Monday, December 30, 2019

"Ocean Year in Review" 2019: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

2019 was an eventful year for ocean conservation.  Below are our picks for the top 13 stories of the year.  What do you think should be number 14 and 15?

1. CITES conference responds to the extinction crisis by strengthening international trade regime for wildlife

The 2019 CoP CITES  attendees decided to add 18 more shark species to Appendix II. They include shortfin and longfin mako sharks blacknose and sharpnose guitarfishes, which are highly valued for their fins.  Wedgefishes and sea cucumber species were also listed in Appendix II. Read more on the Sea Save website: Here

Read more from "CITES"

2. More than 11,000 scientists renew warning: Earth faces a climate emergency

Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. Exactly 40 years ago, scientists from 50 nations met at the First World Climate Conference (in Geneva 1979) and agreed that alarming trends for climate change made it urgently necessary to act. 

Editorial Note:  A Sea Save Foundation advisor, Carlos De La Rosa is one of the signatories on this declaration.


3. A wave of youth activism emerges. New voices decry the need for science and action to protect our planet.
2019 saw a wave of young people getting involved in the climate conversation.  Sparked by 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg who addressed heads state at a United Nations summit. This culminated in  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling on countries to step up commitments to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. “We face at least 3 degrees celsius of global heating by the end of the century,” he said. “I will not be there, but my granddaughters will. And your grandchildren, too. I refuse to be an accomplice in the destruction of their home and only home.”


4. Japan considers dumping radioactive water from the Fukushima reactor into the Pacific Ocean

Tepco is considering a plan to dump roughly 1 million cubic meters of treated radioactive water -- enough to fill 400 Olympic-size swimming pools -- from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, part of its nearly $200 billion effort to clean up the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl. Storage tanks at the site are forecast to be full by mid-2022, and space for building more is scarce. Scary as it sounds, discharges are common practice in the industry and would likely meet global guidelines. 


5. Combating illegal fishing with artificial intelligence and satellites

Fishing is a way of life for coastal communities around the world. An estimated four million fishing vessels sail the world’s oceans, providing fish for a global seafood market valued at over $120 billion. "It’s hard to overstate the importance of fish,” says Nick Wise, CEO of the nonprofit organization OceanMind. “There are three billion people in the world who rely on seafood as their primary source of protein, mostly in developing nations. Twelve percent of the world’s population relies on the wild-capture seafood industry directly or indirectly for their livelihoods.”

Sea Save Foundation Editorial - Is this sustainable?

Read more from "Microsoft"

6. First whales harvested as Japan resumes commercial whaling

After more than 30 years Japan resumed commercial whale hunting, defying calls from the international community to protect animals once hunted to the brink of extinction. Now whalers, who have long depended on government subsidies for their survival, face the much tougher challenge of defying basic economic reality: The market for their product is declining while labor costs across the nation are on the rise.


7. World Economic Forum: China can play a pivotal role in ocean conservation

An industrial revolution is beginning in the oceans. Historically, the most valuable commodities drawn from the sea were products like cod, pearls, and sponges. The currencies of this new ocean economy are different: kilowatts of energy, shipping containers, metals, data, desalinated water, DNA, and oil, to name a few. The marine industrial economy has been valued at $1.5 trillion and is predicted to grow at double the rate of the rest of the global economy by 2030. A sometimes unappreciated aspect of this recent explosive industrial marine growth is that its distribution is highly uneven. In fact, many key facets of the new ocean economy have been dominated by one nation: China.


8. "Climate change is greatest public health challenge of the 21st century" according to U.S. medical associations 

Dozens of medical and public health groups are calling on elected officials and candidates to commit to an agenda to combat climate change.“The health, safety and well-being of millions of people around the world have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change,” the 74 groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, said in a letter Monday.


9. G20 (twenty countries with the largest economies in the world) to tackle ocean plastic waste

Governments around the world commit to crack down on plastic pollution. Images of plastic debris-strewn beaches and dead animals with stomachs full of plastic have sparked outrage, with many countries, including more than two dozen in Africa, banning plastic bags outright. The EU has voted to outlaw 10 single-use plastic items, including straws, forks and knives, by 2021. It has also set targets for all plastic packaging, the top source of plastic waste, to be recyclable by 2030.


10. Most plastic is at bottom of the ocean - but ends up on our dinner plate

Anela Choy studies the things that deep-sea creatures eat, which means that, in effect, she is often studying plastic. Over the years, pieces of debris would show up again and again in the stomachs of certain fish, species that rarely come to the surface to feed. The plastic, she realized, must be going down to them. Microplastics—tiny pieces less than five millimeters in size—have largely been studied as a problem of the ocean surface. Plastic tends to be buoyant, the thinking goes, and the ocean surface is frankly easier to study.

Read more from "The Atlantic"


11. Africa is Leading the World in Plastic Bans

As of June 1, travelers to Tanzania will have to pack very carefully. The country announced the implementation of the second phase of its plastic bag ban on May 16. Visitors are advised to avoid packing or carrying any plastic bags as they’ll have to leave these at a designated desk in the airport. The first phase of the country’s anti-plastic initiative began in 2017 to “protect the youth and environment,” with an initial ban on the manufacture of plastic bags and in-country distribution.


12. European Parliament Passes Single-use Plastic Ban

Dateline 27 March 2019: The European Parliament has approved a law to ban single-use plastic by 2021 in the EU. The ‘Single-Use Plastics Directive’ puts in place more responsibility for plastic producers and new recycling targets for EU member States. The law recognizes plastic as “increasingly ubiquitous in  everyday life,” and states that plastic’s growing use in short-lived applications “which are not designed for re-use or cost-effective recycling, means that related production and consumption patterns have become increasingly inefficient and linear.” The law describes the European Strategy for Plastics as a “step towards establishing a circular economy in which the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and in which more sustainable materials are developed and promoted.”

Read more from "IISD" 

13. United Nations Secretary-General: 'We are doomed' without significant action on climate change

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said in a new interview that "we are doomed" without actions to prevent greenhouse gas emissions. “We need to have the big emitters understanding that their role is essential, because if the big emitters fail, everything will fail,” Guterres told Reuters at a climate conference in Madrid. “If we just go on as we are, we are doomed,” he added. Guterres also said major emitters should show they will be more ambitious next year and "hopefully” commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  “History cannot accept that my generation will betray our children and grandchildren,”  he said, according to Reuters. 


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Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Ocean 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

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" November 29, 2019: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

New Jersey shark fin bill goes to governor's desk, Climate change reshaping ocean communities, Underwater rover to be used in oceans of our solar system, Measuring a blue whale's heart rate and more.

1. New Jersey shark fin bill goes to governor's desk

The Assembly passed bill A4845 (Mukherji) \ S2905 (Singleton) today. The bill prohibits certain possession, sale, trade, distribution, or offering for sale of shark fins. The bill was passed with a vote of 53-18-1. S2905 (Singleton) will now go to the Governor’s desk to sign. “The shark population has been decimated. Shark finning has led to the overfishing and overexploitation of shark species. Since shark fin soup is a delicacy, the fins are sold at high prices resulting in tens of millions of sharks being killed every year. This has led to a dramatic decrease in the shark population with some species like the smooth hammerhead dropping a staggering 99% since 1972.

Edtorial Note: Sea Save has been advocating for this bill. If you would like to endorse this, use our tool to tell Governor Phil Murphy, to protect oceans by stopping the unsustainable shark fin trade:  click here.


2. Climate change is reshaping oceanic communities

Climate change is reshaping fish communities and other sea life, according to a pioneering study on how ocean warming is affecting the mix of species. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, covers species that are important for fisheries and that serve as food for fish, such as copepods and other zooplankton. “The changes we’re observing ripple throughout local and global economies all the way to our dinner plates,” said co-author Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.


3. Underwater rover could explore ocean worlds in our solar system

Astronomers have uncovered increasing evidence that some bodies in our solar system, like Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus, are actually ocean worlds. And those oceans could potentially host life  To learn more, astronomers want to get up close and observe these worlds with robots, much like the way rovers have been used to explore the surface of Mars. But for that to happen, the robot would need to be equipped to handle the unknowns of an icy cold alien ocean.


4. United Nations says drastic action is only way to avoid devastating effects of climate change

The world has squandered so much time mustering the action necessary to combat climate change that rapid, unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions offer the only hope of averting an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences, according to new findings from the United Nations. Already, the past year has brought devastating hurricanes, relentless wildfires and crippling heat waves, prompting millions of protesters to take to the streets to demand more attention to a problem that seems increasingly urgent.


5. Armed with suction cups and a little luck, scientists measure blue whale's heart rate

Using a bright orange electrocardiogram machine attached with suction cups to the body of a blue whale, scientists for the first time have measured the heart rate of the world’s largest creature and came away with insight about the renowned behemoth’s physiology. The blue whale, which can reach up to 100 feet (30 meters) long and weigh 200 tons, lowers its heart rate to as little as two beats per minute as it lunges under the ocean surface for food, researchers said on Monday. The maximum heart rate they recorded was 37 beats per minute after the air-breathing marine mammal returned to the surface from a foraging dive.


6. Majority believe US government is doing 'too little' to fight climate change

A majority of Americans believe the government must do more to address pollution and climate concerns, according to a new study. The federal government must do more to protect clean water, air quality, animals, open lands and reduce the effects of climate change, according to a majority of respondents in the survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center. The survey broke down along party lines, with 90 percent of those who identified as Democrats saying they believe the federal government is doing “too little” to address climate change and just 39 percent of self-identifying Republicans saying the same.


7. United Nations agency finds greenhouse gases hit record levels in 2018

Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached record highs in 2018, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a report released Monday. The Guardian reports the findings from the United Nations agency show the increases in key climate-heating greenhouse gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade. “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement accompanying the report.


8. A new study based in desert demonstrates ocean acidification is extremely underestimated

Ocean acidification is a clear and present danger to marine life, to the marine food chain and to animals that eat marine life (such as ourselves). Ocean acidity differs vastly on a local scale. But looking at the global average, the world’s oceans are about 25 percent more acidic than before the industrial revolution. To those of you who took chemistry once upon a time, the pH of the ocean is presently about 8.1. The pH of our blood averages about 7.4, by the way.


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Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Ocean 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