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 contributes about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Quartz, and 50 percent of Belize’s 190,000 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.
Cruise ship wrecks one of Indonesia’s best coral reefs at Raja Ampat [03/09/2017]
- The ship ran aground on an uncharted shoal off the coast of New Guinea after it was caught in low tide. - An official evaluation team is assessing the damage. One investigator told Mongabay the company should pay $1.28 million-$1.92 million in compensation. - The company responsible, UK-based tour operator Noble Caledonia, said it deeply regretted the incident and that it was cooperating with authorities.
Rare beaked whale filmed underwater for the first time [03/07/2017]
- True’s beaked whale is difficult to spot at sea, and remains a poorly studied species. - By analyzing stranding data and live sightings of the whale, researchers confirm that the Azores and Canary Islands may actually be a hotspot for studying the natural behavior of the species. - For the data-scarce whale species, live sightings and video recordings are highly valuable because they add to information that helps identify a species accurately. - This in turn can help scientists monitor the status of their populations and protect them.
Need a Trump break? Meet Obama’s fish [03/02/2017]
- Researcher names new species of deep coral fish after the 44th President of the U.S. - Scientists don’t know if the new species is threatened, but it is found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. - Discovery hints at how many species still await names.
SpongeBob SquarePants and the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines [02/23/2017]
- The 100-hectare resort, announced last month, is to be part of the Coral World Park, which bills itself as the ‘largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia.’ - Local environment activists say they have never heard of Coral World Park, or of conservation programs funded by its parent organization, the Dr. AB Moñozca Foundation. - Palawan, a globally significant biodiversity hotspot, is already grappling with the social and environmental impacts of a rapidly growing tourism industry.
How acoustic monitoring gave us a last chance to save the vaquita [02/22/2017]
- Monitoring the vaquita’s vocalizations has allowed scientists to closely and accurately monitor the species’ unfortunate decline. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the biggest threat to the vaquita. They are killed as bycatch, drowning in nets meant for the fish. - Conservationists say the next step is to capture vaquitas for captivity, a highly controversial plan with major risks.
A Thai oil firm, Indonesian seaweed farmers and Australian regulators. What happened after the Montara oil spill? [02/14/2017]
- The 2009 Montara oil spill was the worst such offshore disaster in Australian history. The company behind it acknowledges “mistakes were made that should never be repeated.” - But while the firm has paid a penalty to the Australian government, it has yet to compensate Indonesia, which says it too suffered from the spill. - Now, thousands of seaweed farmers are suing the Thai-owned oil and gas giant, seeking compensation in Australian court. The Indonesian government has also launched a lawsuit. - The dispute highlights the complexity of regulating transnational corporations operating in maritime borderlands like the Timor Sea, a relatively narrow body of water rich in oil and gas reserves and surrounded by multiple countries.
Ecological trap ensnares endangered African penguins [02/10/2017]
- Juveniles of the Western Cape population of African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered species, still frequent a subpar hunting ground, even though other options are within reach. - This population of penguins has declined by 80 percent in recent decades. - The current research projects that Western Cape penguin numbers are half of what they would be without this ecological trap.
Fish magnet boom creates headaches in Indonesia’s war on overfishing [02/09/2017]
- Recent comments by Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti indicate the government will crack down on fish aggregating devices, which have proliferated in the Southeast Asian nation’s waters. - Experts agree the issue deserves more attention from Jakarta but urge President Joko Widodo’s administration to consider the impact a purge of the devices will have on small fishers. - Minister Pudjiastuti has said that many of the devices are owned by large companies.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Protecting Marine Protected Areas [02/01/2017]
- Worldwide, there are more than 13,500 MPAs, according to the Marine Conservation Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle. These MPAs are created for many reasons, from preserving historical shipwrecks and cultural sites to conserving biodiversity and marine species. - With restrictions that vary by location, it can be difficult for mariners to know what kinds of regulations apply in any given ocean space, or even to be aware that they have entered into a marine protected area. - To improve awareness and management of marine protected areas, a team of technology experts, mapping specialists, and lawyers partnered with private enterprises and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to make it easier and more affordable for marine protected areas to live up to their names.
First-ever underwater photos of newly discovered Amazon Reef have surfaced [01/30/2017]
- Extending from French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil, the Amazon Reef is a 9500-square-kilometer (or nearly 3,700-square-mile) system of corals, sponges, and rhodoliths (a colorful marine algae that resembles coral) located where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean — a region currently threatened by oil exploration activities. - When the reef was discovered in April 2016, Fabiano Thompson of Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, who was part of the team of scientists who made the discovery, told Mongabay that “The oceanographic conditions (biogeochemistry and microbiology) of this system are unique, not found in other places of the planet.” - The mouth of the Amazon River basin also provides valuable habitat for a range of species, including the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, dolphins, and giant river otters, which are listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List.
Fish for all? The fish-free fishmeal challenge [01/10/2017]
- The aquaculture industry is growing faster than the human population, at about eight percent each year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. - About 20 percent of the world’s fish goes to aquaculture, depleting wild-caught forage fish such as anchovies and krill to provide essential oils and protein for the development and growth of these cultivated foods. - The first team to sell 100,000 metric tons of fish-free feed or, if that threshold isn’t reached, that sells the most feed by the end of the contest, on September 15, 2017, will be named the winner of the F3 challenge.
‘Too rare to wear’: new campaign targets tourists to end Hawksbill turtle trade [01/09/2017]
- The Hawksbill turtle’s striking shell is carved into jewelry, combs and other trinkets, which is then sold in markets across Latin America and the Caribbean. - The campaign, Too Rare to Wear, will help people learn about turtleshell souvenirs and how to avoid buying them while traveling in those regions. - The campaign includes a coalition of conservation organizations, tour operators, and media partners.
Restoring seagrass under siege [01/02/2017]
- The flowering plants – not to be confused with seaweed – are considered “coastal canaries.” - These sensitive indicators of ocean health will die when water runoff carries high loads of nutrients or sediment, or when boating activity disrupts their root systems. - Changing water conditions, ocean warming, and acidification may also predispose these plants to the wasting disease that once wiped out most of the seagrass along the U.S. Atlantic coast.
2016’s top 10 developments for the world’s oceans [12/28/2016]
- Marine scientists from University of California, Santa Barbara share their top 10 list of game changing developments for the ocean in 2016. - Massive new ocean protected areas and transformative policies to fight illegal fishing brought hope. - The world’s worst coral bleaching event, record sea ice lows, and coastal flooding revealed the ever-growing influence of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2016 [12/28/2016]
- Some animal species showed signs of recovery after years of decline. - In 2016, the world became serious about protecting our oceans by establishing some of the largest marine protected areas ever. - Countries moved towards ending domestic ivory trade, and researchers discovered the world’s tallest tree.
‘Casper’ the octopod threatened by deep-sea mining [12/27/2016]
- Casper the octopod lays its eggs on stalks of dead sponges attached to nodules rich in manganese on the ocean floor. - The stalked sponges require the presence of manganese nodules as a substrate for their survival, and the removal of nodules can cause a collapse of the sponge populations. - This would suggest that, like the sponges, the octopods would also be vulnerable to the removal of nodules by commercial exploitation, the researchers say.
Expedition finds serious damage to Southeast Sulawesi’s marine ecosystem [12/08/2016]
- A WWF-led expedition in Southeast Sulawesi found severely reduced hard-coral cover in nine out of 38 sampling sites. - Researchers point to sediment created by the province’s nickel mining industry as one of the primary drivers of reef destruction. - An outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish is also contributing to the problem.
Mexico to get its largest ever protected area [12/05/2016]
- The new reserve will be spread across several municipalities, including Isla Mujeres, Benito Juárez, Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad, Cozumel, Tulum, Bacalar and Othón P. Blanco. - Mexico’s Natural Protected Areas Commission, or CONANP, will be responsible for the administration and monitoring of the reserve, while the Navy will be in-charge of enforcing protection. - The marine portion of the reserve will cover an area of about 5.725 million hectares while the land portion of the reserve will cover about 28,589 hectares of coastal areas and wetlands.
Great Barrier Reef suffered worst coral die-off on record in 2016: new study [11/29/2016]
- On some reefs in the northern part of the Great Barrier, nearly all corals have died. - But the central and southern part of the Great Barrier seem to have fared better, suffering “minor” damage compared to the northern region. - Scientists expect that it will take at least 10-15 years for corals in the northern region to regrow, but a fourth bleaching event could strike the region before the reefs have had the chance to recover completely.
New species of pea-sized crab discovered — inside a mussel [11/28/2016]
- Scientists have discovered a new species of tiny pea crab within a large date mussel collected in the Solomon Islands. - The crab has been named Serenotheres janus after Janus, the Roman two-faced god because of a large plate that covers its upper carapace, giving it the illusion of being two-faced. - S. janus is the second known species within the pea crab genus Serenotheres, members of which parasitize rock-boring mussels of the subfamily Lithophaginae, the researchers write.
More than just prosthetics: The role of 3D printing in wildlife conservation [11/28/2016]
- 3D printed material is restoring natural structures, from a toucan’s bill to a coral reef. - This technology is rapidly gaining relevance as a tool for wildlife and ecosystem, even helping clean our oceans and combat poaching. - The ease with which 3D printing allows scientists and practitioners to reliably reproduce usable products has great potential for assisting research and conservation.
Distinctive sperm whale cultures reveal dramatic population shifts in the Galápagos [11/23/2016]
- Researchers studied distinctive communication clicks among sperm whales to track several cultural clans in the Pacific Ocean. - Two clans dominated the waters near the Galápagos decades ago, but whales from two different clans have since moved in from across the Pacific basin. - Managing sperm whales may require tracking their populations culturally, rather than geographically.
Humpback whales learn habitat loyalty from their mothers, Alaskan study shows [11/22/2016]
- Marine biologists studied relationships among humpback whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, Alaska, over a 30-year period. - The whales’ loyalty to their feeding grounds is passed down from mothers to calves and persists through the generations. - North Pacific humpback whales are making a comeback, and the new study shows how critical it is to protect their key habitats.
Deep sea mining plans for Papua New Guinea raise alarm [11/18/2016]
- Plans are moving forward to launch operations at the world’s first deep sea mine, in Papua New Guinea’s coastal waters. - Nautilus Minerals, Inc. claims the project will have less ecological and social impact than on-shore mines. - The mine’s opponents say too little is known about the risks such projects pose to deep sea ecosystems and coastal communities. - Despite its mineral riches, Papua New Guinea has very poor indicators for human health and well-being, and a long history of unrest centered on resource extraction.
A data trove to support a hoped-for shark sanctuary in Indonesia [11/18/2016]
- Growing international demand for shark fins has caused a massive increase in shark catches. - Local groups in the Gili Islands want the government to create a sanctuary for sharks there. It would be Indonesia’s first. - To build their case, conservationists are gathering data about the abundance of species in the area, which they hope will convince the government to establish the sanctuary.
New atlas bolsters global perspective of fisheries – book review [11/03/2016]
- The Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries draws on 10 years of fisheries data. - More than 350 scientists around the world were involved in an effort to provide a more complete look at global fisheries. - The team reconstructed fisheries datasets going back to 1950 to fill in gaps that exist in Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Illegal fishing threatens Easter Island’s natural resources [11/02/2016]
- Plastic pollution on the island exceeds permissible levels for sustainable management. - The Chilean government established Motu Hiva Motiro Marine Park near Easter Island in 2010, but officials say it has no official management plan. - The Rapa Nui community has proposed an alternative conservation plan for the area.
World’s largest marine protected area created in Antarctica [10/31/2016]
- Last week, 25 governments unanimously agreed to create the world’s largest marine protected area off Antarctica. - The new marine protected area, expected to come into force in December 2017, will set out to protect some 1.55 million square kilometers of the Ross Sea around Antarctica. - According to the agreement, 72 percent of the marine area will be set aside as a “no-take” zone, in which all forms of fishing will be banned. The protections will end in 35 years.
Is it time for a moratorium on commercial fishing of Pacific bluefin tuna? [10/26/2016]
- According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, projections show that Pacific bluefin tuna numbers have less than a one percent chance of recovering within two decades barring immediate and decisive action from fisheries managers. - The two regional fisheries management organizations that have the ability to put in place measures that would give Pacific bluefin some breathing room — the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) — have so far failed to adopt a Pacific-wide recovery plan to put an end to overfishing so that the fish’s population can return to healthy levels. - After failing to reach an agreement on management measures for Pacific bluefin tuna when it met in July of this year, the IATTC met again last week. But the organization was once again unable to produce the breakthrough the species needs.
Irregular Arctic climate reduces sea ice to another record low [10/24/2016]
- The annual minimum Arctic ice melt appears to have been reached in early September 2016. - Arctic ice cover, which serves the crucial role of reflecting large amounts of incoming solar radiation, has declined more quickly than most scientific models forecast. - Sea ice extent for 2016 (a measurement derived by satellite) as reported by both the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado and Japan’s JAXA space and aeronautics agency indicate that this year’s minimum sea ice extent is the second-lowest as recorded by modern instrumentation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Belize suspends oil exploration near World Heritage Site after public outcry [10/24/2016]
- Following public outcry, Belize officials have agreed to suspend their activities, and plan to hold a consultation with the stakeholders to chart out their future course of action. - The seismic surveys, which involve blasting shockwaves through the water using air guns, are proposed to occur less than a mile from this World Heritage site. - This could endanger the site’s marine wildlife, and threaten the livelihoods of more than 190,000 people in Belize who support their incomes through tourism and fisheries, conservationists say.
Economic impacts of climate change on global fisheries could be worse than we thought [10/14/2016]
- Previous research has shown that global warming will cause changes in ocean temperatures, sea ice extent, salinity, and oxygen levels, among other impacts, that are likely to lead to shifts in the distribution range and productivity of marine species, the study notes. - In all, the UBC researchers found that global fisheries could lose approximately $10 billion in annual revenue by 2050 if climate change continues unchecked — a 10 percent decrease, which is 35 percent more than has been previously estimated. - Countries that are most dependent on fisheries to feed their populations will experience the biggest impacts, according to the study.
New tool lets anyone find out if deep sea mining is happening in their ocean backyard [10/13/2016]
- Marine scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Benioff Ocean Initiative developed the web-based tool, Deep Sea Mining Watch, to allow anyone to watch vessels engaged in deep sea mining activities anywhere in the world. - Deep sea mining is relatively new, but it’s exactly what it sounds like: mineral extraction from the ocean floor, at depths ranging from 800 to 6,000 meters (about 2,600 to 20,000 feet). - The team of scientists behind Deep Sea Mining Watch have already used the tool to comb through the mountain of global vessel data generated by all the world’s ships in order to extract high-resolution GPS tracks showing where mining activities have already started.
Scientists dive deep to discover new fish species at 150 meters [10/11/2016]
- The new species, discovered during an expedition in 2014, belongs to a group of fish called groppos that are typically found at depths of over 100 meters, according to a new study. - Finding a new species of groppo without the use of submarines or other indirect methods is surprising, scientists say, and makes this the deepest new fish discovery done by diving to date. - The team has named the pink-and-yellow-hued fish Brianne’s Groppo or Grammatonotus brianne after co-author Brian Greene’s wife, Brianne Atwood.
A week of grim tidings for critically endangered right whales [10/06/2016]
- The population of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales numbers just 500. - The whales’ population has grown in recent decades, but its growth rate appears to be declining due to a combination of human-caused deaths and a drop in calving, researchers say. - The recent spate of deaths and entanglements, combined with the flagging population, an unexplained shift in habitat, and the poor health of many whales spotted this summer has researchers concerned for the future of the species.
The salmon crisis in Chile’s Chiloé Island [10/05/2016]
- The salmon industry says the crisis was caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon. - Greenpeace pointed to industrial salmon fishers, who it says dumped 9,000 tons of dead fish into the sea shortly before the crisis. - Preliminary reports from a government-sponsored research mission confirm that weather conditions were conducive to forming a “red tide,” and say salmon dumping did not cause the fish kills. - Losses for fishers persist. Many have turned to alternate sources of income.
House of Mussels: an artificial reef off the coast of Jakarta [10/05/2016]
- The underwater sculpture Domus Musculi, or House of Mussels, is “a remembrance of what the Jakarta Bay has been famous for: its mussels, which nowadays are no longer exist due to heavy pollution,” according to the artist Teguh Ostenrik’s website. - The sculpture uses Biorock technology, a patented artificial reef system that involves coursing electricity into the sculptures’ steel frames. - Ostenrik has installed other artificial reefs in the waters off Lombok and the Wakatobi islands.
Poisoned lives: five decades of pollution in Chile’s Quintero-Ventanas Bay [10/04/2016]
- Three oil spills have affected the bay since 2014, with discharges exceeding 38,000 liters. - Government studies have found high levels of arsenic and mercury in seafood from the coast. - In 2011 more than 30 children and nine adults were struck ill by a chemical cloud that reached the school of La Greda located in Puchuncaví.
NOAA proposes rule to protect deep sea coral off U.S. Atlantic coast [10/03/2016]
- The proposed rule, if finalized, would create the first protected area at the national level under the new deep sea coral provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. - The area proposed for protection by NOAA stretches along the continental shelf off the Mid-Atlantic coastline between New York and North Carolina and encompasses all of the area out to the boundary of the U.S.’s Exclusive Economic Zone. - The proposed rule, also known as Amendment 16 to NOAA’s Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan, came less than two weeks after President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the U.S.’s first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.
Study suggests commercial fishing depletes key nutrients in coral reefs [09/29/2016]
- Maintaining and, where necessary, rebuilding coral reef fish communities is key to the food security and livelihoods of billions of people around the world, according to the authors of an article published in the journal Nature Communications last month note. - A 2015 study found that reef fish biomass can take 35 to 60 years to recover from heavily depleted levels. - The authors of the Nature Communications article write that the results of their study suggest that “in addition to well-acknowledged conservation targets such as biodiversity protection, a broader perspective that incorporates predictable impacts of fishing pressure on nutrient dynamics is imperative for effective coral reef conservation and management.”
Chile creates largest marine park in Southeast Pacific [09/29/2016]
- This area has great diversity and endemism: “72 percent of the species that live there are found nowhere else in the world; fish biomass is the highest of all the islands of the Pacific with 2.5 tons per hectare,” said the Chilean Minister of the Environment. - In the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park species may reproduce and help contribute to the recovery of currently overexploited or depleted species in the South Pacific Ocean, such as mackerels. - Two days after the Chilean government officially established the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, U.S. president Barack Obama announced the extension of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which now covers 1.5 million square kilometers making it the largest marine protected area in the world.
Slave-linked fishing firm thought to have resumed operations in Indonesia [09/29/2016]
- Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti told reporters she had reopened an investigation into PT Pusaka Benjina Resources. - The company’s licenses were revoked after the Associated Press exposed slavery and human trafficking in its operations in eastern Indonesia last year. - Pudjiastuti said she had received a report that the company had been buying fish from local fishermen for almost a month and processing them in its factory on Benjina Island north of Australia.
The thriving oysters of Wellfleet Harbor [09/26/2016]
Cape Cod’s Wellfleet Harbor houses a complex ecosystem. Horseshoe crabs and Diamondback Terrapin Turtles form integral populations, but they are both most importantly bound to this harbor by its population of oysters, a keystone species that both purifies the water and provides an excellent habitat to other creatures. This unique and diverse harbor, as well […]
Searching for sawfish following the clues of environmental DNA [09/26/2016]
- Environmental DNA (eDNA) is genetic material extracted directly from environmental samples, such as soil, water and air, rather than from an evident biological source. eDNA analysis is revolutionizing species detection and genetic analyses for conservation, management and research. - Researchers in northern Australia are using eDNA to locate and help conserve critically endangered largetooth sawfish. - eDNA technology is rapidly evolving; it could become completely field-based and be used to determine abundance and applied to meta-genomic ecosystem surveys to predict spatial and temporal biodiversity patterns.
Whalesong, interrupted [09/23/2016]
- Baleen whales broadcast complex songs over long distances underwater, but maritime noise pollution from ships and other sources is squeezing their ability to communicate. - With regulatory and technical solutions to ocean noise slow to spread, some researchers are optimistic that whales themselves will be able to change their vocalizations to overcome the din. - Meanwhile, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week released a strategy to study and mitigate rising noise levels and their effect on marine life.
Leonardo DiCaprio launches global campaign to protect sharks and rays [09/20/2016]
- The Global Partnership for Sharks and Rays (GPSR) is collaborative effort supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Oceans 5. - The campaign aims to “halt the global overexploitation of sharks and rays, prevent species extinction, and restore shark and ray populations worldwide.” - The GPSR fund will target coastal fishing countries that have some of the largest direct and incidental take of sharks and rays, have a significant domestic demand, and high biodiversity; as well as countries that have outsized demand for shark and ray products.
Obama creates Atlantic Ocean’s first marine national monument [09/19/2016]
- The newly designated marine protected area comprises of underwater canyons and mountains that are home to numerous rare and endangered marine species like the Kemp’s ridley turtles, sperm, fin and sei whales and vibrant deep-sea corals. - The marine protected area lies in a region that is projected to warm nearly three times faster than the global average, and the warming waters are threatening majority of fish species in the region including salmon, lobster, and scallops, the White House said. - While recreational fishermen will be allowed within the boundaries of the monument, red crab and lobster fisheries will be permitted seven years to exit the monument area.
$48 million fund to help expand marine protected areas [09/16/2016]
- At the ongoing U.S. State Department’s Our Ocean 2016 Conference, in Washington, D.C., the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Waitt Foundation, the blue moon fund (bmf), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), together announced a commitment of $48 million to expand and improve marine protected area (MPA) coverage across the world’s oceans. - The $48 million funds will be used for activities such as outreach to stakeholders, working with local governments to get MPAs created, and supporting management of MPAs. - Funds will initially be used to expand MPAs in the tropics in areas with high biodiversity that also have a high human dependence on the marine environment.
High seas treaty negotiations ended at UN last week with boost from IUCN Conservation Congress [09/14/2016]
- The second in a series of Preparatory Committee meetings to negotiate provisions of a new international treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, which make up as much as two-thirds of the world’s oceans and 43 percent of Earth’s total surface area, were held at the UN’s NYC headquarters from August 26 to September 9. - The first PrepCom, as the Preparatory Committee meetings are referred to in UN parlance, was held earlier this year. - The negotiations themselves garnered a huge show of support from the government and NGO representatives at the Union for Conservation of Nature’s Conservation Congress when they voted to approve Motion 49.
Ocean warming is “greatest hidden challenge of our generation,” according to IUCN [09/06/2016]
- A report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Monday finds that the effects of global warming on oceans are not a concern for the future — fish, marine mammals, seabirds, and even humans are already being impacted by rising temperatures in oceanic waters. - More than 93 percent of the global warming that has resulted from human activities since the 1970s was absorbed by Earth’s oceans, and data show a “sustained and accelerating upward trend in ocean warming,” according to the report. - Entire groups of species such as plankton, fish, jellyfish, turtles and seabirds have been driven up to 10 degrees of latitude towards the Earth’s poles as they seek to keep within the environmental conditions to which they’re adapted.
US creates world’s largest marine reserve off Hawaii [08/29/2016]
- The monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than 7,000 marine species, including endangered sea turtles, whales, Hawaiian monk seals, Laysan albatross, Pritchardia palms, and several recently discovered species. - While non-commercial fishing is allowed in the monument region by permit, commercial fishing and future mineral extraction activities are banned within the expansion area, the White House said. - The expansion of Papahānaumokuākea is in response to proposals put forward by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and other native Hawaiian leaders earlier this year.
Rising sea levels could actually help coral reefs survive global warming: Study [08/25/2016]
- Rising levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere will cause significant changes to ocean temperatures and chemistry over the next 100 years, thereby increasing the frequency and severity of mass bleaching and other stresses on coral reefs and reef systems, scientists say. - The University of Western Australia’s Ryan Lowe led a team of researchers who studied a reef system off the coast of northwestern Australia, as well as other reef systems across the globe, in order to develop a new model for predicting how rapid sea level rise will impact daily water temperature extremes within these shallow reefs over the next century. - The researchers found that an atmospheric exchange of surface heat drives the greatest temperature fluctuations in reefs located in shallow, low-tide waters. That means that rising sea levels could reduce local reef water temperatures by a substantial amount, helping protect them from becoming stressed and bleaching as a consequence.
Indonesia must do more to protect whale sharks, conservationists say [08/23/2016]
- Most whale sharks live in the Indo-Pacific, where Indonesia lies. - The giant fish is a protected species in Indonesia, but that hasn’t stopped poachers from hunting it for its fins, skin and oil. - Advocates want the Indonesian government to crack down on traffickers and do more to promote sustainable ecotourism that contributes to the creature’s conservation.
Atauro island has highest average reef fish diversity in the world [08/23/2016]
- Conservation International’s (CI’s) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) conducted a week-long survey was conducted in Atauro Island in July. - During the course of the survey, CI’s team recorded a total of 642 reef fish species around the island. - In one site, the team identified 315 species, which is the third highest globally, the researchers say.
Two new species of glowing spook fish discovered [08/22/2016]
- Barreleyes, with their large transparent heads, are one of the rarest and “most peculiar and unknown fish groups in the deep-sea pelagic realm”, researchers say. - Some barreleyes have special organs on their bellies called “soles”, covered with pigmented scales, that reflect light emitted from luminous organs inside their bellies. - By comparing the pigment patterns on the soles of barreleyes fish collected near American Samoa and New Zealand with long-preserved specimens previously caught near the mid-Atlantic ridge and Australia, researchers found that two species are new to science.