Oceana, the largest international advocacy group to work on behalf of the world’s oceans, announced a $3 million grant today from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation aimed at protecting threatened ocean habitat and keystone marine species such as sharks.

The foundation’s grant will also support Oceana’s work to advocate for responsible fishing measures, including the effort to ban California drift gillnets.

“The foundation and Leo’s support for campaigns like our efforts to ban the drift gillnets in California will help Oceana win more protections for countless sharks and other marine animals and for ocean habitats in the Pacific and Arctic – which include some of the most productive ocean places in the world,” said Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless. “The net impact will be a much more abundant and biodiverse ocean that has many millions more sharks and critical and amazing marine animals, wilder and more pristine ocean habitats and oceans that can feed over a billion people – many of them hungry – a healthy seafood meal each day.”

“Protecting our planet’s oceans and the marine species that call it home is one of the most pressing sustainability crises facing humanity today and a moral imperative that we must acknowledge,” Leonardo DiCaprio said. “It’s my hope that this grant will help Oceana continue the tremendous work that they do daily on behalf of our oceans.”

Spread over a three-year period, the $3 million from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is the first marine conservation grant made following the foundation’s 11th Hour Charity Auction hosted at Christie’s last year. The grant to Oceana will support the organization’s work, from the south of Chile to the north of Alaska, to preserve ecologically important ocean areas and Oceana’s campaigns, including the campaign to ban drift gillnets off California, in order to protect dolphins, whales, turtles and other marine animals from being caught and killed as “bycatch.”

Gillnets targeting swordfish and thresher sharks are set off of Southern California and are typically a mile-long in diameter. This indiscriminate gear catches and kills large numbers of non-targeted marine animals including sperm whales, gray whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, elephant seals, and sea lions. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Oceana recently received hundreds of photos of animals caught and killed by this destructive gear.

“We are incredibly grateful to our friends at Christie’s who made last year’s 11th Hour Auction for the foundation such a success, they made this grant to Oceana possible,” said Justin Winters, Executive Director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. “We are excited to support Oceana’s efforts to win real policy change and protection for vital habitats and species throughout the Pacific and Arctic oceans.”

“Christie’s is proud to support both the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Oceana in their fundamental work to make our planet a better place” said Steven Murphy, Chief Executive Office of Christie’s. “It was an honor for Christie’s to host the Foundation’s 11th Hour Charity Auction and, as we were delighted with the result achieved, so we are thrilled that it could facilitate this grant to Oceana, funding such important endeavors to preserve our oceans.”

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