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News on Oceans
Vaquita porpoises down to "way less than 100," Mexican agents shoot fisherman while enforcing new protected area
With fewer than 100 individuals alive and dropping fast, the vaquita porpoise is just a swish of the tail away from extinction. In April, alerted by scientists that the vaquita population had recently suffered its biggest decline ever, the Mexican government announced an emergency two-year ban on gillnet fishing across the porpoise's main habitat in the upper Gulf of California. A frenzied race to fish for another critically endangered species, the totoaba, is behind the plummeting porpoise numbers.
Indonesia to zone its seas in bid to become 'global maritime axis'
The Indonesian government is preparing a spatial plan for its marine territory, the beginning of a blueprint to transform the archipelagic country into a “global maritime axis” in line with new President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s platform. Mapping the nation’s seas will support the alignment different programs and the integration of various marine sources of economic growth.
Fracas over Costa Rican shark-fin exports leads American Airlines to stop shipping fins
On December 24, an American Airlines plane carried 411 kilos of dried hammerhead shark fins from Alajuela, Costa Rica, to Hong Kong, touching down partway through the journey in Miami. The shipment, valued at nearly $53,000, contained fins from around 411 animals, more than seven times the number on its export permit from the Costa Rican government.
Ocean contributes $2.5 trillion to economy annually
A new study attempts to place a value of goods and services afforded by the ocean, estimating that if the planet's seas were classified as a country, it would rank as the world's seventh largest economy.
Expert panel rebukes Japan's new whaling proposal
Last year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan must halt its whaling activities in the Southern Ocean as it found no evidence that the killing of hundreds of Antarctic minke whales was scientifically justified. The ruling sent Japan scrambling for a new plan to continue its 'scientific' whale hunt. But, now an expert panel has rebuked Japan's latest plan as well.
Innovative community fisheries initiative wins top social entrepreneurship prize
A program that helps restore overfished areas through community-based marine conservation has won the Skoll Foundation's top prize for social entrepreneurship. Today the Skoll announced Blue Ventures, which piloted its approach in Madagascar a decade ago before expanding to other regions, was one of four organizations to be honored with the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
Could inland aquaculture help save the oceans and feed the world?
Mark Kwok has always loved the ocean. An avid diver and spear fisherman, he has travelled the planet in search of exotic fish and undersea adventure. Born into a wealthy Hong Kong family, he had the freedom to explore the world’s oceans. But in the last decade or so, he hasn’t been content just looking at fish. He’s been growing them. In a squat, unassuming cluster of buildings in an industrial suburb north of Hong Kong, Kwok is experimenting with a potentially revolutionary technology.
Bottom trawling reduces size of commercially important flatfish
Oceans not only provide important ecosystem services, including climate regulation and nutrient cycling, but they also serve as a major contributor to food and jobs. Yet human actions in the oceans are having a major impact on species, sometimes in unexpected ways. Indeed, a recent study finds that bottom trawling may be making some fish skinner.
Human impacts are 'decoupling' coral reef ecosystems
There is a growing consensus among scientists that we have entered the age of the Anthropocene, or the epoch of humans. In other words, at some point between the 12,000 years separating the beginning of agriculture and the Industrial Revolution, humans became the dominant source of change on the planet, shaping everything from the land to the atmosphere to even the geologic record where we etch our reign.
Last ditch: Mexico finally gets serious about saving the vaquita
There are likely less than 100 vaquita on the planet. Found only in the northern pocket of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the vaquita is a tiny, shy porpoise that has been brought to the very edge of extinction due to drowning in gillnets used for shrimping. But after years of stalling, Mexico now appears to be making a final effort to save the world's most endangered cetacean.
Employing shame for environmental change
Anyone who has ever felt the sting of shame, knows its power. Shame has long been used by societal institutions—families, communities, governments, religions—for making individuals tow the line of the majority. But a new book explores another—arguably more positive—side of shame: its potential to challenge rule-breaking and ethically-defunct corporations.
Jokowi's environmental commitments in Indonesia
Last fall Indonesia elected its first president with no ties to the established political order or the military. Joko Widodo's election was widely heralded by reformers who hoped the politician's capable management in his stints as mayor of the town of Solo and metropolis of Jakarta could transform Indonesia's chronically underperforming bureaucracy, potentially ushering in a new era of improved human rights, better environmental stewardship, reduced corruption, and healthier economic growth.
Could big data turn us into ocean protectors instead of abusers?
The devastating tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 washed away millions of tons of plastic debris into the Pacific Ocean. It even swept away a Harley Davidson motorcycle that subsequently ended up on Canada's coast. As production and consumption of plastic increases across the world, more of it gets discarded as waste.
Scientists uncover new seadragon
For 150 years, scientists have known of just two so-called seadragons: the leafy seadragon and the weedy seadragon. But a new paper in the Royal Society Open Science has announced the discovery of a third, dubbed the ruby seadragon for its incredible bright-red coloring. Found only off the southern Australian coastline, seadragons belong to the same family as the more familiar seahorses: the Syngnathidae.
Indonesian forestry and fishery ministries move to eradicate corruption
Today Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) signed a memorandum of understanding with the national forestry and fishery ministries as well as a number of provincial governors to better integrate management and monitoring of the country’s oceans and forests.
Arctic upheaval: new book outlines challenges at the top of the world
For most of us, the Arctic is not at the front of our minds. We view it as cold, stark, and, most importantly, distant. Yet, even in an age of vast ecological upheaval, one could argue that no biome in the world is changing so rapidly or so irrevocably. Two hundred plus years of burning fossil fuels has warmed up the top of our planet more quickly than anywhere else.
Madagascar establishes a sanctuary for sharks
The government of Madagascar has established the Indian Ocean island's first shark sanctuary in an area famous for its marine biodiversity, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Giant clam = giant impact: study compiles how mega-clams impact seas
The world’s biggest bivalves are the aptly named giant clams. Inhabiting the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific, the largest of these species, the eponymous giant clam (Tridacna squamosal), can reach up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) in length and weigh over 230 kilograms (500 pounds). Historically known as the killer clam for its supposed ability to trap careless divers, these harmless and colorful bivalves are favorite animals for divers and snorkelers to spot, but they may also be big players in the ecosystem.
Chemical clues in fossil shells may help us understand today's ocean acidification
As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, so too do those in the sea, leading to ocean acidification that outpaces that of any other time in tens of millions of years. Some effects of ocean acidification are imminent, like the fact that calcified organisms such as corals and shellfish will have access to less and less of the chemical components they need to build their shells and skeletons.
In unprecedented move, Indonesia punishes illegal manta ray trader
For the first time, Indonesia has sentenced an illegal manta ray trafficker to jail time and a fine, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society.
With local help, hawksbill sea turtles make a comeback in Nicaragua
Hawksbill sea turtles, a reptile listed as the highest threat level by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, are making a momentous local comeback in Nicaragua’s Pearl Cays. This Critically Endangered turtle, although reduced to 85 percent of their historical numbers, has shown a nesting increase of over 200 percent from just 154 nests to 468 nests in the last 14 years.
Suspects acquitted in shocking murder of sea turtle conservationist
Yesterday, the seven men accused of brutally murdering Jairo Mora Sandoval on a beach in Costa Rica two years ago were acquitted of the crime. Sandoval's murder shocked the Central American country—long known for the progressive protection of its lush rainforests and sweeping beaches—but the judge who acquitted the accused cited reasonable doubt and a investigation marred by mistakes.
Fishing industry could lose up to $41 billion due to climate change
Climate change is already having a severe impact on the atmosphere and oceans around the world. These changes are also impacting specific economic sectors including the fishing and aquaculture industries. According to a recent report by the European Climate Foundation, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and the University of Cambridge, the fishing industry is projected to lose tens-of-billions as the world continues to heat up.
Ocean's 15: meet the species that have vanished forever from our seas
In the last 500 years, the oceans have suffered far fewer extinctions than on land—at least that we know of. According to a recent study in Science, 15 animals are known to have vanished forever from the oceans while terrestrial ecosystems have seen 514 extinctions. The researchers, however, warn that the number of marine extinctions could rise rapidly as the oceans are industrialized.
Empty seas? Scientists warn of an industrialized ocean
This is obvious, but still important: humans are not a marine species. Even as we have colonized most of our planet's terrestrial landscapes, we have not yet colonized the oceans. And for most of our history, we have impacted them only on the periphery. A new review in Science finds that this has saved marine species and ecosystems from large-scale damage—that is, until the last couple centuries.
Casting for another job: will fishers take up a new livelihood?
Can alternative income programs save Fiji's reef fish? Many implicate the failure of Fiji's government to prioritize sustainable management over fisheries development projects, or suggest that Fijians' mindsets must dramatically shift first.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014
In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response to global warming, China and the U.S. announced joint actions this year. On November 12th, the world's two most powerful countries surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that they would work together to tackle the crisis.
Reefs reduce 97 percent of wave energy, could be better than artificial barriers
We have a lot of stake in the coast. Coastal waters are where we host fisheries, build homes and turn to for tourism and recreation. So how should coastal communities, which comprise nearly 40 percent of the world's population, safeguard against flooding, erosion and violent weather? Marine scientist Michael Beck suggests the solution is growing right beneath some waves and, in many cases, it has been waiting there for thousands of years.
Shark pups may not survive climate change
Fierce predatory sharks rule the oceans from the apex of the food pyramid. But climate change may be tougher than these marine hunters, a new study suggests. As oceans warm and their waters become more acidic, fewer sharks may survive their infancies.
Reeling in religious messages: how faith impacts fisheries in Fiji
Marrying religion and conservation could be key to making Fiji's fisheries sustainable. Fijians have strong religious beliefs, which were primarily introduced by Christian missionaries in the 1835, and today profoundly guide their daily lives. Fijians primarily depend on fisheries close to shore for their survival, which is the case for most small Pacific island countries.