing and litigating lawsuits.[5]


Oceana was established in 2001 by an international group of leading foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sandler Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. This followed a 1999 study they commissioned, which found that less than 0.5% of all resources spent by U.S. environmental nonprofit groups were used for ocean conservation.[6]

In 2001, Oceana absorbed The Ocean Law Project, which was also created by The Pew Charitable Trusts, for Oceana's legal branch. In 2002, American Oceans Campaign, founded by actor and environmentalist Ted Danson, merged with Oceana to further their common goals of ocean conservation.[6]

On April 19, 2024, Oceana, Inc. announced the appointment of James Simon as the new Chief Executive Officer. Simon, previously the President of Oceana, succeeded Andrew Sharpless following an eight-month international search.[7]

Oceana Canada[edit]

In 2015, Oceana Canada was established as a legally distinct non-profit organization. It works in collaboration with Oceana, inc. and is considered part of the larger charity.[8][9][10] Except under very specific circumstances, Canadian charity law does not grant either legal charity status or the ability to issue tax exempt receipts to Canadian offices of non-Canadian nonprofits, making it beneficial to create an independent, Canadian charity.[11]

Current campaigns[edit]

Responsible fishing[edit]

Concerned about declining fish catches since 1980, Oceana is committed to combating overfishing and restoring the world's fisheries. It mainly focuses on legislation for scientific based catch limits, which have led to dramatic recoveries of depleted fisheries in the recent past. It also opposes fishing subsidies, which it argues are (in their current form) contributing to overfishing.[12][13] Oceana also focuses on reducing bycatch, especially of protected or endangered species.[14][13]

Oceana's main focus with sustainable fishing is providing clean, plentiful food. They often cite the lack of emissions or resources, like land or fresh water, that wild fish require, and that this lack of pollution or resources would be necessary to feed the world's growing population.[13] This campaign is called "Save the Oceans, Feed the World".[15]


Oceana focuses on curbing or entirely eliminating the use of plastics, especially single use plastics due to their harmful impact on marine ecosystem and on human consumers. The organization generally opposes focusing on recycling or cleanup, and it says this is due to inefficiencies of recycling the large amounts of plastics in the ocean.[16][17][18][non-primary source needed]

Seafood fraud[edit]

Oceana has led the way on exposing and advocating against seafood fraud. Its opposition comes from the widespread nature of this problem, the negative health impact mislabeled fish can have (especially to people with certain seafood allergies) and their impact on overfishing by obscuring its impact.[19][20]

Climate and energy[edit]

Oceana is dedicated to combating the numerous threats to the world's oceans that climate change imposes. Its main focus has been the acidification of the ocean, which threatens marine life, especially shellfish and coral that are necessary to many marine ecosystems, and, consequently, sources of seafood.[21] They also focus on promoting offshore wind farms[22] and combating the use of offshore drilling[23] and seismic airgun blasting.[24][25]


Oceana launches expeditions to gather scientific data, which is used by Oceana, other nonprofit groups, local communities, and governmental agencies to create or influence policy.[26][27]

Recent examples of these expeditions' success can be seen in Malta, where an expedition led to the Maltese government expanding marine protected areas,[28][26] or in the Philippines, where an expedition led to the government creating a new marine protected area in the Benham Bank.[29]


Oceana focuses on influencing specific legislation, lawsuits, or other policies, which fit under its broader goals. It calls these "victories" when successful.[2][30] Recent victories have included protecting dusky sharks,[31] banning industrial activity in Canada's marine protected areas,[32] increasing transparency through digital tracking in Chile's fishing industry,[33] and creating the second-largest marine national park in Spain's Mediterranean coast.[34]

Over the course of its existence, Oceana has protected 4.5 million square miles of the ocean by influencing legislation and policy related to banning bottom trawling, restricting fishing, and establishing Marine Protected Areas.[35][36][37][38] Oceana considers an area "protected" once it has achieved a policy victory related to protecting it.[39]


The Perfect Protein[edit]

Andy Sharpless, the CEO of Oceana, and author Suzannah Evans wrote The Perfect Protein in 2013. While it mentions some of Oceana's achievements, it focuses on its main goal: to make fishing a sustainable and abundant food supply. The main recommendations and goals of the book are science based catch limits, eating fish lower on the food chain (like sardines), focusing less on more glamorous sea creatures (like whales and dolphins), protecting habitats, and reducing bycatch.[40]

Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them[edit]

Actor and Oceana Vice Chair Ted Danson, along with Michael D'Orso, wrote the book Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them in 2011. It describes Danson's early involvement with the environmental movement while also explaining the problems that face our oceans today, such as offshore drilling, pollution, ocean acidification, and overfishing. The book is scientifically grounded and was called engaging by the Los Angeles Times because it is filled with asides, charts, and photographs.[41]


Responsible fishing[edit]

The California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA), a small nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving California's wetfish industry,[42] has repeatedly criticized Oceana's attempts to temporarily halt the Pacific sardine fishery. CWPA criticized Oceana's citation of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study that reported 95% of the sardine stock had been depleted since 2006 (and the study itself). CWPA claims that these numbers are inflated and that the actual (smaller) decline in fish stock has not been caused by overfishing, but rather by environmental factors. The CWPA has specifically called Oceana's claims about overfishing "fake news."[43][44] Although the NOAA has not fully responded to the CWPA's calls for a new study, it has not declared sardines overfished, but it has also banned commercial fishing of sardines.[45]

In 2021, a Netflix documentary Seaspiracy criticized Oceana for appearing to be unable to provide a definition for "sustainable fishing". Oceana responded by saying it was misrepresented in the film, and argued that abstaining from eating fish as the film recommends is not a realistic choice for people who depend on coastal fisheries.[46]

Seafood fraud[edit]

Various environmental news outlets have published op-eds criticizing Oceana's reports on seafood fraud, and similar criticism was included in a New York Times article. Criticism focuses on Oceana's assumption that all mislabeled seafood is intentionally fraudulent, even for species that are easily confused or have different names in different countries. The methodology of Oceana's studies has also been questioned, mainly due to its selection of historically mislabeled fish for testing instead of a more representative sample. Additionally, they criticized policy recommendations that Oceana recommended in their reports for being infeasible and bureaucratic.[47][48][49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oceana International Offices". Oceana. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "IRS Form 990 2017" (PDF). 990s Foundation Center. 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Oceana, Inc.'s Motion to Intervene and Memorandum in Support" (PDF). Department of Interior. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Leading Insurers, Oceans Conservationists, Oceana and UNEP FI Issue First Even Guide to Combat Pirate-Fishing". United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative. 27 February 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Oceana". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Atkinson Center Iscol/Oceana Summer 2017 Internships" (PDF). Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Oceana Announces James Simon as New CEO". Yahoo Finance. 2024-04-19. Retrieved 2024-04-19.
  8. ^ "Oceana Canada". Canada Helps. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  9. ^ "A net loss for Canada". SeaWestNews. 6 December 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Modernized Fisheries Act a historic victory for fisheries rebuilding and sharks". WFMJ. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Foreign Charities Operating in and from Canada". Global Philanthropy. 3 November 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Responsible Fishing". Oceana. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  13. ^ a b c "Oceana CEO: Why Not Use 71% of the Planet to Feed the Future". Food Navigator. 9 May 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Reducing Bycatch". Oceana. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Save the Oceans, Feed the World". Oceana. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Plastics". Oceana. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Oceana Denounces Corporate Recycling Commitments as Answer to Global Plastics Crisis" (Press release). Oceana. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2019 – via PR Newswire.
  18. ^ "Plastic recycling not enough to stop ocean pollution, warns Oceana". Agencia EFE. 28 October 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  19. ^ Sharpless, Andy; Evans, Suzannah (2013). "The Consumer's Dilemma". The Perfect Protein. Rodale, Inc. ISBN 9781609614997.
  20. ^ "What is seafood fraud? Dangerous—and running rampant, report finds". National Geographic Society. 7 March 2019. Archived from the original on March 9, 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Acid Test: Rising CO2 Levels Killing Ocean Life". Live Science. 16 July 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Oceana report: Offshore wind would reap twice the energy, jobs as offshore drilling". Daily Press. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Oceana: Nine years after Deepwater, offshore drilling is still 'dirty and dangerous'". Daily Press. 20 April 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  24. ^ "How whales and dolphins may be harmed by new seismic airgun approval". National Geographic Society. 30 November 2018. Archived from the original on December 23, 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Climate and Energy". Oceana. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  26. ^ a b "Annual Report 2017-2018" (PDF). Oceana. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  27. ^ "Oceana Marine Expeditions to Fill Keys Gaps in Biodiversity Data". European Commission. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  28. ^ "LIFE BaAR for N2K - Life+ Benthic Habitat Research for marine Natura 2000 site designation". European Commission. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  29. ^ "Philippines Announces That The Philippine Rise Is Now Marine Protected Area". Sea Voice News. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  30. ^ "Victories". Oceana. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Oceana Wins Lawsuit to Protect Overfished Dusky Sharks". Earthjustice. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  32. ^ "Federal government announces ban on industrial activities in Canada's marine protected areas". The Globe and Mail. 25 April 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  33. ^ "Chile To Publish Vessel Tracking Data Through Global Fishing Watch". Maritime Executive. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  34. ^ "Spain creates the second-largest marine national park in the Med. sea". Safety 4 Sea. 9 February 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  35. ^ "FOUND Brand Takes on Saving the Ocean for World Ocean Month With 100k Initiative" (Press release). FOUND. PR Newswire. 3 June 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019 – via ABC7.
  36. ^ "Oceana". Oceana. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  37. ^ "Oceana's tiny staff covers lots of ground". Santa Cruz Sentinel. 20 March 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  38. ^ "Dive In To Shark Week's 30th Anniversary With Several Jawsome Partnerships" (Press release). Discovery Channel. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  39. ^ "Protecting Important Marine Habitat". Oceana. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  40. ^ Sharpless, Andy; Evans, Suzannah (2013). The Perfect Protein. Rodale, Inc. ISBN 9781609614997.
  41. ^ "Ted Danson dives into 'Oceana'". Los Angeles Times. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  42. ^ "About CWPA". California Wetfish Producers Association. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  43. ^ "California Wetfish Producers Association: Sardine Fishery Collapse Latest Fake News" (Press release). California Wetfish Producers Association. 5 April 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2019 – via Globe News Wire.
  44. ^ "Groups want to halt West Coast sardine fishing". U-T San Diego. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  45. ^ "Pacific Sardine". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  46. ^ "Seaspiracy: Netflix documentary accused of misrepresentation by participants". the Guardian. 2021-03-31. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  47. ^ "Catfished by a Catfish: 1 in 5 Seafood Samples Is Fake, Report Finds". The New York Times. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  48. ^ "The Irony of Oceana's Seafood Fraud Campaign". Sustainable Fisheries. 15 November 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  49. ^ "Oceana report has good data, but bad advice". Seafood Source. 3 November 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2019.

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