Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" June 7, 2019: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

Carnival fined $20M for dumping, Fishermen sadistically cut off the tail of century-old endangered shark and then release, U.S House passes a bill to address acidification, Antigua & Barbuda rally Caribbean to join plastic pollution ban, 10 tons of shark fins seized in Mexico and much more...

1. Carnival Cruises to pay $20 million in pollution and cover-up case

In 2016, Princess Cruise Lines agreed to pay a $40 million penalty for illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste into the sea. Employees were accused of trying to cover it up. It was the largest criminal penalty ever imposed for intentional vessel pollution, and the Justice Department put the cruise line’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, on notice. But that did not stop the company from polluting again, according to federal prosecutors.

Read more from "The New York Times"                                 

2. Sharks killed in secretive Indonesian trade despite government efforts to protect some species

There were only a few sharks for sale on the day the ABC was invited to the fish market in the north Javanese city of Indramayu. "No-one breaks the rules here … when [the fishermen] catch sharks in their nets, they release them back to their habitats, if the sharks are still alive," said the chief of the local fisheries cooperative, Darto. However, the following day the ABC turned up unannounced and found evidence of a thriving shark industry, with workers cutting off hundreds of shark fins right there on the dock.


3. Fishermen film themselves hacking off a 120-year-old Greenland shark's tail, throwing the mortally injured fish back into the sea and shouting: "Good luck trying to swim, you punk'"

Two fishermen filmed themselves, laughing as they cut off an endangered shark's tail for no reason. The footage was taken by the men shows them throwing the shark back into the sea where the century-old fish attempts to swim away. Greenland sharks do not prey on humans and are listed as a near endangered species. 


4. U.S. House unanimously passes bill to address ocean acidification

After years of inaction, the U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday directing federal authorities to assess the risks that ocean acidification – a byproduct of global warming – presents to coastal communities, fishermen and the aquaculture industry. Scientists have shown the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb greater quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the Gulf of Maine, researchers have documented that acidic conditions stunt clam growth and make it so difficult for baby oysters to build their first shells that they often die before they can complete them. The effects on lobster, Maine’s most valuable fishery, remain unclear.

Read more from "Press Herald"


5. Take action on air pollution to save lives, and the planet urges United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres

As well as claiming seven million lives every year, and damaging children’s development, the UN chief noted that many air pollutants cause global warming, which he has described as “an existential threat.” In his video address, the UN Secretary-General recalled his recent experience in the South Pacific island states, which he visited last month to show solidarity with those suffering from the worst effects of climate change. Mr. Guterres said that he had seen first-hand the severe and worsening impacts of the global climate emergency.


6. Antigua and Barbuda declaration encourage all Caribbean countries to eliminate single-use plastics

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has signed and launched ‘The Antigua and Barbuda Declaration,’ which aims to encourage all Caribbean countries to act to eliminate the use of single-use plastics and end pollution of the oceans. The Declaration is part of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) President’s global campaign against plastic pollution and single-use plastics.


7. Customs agents seize 10 tons of shark fins in Manzanillo, Mexico

Customs agents in, Colima, Mexico have confiscated a large haul of illegal shark fins bound for the Philippines. The fins, about 10.4 tonnes in total, were estimated to have a value of nearly 4 million pesos (US $210,000). They were discovered in 509 crates during an inspection by customs officials and the navy. The export of shark fins is prohibited in Mexico, but in 2015 it was one of the top 10 countries in which sharks were captured for lucrative ends. Of the world’s 500 shark species, 104 are found in Mexican waters.


Networks of sponges could capture DNA to track ocean health

To track the biological health of oceans, researchers use cameras, satellite images, and, increasingly, DNA shed directly into the water. But capturing genetic material in the sea is a tough task: Scientists must sift through massive amounts of water to dredge up their samples. Now, marine biologists have discovered that sponges are very good at “sponging” up DNA. More research is needed, but eventually, a network of sponges planted throughout the oceans could provide an easy readout of how the diversity of plants and animals nearby is doing.


9. State of Quintana Roo bans single-use plastics

Chetumal, Q.R. — In six months, single-use plastics will be prohibited on the islands of Quintana Roo. The new law was passed in Congress this week and will take effect for the entire state within 12 months. Congress of Quintana Roo has agreed to begin the ban of single-use plastics in what are considered sensitive areas such as the islands of Holbox, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres before being enforced in the rest of the state.


10. Orlando bans single-use plastic, styrofoam from its venues

The city council voted Monday to ban single-use plastic and styrofoam products, starting October 1. The ban means city contractors will not be able to use the products at city-owned parks and venues, like the Amway Center. Vendors for events like festivals and farmers markets would also be required to use single-use products made from paper, wood or vegetable-derived plastics. The ban will not affect businesses operating on non-city land.


Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked offshore Arctic drilling

The Interior Department is appealing a decision from an Alaska judge that blocked President Trump from rolling back offshore drilling protections for the Arctic that were put in place by President Obama. With the Tuesday appeal, the department is fighting back against a decision that was the department’s impetus for pausing the development of its five-year offshore drilling plan for both Alaska and the Atlantic Coast.

Read more from "The Hill"



12. Marine 'gold rush': demand for shark fin soup drives decimation of fish

Rising demand for shark fin soup is wiping out more than 73 million sharks every year, fuelling a practice labeled the marine “gold rush”. Finning, when a shark’s fin is sliced off while at sea and the body dumped back into the ocean, is rampant in many regions – fins are one of the most expensive seafood items, ending up mostly in the soup. The delicacy had been particularly popular in China but a nationwide conservation campaign saw consumption drop 80% since 2011.

Read more from "The Guardian"


13. Half of all land must be kept in a natural state to protect Earth

A new paper published Friday in "Science Advances" indicates that world leaders must increase their commitments to conserving land and water, and quickly, if a stable climate and high quality of life are to be preserved in the near future, a new scientific study argues. Countries should double their protected zones to 30 percent of the Earth’s land area, and add 20 percent more as climate stabilization areas, for a total of 50 percent of all land kept in a natural state, scientists conclude. All of this needs to be done by 2030 to have a real hope of keeping climate change under the “danger zone” target of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) and to prevent the world’s ecosystems from unraveling—according to an ambitious plan called the Global Deal for Nature.

Read more from "National Geographic"


14. After years of legal wrangling, Ottawa moves to ban imports of shark fins

With the global population of sharks now depleted by 90 percent following decades of overfishing, the federal government is poised to ban the importation of shark fins into Canada. Although shark finning in domestic waters was outlawed in 1994, Canada is the third-largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia. The top importers of shark fins globally are mainland China and Hong Kong, where shark fin soup is a popular delicacy among the wealthy. In 2018 alone, Canada imported more than 148,000 kilograms of shark fins, a product worth more than $3.2 million, according to data compiled by Statistics Canada.

Read more from "CBC"

15. New Study: Most Plastic is at bottom of the Ocean

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"


16. West Coast USA - More than 70 gray whales dead in 6 months, and scientists don't understand why

Since January, more than 70 dead gray whales have washed up on the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada. That's the most in a single year since 2000, and scientists are concerned. Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries designated these strandings as part of an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). Under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, the designation of a UME means that more resources and scientific expertise will be dedicated to investigating what's causing so many whales to die.

Read more from "Live Science"


17. Marine wildlife ‘blue belt’ area almost eight times the size of London to be introduced around British Coastline

An area almost eight times the size of London has been designated as a series of protected “blue belt” zones in the seas around England’s coastline, the government has announced. The 41 marine conservation zones will cover 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 square miles) of England’s seas and range from the coast of Northumberland to the seas south of the Isles of Scilly. The areas are designated to help protect a diverse group of species, such as eider ducks, basking sharks, and short-snouted seahorses. With the newly announced zones, the UK’s full “blue belt” of protected sites will span 220,000 square kilometers (85,000 square miles) around the seas of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Read more from "Independent"


18. Hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor trigger huge phytoplankton blooms


A new study from Stanford University is describing an underwater thoroughfare that facilitates the movement of nutrients from deep in the Earth to the surface waters off the coast of Antarctica. The researchers found that these nutrients trigger the explosive growth of microscopic ocean algae and create phytoplankton blooms. The study suggests that hydrothermal vents on the seafloor, which eject scorching hot streams of mineral-rich fluid, may have a much larger impact on life near the ocean’s surface and on the global carbon cycle than what was previously realized.


19. Icelandic whaling company suspends operations

Commercial whaling company Hvalur hf. will not be hunting whales this summer, Vísir reports. The reason the company cites for the decision is that permits required for whaling did not arrive until late February – too late to allow for the necessary maintenance of whaling ships. The ships will, therefore, stay put in Reykjavík harbor this season, where they will be made ready to sail next year. “There will be no whaling on our part. So they’ll just get to swim in peace here around the country,” stated Ólafur Ólafsson, who captains one of Hvalur hf.’s whaling ships. “We’ll just relax in the meantime and will do maintenance this year – bring [the ships] into good shape for next year.”

Read more from "Iceland Review"


20. Robert Downey Jr. announces an initiative to address climate change

“Iron Man” actor Robert Downey Jr., in an announcement Tuesday that had echoes of his Tony Stark persona, said he was launching a new initiative that will use advanced technology to fight climate change, Variety reported. In his opening keynote for Amazon’s Re: Mars conference in Las Vegas, the star said The Footprint Coalition will officially launch in April of 2020. Although he did not share details about how the tech would be used, Downey said he was in talks with “experts.”

Read more from "The Hill" 


21. Canada needs to triple ocean protection to protect habitats: report

An environmental group says Canada needs to up its game on protecting its oceans. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says in a report that while there has been progress in recent years, recommendations from international scientific bodies suggest there’s more work to do. “At least 30 per cent should be protected if we want to ensure all the habitats are protected and that we’re securing the future of healthy oceans,” Sabine Jessen, director of the group’s ocean program, said Monday. The report says protecting ocean areas includes banning oil, gas or mineral projects, not dumping waste and ruling out bottom-trawling fisheries.


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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