Ocean Action Hub

World Economic Forum - Earlier this year, a study was published suggesting that humpback whales are making a comeback. The population appears to be in the midst of a baby boom, reversing years of decline driven by commercial whaling.

It was a rare piece of good news about marine life, and comes at a time when threats to our oceans have never been greater.

Every year, World Oceans Day encourages us to celebrate and honour the ocean. The 2018 theme is preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.

Source of life

Water covers 71% of the surface of our planet. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 that humans emit and marine plants produce most of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

However, our way of life is threatening these complex ecosystems. Plastic pollution is choking marine wildlife and harming corals, reaching even the deepest part of the ocean, climate change is causing sea levels and ocean temperatures to rise and acidification, overfishing is drastically depleting the world’s fish stocks and coral reefs are dying.

It can seem that the world is awash with bad news about the ocean, but there are also a few bright spots. Here are five stories about marine conservation and cooperation that made waves recently.

A comeback for some whale and shark species

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the humpback whale was hunted to near extinction. But a new study points to evidence of a rapidly growing population.

Between 2010 and 2016, researchers took 577 DNA samples from humpbacks around the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

Of those, 239 were from males and 268 from females. The progesterone levels identified in their blubber indicated that, on average over that period, 63.5% of the females were pregnant.

In addition, the number of pregnant females was rising, from 36% in 2010 to 86% in 2014.

The researchers also found that the whales were reproducing every year; 54.5% of females accompanied by a calf were pregnant.

“These high pregnancy rates are consistent with a population recovering from past exploitation,” noted the study.

Shark populations are also recovering

Shark numbers declined rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of overfishing and bycatch (where fish or marine mammals are caught unintentionally).

As Dr David Shiffman, a shark conservation expert and marine biologist, notes in a recent blog, great white sharks were among the first species to benefit from conservation protections around the world.

By 2009, the population was back to 30% below historic levels, indicating an upward trend.

But numbers of lesser known shark species, including the sandbar, blacktip, tiger, and spinner, are also increasing thanks to conservation efforts.

“While we can’t forget that many species of shark are in trouble, we can and should celebrate successes as we work to implement them elsewhere. Shark population increases show that shark conservation works,” writes Shiffman.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/5-ocean-success-stories-to-chase-away-the-blues/

Image: REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

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Publication date: 
14/06/2018
Publication Organisation: 
World Economic Forum
Publication Author: 
Alex Gray, Formative Content, World Economic Forum
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