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Positive Ocean News: February edition

5 minute read

It’s been a good month for our ocean, so we’ve rounded up some positive news stories from February to celebrate.

Greater Skellig Coast becomes Ireland’s first Hope Spot

Puffin on Skellig Coast, Ireland - isaac-burke

Credit: Isaac Burke

An area of Ireland’s south-west coast joins 148 other ‘Hope Spots’, designated by Mission Blue, including the Galápagos Islands and the Great Barrier Reef, which have been scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean.

The Greater Skellig Coast, stretching from County Kerry to County Clare, covers around 7,000 sq kms and is home to critically endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction which rely on the area for breeding and feeding.

The area has also been listed as one of 16 potential sites in Ireland to become Marine Protected Areas.

Read the full article on the BBC News website

Costa Rica bans fishing of hammerhead sharks

Hammerhead sharks

Credit: Jéan Béller

This month, the Costa Rican government signed a decree prohibiting the fishing and commercialisation of hammerhead sharks - including the smooth hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, and great hammerhead species.

Hammerhead sharks are prized for their fins, with the capturing and selling of them driven by the demand for shark fin soup. However, the announced ban also includes the species’ by-products, such as fins and teeth.

In the past ten years, Costa Rica’s hammerhead shark population has declined by around 90%, despite it having both a World Heritage Site and shark sanctuary to protect areas with high populations of hammerhead species.

It’s hoped that the recent ban will help protect these endangered species, which are printed on Costa Rica’s money and attract thousands of tourists each year, from further decline.

Read the full article on the Costan Rican News website

Hearing granted in landmark sewage pollution legal case

Sewage in the sea

Credit: Shutterstock: Andrei Metelev

Progress has been made in a legal case against the UK Government over its failure to address the mass dumping of untreated sewage into English shores and waterways.

Co-claimants, which include the Marine Conservation Society, brought the case against the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, over her department’s Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan.

The plan, published in August 2022, gives water companies until 2035 to reduce the amount of untreated sewage they dump into bathing waters and areas of ecological importance, whilst they have until 2050 to stop releasing sewage elsewhere.

The co-claimants are calling on the Government to bring forward these deadlines and improve its plan, including stronger protections for the country’s coastal waters.

Read more here

Canada to protect vast marine zone with Great Bear Sea project

Orca whale - Canada

Credit: Thomas Lipke

Canada has announced plans to protect a stretch of its northern coastline, covering over 24 million acres of sea.

The announcement was made at the International Marine Protected Areas Congress which took place in Vancouver this month and follows the success of the country’s ‘Great Bear Rainforest’ – a land-equivalent set up a decade ago to protect an area of forest the size of Ireland.

Populations of wild pacific salmon, eulachon, Dungeness crab and rockfish have plummeted, and there has been a surge in marine traffic in the area due to exports. The Great Bear Sea project will hopefully help the region’s species to recover, and improve genetic diversity to adapt to climate change.

The project will also help protect the area’s whales, herring, seaweed, kelp forests and clams – many of which the coast’s indigenous communities rely on.

Read the full article on the Guardian website

EPA blocks Alaskan gold mine to protect salmon

Salmon jumping in water - unsplash

Credit: Brandon (Unsplash)

The Environmental Protection Agency has blocked proposals for a copper and gold mine in an area of Alaska which is home to one of the biggest salmon spawning grounds in the world, to protect the species.

The decision was made following a review which found discharges from dredging and fill in the proposed mine would adversely affect Alaska’s salmon fishery and cause large-scale loss or damage to the Bristol Bay watershed, which is home to a large and diverse salmon population.

Guido Rahr, the CEO of the Wild Salmon Center, an environmental organisation which opposed the mine, welcomed the decision as a “victory for a whole ecosystem and one of the most important salmon strongholds left on the planet”.

It’s also believed that blocking the mine will help protect the area’s orca whales and grizzly bears which depend on the salmon for food.

Read the full article on the Forbes website

Two dozen manatees released into wild


Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A record twelve manatees were released back into Blue Spring, Florida, with more released later the same week. This brings the total number of ‘sea cows’ released so far this year to almost two dozen.

The manatees were ill or injured before being rescued and rehabilitated in aquariums, zoos and other rehabilitation facilities in the state.

Almost 2,000 manatee deaths were recorded in Florida alone in 2021 and 2022, accounting for almost a fifth of the state's population. The rise in starving manatees and seagrass loss - their favourite food - in the Indian River Lagoon has led to wildlife agencies providing supplemental lettuce in attempts to nourish the animals.

However, there looks to be more good news: the number of manatee deaths in the state is down this Winter, and according to wildlife agencies, manatees in the wild seem to be in better health.

Read the full article on the Inside Climate News website

Canada declares pause on deep-sea mining

Ships on water - Jonas Tebbe -unsplash

Credit: Jonas Tebbe

It was a busy month for Canada, with the country also announcing that deep-sea mining in its territorial and international waters is to be temporarily prohibited.

The declaration was made on the final day of the International Marine Protected Areas Congress, with ministers stating that there will be moratorium until there is enough scientific evidence on the impacts of deep-sea mining to inform decisions.

Canada is the latest of almost a dozen nations calling for a moratorium or pause on deep-sea mining. Among the other nations are Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Fiji and Chile, whilst France is calling for an outright ban of the activity.

Read the full article on the National Observer website