Ocean Action Hub

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Why tiny Belize is a world leader in protecting the ocean

20 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - Fish stocks are stable and reef health improving, in part thanks to Belize’s substantial ‘no-take’ zones.

20 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - Fish stocks are stable and reef health improving, in part thanks to Belize’s substantial ‘no-take’ zones. Now greater legislation is needed to secure progress.

Covering all of Belize’s waters, the managed access scheme is unique, says fisheries administrator Beverly Wade. “Belize is the only country in the world that has successfully divided all its territorial waters, including functional fishing waters. We direct all fishermen into two of nine areas to build an architecture from the ground up, where a constituent takes ownership of resources because their livelihood depends on it.”

The programme is just part of a groundbreaking approach to ocean protection that has won the tiny country in Central America a reputation as a world leader.

Most recently, in April, Belize expanded the replenishment or “no-take” zones in its marine protected areas from 4.5% to 11.6%, almost tripling zones where fishing is banned, to rebuild fish populations and protect marine habitats. “Nowadays it’s sexy to say ‘this is a no-take area’ somewhere miles out at sea,” says Wade, at her office in Belize City, “but our no-take zone of 16% is a giant achievement for a tiny country like Belize, because all our protected areas are right where people are interacting on a daily basis. That is the hardest thing to achieve.”

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/14/why-tiny-belize-is-a-world-leader-in-ocean-protection?CMP=share_btn_tw

PHOTO: Tony Rath

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Plastic, poverty and paradox: Tracking plastic waste in the Ganges

8 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - India’s most sacred river is also its most polluted, with plastic a major culprit. A new effort will monitor its flow to the ocean and assess poverty linkages.

8 Aug 2019 - The Guardian - India’s most sacred river is also its most polluted, with plastic a major culprit. Now moves are afoot to monitor the flow of rubbish and assess its link to poverty.

Drop a plastic bottle into the Ganges and where does it end up? An all-female team of engineers, explorers and scientists is about to find out by undertaking the first expedition to measure plastic waste in one of the world’s most polluted waterways.

Following the Ganges upstream from where it empties in the Bay of Bengal to its source in the Himalayas, the National Geographic-backed expedition aims to better understand how plastic pollution travels from source to sea and provide solutions for reducing the amount that ends up in the world’s oceans.

The 2,525 km-long Ganges is a river of extreme paradox: though worshipped by 1 billion Hindus and relied on as a water source for roughly 400 million people, it is contaminated with industrial runoff, untreated sewage and household waste. It is also one of 10 rivers responsible for 90% of the plastic that ends up at sea.

The river is, therefore, a perfect starting point for measuring how plastic travels from land into rivers, and from rivers into the ocean, says National Geographic fellow and University of Georgia associate professor Jenna Jambeck, who is co-leading the expedition.

“We know there’s plastic in these river environments and that the plastic is heading into the ocean,” says environmental engineer Jambeck, whose previous research found that 8m metric tons of plastic waste enters oceans every year.

“But we don’t know how far, for instance, if someone dropped a plastic bottle into the Ganges, where it ends up. How far does it go?”

The team of 18 – with researchers from organisations including the Wildlife Institute of India, University of Dhaka and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) – completed the first round of the expedition this spring to collate pre-monsoon plastic levels.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/05/plastic-poverty-and-paradox-experts-head-to-the-ganges-to-track-waste

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IUCN red list reveals wildlife destruction from treetop to ocean floor

23 Jul 2019 - The Guardian - Latest list shows extinction now threatens a third of all assessed species, while overfishing has pushed two families of rays to the brink.

23 Jul 2019 - The Guardian - Latest list shows extinction now threatens a third of all assessed species, while overfishing has pushed two families of rays to the brink.

From the tops of trees to the depths of the oceans, humanity’s destruction of wildlife is continuing to drive many species towards extinction, with the latest “red list” showing that a third of all species assessed are under threat.

The razing of habitats and hunting for bushmeat has now driven seven primates into decline, while overfishing has pushed two families of extraordinary rays to the brink. Pollution, dams and over-abstraction of freshwater are responsible for serious declines in river wildlife from Mexico to Japan, while illegal logging is ravaging Madagascar’s rosewoods, and disease is decimating the American elm.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/18/iucn-red-list-reveals-wildlife-destruction-from-treetop-to-ocean-floor

PHOTO: A guitarfish, one of two families of rays pushed to the brink of extinction in the IUCN’s updated red list. Photograph: Matt Potenski/IUCN

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Humans have made 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950. This is the illustrated story of where it's gone

27 Jun 2019 - Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty. The Guardian US investigates.

27 Jun 2019 - Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty. The Guardian US investigates.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/23/all-the-plastic-ever-made-study-comic?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life - UN

6 May 2019 - From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate that is tens to hundreds of times higher than

6 May 2019 - From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate that is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10m years, according to the Global Assessment Report by the United Nations.

The report says that values and goals need to change across governments so that local, national and international policymakers are aligned to tackle the underlying causes of planetary deterioration. This includes a shift in incentives, investments in green infrastructure, accounting for nature deterioration in international trade, addressing population growth and unequal levels of consumption, greater cooperation across sectors, new environmental laws and stronger enforcement.

Greater support for indigenous communities and other forest dwellers and small-holders is also essential. Many of the last hold-outs for nature are in areas managed by such groups, but even here the pressures are beginning to take a toll, as wildlife declines along with knowledge of how to manage it.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

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New York State bans single-use plastic bags

2 Apr 2019 - Home to almost 20 million residents, the state will ban most single-use plastic bags provided by supermarkets and other stores starting in March 2020. 

2 Apr 2019 - Drivers traveling into the busiest sections of Manhattan will be subject to a congestion charge starting in 2021 and single-use plastic bags will be banned across New York state in less than a year, under a $175.5bn state budget agreement announced on Sunday by the governor, Andrew Cuomo, and legislative leaders.

Most single-use plastic bags provided by supermarkets and other stores will be banned statewide starting 1 March 2020. Counties will have the option of charging 5 cents for paper bags, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state environmental protection fund.

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Plastics 'leading to reproductive problems for wildlife'

27 Feb 2019 - Plastics are an increasing cause of concern due to potential sources of chemicals that disrupt hormones and affect the growth and reproductive success of a wide variety of wi

27 Feb 2019 - Plastics are an increasing cause of concern due to potential sources of chemicals that disrupt hormones and affect the growth and reproductive success of a wide variety of wildlife, according to a new report.

Wildlife in the oceans and on land are subject to cocktails of pollutants known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), but little is still known about how these common substances interact in the environment despite years of research. The increasing problem of plastic waste breaking down in fragile ecosystems is now one of the key areas of research for scientists.

Killer whales with high levels of pollutants known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were used in many plastics before being banned globally in 2004, have shown reproductive problems. A pod off the west coast of Scotland known to have high levels of PCBs has failed to produce a single calf in 25 years.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/27/plastics-leading-to-reproductive-problems-for-wildlife

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Liberia's success in struggle to end illegal fishing

28 Jan 2019 - For years, Liberia fought a losing battle against the foreign vessels plundering its coastline. Then a bold new approach sent fines – and arrests – soaring.

28 Jan 2019 - For years, Liberia fought a losing battle against the foreign vessels plundering its coastline. Then a bold new approach sent fines – and arrests – soaring.

Petty officer George Kromah, of the Liberian coastguard, slings his AK47 across his back before disappearing over the side of the Sam Simon, joining his colleagues in the rib below. The boat roars off, quickly followed by a second, speeding through the choppy Atlantic swell in pursuit of a suspected illegal fishing vessel that has crossed into Liberia’s territorial waters from Sierra Leone.

Kromah and his fellow officers are on the frontline of the little nation’s ill-matched crackdown on fisheries crime – which Interpol has linked with the trafficking of drugs and people, as well as fraud and tax evasion.

The largely ungoverned waters of west Africa are plagued on a daily basis by big industrial vessels from wealthier nations that plunder hundreds of tonnes of fish, at the expense of local fisherman. One 2017 study estimates the cost of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) to just six west African countries at $2.3bn (£1.8bn) a year. It is a cost that Liberia, one of the world’s poorest nations – and heavily dependent on foreign aid after decades of civil war – cannot afford.

But neither has it funds to police its 370km of coastline.

Two years ago, the defence ministry of this tiny country of 4.7 million people took an unusual step to tackle multi-million dollar crimes: partnering with Sea Shepherd, self-styled “eco-vigilantes”, known for controversial tactics against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. The Guardian travelled with the coastguard aboard the Sam Simon, a 56-metre patrol vessel provided to the military, along with its largely volunteer crew.

The pursuit of the suspected illegal tuna boat, the Oriental Kim, ended undramatically with a warning rather than an arrest. It was found to be broadly operating legally, with some discrepancies. But according to Sea Shepherd, news of policing at sea has “spread like wildfire” among vessel owners, creating a deterrent effect.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/28/liberia-eco-vigilantes-score-arresting-success-in-struggle-to-end-illegal-fishing

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‘Stop treating seas as a sewer’

18 Jan 2019 - Paris agreement for the sea recommended as rates of plastic pollution to skyrocket

18 Jan 2019 - Paris agreement for the sea recommended as rates of plastic pollution to skyrocket

A new global agreement to protect the seas should be a priority for the government to stop our seas becoming a “sewer”, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

Plastic pollution is set to treble in the next decade, the environmental audit committee warned, while overfishing is denuding vital marine habitats of fish, and climate change is causing harmful warming of the oceans as well as deoxygenation and acidification.

The effects of plastic pollution are particularly poorly understood, the committee found in its report, published on Thursday. It found “a lack of data on the serious long-term harm and health implications of plastic particles entering the food chain” and accused the government of treating the oceans as “out of sight, out of mind”.

One way of tackling the problem would be through a “Paris agreement for the sea”, the MPs recommended. Governments are still working on a possible new ocean protection treaty, under the UN. The MPs also called for the government to bring forward the target date of phasing out avoidable plastic waste from 2042, and urged greater action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/17/stop-treating-seas-as-a-sewer-mps-urge-in-bid-for-protection-treaty

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How whale sharks saved a Philippine fishing town and its sea life

2 Jan 2019 - Diving tours run by former fishermen have lifted the villagers out of poverty and given new protection to overfished marine life.

2 Jan 2019 - Diving tours run by former fishermen have lifted the villagers out of poverty and given new protection to overfished marine life.

Fishermen-turned-entrepreneurs who have been financing the protection of endangered whale sharks in the Philippines have hit on a successful scheme to help lift their coastal community out of poverty, new research has found.

A group of 58 fishermen from the town of Oslob who were struggling to feed their families turned to the world’s largest fish species to set up a community based dive company in 2011. It has since become an international hotspot for tourists to swim with the sharks, attracting more than 750,00 visitors in the first five years and amounting to $18.4m (£14.7m) in ticket sales over the same period.

The attraction, whereby former fishermen take tourists out on boats to observe, swim and dive with the whale sharks, has not been without controversy. But now scientists claim the unique business model has improved food security, healthcare and education in the community while also safeguarding the species, that is protected by law but illegally poached and finned alive in other parts of the country.

An analysis of how Oslob Whale Sharks (OWS), run by 177 former fishermen in partnership with local government, has impacted on livelihoods and the environment has been published in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management.

“Oslob, in the province of Cebu, is one of the poorest fishing sites in the Philippines but also anywhere in the world,” said Judi Lowe, a marine scientist at the Southern Cross University in Australia who led the research with Johann Tejada at the Bureau of Fishery and Aquatic Resources.

Lowe said, before the creation of OWS many of the fishermen could not afford to put food on their table or educate their children, while some had lost their palm frond homes in typhoons.

Former fishermen Jesson Jumuad who leads a team at OWS said: “As fishermen we were earning as little as $1.40 a day but nothing on days when the current was strong.

“Sometimes in a day I didn’t have any fish to be sold but now I can give my family good food three times a day. I have built a brick house, bought a motor bike and can afford to send my daughter to school.”

Historically, food security in the area has been an issue due to years of overfishing and the destruction of coral reefs. Between the 1950s and 1980s Oslob was home to a destructive form of fishing called muro ami, whereby a fleet of boats run by local elites used child slaves to bring in catches, explained Lowe.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/10/how-whale-sharks-saved-a-filippino-fishing-town-and-its-sea-life