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Positive ocean news: January edition

5 minute read

We're starting off the year with some ocean optimism, and have rounded-up some good news stories for our seas from this month.

Ireland designates country’s largest Special Protection Area for seabirds

Northern Gannets over Atlantic

Credit: Kevin Morgans

The ‘Seas off Wexford’ Special Protection Area (SPA) covers over 753,000 acres (305,000 hectares) of marine waters which are important for 20 rare or threatened seabird species.

Of the eight current SPAs in Ireland, four are designated to protect breeding seabirds but the Seas off Wexford is the largest and brings the total of the country’s protected marine waters to almost 10%.

The Wexford SPA will protect vulnerable seabird species including various terns and gulls, puffins, cormorants, gannets, kittiwakes, red-throated divers, razorbills, and guillemots. These birds, among others, use the newly protected area year-round for feeding, breeding and roosting.

Read more on the Oceanographic website

Kent seagrass restoration project launched

Dwarf eelgrass seeds are to be planted across three sites in Kent, in a new project which aims to protect and reverse recent declines in seagrass habitats.

Seagrass meadows are vital marine habitats, providing food, shelter, and nursing and feeding grounds for marine life, whilst also removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.

But, 39% of the UK’s seagrass has been lost since the 1980s, due to pollution, industrial development and seabed disturbance.

Seagrass and fish

Credit: Benjamin L. Jones

It’s hoped that the new planting initiative, which is run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), will help to reduce pressures on, and restore, local eelgrass populations, which provide essential food for birds such as brent geese and mute swans over winter.

Once the seeds have been planted at the trial sites, they will be monitored over time, with the findings used to inform restoration efforts in the Thames Estuary. The charity is also calling on decision-makers to safeguard current seagrass habitats, which it is mapping and monitoring.

Read more on the Oceanographic website

The City of Edinburgh Council bans glitter from educational materials catalogue

In a move to reduce microplastic pollution, The City of Edinburgh Council has strongly advised schools and early years centres against the use of glitter and removed all glitter products, including ‘bio glitter’ from its purchasing catalogues.


Credit: Jason Leung

An estimated 176,000 tonnes of microplastics, including glitter, are released into the environment each year, passing through water filtration systems, and entering waterways where they harm marine life.

The decision comes following the campaigning of Natasha Stewart, an Early Years Practitioner and Sustainability Lead for a Council nursery, who is a Sea Champion at the Marine Conservation Society.

Alongside local councillor Steve Burgess, she invited and met with the council’s procurement team to discuss removing non-sustainable items from citywide educational resources – which it agreed to do.

Alena Katushkina, from the procurement team, said, “Glitter has become a staple in many settings, but by making a conscious effort to reduce its usage, we can contribute to a cleaner environment. By collectively choosing more sustainable options, we can make a positive impact on our surroundings.”

Read more here

Hungary introduces Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers

Beer bottle litter on Crantock beach Cornwall Natasha Ewins

Credit: Natasha Ewins

Hungary is now the 15th European country to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for single-use drinks containers. Through its scheme, Hungary is aiming to recycle 90% of plastic and glass bottles and metal drinks cans within three years.

Deposit Return Schemes such as this help reduce litter and promote a circular economy which focusses on reusing materials rather than gathering new raw ones. This lowers carbon emissions from production and reduces pollution from litter.

Upon return, consumers will receive HUF50 (equivalent to 11p) when they return a container at one of 2,000 reverse vending machines which have been installed.

Read more on the Packaging Insights website

Fish last recorded 13 years ago spotted again

The leopard barbel, which was last recorded in 2011, has been seen again in Turkey’s Tigis River by a local fisher and team of scientists.

Although once abundant in Eastern Turkey and Syria, Iran and Iraq’s rivers, pollution, fishing, construction and habitat destruction have left the species on the brink of extinction.

Leopard barbel

Credit: Metin Göksu

Having heard of recent sightings from fishers, associate professor Cüneyt Kaya and assistant professor Münevver Oral set out to find the fish once more.

While on their expedition on the Tigis River, the team received a call from Ülkü, a fisher who had spotted and caught one of the sought-after leopard barbels. By the time they reached Ülkü to identify the fish, he had caught another.

Kaya and Oral are hoping to continue their research to establish how many leopard barbels are still alive today and will be running seminars to inspire pride in the local rivers and wildlife in fishers and teachers, using the rediscovery to highlight the need to protect the Tigris River and its biodiversity.

Read more on the Good News Network website

Social enterprise training young people to become ocean conservationists launches

Sea Ranger Service boot camp 2

Credit: Sea Ranger Service

Earlier this month, the Sea Ranger Service, a social enterprise aiming to train 20,000 young people in marine-based careers by 2040, launched in the UK.

Founded in the Netherlands, the organisation provides young people aged 18-29 with training and career prospects in marine conservation, while earning a salary.

As well as providing training in ocean conservation areas such as biodiversity restoration, climate research and monitoring, the Sea Ranger Service also helps tackle poverty and unemployment in deprived coastal communities by working predominantly with those from such areas.

Those involved in the scheme will be taken on sailing expeditions from Port Talbot, Wales, on a Sea Ranger boat, which they will later learn to operate, where they’ll be employed as full-time sea rangers.

Read more on the Positive News website

Study finds cold-water swimming eases menopause and menstrual symptoms

Research by University College London has found that cold-water swimming can yield mental and physical health benefits, with participants reporting reduced anxiety and menopausal symptoms such as mood swings and hot flushes.

Woman in sea

Credit: Wren Meinberg

The study identified five key benefits of cold-water swimming, which increased with the length of time spent in the water. As well as finding the water to be calming and mood-boosting, respondents gained companionship and community, with one participant saying, “the camaraderie, shared stories and laughter are part of the magic.”

Swimming improved the women’s experience of periods, with 38% reporting better control of mood swings. Of the women experiencing menopause at the time, 63% said they swam in cold water specifically to address symptoms.

One study participant said, “Cold water is phenomenal. It has saved my life. In the water I can do anything. All symptoms (physical and mental) disappear and I feel like me at my best.”

Read more on the Guardian website

UK to ban disposable vapes

The UK Government is to ban single-use vapes in response to a consultation on smoking and vaping.

Single-use vapes are often littered in the environment, where they make their way into waterways and end up in our seas. They pose a threat to wildlife and add to the ever-growing problem of marine pollution in the UK.


Credit: Glittersocks16 Twitter

Campaigners such as Laura Young have been calling on the UK Government to ban disposable vapes due to their environmental impact – 1.3 million are thrown away each week in the UK and they are difficult to recycle, meaning they end up as waste.

Environmental organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society, who supported Laura’s campaign, welcome the announcement.

Calum Duncan, the charity’s Head of Scotland said, “We’re delighted that disposable vapes are going to be banned across the UK, helping to prevent so many of them polluting our seas. We must learn from this example of a relatively new type of litter and ensure that governments don’t allow other types of disposable items that could be environmentally damaging to enter shops in the first place.”

Read more on the BBC website