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OCEANA MackerelMackerel’s been quite a hot topic over the past few months. You may remember last year’s “Mackerel Wars” between Iceland (and the Faroe Islands) and the EU.

Unfortunately, Mackerel isn’t only overfished up north. The Commission recently reprimanded Spain for going over its 2010 allocated mackerel quota by 79% or 19,621 tons. The Spanish fleet’s blatant disregard of the regulations in place only serves to highlight the government’s passiveness and inability to control the sector.

The lack of compliance with fishing agreements not only puts the conservation of mackerel stocks in danger, but also leads to serious socioeconomic consequences for the sector and associated industries.

1.3 Million Tons – That’s how many marine fish (and other organisms) are discarded and dumped overboard (dead most often than not) by EU fishermen every year.

OCEANA discardsThe amount of waste, which represents 13% of the total catch, is difficult to fathom, and even more so at a time when we are fighting so hard to end overfishing and push for sustainable fisheries.

The discard issue has rightfully been all over the news in the past few weeks – from Hugh’s fish fight to  concerns over how a ban on discards would affect the industry.

Bet you never thought a sea slug could ever be stunning. This photo of a nudibranch (or sea slug) was taken during one of our expeditions in the Mediterranean off the coast of Alicante, Spain.

Every time we send our photographers into the depths, we are amazed at the incredible diversity of marine organisms they are able to capture with their lenses. That is why we work so hard to push for Marine Protected Areas – so we can help preserve the rich biodiversity of Europe’s waters.

SeahorseWe found this little guy in Galicia, Spain during our 2008 at-sea Oceana Ranger expedition.

Here’s a fun fact about seahorses: the males are the ones who get pregnant and seahorse babies are born inside the male pouch.

But here are some not so fun facts about seahorses, which are fished for use in traditional medicines throughout Asia and aquariums: Overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat depletion have severely depleted seahorse populations.

The 2004 CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) convention provided international protection to seahorses  by setting a minimum catch size allowing them to reproduce while allowing some fishing - though Indonesia, Japan, Norway, and South Korea opted out of the trade rules at the time.

JaizkibelFor years we’ve been fighting to protect a large marine area in the Basque region called Jaizkibel – our objective is to create a marine ecological corridor between San Sebastian and Biarritz for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.

It’s been a long struggle, especially because there are plans to build a port in the area – a move that would endanger thousands of marine communities, species and habitats.

But we’ve just received a bit of good news – The Basque parliament has approved a motion calling on the government of the autonomous region to take a year to study the proposal that we submitted in partnership with COBE, and assess the possibility of creating the marine protected area.