Fishing gear poses the greatest danger to young great whites off the West Coast of the U.S. [05/22/2018]
- Fishing lines and nets pose the most significant threat to the survival of young white sharks in the waters off Mexico and southern California, according to a new study. - A team of scientists used a relatively “untapped” but ubiquitous storehouse of data to develop a statistical model for the survival rates of juvenile white sharks. - The researchers calculated that 63 percent of young white sharks living in this part of the Pacific survive annually, but that nearly half probably come in contact with gillnets set by commercial fishers. - The findings point to best practices, such as barring gillnets from inshore “nurseries” and asking fishers to check their nets for trapped sharks more regularly, that could help protect great whites.
Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans [05/15/2018]
- On today’s episode, renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle joins us for an in-depth conversation about marine conservation. - Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy. - She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.
Scientists highlight 9 potentially new reef fish species off West Papua [05/14/2018]
- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province. - The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity. - However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.
Longest recorded whale shark migration eclipses 20,000 kilometers [05/14/2018]
- Scientists followed the movements of a whale shark for nearly two and a half years as she swam more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) from the coast of Central America to the Marianas Trench near Asia. - Whale sharks, whose numbers have dropped by more than half in the past 75 years according to the IUCN, are taken by fishing boats for their fins, cartilage, meat and teeth, and studies have shown that boats bringing tourists to swim with the largest fish in the ocean change the species’ behavior. - Given these threats, scientists hope studies such as this one will help guide conservation policy aimed at protecting these animals throughout their migrations.
A boon for birds: Once overlooked, China’s mudflats gain protections [05/11/2018]
- The shoreline of the Yellow Sea has been transformed dramatically over the last half-century as mudflats have been filled in with rock and soil, replacing dynamic, natural tidal zones with solid ground for ports, chemical plants and farmland. - Losing the intertidal flats has proved devastating for the millions of shorebirds that funnel through the Yellow Sea during migration. - In January, the Chinese government announced a sweeping package of reforms aimed at ending much of the land reclamation taking place on the mudflats. - “Stunned joy” is how one bird conservationist described her reaction to news of the reforms, which she said could avert one of the biggest extinction crises facing migratory birds — if they work.
South Georgia declared ‘rat-free’ in largest-ever rodent eradication program [05/09/2018]
- Ships of sealers and whalers arriving on South Georgia brought with them rats and mice that spread over much of the island, eating eggs and chicks of the native birds. - To counter the problem of invasive rats, the South Georgia Heritage Trust launched a $13.5 million rodent eradication operation in 2011, using helicopters to drop poisoned bait in every part of the island that could be infested with rodents. - In the final phase of monitoring that concluded in April this year — a six-month survey that included three trained sniffer dogs — the SGHT team found no signs of rats or mice.
Humpback whales near Antarctica making a comeback, study finds [05/08/2018]
- Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found. - Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing. - So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.
Noisy reefs help young fish find their home [05/04/2018]
- Young reef fish use the chorus of sounds made by other fish to find and settle in suitable habitat, but damage to reefs from storms and coral bleaching affects these sounds and thus the ability of juvenile fish to find a home. - Researchers compared the effects of sounds of intact and degraded reefs on juvenile fish behavior; they found that soundscapes of degraded reefs lacked the volume and complexity of those of intact reefs and attracted far fewer juveniles. - Limiting future bleaching by reducing carbon emissions that lead to warmer seas is considered key to the survival of coral reefs.
Australia to invest $379 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef [05/03/2018]
- Australia is set to invest more than 500 million Australian dollars ($379 million) in funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef. - The investment will help restore water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish attacks on coral, and fund research on coral resilience and adaptation. - Some critics are, however, concerned that the funding aims to target strategies that have already being tried in the past, and have seen limited success.
New study finds mangroves may store way more carbon than we thought [05/02/2018]
- A new study finds mangrove soil held around 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000. - Between 2000 and 2015, up to 122 million tons of this carbon was released due to mangrove forest loss – roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of Brazil. More than 75 percent of these soil carbon emissions came from mangrove deforestation in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar. - Mangroves provide a slew of benefits in addition to storing carbon, reducing flooding and erosion from storms, acting as nurseries for fish, and filtering pollutants from water. - Research indicates at least 35 percent of the world’s mangrove forests may have been lost between 1980 and 2000. Mangroves are deforested for many reasons, including to make room for shrimp farms and other forms of aquaculture, as well as for their wood. Mangroves also depend on the presence of freshwater and can die when dams and other developments stem the flow of rivers. Scientists also believe they’re at risk of mass drowning as global warming raises sea levels.
More than 800 totoaba swim bladders confiscated by Mexican authorities in smuggling busts [05/01/2018]
- In two separate arrests of Chinese nationals, Mexican police confiscated more than 800 swim bladders from a large fish called the totoaba. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Fishing for totoaba has also pushed a small porpoise called the vaquita close to extinction. One recent estimate puts the number of animals left in the wild at 12.
One-stop shop for digital global maps launched [04/30/2018]
- A new online platform called Resource Watch makes over 200 geographically referenced global-scale data sets available for viewing and analysis. - You can view and overlay spatial data layers on your own or explore analyses produced by the platform’s research staff. - The developers hope that assembling a broad collection of environmental, economic, infrastructure, and social data in a single platform will promote understanding of the connections between human activities and natural systems and encourage more sustainable decision-making.
‘We are going to self-destruct’: Development plans threaten Malaysian island [04/30/2018]
- The Langkawi archipelago off Malaysia’s northwest coast is made up of more than 100 islands, including the main island – the country’s third largest. For years a well-kept secret of pristine beaches, unspoilt rainforest and unique limestone outcrops, tourism began to take off in the 1990s after the island was declared duty free and luxury resorts began to open. - Some 3.5 million people visited Langkawi last year. Now the authorities want even more – 5.5 million by 2020 – and have ambitious plans to transform the island with high-rise hotels and apartments, coastal roads on reclaimed land, and other trappings of a 21st century tourist destination. - But critics say little has been done to upgrade the island’s basic infrastructure – sewage systems, water supply, and waste management – adding to the strain on an already fragile environment.
Photos: Meet the 2018 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [04/27/2018]
- The six winners of 2018 Whitley Award are Munir Virani of Kenya; Shahriar Caesar Rahman of Bangladesh; Kerstin Forsberg of Peru; Dominique Bikaba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Anjali Chandraraj Watson of Sri Lanka; and Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda. - Each recipient was awarded £40,000 ($56,000) in project funding over one year at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Geographic Society in London, U.K., on April 25. - A seventh conservationist, Pablo “Popi” Garcia Borboroglu from Argentina, who won the Whitley Award in 2010, received the Whitley Gold Award for his commitment to safeguarding the world’s penguin species.
Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal fishing is paying off, study finds [04/23/2018]
- Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in its waters is paying off for domestic fisheries and fish recovery, according to a new study. - But for Indonesia to continue to reap the benefits from its anti-IUU fishing policies, the country needs to ensure that domestic fishing efforts are also well-managed, the paper’s authors noted. - Indonesia’s success in tackling illegal fishing provides an example that can be implemented in other countries plagued by overfishing by foreign vessels, the researchers concluded.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality. - As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals. - The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.
Fish tales: Six amazing journeys to celebrate World Fish Migration Day [04/20/2018]
- April 21 marks World Fish Migration Day, a biennial event that strives to foster appreciation for the importance of migratory fish and their aquatic swimways. - Healthy fish stocks with unimpeded migrations are essential to feeding humankind and maintaining the ecological equilibrium of the world’s waters. - But fish migrations are being increasingly stressed by a worldwide boom in the building of dams that block their essential riverine passage, pollution, overfishing, lowering of water levels for agriculture and drinking water, and climate change. - Here are six notable fish migrations to consider on this day.
Scientists stumble upon hundreds of octopus moms in the deep sea [04/19/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a large nursery of octopus mothers some 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) deep in the Pacific Ocean. - The octopuses are an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus, a group of deep-sea octopuses generally known to lead solitary lives. - The octopuses and their eggs will likely not survive, researchers say, because the animals are exposed to warmer temperatures than they are used to. - But the presence of this large, “suicidal” population of octopuses suggests that there must be many more octopuses living in cooler, more livable crevices on the seafloor, researchers add.
Earth Day founding organizer calls for end to plastic pollution [04/18/2018]
- Denis Hayes was the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, and he took the event to the international stage in 1990. - Earth Day 2018 is slated for April 22 and focuses on plastic pollution, so Mongabay asked him about this event and what else is on the mind of this key leader of the international environmental movement. - Earth Day is said to be the most widely observed secular holiday in the world, with activities happening in most countries around the world. - Hayes is also active in sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and his work is housed in one of the greenest office buildings in the world.
‘Boom and bust’ cycle of deep-sea trawling unsustainable, study finds [04/18/2018]
- Researchers have built a global picture of deep-sea fish catches from bottom trawling from 1950 to 2015. - Deep-sea trawling can be extremely destructive for fish populations, while providing minimal economic benefits, the study found. - Researchers also found that large quantities of fish caught in the deep sea go unreported.
You don’t need a bigger boat: AI buoys safeguard swimmers and sharks [04/05/2018]
- A new tech-driven device may help reduce harmful interactions with sharks and improve people’s tolerance of one of the ocean’s top predators. - The system, called Clever Buoy, combines sonar to detect a large object in the water, artificial intelligence to determine that the object is a shark close enough to threaten beachgoers, and automated SMS alerts to lifeguards that enable them to take action. - Local governments have deployed the system at popular beaches and surfing sites to test its capacity to protect swimmers and surfers without harming marine wildlife.
NOAA publishes global list of fisheries and their risks to marine mammals [04/02/2018]
- The list, published in draft form in late 2017 as part of requirements laid out by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, includes nearly 4,000 fisheries across some 135 countries. - NOAA says the list represents ‘a strong step forward’ in developing sustainable fisheries. - These fisheries have until 2022 to demonstrate that the methods they use to catch fish and other marine animals either pose little risk to marine mammals or employ comparable methods to similar operations in the United States.
Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas [03/30/2018]
- The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean. - Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland. - The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast. - However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.
‘Ropeless’ consortium aims to end entanglements of declining North Atlantic right whales [03/29/2018]
- ‘Fishermen, engineers, manufacturers, scientists and managers’ have come together to develop ropeless fishing gear to keep North Atlantic right whales from getting entangled. - Only 451 right whales are left, and it’s likely that fewer than 100 are breeding females. - Research teams have recorded no new calves this breeding season, which ended this month. - Scientists warn that the North Atlantic right whale could go extinct if the trend in their numbers doesn’t change.
Australia opens vast swaths of famed marine parks to fishing [03/29/2018]
- Australia is known for protecting its sea life in a 3.3 million square kilometer (1.3 million square mile) system of marine parks that cover 36 percent of the country’s oceans. - The protection of those parks is now at stake, as the government last week approved five long-awaited management plans covering 44 parks. The new plans open an area almost the size of Japan to commercial and recreational fishing compared to the original plans formed by the previous government when the parks were proclaimed in 2012. - A coalition of opposition parties attempted to block the new plans in parliament on Tuesday but failed. - Conservation groups and hundreds of marine scientists have voiced vehement opposition to the government’s new plans.
Under the sea: Life is the bubbles in newly described deep-reef zone [03/28/2018]
- Scientists have recently described a layer of the deep ocean zone as the “rariphotic,” calling it home to an array of unidentified reef fish and a refuge for species from shallower waters drive out of their coral habitats by warming waters. - Nearly 4,500 fishes were observed representing 71 species, nearly half of them new species, the researchers reported. - The scientists are calling for more exploration into deeper marine ecosystems to better understand the deep-reef ecosystems and the impact of changes taking place in shallower zones.
‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent [03/27/2018]
- For years marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling, a fishing technique that unintentionally scoops up non-targeted creatures as bycatch and disrupts marine habitat. - While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem: in Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all but going after any and all sea life for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products. - In an interview with Mongabay, Vincent describes her observations in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Study reveals the Pacific Garbage Patch is much heftier than thought — and it’s growing [03/26/2018]
- A recent survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that the aggregated plastic there weighs in at 79,000 metric tons (87,100 short tons). - The plastic is floating across an area larger than Mongolia at 1.6 million square kilometers (618,000 square miles). - Around 75 percent of the pieces that are larger than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in length, and old fishing nets make up a minimum of 46 percent of the total mass. - The scientists calculated that 94 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch are microplastics.
“Save the Krill” urges Greenpeace report [03/23/2018]
- A recent report by Greenpeace International describes the role of krill in Antarctica’s marine food chain and calls for nations to restrict their krill fishing in areas under consideration for protected status designation. - Automatic identification system signals from commercial krill-fishing vessels allowed Greenpeace to map the precise routes these ships take around the Antarctic Peninsula and to identify transfers of catch and fuel between ships. - The report warns that krill fishing competes for food with other marine wildlife, and that anchoring and pollution from the ships could damage the larger ecosystem. - Video footage and samples collected from submarine dives by a recent Greenpeace expedition will be analyzed and presented at meetings this summer to support the creation of marine protected areas in the Weddell Sea and other regions around Antarctica.
Microplastic pollution in world’s oceans poses major threat to filter-feeding megafauna [03/23/2018]
- A study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution last month looks at how filter-feeding marine animals like baleen whales, manta rays, and whale sharks are impacted by microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. - Filter-feeding megafauna must swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water every day in order to catch enough plankton to keep themselves nourished. That means that these species are probably ingesting microplastics both directly from polluted water and indirectly through the consumption of contaminated plankton prey. - Microplastic particles can block nutrient absorption and damage the digestive tracts of the filter-feeding marine life that ingest them, while toxins and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in plastic can accumulate in the bodies of marine wildlife over time, changing biological processes such as growth and reproduction and even leading to decreased fertility.
Will Madagascar’s industrial shrimp trawlers make way for local fishers? [03/14/2018]
- Shrimp is one of Madagascar’s most lucrative exports. - But local fishers and environmental groups say shrimp trawlers are harming the country’s marine environment and leaving too few fish in the sea for the fishing communities that depend on them. - Until now, relatively little has been done to address the issue. - But there are small signs that may be starting to change, with fishing communities raising their voices to press for exclusive access to Madagascar’s coastal waters.
Analysis: U.S. call to drill off all coasts, economic and ecological folly? [03/14/2018]
- 90 billion barrels of recoverable oil, plus 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie untapped offshore on the U.S. continental shelf. In January, the Trump administration ordered that the entire coast, in the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf, and Arctic, be opened to drilling. - Environmentalists and the coastal states fear oil spills that could devastate tourism. They also are concerned about the massive infrastructure (pipelines, terminals, refineries, pumping stations and more) that would be needed to support the industry. - The executive branch has moved forward with efficiency to create a surge in U.S. oil and gas production: the Interior and Energy departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency have all worked to slash regulations and open additional lands and seas to oil and gas exploration, with the plan of achieving U.S. “energy dominance” around the globe. - Most coastal states are resisting the federal oil and gas offshore drilling plan; Florida has already been exempted, while other states are likely to fight back with lawsuits. The irony is that a flood of new U.S. oil could glut the market and drive prices down, resulting in an economic disaster for the industry.
Gaza City residents’ water problems continue to compound [03/12/2018]
- Locked between increasingly-polluted seascape and the borders of one of the most tightly-controlled enclaves in the world, Gaza City residents say the water has become so polluted they can no longer go swimming. - Situated at the borders of Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza’s 2 million residents fear that an ongoing electricity crisis has pushed their maritime ecosystem past the brink. - 80 percent of Gaza’s Mediterranean Sea coastline is thought to be polluted and families who used to rely on it for livelihoods and leisure now fear its waters.
Cambodia creates its first marine national park where pirate fishers prowl [03/12/2018]
- In February, Cambodia announced the establishment of its very first marine national park, covering 524 square kilometers (202 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand. - Koh Rong Marine National Park takes in the seven islands of the Koh Rong archipelago and the web of coral, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems around them. - Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s tiny territorial waters have long been plundered by illegal fishing gangs feeding an ever-rising demand for seafood. - But the declaration of the new park does nothing to protect the environment, at least in the short term, with no new patrols of the heavily fished waters until next year and a $2 billion island development plan allowed to continue unhindered.
Plastic not so fantastic for Bali’s iconic manta rays [03/09/2018]
- Two recent videos from a diving site in Bali known for its manta rays have garnered global attention for highlighting the dire state of plastic pollution in Indonesia’s waters. - While the local government and volunteers have made efforts to clean up the garbage, a lack of proper planning and poor awareness of waste disposal means huge volumes of trash continue to be dumped into the ocean daily. - Indonesia produces around 130,000 tons of plastic and solid waste every day, and is the second-largest plastic polluter in the world, behind China.
Only 12 vaquita porpoises remain, watchdog group reports [03/08/2018]
- The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita reported in 2017 that there were just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - Mongabay contacted Andrea Crosta, director of the international wildlife trade watchdog group Elephant Action League, just before his return to Mexico in early March 2018. - After his previous trip in February 2018, Crosta said his sources reported that no more than a dozen vaquitas remain. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to illegally catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are in high demand, especially in China.
Mangrove deforestation may be releasing more CO2 than Poland, study finds [03/02/2018]
- A new study calculates that, worldwide, mangroves were storing 4.19 billion metric tons of carbon in 2012, representing a 2 percent loss since 2000. It estimates that number had dropped further to 4.16 billion metric tons by 2017. - In total, the study estimates that this lost carbon translates to as much as 317 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of around 67.5 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. and more than the 2015 emissions of Poland. - The researchers found Indonesia harbors the lion’s share of the world’s mangroves – around 30 percent – while also experiencing the biggest proportion of its 2000-2012 mangrove carbon loss, with deforestation there accounting for more than 48 percent of the global total. Other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Myanmar, are also undergoing high rates of mangrove deforestation, making the entire region a hotspot of global mangrove carbon loss. - Previous research estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. Deforestation for shrimp, rice and palm oil are among the biggest drivers of mangrove decline.
New thumbnail-sized pygmy squid discovered in Australia [03/02/2018]
- The new species of pygmy squid belongs to the genus Idiosepius, a group of tiny, squid-like marine animals that are believed to be the world’s smallest cephalopods. - Researchers have named the new species Idiosepius hallami, or Hallam’s pygmy squid after Australian malacologist Amanda Reid’s son, Hallam, who helped her collect live animals for further comparisons. - Pygmy squids are generally found in shallow waters among seagrass and mangroves, some of the most threatened marine habitats.
Easter Island votes for world’s newest marine reserve [02/27/2018]
- The Rapa Nui Marine Protected Area encompasses 740,000 square kilometers (286,000 square miles) of Pacific Ocean surrounding Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. The reserve was approved by a 73 percent majority in a September 2017 referendum of islanders. - The MPA is intended to eliminate the pressures of commercial fishing and mining on the unique and isolated ecosystem of Rapa Nui. Supporters of the project cite public support and participation as an encouraging sign of the reserve’s long-term potential. - The Rapa Nui people and government of Chile are currently planning how the reserve will be enforced and monitored, prior to the official signing ceremony on February 27. Many in and outside Rapa Nui believe the reserve will aid relations between the island and the mainland, although there is lingering distrust among some islanders toward Chile.
New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans [02/24/2018]
- Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. - While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas. - Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.
‘Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise’ film shows how farmers are fighting climate change [02/22/2018]
- A recent documentary looks at how Bangladeshi farmers are adapting to rising sea levels. - The film documents how Bangladeshi farmers are keeping their farms from flooding by building floating gardens made of water hyacinth and bamboo. - The film won the Best Short Film at the New York WILD Film Festival, which begins on Feb. 22. - Mongabay interviewed cultural anthropologist Alizé Carrère to learn more about why she chose to focus on Bangladesh and why this story is important.
Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain [02/22/2018]
- The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain. - The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises. - The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank. - The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic [02/16/2018]
- Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time. - The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales. - At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.
Queen conch dying out in the Bahamas despite marine parks [02/16/2018]
- There has been a major decline in the population of protected queen conchs in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park over the last 20 years. - The most recent survey found predominantly older queen conchs, with a shortage of juveniles to replace them. - Researchers believe overfishing in upstream areas has depleted the park’s larval supply. Increased predator density within the park may also be a problem for juveniles. - Queen conch fisheries outside protected areas in the Bahamas are experiencing intense fishing pressure and are near collapse.
Webs under water: The really bizarre lives of intertidal spiders [02/15/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a 15th species of intertidal spider, a family of unusual arachnids that live in coastal habitats that are submerged during high tides. - The newest species, named after singer Bob Marley, was discovered living on brain coral off the Australian coast. - Scientists know that some species create air pockets with their hairs, while others build waterproof webs, but little is known about most of these fascinating spiders. - Intertidal spiders face a number of threats, including rising sea levels due to climate change, and pollution.
New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania [02/14/2018]
- Last month, divers discovered a new population of the critically endangered red handfish off Tasmania’s coast. - The new site, currently undisclosed, potentially harbors about 20 to 40 individuals, doubling the number of known red handfish on Earth. - The new population is helping scientists understand the rare fish better.
Duterte orders navy to fire on foreign poachers in Philippine waters [02/14/2018]
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the navy to open fire at foreign vessels suspected of poaching or extracting natural resources in the Southeast Asian nation’s exclusive waters. - Duterte made the decision to address concerns about territorial rights over Benham Rise, an undersea plateau off the country’s northeastern coast believed to be rich in oil, gas and fisheries. - A number of Southeast Asian nations, notably Indonesia, have recently taken a tough stance against marine poaching in the region, which is home to some of the world’s richest underwater ecosystems and threatened by overfishing.
Illegal ‘white gold,’ South Africa’s abalone, pouring into Hong Kong: TRAFFIC [02/13/2018]
- South African abalone imports into Hong Kong have progressively increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2000 to 6,170 tonnes in 2015, according to a new report by TRAFFIC. - During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Much of these imports were illegal, the researchers found. - While most abalone traders in Hong Kong seem to be aware that South African abalone is frequently poached, fewer consumers know about the illegal trade.
Whale of a tale: Protecting Panama’s humpbacks from ship collisions [02/08/2018]
- The key to alleviating whale strikes in the Panama Canal ended up being inspired by a solution used on land — and led to a years-long struggle for a Panama Canal pilot and a whale biologist to help reduce whale strikes in the Gulf of Panama, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. - Similar to how roads are now sometimes built to curve around the natural habitats of land creatures, Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) create shipping lanes that restrict marine traffic to certain areas. - But in order to get all shipping to abide by this system, countries need the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body that regulates shipping safety and navigation around the world.
Vietnamese activist gets 14-year sentence for documenting chemical spill [02/08/2018]
- On Tuesday, a Vietnamese court sentenced Hoang Duc Binh to 14 years in prison for activism related to a chemical spill that resulted in a massive fish kill in 2016. - The sentence appears to be the harshest so far in a series of punitive measures the Vietnamese government has taken against citizens protesting or writing about the spill. - At the same trial another activist, Nguyen Nam Phong, was sentenced to two years in prison.
Fishing with insecticide-laced mosquito nets is a global phenomenon [02/06/2018]
- In regions of the world threatened by malaria, bed nets treated with insecticides are an increasingly common public health tool to fend off mosquitos. - But there is growing evidence that the nets, often provided for free or at a subsidized price by hospitals and aid organizations, are being put to other uses, including fishing. - A new study is the first to document just how common fishing with mosquito nets may be, finding that people in countries around the world are doing it. - The practice could have significant environmental and socioeconomic implications.
2018 Tyler Prize awarded to two US-based biological oceanographers [02/06/2018]
- The 2018 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement will go to two biological oceanographers based in the United States: Paul Falkowski, a professor of Geological and Marine Science at Rutgers University in the U.S. state of New Jersey; and James J. McCarthy, professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University in the state of Massachusetts. - Julia Marton-Lefèvre, chair of the Tyler Prize Committee, said that the two scientists were receiving the award in recognition of their pioneering work aimed at understanding and communicating the impacts of human activities on the global climate. - “Climate change poses a great challenge to global communities. We are recognizing these two great scientists for their enormous contributions to fighting climate change through increasing our scientific understanding of how Earth’s climate works, as well as bringing together that knowledge for the purpose of policy change,” Marton-Lefèvre said in a statement.
Corals thrive on remotest islands in the Galápagos [01/31/2018]
- Our first reef community stop in the Reefscape project was the Galápagos Islands in December 2017. - We found that ocean events such as El Niño can wipe out huge areas of reef, yet coral survival and regrowth remain evident. - Our direct actions, be the destructive overfishing or constructive protection, have a huge impact on the future of coral reef ecosystems. - One size does not fit all when it comes to coral reefs — even an archipelago hammered by coral-killing warm waters can harbor refugia for biodiversity.
Mega developments set to transform a tranquil Cambodian bay [01/31/2018]
- Sim Him has organized the planting of more than 200,000 mangrove trees in Cambodia’s Trapeang Sangke estuary. The surrounding ecosystem, which feeds thousands of families, is thriving. - But the nearby construction of a ferry terminal and a luxury resort are upsetting the estuary’s equilibrium, and development projects continue west along the coastline from there. - Dotted along a 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) coastal strip, no less than six large-scale developments present a direct threat to healthy mangrove forests and the fishing communities they support. - Aside from being a nursery for sealife and a barrier to erosion, mangroves are also one of the planet’s most effective carbon neutralizers, capable of capturing and storing it for millennia.
Do catch and release-induced abortions harm shark and ray populations? [01/26/2018]
- Female sharks and rays are more susceptible to aborting their young after being captured than previously realized, according to a recent review of scientific literature. - The review found that 88 species that bear live young were susceptible. Among a subset of those species for which adequate data was available, researchers estimated that an average of 24 percent of pregnant females abort their offspring when captured. - The authors argue that the phenomenon may be responsible for lost generations of threatened species. - However, outside researchers consulted for this story say that the killing of adult sharks poses a much bigger threat to species survival.
The ups and downs of marine protected areas: Examining the evidence [01/25/2018]
- To find out if marine protected areas achieve their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 42 scientific studies and talked to seven experts. - Overall, marine protected areas do appear to help marine animals recover within their boundaries. But a lot more rigorous research is needed. - The effects of marine protected areas on socioeconomic outcomes and fisheries are less clear. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Mesoamerican Reef gets improving bill of health [01/22/2018]
- The Healthy Reefs Initiative released its report card on the state of the Mesoamerican Reef. In the last decade, the grade has risen from poor to fair. - The Mesoamerican Reef runs along about 1,000 kilometers of the coastlines of Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. - Fish populations have grown, as have the coral that make up the reef. - But scientists were concerned to see an increase in macroalgae on the reef, which results from runoff and improperly treated sewage effluent.
Belize imposes offshore oil moratorium to protect reefs [01/15/2018]
- Belize stopped the exploration for oil in its waters as of Dec. 29, 2017. - Environmentalists and local businesses opposed a 2016 plan to begin wider oil exploration around Belize, halting those plans within weeks. - Tourism directly contributed about 14 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, and 50 percent of Belize’s 360,000 people depend on tourism or fishing for their livelihoods. - Conversely, WWF estimated that an oil spill would cost $280 million in cleanup costs.
A Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $323,000. Can the species be saved? [01/12/2018]
- A single Pacific bluefin tuna sold for 36.45 million yen, or $323,111, during the famed New Year auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market last Friday, Jan. 5. - The sale took place amid ongoing concerns over the dire status of stocks of the species, Thunnus orientalis, which are now at 2.6 percent of pre-fishing levels. - An international agreement reached in September aims to rebuild Pacific bluefin populations to 20 percent of pre-fishing levels by 2034. - Observers are urging countries to fulfill their commitments under the agreement in order to preserve the species.
Trump threatens NASA climate satellite missions as Congress stalls [01/12/2018]
- Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut four NASA Earth Observation projects including three climate satellite missions: the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission; Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) pathfinder; and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3). - These missions are critical to ongoing climate change research, as well as to weather and air pollution forecasting. Without them, international scientists lose their “eyes in the sky” with potentially disastrous consequences for people not only in the United States, but the world round. - The U.S. Congress has the final say on whether these satellite programs go forward or not. Their vote on the 2018 budget was delayed from September to December 2017, and now to 19 January, 2018. Whether the vote will occur then, or what the outcome might be, remains in question. - As a result of Trump’s threatened cuts the international scientific community has been left in great uncertainty. It is currently scrambling to find a way to replace NASA’s planned Earth Observation missions and continue vital climate change, weather and pollution monitoring.
Audio: Lessons from indigenous peoples about coping with climate change, plus the call of the night parrot [01/09/2018]
- Happy new year to all our listeners out there! On our first episode of 2018, we speak with the author of a book about the resilience of indigenous peoples in the face of climate change, and we’ll hear some recordings of the elusive night parrot in Australia! - Our first guest today is Gleb Raygorodetsky, the author of The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change, which details the author’s experiences with a number of Indigenous cultures and the ways their lives on their traditional territories are being reshaped by the impacts of global warming. - Our second guest is Nick Leseberg, a PhD student at the University of Queensland in Australia whose work focuses solely on the night parrot, a species endemic to Australia that scientists have only recently been able to study. Just four years ago, nobody knew what a night parrot sounded like — but now Leseberg is here to play us some of the calls he’s recorded in this Field Notes segment.
Global warming, pollution supersize the oceans’ oxygen-depleted dead zones [01/09/2018]
- Large areas of the world’s oceans are rapidly losing oxygen as a result of global warming and pollution, threatening marine ecosystems and the hundreds of millions of people who depend on them, according to a new study. - The scientists expect deoxygenation to increase well beyond these so-called dead zones as long as human-driven global warming continues. - Despite the grim outlook for the oceans, the researchers suggest that cutting fossil fuel use and protecting vulnerable marine life could tackle the problem.
Trump Admin officially proposes opening vast areas of U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling [01/05/2018]
- The Trump Administration has unveiled its plan to open nearly all of the United States’ coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024 yesterday, which includes a proposal to open up more than 90 percent of the country’s continental shelf waters to future exploitation by oil and gas companies. The draft five-year plan also proposes the largest number of offshore oil and gas lease sales in U.S. history. - Democrat and Republican elected officials, environmentalists, fisheries management agencies, coastal communities, business owners, and fishing families have all come out against the plan.
Reef bleaching five times more frequent now than in the 1980s, study finds [01/04/2018]
- Severe coral bleaching is now happening about every six years, whereas in the 1980s, it took place every 25 to 30 years. - Severe bleaching can kill the reef’s constituent corals. - It takes at least a decade for a reef to recover from bleaching. - Unless humans act to halt the rise of global temperatures, scientists predict that we’re headed for a time when bleaching might be an annual occurrence.
Reefscape: A global reef survey to build better satellites for coral conservation [01/02/2018]
- While science has fully documented only a small portion of reef species that occur around our planet, we know that human activities have taken an extensive toll on reef ecosystems worldwide. - To gather a more comprehensive understanding of the condition of global reef ecosystems, we need a way to assess and monitor them on a large geographic scale. - With our partners, we are planning a new satellite mission for global reef ecosystems, which will advance our ability not only to map reef extent, but also to monitor changes in coral reef health. - This post is the first in a series that will chronicle field work ongoing for the next year to develop an understanding of reef characteristics that need to be monitored from Earth orbit.
‘New’ giant octopus discovered in the Pacific [12/29/2017]
- The world’s largest octopus — the giant Pacific octopus — is actually represented by more than one species. - New research indicates there are at least two species of octopus housed under what is traditionally called the giant Pacific octopus. - The new species is called the frilled giant Pacific octopus. - The giant Pacific octopus can weigh up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct. - Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities. - In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.
2017’s top 10 ocean news stories [12/27/2017]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2017. - Huge new ocean protected areas and steps toward an international treaty to protect the high seas brought hope. - Meanwhile, the U.S.’s decision to drop out of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and an intensely destructive Atlantic hurricane season spotlighted the unfolding threat of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development. - As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow. - Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.
Chainsaws imperil an old-growth mangrove stronghold in southern Myanmar [12/27/2017]
- Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southern-most state, is home to the country’s last remaining old-growth mangrove forest. The trees support village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the coast. - But logging for charcoal and fuel wood, much of it illegal, is taking a toll. Studies show that roughly two-thirds of the region’s remaining mangrove forests have been degraded, with consequences for people and wildlife. - Conservationists are attempting to expand community forestry and set up mangrove reserves to combat the widespread degradation.
UN General Assembly adopts resolution to move forward with high seas treaty negotiations [12/26/2017]
- The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution on Sunday to convene negotiations for an international treaty to protect the marine environments of the high seas. - Earth’s high seas represent about two-thirds of the oceans, but are not governed by any one international body or agency and there is currently no comprehensive management structure in place to protect the marine life that relies on them. - According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the treaty would be the first international agreement to address the impacts of human activities like fishing and shipping on the high seas.
So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? [12/26/2017]
- Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018. - Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans. - UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities. - Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.
Videos unlock secrets of jellyfish as deep-sea killers [12/24/2017]
- Scientists have for the first time captured extensive visual documentation of deep-sea food webs using 27 years’ worth of video observations from remotely operated vehicles run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). - The research greatly enhances scientists’ understanding of deep-sea food webs by documenting the importance of soft-bodied predators like jellyfish. - Until now, our understanding of food webs in the deep ocean have been limited by what can be captured by net and whose bodies survive a journey to the survey.
Experts to China: cooperate or South China Sea fisheries may collapse [12/21/2017]
- More than half the fishing vessels in the world operate in the South China Sea, where sovereign rights have been an object of fierce contention among bordering countries. - Scientists have been warning that the sea is fast becoming the site of an environmental disaster, the impending collapse of one of the world’s most productive fisheries. - Now a group of experts that includes geopolitical strategists as well as marine biologists is calling on the disputing parties to come together to manage and protect the sea’s fish stocks and marine environment. - Effective management hinges on China’s active participation, but it remains unclear whether that country, now the dominant power in the sea with a big appetite for seafood, will cooperate.
Building a refuge where trawlers now ravage Cambodia’s marine life [12/14/2017]
- In Cambodia’s Kep Archipelago, fleets of trawlers dragging weighted, electrified nets have reduced the area’s once sprawling seagrass meadows to a sludgy underwater wasteland and sent fisheries into a tailspin. - Here and around the world, seagrass meadows are in decline. But these critical habitats serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for many marine organisms, as well as bulwarks against climate change and ocean acidification by capturing carbon dioxide. - In the Kep Archipelago a small NGO is working to establish a marine refuge that will keep the trawlers at bay so seagrass meadows can recover and depleted fish stocks can return to life.
Land reclamation threatens extremely rare spoon-billed sandpipers in China [12/14/2017]
- Every year, the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper makes a crucial three-month stopover at Tiaozini mudflats in Jiangsu province on China’s eastern coast. - The Jiangsu government, however, has already converted 67.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini’s coastal waters into land and plans to reclaim another 599.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini by 2020. - Conservationists say that virtually all spoon-billed sandpipers that currently use Tiaozini could disappear if the reclamation goes ahead as planned, pushing the species to extinction.
African Parks backs marine reserve brimming with wildlife in Mozambique [12/14/2017]
- The conservation NGO African Parks signed an agreement to manage Bazaruto Archipelago National Park in Mozambique. - Leaders established the park in 1971, but recent illegal fishing and unregulated tourism has threatened the ecosystem and its economic value, African Parks said. - The park is home to 2,000 species of fish and hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and mammals, including some of the last dugongs in the western Indian Ocean.
Brazil / UK push offshore oil pact, a potential climate change disaster [12/13/2017]
- This month, as Brazil ratified the Paris Agreement, President Michel Temer and the Congress pressed forward with Provisional Measure 795, which must be approved by Friday or it will expire. PM 795 would offer billions in tax breaks to transnational oil companies seeking to tap into Brazil’s 176 billion barrel offshore oil reserve. - In November, Britain reaffirmed its Paris Climate Agreement commitments, but diplomatic telegrams released by Greenpeace show the UK was in clandestine talks with Brazil in 2017 to smooth the way for offshore drilling, massive tax incentives and relaxation of environmental licenses for transnational oil and gas companies, including British Petroleum (BP). - Brazil has also announced major auctions for oil and gas exploration blocks in its offshore pre-salt region. Ten rounds of bids have been authorized to occur between 2017 and 2019. The September and October auctions counted BP, Shell, Exxon, and Brazil’s Petrobras among the big winners. - Exploitation of Brazil’s offshore oil reserves could release 74.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, compromising the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. UPDATE: Late on Dec. 13 Brazil’s House passed PM 795 in its original form. Now the bill goes to Pres. Temer. Court challenges may follow.
Entanglements hamper reproduction as right whale population slides [12/05/2017]
- Just 451 North Atlantic right whales remain, down from 458 in 2016 and 483 in 2010. - Entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes remain the two most important threats to right whale survival. - A study published in November in the journal Ecology and Evolution finds that fewer females are surviving than males and the interval between calving is growing longer.
Catch-all fisheries are squeezing Asia’s seahorses [12/01/2017]
- Tens of millions of seahorses are traded each year as pets, trinkets and for use in traditional medicine. - But the greater threat comes from incidental bycatch by indiscriminate fishing gear, according to researchers. - Seahorse researchers argue that improving fishing practices would protect seahorses, as well as many other species and their habitats.
Plastic in the ocean smells like junk food to hungry anchovies [11/29/2017]
- Researchers created blends of algae- and bacteria-coated plastic, clean plastic, and plain seawater to test whether anchovies are drawn to the scent of plastic debris in the ocean. - The odors of plastic pieces coated in algae or bacteria sparked vigorous feeding behavior in the fish. - By eating plastics, anchovies and other baitfish could become toxic to the animals and people who rely on them for food.
Scientists give humanity ‘second notice’ to shape up or suffer the consequences [11/15/2017]
- In a paper published this week in Bioscience, scientists issue a second warning to humanity to adopt more sustainable practices and check in on how the world has fared since the first warning was published in 1992. - They found most environmental problems have gotten far worse during the past 25 years. - The paper puts forth ways in which humanity could improve its relationship with the natural world. If we don’t, the scientists warn we are “jeopardizing our future.” - More than 15,000 scientists from 180 countries have signed the paper in support.
4 sperm whales dead after mass stranding in Sumatra [11/14/2017]
- A pod of 10 sperm whales beached earlier this week in shallow waters in western Indonesia. - Despite attempts by authorities and residents to push the animals back out into deeper water, four of the whales died after being stranded overnight. - Experts are looking into what caused the whales to swim so close to shore.
Recent report: Totoaba trafficking a conservation and security problem [11/06/2017]
- The NGO C4ADS reports that the trade of totoaba swim bladders to feed Asian markets is as much a security issue as a conservation problem. - Fishermen and women in the Gulf of California have continued to pursue the critically endangered fish, despite the ban on gillnets, which have also decimated the vaquita porpoise. - Vaquita in the wild number fewer than 30 animals, scientists say. - C4ADS has published the results of its investigation with evidence of the overlap between totoaba traders and drug traffickers on a new website, and will published their recent report in Spanish.
Fish vs. forests? Madagascar’s marine conservation boom [11/01/2017]
- Inspired by early successes in marine conservation, locally controlled fisheries projects have expanded quickly along Madagascar’s 3,000-mile-long coastline over the past 15 years. - Now that growth is poised to skyrocket, with rising interest in fisheries management and conservation from international donors, including a planned injection of more than $70 million by the World Bank. - But the scale of funding for marine conservation has prompted concerns from both small NGOs that already work on fisheries and advocates of terrestrial conservation, who point to the uneven track record of locally controlled fisheries projects around the country. - This is the fifth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Indonesians plant trees to nurse seagrass back to health in Wakatobi [10/31/2017]
- Long understudied and misunderstood, seagrass is now being recognized for its importance around the world as a carbon sink but also as an essential part of people’s daily lives. - But it is also being lost at an incredibly fast rate, equal to the loss of rainforests, according to researchers. - On an island in Indonesia’s Wakatobi National Park, communities are planting trees and educating local people to save seagrass, for present and future generations.
First vaquita ‘rescued’ in bid to save the porpoise from extinction [10/25/2017]
- A project to save a small, critically endangered porpoise called the vaquita in the Gulf of California succeeded in capturing a 6-month-old calf in mid-October. - Veterinarians noticed signs of stress, so they made the decision to release it back into the wild, rather than keep it in a sea pen. - The project’s leaders are heartened by the experience and hope to round up more vaquita to keep them safe from the still-present threat of gillnet entanglement in the northern Sea of Cortez.
As Northwest salmon economy teeters on brink, Trump gives it a push [10/23/2017]
- Northwest salmon fisheries are in trouble, impacted by warming oceans and overdeveloped, dammed and silted spawning rivers and streams. - Pre-contact indigenous groups in the region once organized their societies around sustainable fishing tribal agreements that worked. More recently, under past presidential administrations, Canadian, US and tribal authorities came together to save the declining salmon fisheries. - Especially successful have been federally funded local, state and tribal programs, administered by NOAA, that protect and restore Northwest spawning streams — an investment in habitat and healthy local economies. - Trump’s 2018 budget would cut all those programs, though for now Congress has restored them. However, politicians and regulators are concerned that Trump’s abandonment of Northwest fisheries and local economies will persist through his administration.
The Philippines commits to science-anchored fishery policies [10/20/2017]
- The Philippines ranks 10th in the world in terms of its annual catch, and Filipinos consume 32.7 kilograms (72.1 pounds) of fish each year. - At the same time, 70 percent of the Philippines’ fish populations are overfished. - The country is now set to work with the Environmental Defense Fund to bring data analysis and science into fisheries decisions by 2022.
Jakarta reclamation project allowed to resume, but opposition remains [10/18/2017]
- Indonesia’s central government has allowed work to resume on a project to build 17 artificial islands off the coast of Jakarta. - The project, which proponents say will help address the city’s land subsidence and overcrowding problems, was suspended last year over environmental concerns and a corruption scandal. - Opponents of the project include environmental activists, traditional fishermen and Jakarta’s newly inaugurated governor.
Acidifying oceans a bad trip for marine ecosystems [10/17/2017]
- A new study is one of the few to investigate what ocean acidification might do to fish communities, by studying CO2-producing vents as proxies for elevated carbon environments. - Researchers found that common fish benefited from acidified environments while rarer fish disappeared. - The research has long-reaching implications for biodiversity and ecosystem functionality as the oceans acidify from absorbing the CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.
Mexico takes ‘unprecedented’ action to save vaquita [10/15/2017]
- A team of marine mammal experts have begun a search for the last vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) in a last-ditch effort to capture the remaining 30 porpoises until they’re no longer threatened by gillnets. - VaquitaCPR seeks to house the vaquita in sea pens and includes plans for long-term care and breeding. - Though seen as ‘risky’ and ‘bold,’ many conservation organizations agree that finding the animals before it’s too late is the only option.
Seafood calendar promotes sustainable, seasonal eating in India [10/13/2017]
- Indian conservationists have started a campaign called Know Your Fish to help consumers avoid eating seafood caught during critical breeding and spawning times. - It’s an unusual approach; for instance, sustainable seafood campaigns in the U.S. focus on encouraging consumers to pursue or avoid particular species or fisheries altogether. - In India, where seasonal fisheries restrictions are commonly flouted and people typically buy fresh seafood from local markets, conservationists say a change toward seasonal eating could help improve the health of marine ecosystems.
Trending tree cover loss spikes again in Queensland [10/08/2017]
- A government analysis of Landsat satellite imagery found that 395,000 hectares (976,000 acres) of tree cover was cleared between 2015 and 2016 — nearly a 33 percent bump over the same time period in 2014-2015. - Forty percent of that clearing — some 158,000 hectares (390,000 acres) — occurred in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. - The latest year’s clearing is the highest rate in a decade and represents the sixth consecutive year in which rates in Queensland have risen.
‘SALT’ alliance aims to tackle illegal fishing on a global scale [10/06/2017]
- The Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability (SALT) alliance announced today at the Our Ocean conference in Malta aims to bring together representatives from seafood companies and seafood-producing and -consuming countries to decrease illegality in the fishing sector. - Scientists reported that between 11 million and 26 million metric tons (12.1 million and 28.7 million tons) of the worldwide catch is illegal or unreported, costing as much as $23.5 billion a year. - A year-long process headed by the NGO FishWise that will seek input from a variety of stakeholders begins this month.
Trade in silky and thresher sharks now to be strictly regulated [10/05/2017]
- All three species of thresher sharks and the silky shark were included under Appendix II of CITES in 2016. - Countries were granted a one-year grace period “put the necessary regulations and processes into place”. The trade restrictions came into force yesterday. - However, merely listing the species under CITES will not protect the sharks, some conservationists warn.
‘Ships, sonar and surveys’: Film explores impacts of a noisy ocean [09/21/2017]
- Sonar, air gun charges for oil and gas exploration, and ship traffic in the ocean can interfere with marine mammal communication, cause physiological problems and drive animals to strand on beaches. - A new film, “Sonic Sea,” traces the risks of an increasingly noisy ocean to whales, dolphins and porpoises. - The film is a finalist for the Best Science in Nature prize at the 2017 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Jackson, Wyoming. - The winners will be announced Sept. 28.
Historical nautical maps show coral loss more extensive than previously believed [09/20/2017]
- Researchers used nautical charts produced in the 1770s to help quantify changes in the coral reefs of the Florida Keys over the past 240 years. - Loren McClenachan, a professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine who led the study, said that, after comparing the historical charts to modern coral maps produced using satellite data, she and her team discovered that, overall, 52 percent of the coral reef habitat mapped by British cartographers in the 18th century no longer exists — and that in some areas, especially nearer to the coastline, coral loss was even more severe. - McClenachan said her team’s findings hold crucial implications for the conservation of what’s left of coral reef systems in the Florida Keys, as they improve our estimates of historical abundance and the full extent of subsequent coral loss and therefore must also alter our aspirations for their recovery.
Ecologist wins Heinz environment prize for airborne mapping that informs policy [09/14/2017]
- Ecologist Greg Asner of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory will receive a $250,000 award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work to map rainforests and coral reefs around the world. - Lawmakers and other key decision-makers use Asner’s research to guide policy in the United States, South America and Southeast Asia. - Asner said he intends to put the funds toward marine education and outreach in Hawaii, where he began his career.
Move to open U.S. Atlantic coast to oil drilling meets increased opposition [09/13/2017]
- In April, Trump issued an executive order aimed at implementing his so-called “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” which called for a review of the 2017-2022 Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program finalized under the Obama Administration and proposed that all U.S. waters be considered for offshore drilling. - The executive order also instructed federal agencies to “streamline” the permitting process for “seismic research and data collection” and “expedite all stages of consideration” of Incidental Harassment Authorizations required under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. - A species of particular concern is the North Atlantic right whale, which is listed as critically endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. There are only about 500 of the whales left, and their only known calving ground is off the coast of the southeast US, including the area where seismic surveying has been proposed.
New crab with star-shaped outgrowths discovered in Taiwan [08/30/2017]
- From a red coral fishing ground off Taiwan, scientists have collected a new species of crab. - The orange crustacean is covered in numerous tiny, star-shaped protrusions and has been named Pariphiculus stellatus, from the Latin word stellatus meaning ‘starry’. - In the same study, the scientists report the first-ever record of a rare crab species – Acanthodromia margarita – that they collected from the red coral beds.
Brazil rejects oil company’s ‘Amazon Reef’ drilling bid [08/29/2017]
- Ibama, Brazil’s environmental regulator, today rejected Total SA’s environmental impact study for proposed drilling near the mouth of the Amazon. - The environmental agency said the French energy giant failed to provide sufficient information on potential threats to wildlife and habitat. - Environmentalists have been fighting the project.
‘Science needs to catch up’: Deep sea mining looms over unstudied ecosystems [08/25/2017]
- Scientists compiled all known population genetics studies of deep sea ecosystems, finding a paucity of research. - The researchers warn that human impacts like pollution, fishing, and mining are encroaching further into deep sea areas faster than scientists are studying them. - They say more research will enable stakeholders to protect vulnerable ecosystems.
Modern Fish Act: boon to recreational fishing or risk to U.S. fishery? [08/21/2017]
- The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act sets strict, scientifically adjusted, annual catch limits on U.S. commercial, charter and recreational fisheries in order to sustain saltwater fish stocks, and is seen as a model of fishery management globally. - The Modern Fish Act (MFA), a bill introduced in the U.S. House in April, would do away with limits on recreational fishermen, who argue they have no impact on fishery stocks. Environmentalists, however, say the MFA introduces legal loopholes that would allow for uncontrolled fishing at potentially unsustainable levels that could cause stocks to crash. - Critics also say that the MFA muddies the waters between federal and state management, and allows political and economic considerations to override science in management decisions. The bill is still moving through Congress, and its chances for passage are presently unknown. - The Trump administration has already made moves to undermine scientifically arrived at recreational fishing limits. Its Commerce Department overruled a NOAA limit on the red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico, a ruling experts say could delay the fishery’s recovery.
Indonesia’s decision to share vessel tracking data ‘ill-advised,’ some say [08/21/2017]
- In June, Indonesia became the first country to share its Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, which tracks location and activities of commercial fishing boats, with Global Fishing Watch which uses tools like satellite imagery to monitor environmental issues. - While the move is praised by conservationists for its potential to deter illegal fishing, some observers argue that publishing the data will backfire on the location of Indonesia’s best fisheries. - Supporters of the policy refute the claims saying that it will help Indonesian authorities intercept any sign of violations on the country’s oceans, and boost compliance among fishing businesses in sustainable marine and fisheries.
NOAA announces largest-ever Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ [08/07/2017]
- The dead zone is primarily the result of nutrient pollution that stimulates massive blooms of algae. This algae is fed by nutrient runoff from agricultural areas in the U.S. Midwest carried down by the Mississippi River. - An investigation found meat production largely to blame for this nutrient runoff. - However, representatives with the meat industry say the report failed to consider the impact of ethanol production. - NOAA scientists say the dead zone is likely to continue growing if nutrient levels aren’t reduced.
UN moves one step closer to convening high seas treaty negotiations [07/25/2017]
- While the high seas can be said to belong to everyone, no one body or agency is tasked with their governance and there is no comprehensive management structure in place that is capable of protecting the marine life that relies on them. - The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2015 calling for a preparatory committee to explore the feasibility of an international treaty designed to protect high seas biodiversity and report back by the end of 2017. - Environmentalists applauded the outcome of last week’s meeting: “We are pleased that the UN Preparatory Committee has completed its mandate and agreed by consensus to recommendations that will move this issue to the next phase of high seas conservation,” said Liz Karan, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to protect ocean life on the high seas.
Business owners in top Belize destination want increased mangrove protections [07/25/2017]
- Towns like San Pedro depend on attractions like Hol Chan Marine Reserve to bring tourists but loss of mangroves on land is a threat to clean water and healthy reefs - A number of business owners would like to see better mangrove protections and planning documents developed - Up to one third of Belize citizens work in the tourism sector, more than agriculture
Meet the new giant sunfish that has evaded scientists for centuries [07/24/2017]
- Scientists have named the new species the Hoodwinker sunfish or Mola tecta (derived from the Latin word tectus meaning disguised or hidden). - The team is yet to determine the Hoodwinker’s range, but they have found the fish around New Zealand, off Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales (Australia), South Africa and southern Chile. - The Hoodwinker sunfish can grow up to 2.5 meters (over eight feet), the team estimates, and its slimmer, sleeker body doesn’t change much between juveniles and adults.
Will banning trade in fins help endangered sharks? Some experts say no [07/21/2017]
- The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017, introduced before Congress on March 9, would terminate the possession and trade of shark fins in all 50 U.S. states and 16 territories. - Activists and advocacy groups often cheer these bans as a way to protect sharks. Internationally about 70 of the planet’s 400-plus shark species now face extinction, often due to overfishing.. - However, some experts argue that better tracking to determine whether imported fins were caught sustainably, followed by trade restrictions on those that weren’t, represent the best steps toward saving threatened shark species. - Some go so far as to argue that a U.S. trade ban may do more harm than good, by crushing a domestic industry that exports sustainably caught fins to markets in Asia and allowing less-sustainable fisheries to take up the slack.
Seafood giant Thai Union commits to clean up supply chains following pressure campaign [07/12/2017]
- Said to be the largest tuna company in the world, Thai Union owns a number of popular canned tuna brands sold in markets around the globe, including Chicken of the Sea in North America; John West, Mareblu, and Petit Navire in Europe; and Sealect in the Asia Pacific region. - Tuna fleets are pulling the fish out of the ocean faster than tuna populations can recover, and the overuse of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and the practice of transhipment are compounding the problem, as is rampant illega fishing. - According to the agreement struck between Thai Union and environmental NGO Greenpeace, which spearheaded the campaign that compelled the company to adopt better sustainability policies, Thai Union’s new commitments are intended “to drive positive change within the industry” by addressing the issues of FADs, longlines, transhipment, and labor abuses.
Shipping companies face criminal charges after coal barges damage reef in Indonesian marine park [07/12/2017]
- In two separate incidents this winter, five coal-carrying vessels ran aground on reefs in Central Java’s Karimunjava National Park. - The boats were given permission to take shelter in the area during storms, but broke loose from their moorings, damaging 1,400 square meters of coral. - Officials are pressing charges of gross negligence and seeking financial compensation. - These incidents preceded a March case in which a cruise ship ran aground on a reef in Raja Ampat in eastern Indonesia.
Antarctica’s Larsen C calves giant 5,800 square kilometer iceberg [07/12/2017]
- On Wednesday, a 5,800 square kilometer (2,239 square mile) section of Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice shelf, an area nearly the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, broke free and fell into the Southern Ocean. - Scientists had been watching a lengthening and widening rift in the ice and expecting the separation since last December, though complex ice dynamics prevented them from knowing the exact day of separation. - Researchers, including Dan McGrath, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey, have been watching the event with great interest. - The resulting gigantic iceberg will not raise sea level, since the ice was already floating. However, researchers are concerned that the loss may weaken the remaining ice, leading to the collapse of the entire Larsen C Ice Shelf.
Indonesia sues Thai energy giant PTT for $2B over 2009 oil spill [07/11/2017]
- The lawsuit follows a meeting in March between Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating maritime minister, and Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister. - It also comes on the heels of a class-action suit brought by 15,000 Indonesian seaweed farmers against the firm in Australian court. - The company maintains it has seen no evidence of damage from the spill in Indonesian waters. - NGOs are calling on all sides to form a joint task force to establish once and for whether such damage occurred.
Sand mining, land reclamation meet fierce resistance in Makassar [07/10/2017]
- The South Sulawesi government plans a massive land-reclamation project, known as Centre Point Indonesia, that will create five artificial islands off the coast of the provincial capital, Makassar. - The project is estimated to require around 22 million cubic meters of sand and gravel, which will be mined on- and offshore in nearby districts. - Local fishing communities have rejected — and attempted to physically prevent — sand mining, which they fear will destroy their livelihoods. - The project also faces a lawsuit alleging work commenced without required documentation — including a permit from the fisheries ministry and a valid Environmental Impact Assessment.
Photos: Where once were mangroves, Javan villages struggle to beat back the sea [07/03/2017]
- Mangunharjo, Bedono, Sawah Luhur — these are just some of the communities where clear-cutting mangrove forests has caused environmental disaster. - Mangroves are removed to make way for shrimp and fish farms. But without the forests’ protection, coastal communities become dangerously vulnerable to erosion and flooding. - In some places, residents have planted new mangroves, and managed to reclaim their home from the sea. But not everywhere.
Hard but worth it: researchers fight invasives on Subantarctic islands (commentary) [06/29/2017]
- Sealers and subsequent human visitors to the Southern Ocean’s windswept islands brought with them a variety of invasive species, such as mice, rats, cats, sheep, and goats, that have wrought havoc on the islands’ native wildlife and ecosystems. - On Marion Island, midway between South Africa and Antarctica, researchers and conservationists completed the largest successful cat eradication on an island in history in 1993. - Marion Island’s wildlife has largely rebounded from the sealers and cats, but invasive mice continue to take a toll. - The author points to other recent successful eradications of invasive species on Subantarctic islands and argues that they are a wise investment with benefits for wildlife as well as research into the region’s ecology and the effects of climate change. The views expressed are the author’s own, not necessarily Mongabay’s.
Protecting fish and fishers: Economists say catch shares work [06/29/2017]
- New research points to the efficacy of catch share programs in the U.S. by halting the ‘race to fish’. - According to the study, catch share programs extend fishing seasons significantly, benefitting fish populations and species impacted by bycatch. - However catch shares remain controversial at the policy level because they can lead to consolidation of the fishing industry, though some programs are working on mitigating this by barring corporations from participating.
Restoration of shattered coral reef at Raja Ampat on hold [06/22/2017]
- Indonesia has laid out its plan for restoring the damaged reef at Raja Ampat, struck by a cruise ship earlier this year. - The plan cannot proceed until compensation talks with small ship cruise liner Noble Caledonia’s insurer have concluded. - The privately held tour operator has pledged to cooperate with Indonesia “towards a fair and realistic settlement.” - A scientist who assessed the damage said compensation should be higher than normal because of the area’s extreme marine biodiversity, some of the world’s richest.
Whale entanglements skyrocket off the U.S. West Coast [06/19/2017]
- Whale entanglements are rising, leading to concerns that current regulations are inadequate. - The most commonly entangled whale is the humpback. - California’s Dungeness crab fishery is responsible for a third of last year’s whale entanglements.
Elusive seabird breeding grounds discovered in Chilean desert [06/16/2017]
- A Chilean expedition into the Atacama Desert has located the first known breeding grounds of the ringed storm-petrel, a seabird of unknown population size that is endemic to the western coast of South America. - The nests, located in natural cavities in the desert’s rocks and salt pans, were found 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the Pacific coast, where the birds feed and spend most of their time. - Chilean scientists see the discovery as critical to estimating the stability and size of the ringed storm-petrel population and determining the threat posed by mining and proposed wind farms in the region.
Leonardo DiCaprio teams up with Mexico’s president and wealthiest individual to save the vaquita [06/08/2017]
- A report by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita released in February found that there are as few as 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the small marine cetacean species’ only known range. - Despite the ban adopted by Mexico two years ago, unlawful use of gillnets remains widespread in the Upper Gulf of California, where they’re used to catch totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is much prized by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. - Both the Carlos Slim Foundation and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will reportedly be backing the agreement by committing funds to local development projects and alternative fishing gear options. - In order to further crack down on illegal fishing activities, the agreement also includes a prohibition on night fishing and measures to tighten entry and exit controls in the vaquita reserve, according to the AP.
Field Notes: Pond turtle studies could help sea turtles survive toxic algal blooms [06/08/2017]
- Harmful algal blooms (HABs), dubbed “red tides,” occur worldwide. When ingested, tiny, toxin-producing algae threaten marine and human life. These events — sometimes natural, but often human-induced — now happen annually on the U.S. Gulf Coast and kill endangered turtle species. - Physiologist Sarah Milton, at Florida Atlantic University, researches the effect of HABs on freshwater turtles to improve treatment for endangered sea turtles that are rescued from toxin-filled waters. - Milton found that pond turtles tolerate far more algal toxin than similar sized mammals can survive — resistance possibly rooted in their ability to dive, living without oxygen for months. Understanding this ability could help sickened sea turtles rescued during harmful algal outbreaks. - Understanding the cellular mechanisms that allow pond turtles to maintain brain and body function during anoxic conditions could also help scientists improve outcomes for people who have suffered oxygen-deprivation events, such as stroke, which trigger irreversible brain cell death.
Can marine reserves help counteract climate change? [06/08/2017]
- Even if the nations of the world manage to meet their most ambitious goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100, elevated carbon dioxide levels will continue to stress and damage the oceans for the next half-century. - A new paper contends that marine reserves protected from fishing and other human exploitation can reduce the damage from acidification, rising sea levels, storm intensification, and other effects of climate change. - By sequestering and storing carbon, these protected areas can also benefit the whole planet, according to the paper. - The Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development calls on coastal nations to protect 10 percent of their waters by 2020, but the authors argue that 30 percent may be required to effectively counter the effects of global climate change.
Vaquita survival hinges on stopping international swim bladder trade [06/08/2017]
- Recent investigations by the Elephant Action League and WWF have uncovered the complicated trade in fish swim bladders from the Gulf of California that is pushing a porpoise known as the vaquita toward extinction. - A two-year-old gillnet ban so far has not yet stemmed the declining numbers of vaquita, which are down 50 percent since 2015 and 90 percent since 2011. - Not more than 30 vaquita remain in the wild, making it the most endangered cetacean on the planet. - The swim bladders can sell for as much as $20,000 per kilogram.
Gabon pledges ‘massive’ protected network for oceans [06/06/2017]
- The network of marine protected areas covers some 53,000 square kilometers (20,463 square miles) of ocean, an area larger than Costa Rica. - The marine parks and reserves could also draw tourists eager to catch a glimpse of the humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that all shuttle through Gabonese waters. - Government officials are in the process of overhauling how they manage fisheries, and they hope the move to protect Gabon’s territorial waters will improve the country’s food security and give its citizens a better chance to earn a living from fishing.
Climate change may be choking the ocean’s oxygen supply, study shows [06/05/2017]
- A new study analyzed data on dissolved oxygen in the global ocean since 1958 from the World Ocean Database, the most comprehensive collection of ocean observations. - The study attributes the declining oxygen levels primarily to a combination of changes in ocean circulation, mixing, and biochemical processes resulting from ocean warming. - The declining oxygen levels could have dire ecological consequences, particularly in areas with naturally low oxygen levels.
Reef Market Economy: Energetics key to keeping fish in the sea and the store [06/01/2017]
- Many coral reefs have lost their top predators due to overfishing, changing the structure of their food chains. - Researchers have found that when top predators are overfished, medium-sized predators benefit, but to the overall detriment of the ecosystem. - Local communities worldwide depend on coral reef fisheries for income and easily accessible protein, but better management is needed for these fisheries to last.
Governor halts work on coal railway being built without permits in Indonesian Borneo [05/30/2017]
- During a field visit to Katingan Regency in Central Kalimantan, Mongabay-Indonesia observed that developers of a coal-transport rail line had already cleared forest land and constructed around two kilometers of track. - Government sources confirmed the developer did not have the necessary permits to begin work on the project. - On May 23, the Central Kalimantan governor announced that work on the project had been suspended, although he did not signal any intent to initiate law-enforcement actions against the developer.
Singapore is world’s second largest shark-fin trader: TRAFFIC [05/26/2017]
- In 2012-2013, Singapore exported $40 million worth of shark fins, closely following Hong Kong’s $45 million, and imported $51.4 million worth of fins, following Hong Kong’s $170 million. - More than 72 percent of Singapore’s shark fin exports went to Hong Kong, mainland China and Japan in 2012-13. - Spain, Namibia and Uruguay were the top three sources of shark fins during this period, accounting for more than 66 percent of Singapore’s imports.
Federal prosecutor in Brazil calls for suspension of licensing to drill near Amazon Reef [05/22/2017]
- The Prosecutor made the request in a formal recommendation sent to Brazil’s Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (better known by its acronym, IBAMA), the environmental regulator responsible for environmental licensing in the country, on May 3. - According to a statement released by the prosecutor’s office, the prospect of oil spills and other accidents that could damage the unique marine environment were not the only motives for the request. The statement also notes that a possible international conflict could be sparked should any environmental pollutants like oil be released into the ecosystem by the drilling activities. - Some observers have suggested that it’s possible IBAMA is reluctant to make a decision one way or the other given the most recent scandal rocking a Brazilian government that has been in turmoil for months now.
Meet the 2017 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [05/19/2017]
- The winners include Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela, Indira Lacerna-Widmann from Philippines, Ian Little from South Africa and Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia. - At an awards ceremony held last evening at the Royal Geographic Society in London, each of the six winners received £35,000 (~$46,000) in project funding to help scale up their work. - Zafer Kizilkaya, a 2013 Whitley Award winner from Turkey, received this year’s Gold Award (£50,000) for his conservation project “Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline”.
Microalgae genes help them adapt to harsh oceans, other species less lucky [05/17/2017]
- Researchers have long wondered how microalgae manage to survive in polar seas, where conditions are extreme and change rapidly. - New research looking at the DNA of a diatom finds that the species likely evolved with the ability to quickly change which genes are expressed making it ready for anything. - This research hints that diatoms may be able to adapt to climate change – but that doesn’t mean other vital species, such as krill, have the capacity to do the same.
Protected species in Gulf of Mexico could take decades to recover from Deepwater Horizon oil spill [05/08/2017]
- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles in the Gulf, according to findings detailed in a special issue of the journal Endangered Species Research, published in January, comprised of 20 studies that collectively represent more than five years’-worth of data collection and analysis by scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their partners. - The research was performed as part of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), a process required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in which NOAA investigates the types of injuries to wildlife caused by an oil spill, determines the number of animals that were harmed, and develops a restoration plan designed to address the primary threats to impacted species. - In a statement, NOAA offered this succinct summation of the results of the studies: “The research indicates that populations of several marine mammal and sea turtle species will take decades to rebound. Significant habitat restoration in the region will also be needed.”
Balinese rituals fuel spike in trafficking of endangered sea turtles [05/04/2017]
- Indonesia is home to six of the world’s seven sea turtle species. International rules prevent any of them from being traded internationally, and the domestic trade is heavily controlled. - After Bali’s high priests issued a strict regulation in 2005 on the use of turtles in ceremonies, consumption of their meat dropped dramatically. - But a recent series of busts seem to indicate a significant surge in turtle smuggling to the island. - For now, Indonesian authorities’ main strategy appears to be education.
Plans to drill for oil near newly discovered Amazon Reef alarm scientists [04/26/2017]
- The reef system is believed to extend 9,500 square kilometers (or nearly 3,700 square miles), from the territorial waters of French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil. - Exploratory drilling could start as soon as this summer, with the closest well to be drilled just 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the reef, according to Greenpeace. - But there are hurdles yet to be cleared by oil companies hoping to drill near the Amazon Reef. A spokesperson for the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), told Mongabay that Total and BP are still awaiting permits to begin exploratory drilling, the aim of which would be to verify the existence of the oil reservoirs beneath the ocean floor.
Namibia’s low cost, sustainable solution to seabird bycatch [04/25/2017]
- Accidental take of marine animals by commercial fisheries is a serious global environmental problem, with 40 percent of the world’s ocean fishing totals disposed of as bycatch annually. - Roughly 63 billion pounds of unwanted wildlife — seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles, countless fish species, rays, and cephalopods — are killed as bycatch due to the swallowing of baited hooks or entanglement in nets. - Namibia, once known as the “world’s worst fishery” regarding avian bycatch is addressing the problem. It has installed “bird-scaring” lines on the nation’s 70 trawlers and on its 12 longline fishing vessels, and has also adopted other low cost methods to minimize avian bycatch, which once killed more than 30,000 birds annually. - The Meme Itumbapo Women’s Group, known for its seashell necklaces and other jewelry, is now sustainably manufacturing and supplying the bird-scaring lines from their headquarters “Bird’s Paradise,” in Walvis Bay, Namibia. The hope is that these combined efforts will reduce avian bycatch by 85-90 percent in the near future.
Is a property boom in Malaysia causing a fisheries bust in Penang? [04/19/2017]
- Driven by high demand for housing, developers in Malaysia’s Penang Island are artificially expanding the coastline and planning to construct new islands. - Local fishers say building works have already damaged their livelihoods, and fear further construction will destroy their fishing grounds. - Mangroves and endangered bird species are also threatened, and the mining and transport of construction materials could spread adverse environmental impacts beyond just Penang.
Scientists launch global search for 25 ‘lost’ species [04/19/2017]
- The first phase of the this campaign, launched today by the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), will see groups of scientists spreading out across the world in search of “25 most wanted lost species”. - Collectively, these 25 species have not been seen in more than 1,500 years. - The top 25 species include 10 mammals, three birds, three reptiles, two amphibians, three fish, one insect, one crustacean, one coral and one plant, found across 18 countries.
Officials, Greenpeace nab four boats for illegally fishing near Guinea-Bissau [04/03/2017]
- Between March 21-24, Greenpeace and officials from Guinea-Bissau’s Fisheries Surveillance Department sent four boats into the port of Bissau, where the companies that own the boats face sanctions for unpaid fines for past violations, improperly indicating the names of vessels, and what’s known as ‘illegal transshipment.’ - Two of the boats were owned by a Spanish company, and the other two were owned by companies based in China, which has by far the most ‘distant-water fishing’ boats at sea of any country. - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that, in 2009, the fisheries off West Africa had the highest rates of overexploitation in the world.
UN launches campaign to take out ocean trash [03/30/2017]
- UNEP launched a global campaign last month aimed at eliminating two of the chief sources of ocean trash by 2022: microplastics frequently used in cosmetics and single-use plastic products like shopping bags. - Ten different countries had already joined the campaign at the time of its launch, according to UNEP. Indonesia, for instance, pledged to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025, while Uruguay announced a tax on single-use plastic bags slated to take effect later this year. - It’s estimated that more than 600 marine species are impacted by marine litter in the oceans, and that 15 percent of those species that are harmed by ingesting or becoming entangled in ocean trash are already endangered.
Sand mining ban lifted on beach in Suriname, causing public backlash [03/27/2017]
- Sand mining could decrease the ability of Braamspunt beach to protect Suriname’s capital city from rising sea levels and storms surges. - Conservationists also fear for sea turtles nesting on the beach, which may be disturbed by the bright lights and loud noises of the industrial activity. - Sand mining in coastal environments has become a global industry, threatening biodiversity and natural defenses against climate change.
Military base-building destroys coral reefs in the South China Sea [03/26/2017]
- The Spratly Islands, located in the South China Sea, are an underwater biodiversity hotspot. - But China’s military base-building on these islands has destroyed huge expanses of coral reef. - A new study finds up to a 70 percent reduction in coral reef cover on atolls with military bases
Damage to Raja Ampat 12 times higher than previously thought [03/25/2017]
- Raja Ampat is home to one of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. - The cruise ship that hit the reef on March 4 damaged 18,882 square meters of coral reef, the Indonesian government said this week. - A preliminary estimate had identified only 1,600 square meters of damaged reef.
Marine protected areas suffer from lack of funds, staff [03/22/2017]
- About 65 percent of the 433 surveyed MPAs reportedly suffered from inadequate budget for the management of the protected areas. - Nearly 91 percent of MPAs lacked sufficient staff to carry out critical management activities. - The findings suggest that effective biodiversity conservation is not just dependent on environmental conditions or MPA features (such as MPA size, fishing regulations), but is also heavily dependent on available capacity.
Catching up to the Ruby Seadragon: new species raises new questions [03/20/2017]
- The ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) avoided scientific detection for so long due to its deepwater habitat and the fact that bodies changed color after they perished. - The discovery has raised new questions about the evolution of seadragons. - Researchers don’t know how threatened the ruby seadragon is, but have petitioned the government for proactive protections.
Climate change-induced bleaching decimating Great Barrier Reef [03/15/2017]
- In 2016, scientists reported the largest die-off ever on the Great Barrier Reef. - Some 70,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment in the tourism industry, and it’s worth about $5 billion annually. - The study’s authors report that repeated exposure to higher-than-normal sea temperatures submarines the corals’ chances at recovery. Even corals that survive don’t appear to be more tolerant of extreme temperatures, and high water quality – important for coral regrowth – doesn’t seem to offer much protection against bleaching.