Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review: Sea Save Highlights the Top 12 Stories from 2014!

As 2014 comes to a close, Sea Save Foundation is reviewing some of the most important stories we reported on in the past year. Our Week in Review has covered topics ranging from the shark fin trade to the impacts of climate change, as part of our efforts to raise awareness of marine conservation successes and challenges. Continue to keep a close watch on this blog for all of the 2015 Week in Review postings. Cheers and Happy New Year to all!

1. Russia and China Block Proposal for World's Largest Marine Protected Area

A proposal to set up the world's largest marine protected area in Antarctica did not earn the support of Russia or China at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources meeting. The proposal was created to help conserve and manage the ecosystem of the waters surrounding Antarctica, an area with one of the least damaged ecosystems in the world currently. Read more...


2. 270,000 Tons of Plastic Polluting Our Oceans 

The most comprehensive study to date on plastic in the oceans estimates that the oceans now contain more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 270,000 tons. While large pieces like plastic bags and fishing lines can kill seabirds, seals, and turtles outright, most of these pieces are "micro plastics" measuring less than 5 mm, which are ingested by fish and move up the food chain. Chemicals in the plastics, along with the pollution they attract, cause damage to all species in the food chain - including humans. Read more...


3. Conflict at UN Climate Talks in Lima

U.N. climate talks achieved little, with developing nations demanding that rich nations do more to cut emissions, while developed nations, led by the U.S., claimed they were doing enough. The lack of consensus and progress comes as crucial evidence continues to pile up on the increase in global warming. Read more...


4. Chennai, India Becoming Hub of Illegal Shark Fin Trade 

During 2012-2013, an estimated 90 tons of shark fins were smuggled out of Chennai, a city on the Indian coast off the Bay of Bengal, despite all shark species being protected under the nation’s Wildlife Protection Act. Although shark meat is generally not eaten in India, demand for fins around the world continues to drive overfishing in Indian waters, according to C. Samyukta of Humane Society of India. A workshop on implementing the new CITES shark listings was held in Chennai. Read more...


5. Whale Numbers Increasing.  Great News!

In 1977, estimates suggested there were fewer than 2,000 humpbacks in the North Atlantic. Concerns were high that the species would not be able to recover. Allied Whale senior scientist Peter Stevick now claims that current populations are closer to 20,000 humpback whales in the North Atlantic.  Read more...


6. Future of Barrier Reef - Hot Topic; Scientists Divided

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) members convened to discuss ecosystem management in a gathering that occurs only once every ten years. The list of topics discussed was long, but perhaps the most controversial was the quality of the current management of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Once considered the crown jewel of marine protected areas, the GBR is experiencing degradation. Scientists do not agree on the extent of the damage, nor how the reef should be managed. Read more...


7. United Nations Conservation Conference Votes to Protect More Species

Thirty-one species of migratory animals, including polar bears, whales, sharks, rays, and gazelles, were granted protection status by the UN Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals after intense negotiations in Quito, Ecuador. The list includes a record 21 species of sharks, rays, and sawfish. More than 900 experts from 120 countries were involved in the talks. Read more…


8. World's Largest Marine Reserve Created

Some of the most pristine ocean ecosystems can be found thousands of miles into the Pacific Ocean. These remote island paradises, which have mostly escaped the effects of overfishing and pollution, are collectively known as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument. The area serves as a habitat to an array of critically endangered species and includes several key hotspots brimming with biodiversity. Former president George W. Bush, in a move right before he left office, used his legal authority to establish a 50-mile radius of protection for this region. Now President Obama is extending the area under protection to a 200-mile radius. This executive action creates the largest protected marine reserve in the world. Read more...


9. China Outlaws the Consumption of Rare Animal Products

Recent decisions in China have now made it punishable by law to consume or knowingly purchase the byproduct of an endangered animal. The recently passed law protects over 420 different species and carries up to a 10 year prison sentence for violators. 

With the new law passed, items such as tiger meat, elephant tusks and the coveted shark fin soup, are all included on the list of banned animal byproducts in China.Citizens convicted of eating a protected animal or knowingly purchasing on to do so can face between 3-10 years in prison. If China stays true to their word, many critically endangered species, such as the pangolin, siberian tigers and multiple species of sharks, have hope of rebuilding their population. Real the full article at the Sea Save blog here...


10. The Largest Sea Level Rise in 6,000 Years

Scientists have reconstructed thousands of years of sea level fluctuations and have concluded that the oceans are experiencing a greater sea level rise than at any time in the past 6,000 years. The research study's lead author, Kurt Lambeck, concludes, "I think that [the sea level rise] is clearly the impact of climate change." Read here...


11. Massachusetts Becomes Ninth State to Ban Possession, Sale of Shark Fins

Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill banning the possession and sale of shark fins in the state of Massachusetts. This makes nine states that have taken definitive action against this unsustainable practice.

Sea Save Foundation played a pivotal role in building momentum and support for the passage of California's shark fin ban.  In addition to California and Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, Illinois,  Maryland, New York and Delaware have enacted laws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and food containing the fins. This bill makes Massachusetts the ninth state to pass legislation criminalizing the shark fin trade. Violators will be fined between $500 and $1,000, as well as up to 60 days in jail.

American restaurants serving shark fins are just the tip of the problem. Tons of shark fins are shipped to Asia annually.  This is a lucrative market, and the high-dollar value of the fins makes it difficult to curb the demand.  Even so, we are beginning to see a shift in attitude and heightened awareness about this unsustainable practice.Read more... 


12. 2014 a Bad Year for Coral Reefs - and 2015 Could Be Worse

Coral bleaching was particularly severe in the Pacific and Caribbean this past summer, possibly due to a brewing El Nino. The Hawaiian Islands experienced their worst bleaching on record. Bleaching occurs when corals lose their food-producing algae due to extended heat stress. The corals' vibrant colors fade, and they become vulnerable to disease and starvation. With El Nino expected in 2015, many corals could be facing a significant threat. Read more...


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Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Week in Review is a team effort produced by the Sea Save staff to provide a weekly summary of the latest in marine research, policy, and news.