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Positive ocean news: 2022 in review

5 minute read

As 2022 comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some of the wins for our ocean over the past year to celebrate the progress made – enjoy!

UK nations ban single-use plastic items

Takeaway Packaging on beach - Jaru Photo

Credit: Jaru Photo

In June, Scotland became the first UK nation to implement a ban on many of the most problematic single-use plastics such as plastic cutlery, polystyrene cups and containers, drinks stirrers and balloon sticks.

The Isle of Man followed suit in October, banning 10 single-use plastic items like cutlery, straws and carrier bags from 2023.

Wales has become the most recent nation to take a stance on the plastic problem, by legislating against a comprehensive list of single-use plastic items. The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill was passed by the Senedd in December and includes items such as plastic cotton bud sticks, thin plastic carrier bags, and products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

These laws will help reduce some of the estimated 11 million tonnes of plastic pollution which enter our ocean each year, harming wildlife and plaguing our shores.

Record number of species to be regulated by CITES

Shark and fish swimming - Sieuwert Otterloo

Credit: Sieuwert Otterloo

Following COP19, Parties to the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and flora (CITES) agreed to adopt proposals regulating the international trade in over 500 new species, including nearly 100 species of sharks and shark-like rays.

The protections will help to ensure trade of a variety of marine species, such as fish and turtles, is both legal and sustainable. The trade of all 54 species of requiem sharks – 70% of which are threatened with extinction – will be regulated, representing a huge win for the animals which are heavily targeted for their fins.

Read the full article on the BBC News website

UK Government bans damaging fishing from four Marine Protected Areas

The UK Government introduced a byelaw banning fishing activities which harm wildlife and damage habitats from four UK Marine Protected Areas.

Bottom trawling and dredging are some of the activities no longer permitted in the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation, Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation, and South Dorset and The Canyons Marine Conservation Zones. The move will help protect marine environments and support biodiversity.

Read the full article on the Skipper website

More good news for Dogger Bank

Dogger-Bank-Credit-Dutch Marine Productions-WWF

Credit: Dutch Marine Productions/WWF

Following this ban, damaging fishing taking place within the Dogger Bank MPA has dropped by 98%.

Our analysis found that the number of hours of bottom towed fishing between June and October dropped from an average of 623 hours in 2015-2019 to just 13 hours in 2022 – representing a huge win for this area and the marine life that call it home.

Read more on the ITV website

Europe's largest ever turtle species discovered

Giant turtle underwater - Jesse-schoff

Credit: Jesse Schoff

A new species of giant turtle, Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, was discovered in northern Spain and, at a length of 3.7 metres, is one of the largest turtles in history.

Before this, the largest European turtles measured 1.5 metres in length, with larger turtles of over three metres long only found in North America. Scientists are hopeful that there may be additional giant turtle species in Europe which have yet to be discovered.

Read the full article on the Natural History Museum website

30% of ocean to be protected by 2030

Ocean waves

Credit: Anastasia Taioglou

Currently, only 10% of the planet’s marine areas are protected, but at the UN biodiversity summit, COP15, almost 200 countries reached a landmark deal to safeguard 30% by 2030.

The agreement will protect 30% of the planet’s ocean considered important for biodiversity within the next eight years, and restore 30% of degraded inland water, coastal and marine ecosystems.

This is a great win for our ocean and its inhabitants, particularly those under threat of extinction. Having an agreed, global approach to protecting our planet and ocean gives hope that they may both thrive and flourish in years to come.

Read the full article on the BBC News website

Western Australia set to introduce 9-month recreational fishing ban

Fishing boat - Stephen-momot

Credit: Stephen Momot

The Western Australia government is aiming to reduce fishery catches by 50% following concerns of the sustainability of key indicator species in the area, such as pink snapper.

The 900-kilometre stretch of coastline is home to over 100 species of bottom-feeding fish, but analysis of stocks last year found a shortage of older fish, which tend to be the most important and prolific feeders.

It’s been agreed that recreational and professional fishing catch needs to be reduced from 750 tonnes annually to 350 tonnes. To do this, the government proposed a fishing season in the area of either 94 or 123 days.

The commercial fishing industry endorses the plan, with the Chief Executive of the WA Fishing Industry Council saying it’s “absolutely essential that action is taken straight away” to promote the sustainability of fishing in the area.

Read the full article on the ABC News website

Coral reefs: Recovery, discovery, and protection

Coral reef - unsplash

Credit: Qui Nguyen

Earlier this year, one of the largest coral reefs ever found was discovered in Tahiti. Not only this, but it appears to be completely undisturbed and unaffected by human activity, unlike many reefs.

Coral reefs are valuable networks and are home to a quarter of the planet’s marine life, providing food and shelter for them, so finding new and unharmed coral reefs gives great hope for the future of the ocean and its inhabitants.

Over in Australia, two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef are showing the best signs of recovery in 36 years, with a long-term programme also announced to monitor its progress. Hard coral cover increased from a low of 12-13% in 2017-2019, to 33-36% this year, showing that the reef is still a resilient system and can recover from damage.

The latest good news for coral comes following this year’s COP27, with the US agency for International Development (USAID) contributing €15 million to help protect coral reefs in Egypt’s Red Sea. The reefs are home to around 350 coral species and over 1000 species of fish, and attract millions of tourists each year, boosting the economy.

We'll back next year to spread some more ocean optimism with positive ocean news stories and wins for our seas, so stay tuned!