Ocean Action Hub

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One-fifth of Earth's ocean floor is now mapped

26 Jun 2020 - The ocean plays a critical role in moving heat around the planet. Seafloor maps are vital for fisheries management and climate change forecasting.

26 Jun 2020 - We've just become a little less ignorant about Planet Earth.

The initiative that seeks to galvanise the creation of a full map of the ocean floor says one-fifth of this task has now been completed.

When the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project was launched in 2017, only 6% of the global ocean bottom had been surveyed to what might be called modern standards.

That number now stands at 19%, up from 15% in just the last year.

Some 14.5 million sq km of new bathymetric (depth) data was included in the GEBCO grid in 2019 - an area equivalent to almost twice that of Australia.

It does, however, still leave a great swathe of the planet in need of mapping to an acceptable degree.

"Today we stand at the 19% level. That means we've got another 81% of the oceans still to survey, still to map. That's an area about twice the size of Mars that we have to capture in the next decade," project director Jamie McMichael-Phillips told BBC News.

Better seafloor maps are needed for a host of reasons.

They are essential for navigation, of course, and for laying underwater cables and pipelines.

They are also important for fisheries management and conservation, because it is around the underwater mountains that wildlife tends to congregate. Each seamount is a biodiversity hotspot.

In addition, the rugged seafloor influences the behaviour of ocean currents and the vertical mixing of water.

This is information required to improve the models that forecast future climate change - because it is the oceans that play a critical role in moving heat around the planet. And if you want to understand precisely how sea-levels will rise in different parts of the world, good ocean-floor maps are a must.

Much of the data that's been imported into the GEBCO grid recently has been in existence for some time but was "sitting on a shelf" out of the public domain. The companies, institutions and governments that were holding this information have now handed it over - and there is probably a lot more of this hidden resource still to be released.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53119686

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Plastic: How to predict threats to animals in oceans and rivers

30 Mar 2020 - Hosepipes inside a sperm whale, plastic banana bags eaten by green turtles and a shotgun cartridge inside a True's beaked whale.

30 Mar 2020 - Hosepipes inside a sperm whale, plastic banana bags eaten by green turtles and a shotgun cartridge inside a True's beaked whale.

Just some of the examples of plastic found inside wildlife that have been documented in scientific reports.

Researchers went through records of plastic eaten by aquatic creatures to find out more about the risks.

They say the length of an animal can be used to estimate how big a piece of plastic it might accidentally consume.

This amounts to about a 20th of the size of the animal.

They hope the data can be used to find out more about the risks. More than 700 species of marine and freshwater animals are known to ingest plastic, but study researcher Dr Ifan Jâms of Cardiff University said it was difficult to figure out how much plastic they could be eating.

"This information gives us a way to start measuring the extent of the plastic pollution problem," he said. "We hope this study lays a foundation for including the 'ingestibility' of plastics into global risk assessments."

Continue reading online here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52062158

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Is 'super coral' the key to saving the world's reefs?

27 Dec 2019 - BBC News - Scientists in the Seychelles have started the world's first large-scale coral reef restoration project to help stop the impact of rising sea temperatures.

27 Dec 2019 - BBC News - Scientists in the Seychelles have started the world's first large-scale coral reef restoration project to help stop the impact of rising sea temperatures.

More than half of the world's coral has succumbed to the effects of climate change so a team based in the Indian Ocean has been growing coral on land and planting them back in the sea to see if they are resilient to coral bleaching.

The technique has been taken to countries including Colombia and the Maldives, with Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius to follow.

Watch online here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/science-environment-50588790/is-super-coral-the-key-to-saving-the-world-s-reefs?

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Seychelles: The island nation with a novel way to tackle climate change

12 Dec 2019 - BBC - The Blue Economy is critical to the Seychelles.

12 Dec 2019 - BBC - The Blue Economy is critical to the Seychelles. A pioneering marine conservation plan sees the country swap 5% of its national debt for a cash injection to fight the effects of climate change on the ocean, in return promising to protect 30% of its national waters by the end 2020. It's a huge undertaking for this tiny nation.

On board Darryl Green's small fishing boat, just off the island of Praslin in the Seychelles, the water is so clear we can see the seabed. Brightly coloured fish swim around the hull.

"You know at my age I've seen the fish size decrease dramatically," the fisherman reminisces. He's on board his boat with his young grandson in tow.

"If as fishermen, we do not take responsibility for our fish stocks, who's going to do it? If we don't start somewhere then in the future we're going to be very hard pushed to find fish to feed our children."

Mr Green has been fishing his local bay for decades - but not any more. He's set up a project with his fellow fishermen to voluntarily stop fishing here for six months of the year, hoping that this will allow fish stocks to replenish.

"This is our office," he says. "You go to the office to work. We come here to work. This is where we earn our livelihood. So we've got to protect it."

During the six months off, they have to fish further out to sea, while some of them do other things like carpentry too.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-50670808#

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Climate change: 'Invest $1.8 trillion to adapt'

10 Sept 2019 - Investing $1.8 trillion over the next decade - in measures to adapt to climate change - could produce net benefits worth more than $7 trillion.

10 Sept 2019 - Investing $1.8 trillion over the next decade - in measures to adapt to climate change - could produce net benefits worth more than $7 trillion.

This is according to a global cost-benefit analysis setting out five adaptation strategies.

The analysis was carried out by the Global Commission on Adaptation - a group of 34 leaders in politics, business and science.

They say the world urgently needs to be made more "climate change resilient".

The commission, led by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, argues that it is an urgent moral obligation of richer countries to invest in adaptation measures that will benefit the world.

The report says those most affected by climate change "did least to cause the problem - making adaptation a human imperative".

Its primary aim is to put climate change adaptation on to the political agenda around the world. And to do this, it sets out "concrete solutions" and an economic plan.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49635546

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Sharks and rays to be given new international protections

26 Aug 2019 - BBC - Countries have agreed to strengthen protections for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, including those hunted for their meat and fins.

26 Aug 2019 - BBC - Countries have agreed to strengthen protections for 18 threatened species of sharks and rays, including those hunted for their meat and fins.

The proposal was passed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on Sunday.

The newly protected species include mako sharks, wedgefishes and guitarfishes.

A demand for shark fin soup is one of the driving factors in the depleting numbers of sharks in the ocean.

The proposal, which was tabled by Mexico and requires ratification this week, means that the species can no longer be traded unless it can be proven that their fishing will not impact the possibility of their survival.

The number of sharks killed each year in commercial fisheries is estimated at 100 million, with a range between 63 million and 273 million, according to The Pew Trust.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-49466717#

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Campaign #FillTheBottle aims to tidy up cigarette butts

9 Aug 2019 - BBC - Plastics, arsenic, lead and nicotine from butts can all harm marine life. Just one per litre of water can be highly toxic to fish, research suggests.

9 Aug 2019 - BBC - Plastics, arsenic, lead and nicotine from butts can all harm marine life. Just one per litre of water can be highly toxic to fish, research suggests.

Cigarette butts - flicked into drains, mashed under foot or dropped in parks - are a common sight around the world.

But a campaign launched by a group of French teenagers to tidy them up has highlighted their environmental impact.

Amel Talha launched the hashtag #FillTheBottle after a friend collected cigarette butts in a water bottle and posted a photo on Twitter.

The campaign has inspired thousands to clean up what is thought to be the most common form of litter around the globe.

"This is a big problem in France but also all around the world," the 18-year-old tells the BBC, adding she is "extremely happy and proud" that the campaign has had such an effect.

Amel's friend Jason Prince first posted an image of a plastic water bottle filled to the cap with cigarette butts last Wednesday.

"20 minutes to fill this 1 litre bottle in an area of less than 50m," he wrote. "This is extremely serious."

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49263685?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/science_and_environment&link_location=live-reporting-story

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'Fish are vanishing' - Senegal's devastated coastline

6 Nov 2018 - Foreign trawlers and an expanding fishmeal industry are threatening the livelihood of Senegalese fishermen, forcing many to migrate to Europe.

6 Nov 2018 - BBC News - Foreign trawlers and an expanding fishmeal industry are increasingly threatening the livelihood of Senegalese fishermen, forcing many to migrate to Europe, writes the BBC's Alfonso Daniels.

Mor Ndiaye, 34, has lived all his life in St Louis, a bustling fishing town in northern Senegal. Its sandy streets are crammed with children and roaming goats. Life here was good until a few years ago when everything changed.

"The fish just vanished, what can we do? We used to catch enough fish in a day or two. Now we need to go out at sea for weeks to catch the same amount. It's terrifying, we can only rely on God," he says, standing next to men carrying fish in large plastic crates over their heads from the few traditional wooden boats arriving ashore.

St Louis, a former French West African colonial capital, lies at the heart of one of the world's richest fishing areas.

Fish caught here - mainly sardinella and other so-called pelagic or open sea fish migrating up and down the coast - have provided up to 75% of the protein consumed by millions of people in Senegal and across Africa's interior in countries like Burkina Faso and Mali.

'Soaring fish prices'

But decades of mainly European and Asian trawlers scouring its coastline have meant that its waters have been overfished.

As fish run out, artisanal fishermen are building larger boats to go further out to sea, making overfishing even worse. Others have decided to migrate to Europe. 

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-46017359

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Climate change: Oceans 'soaking up more heat than estimated'

1 Nov 2018 - The world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years, researchers say. 

1 Nov 2018 - BBC News - The world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years, researchers say. Their study suggests that the seas have absorbed 60% more than previously thought. They say it means the Earth is more sensitive to fossil fuel emissions than estimated. This could make it much more difficult to keep global warming within safe levels this century.

What have the researchers found?

According to the last major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's oceans have taken up over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases.

But this new study says that every year, for the past 25 years, we have put about 150 times the amount of energy used to generate electricity globally into the seas - 60% more than previous estimates.

That's a big problem.

Scientists base their predictions about how much the Earth is warming by adding up all the excess heat that is produced by the known amount of greenhouse gases that have been emitted by human activities.

This new calculation shows that far more heat than we thought has been going into oceans. But it also means that far more heat than we thought has been generated by the warming gases we have emitted.

Therefore more heat from the same amount of gas means the Earth is more sensitive to CO2.

What are the implications of the finding?

The researchers involved in the study believe the new finding will make it much harder to keep within the temperature rise targets set by governments in the Paris agreement. Recently the IPCC spelled out clearly the benefits to the world of keeping below the lower goal of 1.5C relative to pre-industrial levels.

This new study says that will be very difficult indeed.

"It is a big concern," said lead author Dr Laure Resplandy from Princeton University in New Jersey.

"If you look at the IPCC 1.5C, there are big challenges ahead to keep those targets, and our study suggests it's even harder because we close the window for those lower pathways."

The report suggests that to prevent temperatures rising above 2C, carbon emissions from human activities must be reduced by 25% more than previously estimated.

What does it mean for the oceans?

As well as potentially making it more difficult to keep warming below 1.5 or even 2C this century, all that extra heat going into the oceans will prompt some significant changes in the waters.

"A warmer ocean will hold less oxygen, and that has implications for marine ecosystems," said Dr Resplandy.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46046067#

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Single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament

24 Oct 2018 - The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

24 Oct 2018The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.

The proposal also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.

One MEP said, if no action was taken, "by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans".

The European Commission proposed a ban in May, following a surge in public support attributed to documentaries such as David Attenborough's BBC Blue Planet series.

The measure still has to clear some procedural hurdles, but is expected to go through. The EU hopes it will go into effect across the bloc by 2021.

The UK will also have to incorporate the rules into national law if the ban becomes a fully-fledged directive before the end of a Brexit transition period.

After the Parliament vote was backed by 571-53, the MEP responsible for the bill, Frédérique Ries, said it was "a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations."

Several countries are already considering proposals to target disposable plastic products - including the UK.

What's being banned?

The directive targets some of the most common ocean-polluting plastics.

The list of banned items such as cutlery and cotton buds was chosenbecause there are readily available alternatives, such as paper straws and cardboard containers.

Other items, "where no alternative exists" will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025. Examples given include burger boxes and sandwich wrappers.

MEPs also tacked on amendments to the plans for cigarette filters, a plastic pollutant that is common litter on beaches. Cigarette makers will have to reduce the plastic by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

Another ambitious target is to ensure 90% of all plastic drinks bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. Currently, bottles and their lids account for about 20% of all the sea plastic, the European Parliament report said.

Manufacturers will also have to take more responsibility for what happens to their plastic products and packaging.

How big is the problem?

The EU's research on the topic says about 150,000 tonnes of plastic are tossed into European waters every year.

That is only a small contributor to the global problem, with an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic entering the world's oceans annually. And once there, plastic can travel great distances on ocean currents.

Those plastics have a huge effect on marine life.

Fish and large aquatic mammals can be killed by the pollution. Whales can eat plastic bags, making it impossible for them to eat real food which can eventually lead to death.

When plastic debris breaks down from wear and tear, it does not decompose the way other products like wood do - but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, becoming "microplastic".

These tiny fragments often end up in fish and can then be passed on to humans.

Large volumes of plastic waste wash up on beaches, where they can be eaten by sea birds and other animals and kill them.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45965605

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