Ocean Action Hub

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High microplastic concentration found on ocean floor

01 May 2020 - Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor.

01 May 2020 - Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor. The contamination was found in sediments pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean, near Italy.

The analysis, led by the University of Manchester, found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre.

These items likely included fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles, and tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time.

The researchers' investigations lead them to believe that microplastics (smaller than 1mm) are being concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents.

"These currents build what are called drift deposits; think of underwater sand dunes," explained Dr Ian Kane, who fronted the international team.

"They can be tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres high. They are among the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. They're made predominantly of very fine silt, so it's intuitive to expect microplastics will be found within them," he told BBC News.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52489126

Image: Source: I.Kane/Uni of Manchester

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Risking a 'fishless' future in Bangladesh

16 Apr 2020 - Overfishing off the coast of Bangladesh is creating a "fishless" zone in one of the world's largest marine ecosystems, scientists are warning.

16 Apr 2020 - Overfishing off the coast of Bangladesh is creating a "fishless" zone in one of the world's largest marine ecosystems, scientists are warning.

Most fish species are in decline, with some nearing extinction, a report on fish stocks in the Bay of Bengal says.

"Some seas in the world, like the Gulf of Thailand, have run out of fish," one of the authors of the report, Sayedur Rahman Chowdhury, told BBC Bengali.

"We don't want our Bay of Bengal to end up like that."

Hundreds of large vessels are overfishing at an unsustainable rate, monitors suggest. Local fishermen say the government is turning a blind eye as the trawlers target key fish species they rely on.

A resource running dry 

Bangladesh is one of the most densely-populated countries on Earth, with its population crammed into a delta of rivers that empty into the Bay of Bengal.

At least 1.5m people in the country are dependent on fishing for their livelihoods and fish remains the most important source of animal protein for the population overall.  

But a three-year report commissioned by the government shows the largest and most valuable species, like tiger prawns and Indian salmon, are almost completely gone. 

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52227735?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science_and_environment&link_location=live-reporting-story

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Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass bleaching in five years

1 Apr 2020 - Warmer sea temperatures - particularly in February - are feared to have caused huge coral loss across the world's largest reef system. Scientists say they have detected widespread bleaching, including extensive patches of severe damage. But they have also found healthy pockets.

1 Apr 2020 - Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered another mass bleaching event - the third in just five years.

Warmer sea temperatures - particularly in February - are feared to have caused huge coral loss across the world's largest reef system.

Scientists say they have detected widespread bleaching, including extensive patches of severe damage. But they have also found healthy pockets.

Two-thirds of the reef was damaged by similar events in 2016 and 2017.

The reef system, which covers over 2,300km (1,400 miles), is a World Heritage site recognised for its "enormous scientific and intrinsic importance".

Last year, Australia was forced to downgrade its five-year reef outlook from poor to very poor due to the impact of human-induced climate change.

On Thursday, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said its latest aerial surveys had shown that the severity of bleaching varied across the reef.

But it said more areas had been damaged than in previous events.

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The deadly 'ghost gear' which haunts seas and coastlines

13 Jan 2019 - BBC - More than half a million tonnes of fishing gear is estimated to be lost or abandoned every year in the world's seas and oceans.

13 Jan 2019 - BBC - More than half a million tonnes of fishing gear is estimated to be lost or abandoned every year in the world's seas and oceans. Some of it entangles and kills wildlife at sea and on shore.

Conservationists call it "ghost gear".

It includes fishing nets, long lines, fish traps and lobster pots left drifting at sea usually after being accidentally lost from fishing grounds or boats, or discarded in an emergency such as in a storm.

"Fishing gear is designed to trap marine organisms, and it can continue to do so long after the gear is lost or discarded in the ocean," says Joel Baziuk of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI).

"When lost fishing gear keeps catching fish after its intended lifespan, it is called ghost fishing."

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-50510666

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The battle to break plastic's bonds

23 Oct 2019 - Scientists have developed a chemical technique which breaks down the bonds that make polyethylene so indestructible.

23 Oct 2019 - Prof Poeppelmeier and his colleagues at Northwestern University in Illinois, US, have developed a chemical technique which breaks down the bonds that make polyethylene - the plastic most commonly used to make the ubiquitous carrier bag - so indestructible.

The process "chops up" the plastic polymer, turning it into liquid oil. His team published their breakthrough in the journal ACS Central Science. It is a clever catalytic technique using metal nanoparticles to essentially snip the polymer apart - chemically transforming it into a liquid.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50143451

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The Himalayan village that confiscates single-use plastics

4 Oct 2019 - How can we prevent plastic polluting rivers and the ocean? Indian Prime Minister Modi has urged people to stop using single-use plastic country-wide.

4 Oct 2019 - How can we prevent plastic polluting rivers and the ocean? Indian Prime Minister Modi has urged people to stop using single-use plastic country-wide. While many Indian cities are struggling to deal with plastic waste, one Himalayan village has shown the way in dealing with the problem. Lachun, in the northeastern state of Sikkim, has successfully banned single-use plastic and showcases eco-friendly alternatives.

Watch video here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/science-environment-49897261/the-himalayan-village-that-confiscates-single-use-plastics

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The Madagascar farmers trying to save sea cucumbers

7 Aug 2019 - BBC - Rampant overfishing to feed demand has left wild sea-cucumber stocks declining globally. But a scheme to protect the environment while improving lives is seeing success.

7 Aug 2019 - BBC - In much of the Far East, sea cucumbers are a delicacy, fetching a high price for their purported health benefits. In Tampolove, a tiny windswept village of mud huts and sandy paths squeezed between the coast and the forest in south-west Madagascar, they have provided a major boost to the local economy and environment.

The village is home to the country's first locally owned sea-cucumber farm, which has been transforming the lives of people who have typically earned no more than a dollar a day, while at the same time helping to alleviate the pressure on marine species.

Sea cucumbers belong to the echinoderm family, along with starfish and urchins, and come in all shapes and sizes.

They spend their days buried in silt, emerging at night to feed, sifting through the sediment for particles, a practice that provides an essential filtration service that benefits the wider ecosystem.

Yet in recent decades rampant overfishing to feed demand in Asia has left wild sea-cucumber stocks declining around the world.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-49192775#

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Wetlands vital to protect cities

31 Oct 2018 - Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn.

31 Oct 2018 - Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn.

Wetlands are ecosystems like lakes, rivers, marshes and peatlands, as well as coastal marine areas including mangroves and coral reefs.

The experts say wetlands work as a giant sponge that soaks up and stores extra rainfall and water from storm surges.

Conservation of these water bodies in urban areas was the focus of an international meeting on wetlands that concluded in Dubai on Monday.

Disappearing wetlands

The warning follows an alarming recent report that the world's wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests.

The recent study by the global wetland convention found that nearly 35% of the world's wetlands were lost between 1970 and 2015.

Latin America has seen the highest rate of loss - nearly 60% in that period - while Africa lost 42%, according to the report.

Urban encroachment

To safeguard flood control and other benefits, the international meeting on wetlands has launched accreditation for cities that conserve wetlands.

Under this scheme, 18 cities around the world have so far been recognised as conserving their wetlands.

Expanding cities frequently encroach on wetlands because they are often viewed as wasteland to be used for other purposes, such as dumping sites.

About half of the world's population today lives in urban areas and the figure is expected to increase to nearly 70% by 2050.

"The idea of accreditation for cities is to make them realise the value of wetlands and to integrate them into urban planning," Lew Young, a wetland expert with the Wetland Convention, told the BBC.

"On the top of the list of benefits of having wetlands is an increased resilience against natural disasters, including Tsunamis."

Cities at risk

Scientists have long warned that climate change will bring extreme rainfall and powerful sea-storms that could flood cities.

They say lakes, marshlands and river-floodplains absorb excess rainfall, while saltmarshes and mangroves work as a buffer against storm surges.

Some experts also claim inland wetlands are five times more economically valuable than tropical forests.

They provide - directly or indirectly - almost all of the world's supply of freshwater, and so are critical to human and planet life.

The recent report by the Wetland Convention said more than one billion people depended on them for a living, and 40% of the world's plant and animal species lived and bred in wetlands.

The convention warned, however, that wetlands remained dangerously undervalued by policy and decision-makers in countries' national plans.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46020176

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One Nigerian woman's mission to save Lagos beaches and turtles from plastic

23 Oct 2018 - BBC NEWS - Doyinsola Ogunye, along with around 20 volunteer children, vigorously combs a sandy shore in the Nigerian coastal city of Lagos, unearthing deeply embedded litter

23 Oct 2018 - BBC NEWS - Doyinsola Ogunye, along with around 20 volunteer children, vigorously combs a sandy shore in the Nigerian coastal city of Lagos, unearthing deeply embedded litter and plastic that can prove deadly to sea turtles.

The tide is low and the layer of scattered debris across a seemingly endless stretch of golden sand emerges as the waves recede into the ocean.

Every type of man-made waste imaginable, from polystyrene, broken ceramic, assorted flip-flops and building materials, is visible. I can even spot a syringe.

This is Elegushi beach - and nothing can beat the beauty this strip of Atlantic coastline, but the sheer scale of litter hits you right away.

"Sometimes it gets very overwhelming," says Ms Ogunye, an environmental activist who has set up a programme to rid the beach of rubbish.

'A bath for the beach'

Every week she and her volunteer crew collect about 50 large sacks of litter.

It's a mammoth task, but the 30-year-old has put herself on the frontline, battling the destruction caused by pollution.

CONTINE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-45889706?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c50znx8v132t/nigeria&link_location=live-reporting-story#

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Using a cheap smartphone to catch fish in India
18 Sept 2018 - In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fishing communities using cheap technology have taken matters into their own hands.
18 Sept 2018 - Trapped between rising sea levels and development projects that are eating into the coastline of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fishing communities using cheap technology have taken matters into their own hands, reports Mahima A Jain.

"Fisherfolk will be the worst affected if common lands such as mangroves, wet lands and beaches are lost," says Saravanan, who only uses his first name. He is a 35-year-old fisherman by trade but often rides along the length of the northern coast of Tamil Nadu with a borrowed MacBook Pro and a smartphone to map contested and vulnerable areas.

"We are among the first to undertake such a mapping exercise along the coast in India," says Saravanan.

He is a coordinator at the Coastal Resource Centre (CRC) in Chennai (formerly Madras), which is helping more than 40 fishing villages around the city create land use maps using open source software and affordable technology. A land use map helps identify which areas of land are used for which purpose.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-45080917#

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