While more negative marine conservation news have been prevalent in 2021 with climate change exacerbating coral bleaching events and overfishing damaging fish stocks all over the globe, it is easy to be pessimistic about the state of the ocean. However, there were also quite a few positive news emerging over the course of the year that leaves a lot to be hopeful about.
- Galapagos Marine Reserve expansion announced
During the COP26 climate change summit, the Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso announced a new marine reserve in the Galapagos, making the already protected area around the islands approximately 60,000 km2 larger. At around 133,000 km2, the Galapagos Marine Reserve is already one of the world’s largest marine reserves. According to the Ecuadorian president, the new addition will add around 60,000 km2 of protected area, while the expansion will include the Cocos Ridge off Costa Rica – an area that is known as an important feeding and migration area for endangered species such as hammerhead sharks, whales, manta rays and sea turtles.
- Thailand bans coral-damaging sunscreens
The Asian country banned coral-damaging sunscreens from all of its marine parks to help reduce the footprint of millions of tourists visiting the country’s beaches each year. Sunscreens have long been known to damage corals. The chemicals found in these products “deteriorate coral reefs, destroy larvae, obstruct their reproductive system and cause coral reef bleaching,” according to the announcement by Thailand’s Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, quoted by science news portal Phys.org.
- UK launches vast video-based ocean wildlife monitoring system
The UK Government Blue Belt programme is rolling out an expansive ocean monitoring system – named the Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network – so that scientists can improve their understanding of the marine environment and better protect marine life. The vast network of underwater camera rigs will will be used to document the incredible marine biodiversity in 10 Overseas Territories: Pitcairn, Ascension, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and within the British Antarctic Territory.
- Trawl fishing banned off Sussex coastline to restore kelp forests
A new bylaw that prohibits damaging trawl fishing in 300km2 of the seabed off Sussex has been approved, according to the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA). The hope is that this move will support the recovery of kelp forests. The bylaw has been approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after it was first agreed by the Sussex IFCA in January 2020, following a public consultation.
- The elusive bigfin squid was caught on camera
With only around a dozen confirmed sightings worldwide, the capturing of an adult bigfin squid on camera during NOAA’s Windows to the Deep 2021 expedition off the West Florida Escarpment in the Gulf of Mexico was a special event. Bigfin squids (Magnapinna) can grow longer than 6 metres in length with its arms and tentacles taking up most of its overall size. They are rarely spotted as they live in extreme depths. Like other squid, the species has eight arms and two tentacles that are covered with microscopic suckers but the bigfin squid uses its arms differently to other squid species. Researchers suspect that it casts its long arms downwards when fluttering up to catch its prey, somewhat like a living spider web.
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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.