Thursday, October 15, 2020

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" Oct 23, 2020: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

A study of Palau's coral reefs, A quadrillion plastic fibers discovered in California's environment, Burger King moving towards zero-waste, Sponges as biomonitors of micro pollution, and more.

1. Shark fishing thrives in Myanmar due to lack of alternatives

Achieving fisheries compliance is challenging in contexts where enforcement capacity is limited and the incentives for rule-breaking are strong. This challenge is exemplified in Myanmar, where an active shark fishery exists despite a nationwide ban on targeted shark fishing. We used the Kipling method (5W1H) to gather a complete story of non-compliance in five small-scale fishing communities in the Myeik Archipelago. Among 144 fishers surveyed, 49% were aware of the nationwide ban. Shark fishers (24%) tended to be younger individuals who did not own a boat and perceived shark fishing to be prevalent. Compliant fishers were motivated by a fear of sharks and lack of capacity (equipment, knowledge), whereas food and income were cited as key motivations for non-compliance. The results of our study emphasize that in resource-dependent communities, improving compliance for effective shark conservation may require addressing broader issues of poverty, food security and the lack of alternatives.

2. New marine animal deaths discovered off Russia’s Kamchatka coast

New mass deaths of marine animals have been discovered off the coast of Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka peninsula where an unexplained event recently killed off up to 95% of seabed life, authorities said Monday.  Scientists and witnesses reported seeing dead marine animals along the seabed south of the initial discovery last week, Kamchatka region governor Vladimir Solodov said on Instagram. Neighboring beaches, he said, were not affected. “The evidence shows that the scale of the occurrence is extremely large,” Solodov said. He said that the deaths were “almost certainly linked to climate change and other polluting effects we as humankind cause to the Pacific Ocean.” 

3. Palau's coral reefs: a jewel of the ocean

Scientists at the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) [based in Annapolis, Maryland] have released their findings on the state of coral reefs in Palau. Their research, based on extensive underwater surveys, found Palau's reefs had the highest live coral cover of all the reefs studied on the Global Reef Expedition, a scientific research mission to assess the health and resiliency of coral reefs around the world. Published today, the Global Reef Expedition: The Republic of Palau Final Report summarizes the Foundation's research on the status of coral reefs and reef fish in Palau and provides conservation recommendations that can help preserve these outstanding coral reefs for generations to come.

Read more in "EurekAlert!"

Read original study

4. Newly discovered gene may give 'sea pickles' their glow

In 2017, a group of scientists in a submersible off the coast of Brazil were testing the ability of a soft robotic hand to collect delicate marine life when they grabbed a selection of gelatinous and glowing “sea pickles.” These sausage-sized pyrosomes Pyrosoma atlanticum are actually colonies of thousands of tiny animals—each with a heart and a brain—that work together to move, eat, breathe, and reverberate in blue-green light. Although they are widely known for their gigantic blooms and spectacular light—“pyrosoma” means “fire body” in Greek—many of the most basic facts about their bioluminescence remain elusive. So the expedition’s scientists began a second journey to determine the cause of these pyrosomes’ unique bioluminescent displays, which, unlike many bioluminescent animals, can be triggered by light. They found a new gene that could be the reason that pyrosomes and a number of other bioluminescent animals glow. If confirmed, it would be the first bioluminescent gene identified from a chordate—the group that includes all vertebrates as well as a couple types of invertebrates.

Read more in "American Museum of Natural History"

5. Groundbreaking study finds 13.3 quadrillion plastic fibers in California’s environment

A study in California has laid bare the staggering scale of pollution from plastic microfibers in synthetic clothing – one of the most widespread, yet largely invisible, forms of plastic waste. The report, whose findings were revealed exclusively by the Guardian, found that in 2019 an estimated 4,000 metric tons – or 13.3 quadrillion fibers – were released into California’s natural environment. The plastic fibers, which are less than 5mm in length, are primarily shed when we wash our yoga pants, stretchy jeans and fleece jackets and can easily enter oceans and waterways. “The findings were nothing short of shocking,” said Alexis Jackson, fisheries project director at the Nature Conservancy in California, which commissioned the study from a research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study, which the authors describe as the first of its kind, has not yet been peer-reviewed or published.

Read more in "The Guardian"

6. Burger King testing reusable food packaging in zero-waste effort

Burger King plans to test reusable food containers beginning in 2021 as part of its efforts to reduce waste. The trial will partner with TerraCycle's zero-waste delivery platform Loop, a program that allows consumers an alternative to recycling that still diminishes overall waste and environmental impact, according to an official press release. Customers at Burger King will be able to choose reusable packaging for menu items including food, soft drinks coffee. Those who choose the reusable option can return the containers to Burger King restaurants to be cleaned.

Read more in "The Hill"

7. Sponges as potential biomonitors of micropollution

Sponges are sometimes referred to as the ocean's vacuum cleaners. They feed on tiny particles suspended in the currents, by filtering them from the seawater that passes through their highly porous tissues—which are supported by mineralized skeletons in many species. Sponges are filter feeders that live on particulate matter—but they can also ingest microscopic fragments of plastics and other pollutants of anthropogenic origin. They can therefore serve as useful bioindicators of the health of marine ecosystems. Researchers found that particle-bearing sponges have a strong potential to biomonitor microparticulate pollutants, such as microplastics and other degraded industrial products. 

Read original study

8. NOAA report reveals condition of world's largest marine conservation area

Located northwest of the main Hawaiian islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is virtually unpopulated. Because of its isolation, scale, and high degree of protection, the monument provides an unrivaled example of reef ecosystems still dominated by top predators such as sharks. This is not seen in most other island environments due to human activity.  Some marine habitat has been impacted by derelict fishing gear, large storms, aggressive nuisance algae, and coral bleaching. Most marine areas of the monument have not been significantly affected and are in relatively good to fair condition. The report states that terrestrial habitats have been affected by past human activities that altered soils and vegetation, introduced alien species, and left behind contamination on many of the islands. Without active management efforts to restore habitat, remove invasive species, abate contaminants and enhance the resilience of endangered species, resources would be in significantly poorer condition.

Read more in ""

9. Sand mining and development approved in Bali conservation area 

A year ago, Bali’s environmentalist community was cautiously celebrating the cancellation of a massive land reclamation project planned for Benoa Bay. The permit for the 30 trillion rupiah ($2 billion) development plan to build 12 artificial islands — complete with a golf course, theme park, and even a Formula One race course — expired before the project could obtain government approval. On Oct. 10, 2019, the Bali governor designated Benoa Bay a conservation area for religious and cultural activities and artisanal fisheries, protected from reclamation of any kind. For a brief moment after five years of relentless protests, it appeared that Benoa Bay would remain untouched. 
Barely 11 months later, the Balinese legislature gathered discreetly during the COVID-19 pandemic and approved a zoning plan for the area that would permit sand mining and an expansion of the harbor and airport.

Read more in "Monga Bay"

10. Cleaning volunteers asked to record plastic PPE found on UK beaches

Volunteers in this year’s Great British Beach Clean are being asked to record the personal protective equipment (PPE) they find, to get a clearer picture of the volume of plastic masks and gloves discarded during the coronavirus pandemic and their impact on the environment. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which organizes the annual September event, is urging people to organize their own surveys with smaller groups of friends, family, and “bubbles”, in line with government guidance.

Read more in "The Guardian"


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