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Positive ocean news: December edition

5 minute read

To end the year on a positive note and spread some cheer, we've rounded up some good news stories for our seas from December.

Part of sea wall removed to protect saltmarsh habitat

saltmarsh Essex

Credit: Alan Hancock / Pixabay

Around 250 metres have been taken down in Essex to prevent the erosion of saltmarsh, which was estimated to disappear in the next 100 years if left as is.

The National Trust said the move will “give more space for nature to operate”, as it will allow high tides to deposit seeds, new sediment and create new saltmarsh.

Saltmarsh acts as a habitat for several species, provides nursery grounds for fish and sequesters carbon, making it a valuable marine ecosystem.

Read more on the BBC News website

Unlimited fines introduced for companies that pollute environment

Fish and plastic pollution in the sea Rich Carey

Credit: Rich Carey via Shutterstock

The Environment Agency has scrapped the £250,000 cap on fines for firms which pollute Britain's waterways and natural habitats, including sewage and agricultural waste.

The list of offences punishable by a now unlimited fine has also been expanded as the Environment Agency seeks to hold polluters, including water companies, to account. It now includes a breach of permit conditions from sites that discharge into rivers and seas, such as sewage treatment works and permitted storm overflows.

The changes will affect all companies with environmental permits, including water and waste companies, and the agricultural sector.

Steve Barclay, the Environment Secretary, said, “Polluters should be in no doubt that if they harm our precious habitats and waterways they will pay.”

Read more on the Business Green website

Chemists develop non-toxic method to break down plastic from fishing nets

A team at Northwestern University has developed a way to easily deconstruct Nylon-6, the complex plastic polymers used in fishing nets, offering a potential way to remove these sources of ocean pollution in future.

Fishing net on beach

Credit: Joshua J. Cotten

The new method breaks down Nylon-6, which is too strong and durable to do so on its own, at a low-cost and without producing harmful by-products. Unlike other similar methods, the Northwestern University team’s doesn’t use toxic solvents, which contribute to further pollution, or extreme conditions.

The development allows the tough plastic to be broken down at a low-cost, meaning that it could potentially be used more widely in future to tackle the estimated 453,000kgs of fishing equipment abandoned in the ocean each year.

Read more on the Good News Network website

Mangrove protection goal endorsed at COP28


Credit: Waranont Joe

At COP28 in Dubai, 21 countries, including the UK, endorsed the Mangrove Breakthrough, supporting its goal of restoring and protecting 15 million hectares of mangroves globally by 2030.

Mangroves lock down carbon, provide food and shelter for marine life, and act as natural barriers against rising tides and storms, preventing damage to coastal communities and reducing flood risks.

Through USD $4 billion of finance, the Mangrove Breakthrough aims to halt mangrove losses, restore half of recent losses, double mangrove protections globally, and ensure long-term finance for these vital ecosystems.

USD $2.3 million of new financing for the Mangrove Breakthrough Secretariat was also announced.

Since COP27 last year, 30 countries have become members of the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, covering over 60% of mangroves globally. The global network aims to protect and restore mangrove ecosystems and promote them as a nature-based solution to climate change.

Read more on the COP28 website

Ancient sea predator fossil discovered on Dorset bay

The complete fossilised skull of a marine reptile called a ‘pliosaur’ which roamed the sea 150 million years ago was discovered, giving scientists new insights into the fascinating creature.

West Bay, Dorset beach and cliff

Credit: Natasha Ewins

Measuring around 10 metres in length, with four flipper-like fins, 130 teeth and a bite force more than twice that of a saltwater crocodile, the pliosaur is believed to have been a powerful predator in ancient seas.

The wonderfully preserved two-metre-long fossil still has every bone present and offers a level of detail not seen in other fossils from the same species.

Scientists will be examining the fossil to learn more about how the huge ocean reptiles lived and dominated their ecosystem.

Read more on the BBC News website

Value of ocean recognised on Climate, Nature and Ocean Day

COP28’s Climate, Nature and Ocean Day recognised the ocean as a vital solution to tackling the climate crisis, with $186 million of new funding pledged towards nature-based solutions to tackle climate change and to invest in the ocean.

Cuttlefish and Ballan Wrasse -Porthkerris, Cornwall- RS32495-Georgie Bull

Credit: Georgie Bull

Among this was an additional £640,000 of UK Government funding to support the restoration of saltmarsh and seagrass habitats in England.

20 countries signed the joint statement on climate, nature and people, which recognises that promoting ocean health provides a range of benefits that will deliver action on climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development.

It’s hoped that the statement will align action on nature across the signatory countries and ensure progress and continuity on nature agreements until the next biodiversity conference.

Five Ocean Breakthroughs spanning marine conservation were also announced and emphasise the ocean’s role as a ‘reservoir of untapped solutions’ to tackling climate change.

Ocean-themed music raises money for ocean conservation

Keane Wang, a pianist and composer living in London, has released an ocean-themed album, and will be donating 50% of the proceeds to the Marine Conservation Society.

Within one week of its release, ‘Pacific Lull’ has been streamed over five million times, raising over £3,000 for ocean conservation.

Wang, who grew up in San Diego by the sea, said that the album is “a love letter to our planet’s grandest ocean and an urgent message to preserve it”.

Ocean waves

Credit: Inés Álvarez Fdez

Through cinematic pianos, Pacific Lull conveys the beautiful and vast expanses of the Pacific and the journeys of the magnificent creatures within it.

Wang hopes that the album will help to preserve the ocean and those that call it home, believing that, “we can all make a difference, no matter how small, to save the majestic ocean”.

The album is available to stream on online platforms.

Tool to help identify shark trading in fishing sector developed

A new technique of identifying shark species from tiny fragments of skin may help improve the monitoring of Indonesia’s shark trade.

Alongside fish, some fish factories illegally process sharks and rays, including those which are CITES-listed and protected by Indonesian law.

Hammerhead sharks

Credit: Jéan Béller

A new tool developed by Andhika Prasetyo and his research team can help identify and monitor cases of this by analysing small skin fragments from the floors of fish factories and processing plants.

This helps provide insight into which shark and ray species are caught, processed and prepared at specific locations, alerting authorities to illegal activity.

The findings of Prasetyo’s research will allow authorities to easily detect and monitor shark and ray trading, which could help strengthen enforcement of shark protection laws.

He is currently working to acquire seven of the DNA-analysing machines and has trained ministry staff to collect the skin samples.

Read more on the Mongabay website