Ocean Week in Review – August 6, 2021: Canada Trails Other Countries in Tackling Seafood Fraud, Killer Whale Habitat Protections Expanded, 45,000 Mangroves to be Planted in Mexico, and more…
1. Canada Trails Other Countries in Tackling Seafood Fraud
The results of Oceana Canada’s latest seafood fraud investigation reveal that 46% of seafood samples tested in restaurants and grocery stores in four major Canadian cities were mislabelled. The investigation is part of the most comprehensive, national, multi-year DNA testing study in Canada. These results demonstrate that Canada has a pervasive and unchecked seafood fraud problem. New market research conducted by Abacus Data for Oceana Canada found that Canadians overwhelmingly support seafood traceability and want the government to act. 87% are concerned about purchasing seafood that is mislabelled, up from 76% in 2020, and 86% are concerned about the government’s failure to address seafood mislabelling and illegal fishing in Canada. The Canadian government committed to implementing a seafood traceability system in 2019, bringing Canada more in line with widely accepted global best practices; however, it has still not offered a timeline for doing so.
2. Killer Whale Habitat Protections Expanded to Monterey Bay Area
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has expanded protections for the habitat of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales to the Monterey Bay, California area. The expanded habitat protection will now stretch from the coastal waters of northern Washington state to the Big Sur coastal area of California. The new protections were enacted because the killer whales hunt for salmon off the coast of California. “While the Southern Residents may be best known in the Pacific Northwest, the whole West Coast can contribute to recovery of the whales and the salmon that they rely on,” said Lynne Barre, recovery coordinator for the Southern Residents. “Regardless of where they are foraging, they feed on a mix of salmon from different West Coast rivers. That means the way we all use water, the way we protect habitat, how we handle our storm runoff—it all makes a difference.”
3. International Environmental Fest Will Plant 45,000 Mangroves in Mexico
The inaugural Plastic Oceans’ Trees & Seas international festival celebrates the importance of forests and oceans. The festival will take place in more than 30 communities internationally, a number of them in Mexico. As part of the festival, volunteers will clean up more than 100 beaches and forests, plant more than 90,000 trees, and attend workshops and panel discussions via Zoom. The planting includes 45,000 mangroves in Mexico as part of an initiative to restore ecosystems through forest and coastal cleanups and educational workshops. “We wanted to create awareness about the connection between ocean and forest conservation, which too often are thought of as separate entities,” says Salvador Ávila, executive director of Plastic Oceans Mexico. “There needs to be a shift in perspective toward viewing them as connected parts of a whole, so we created a global reforestation event in collaboration with semi-aquatic communities.”
4. Sharks Flee Toxic Red Tide, Take Refuge in Florida Canal
Hundreds of coastal sharks have taken refuge in a Florida canal, apparently to escape the effects of a toxic red tide outbreak killing hundreds of tons of marine animals. Residents near the canal recorded unusual footage of bonnethead, blacktip, nurse, and lemon sharks swimming close to their homes. Florida has been battling outbreaks of red tide, caused by the algae Karenia brevis, for several years. This year’s blooms have been particularly significant, marine biologists say. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFWC) reported fish kills over the last week in nine counties and said five counties generated complaints of respiratory distress in humans connected to red tide. Experts say the sharks are seeking a safe haven with food and oxygen, away from polluted water and rotting carcasses. In 2019, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, reactivated an algal bloom taskforce to examine issues related to red tide.
5. Scientists Discover Giant Viruses in Mariana Trench
The first known batch of viruses retrieved from the deepest point in the Mariana Trench includes giant species bigger than some bacterium, according to a research team in Shanghai. While legends of giant sea creatures have been largely debunked because of the challenges to large, complex life forms at the greatest ocean depths, the researchers discovered several giant viral species, including mimiviruses – which typically use amoeba as their hosts – in sediments taken from a seabed nearly 11,000 metres (36,000 feet) below sea level at Challenger Deep. Giant viruses have been found elsewhere, but they appear to be more abundant at the extreme depth, where pressure is 1,100 times that of the atmosphere, than in other conditions. It appears the extreme conditions at the depths of the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific Ocean support the little-known mimivirus.
6. Spear Gun Slaying of Beloved Monk Seal Sparks Outrage
Kostis, a Mediterranean monk seal beloved by residents of and visitors to the Greek island of Alonissos, was recently killed by a spear gun. The news sparked ire across the island and prompted Greek authorities to launch an investigation into Kostis’s killing. The Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal has offered a reward of more than $21,000 to anyone who reports information or evidence to the authorities investigating the seal’s death. Kostis was one of 700 Mediterranean monk seals left worldwide. Alonissos is part of the National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades, the largest marine protected area in Europe, where the Mediterranean monk seal is guarded under Greek law. But in fewer than two years, 19 Mediterranean monk seals have been found dead in the Greek seas, in part due to poor enforcement of protection measures.
7. France Declares New Protections for Glorioso Islands
The rich waters around the Glorioso Islands—a small but biologically significant territory in the western Indian Ocean between the Seychelles and Madagascar—recently became France’s newest marine protected area. The new reserve encompasses more than 43,000 square kilometers (16,600 square miles) of territorial waters—an area slightly larger than Denmark—and 4.3 square kilometers (1.6 square miles) of land. All mining is prohibited within the reserve, and fishing, research, and other human activities are strictly regulated so as not to undermine the ecosystems’ integrity. France has now protected 1.6% of its waters around the globe, showing the French government’s increasing awareness about the importance of highly protecting waters. Although France is moving closer to reaching its commitment to strongly protect at least 10% of its waters by 2022, significant work still needs to be done to achieve that goal.
8. Exhibit at La Jolla Historical Society Showcases California’s Marine Beauty
The La Jolla Historical Society’s new exhibition, “Our Ocean’s Edge,” depicts life in California’s marine protected areas. “Environmental issues are a focus of public attention these days and rightfully so, given the threat of climate change and threat of loss of biodiversity,” Historical Society Director Heath Fox said. “These marine protected areas are like state parks…this is not only a state and San Diego resource but a La Jolla resource. And while a lot of people are familiar with this resource, many may not be, so these works give people the chance to see the marine protected areas and appreciate the beauty and majesty of these assets.” Photographer Jasmine Swope said she was “grateful for the opportunity to work on this important project while showcasing the California coast’s natural beauty, to bring awareness on the importance for a healthy, thriving ocean.”
9. 85-Year-Old Shark Expert Isn’t Done “Looking for Action”
Valerie Taylor has had a long career dedicated to ocean conservation centered around underwater filming of sharks. In Playing with Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story, Taylor is telling her story and helping to reduce fear and increase education surrounding the sea’s most notorious predators. Taylor was a pioneer, showing the world for the first time their true nature and in turn helping to protect them. She even consulted on the hit movie Jaws, which she now regrets, due to the fear it provoked against sharks in the general public. With the culmination of work she has done since then, Taylor notes, “I assume and always have that when I say sharks are not dangerous and not to be afraid, audiences believe me.” At 85, she wants to dive again in Fiji and Indonesia. No doubt she will continue to break boundaries.
10. For First Time, U.S. Fishing Law Could Include Climate Focus
If approved, an overhaul to U.S. fishing law would mark the first time that climate change is mentioned in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, first passed in 1976. The law governs fishing in all federal waters. It would be revamped under legislation sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), the chair of a House subcommittee that oversees fisheries. Under Huffman’s bill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would have to create “fishery management plans to incorporate climate change by promoting stock resilience, identifying data needs, examining the vulnerability of a fishery and its participants to climate change, and assessing the anticipated impacts of climate change.” The bill would also add climate change to the list of fisheries research priorities for NOAA and establish a program to develop tools to increase the adaptive capacity of fishery management to the impacts of climate change.”
11. Deep-Sea Mining Not Necessary for Renewable Energy Transition, Experts Argue
Proponents of deep-sea mining claim that the practice is the best means of supplying minerals used in electric vehicles, storage batteries and other green technologies, but experts from the University of Exeter, Greenpeace Research Laboratories and Globelaw say that humans can make the green transition without needing to mine the deep sea. The paper builds on two previous studies from the same research team considering the risks of mining minerals from the sea bed. For example, projections assume the use of the current lithium-ion battery that incorporates cobalt or nickel. However, there are already alternatives either in use or development, and moving away from a one-person-one-car model and towards improved recycling could significantly reduce demand for new mineral resources. The necessity of deep-sea mining is an important question because of what is at stake: fragile ecosystems, rare species, even the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon.
12. Blue Economy in the Indo-Pacific: Navigating Growth and Conservation
The Blue Economy (BE) is a recent field of study that encompasses economic activities dependent on the sea. It is based on the idea that a healthy ocean can support productive ecosystems, helping integrate economics with environmental sustainability and innovation. But Indo-Pacific countries’ BE projects face implementation problems. Despite a commitment to blue growth, the region’s governments struggle to navigate the tension between conservation and economics. Policymakers commonly prioritize growth to drive national development while neglecting environmental concerns. The development of Kenya’s Lamu port, for instance, resulted in large-scale habitat destruction that the government overlooked. There are some success stories: small island developing states in the Indian Ocean have shown promise in sustainably using ocean resources while generating economic growth and social and financial inclusion, and preserving and restoring ocean ecosystems. Yet, for the vast majority of Indo-Pacific states, the ‘Blue Economy’ remains an aspiration.
13. Dead Turtles, Waves of Plastic Show Sri Lankan Ship Disaster Ramifications
Two months after the X-Press Pearl container ship burned off the coast of Sri Lanka, billions of plastic particles have washed ashore and are expected to disperse throughout the Indian Ocean. Fishing communities have been heavily impacted, and locals fear it will take years to recover from the worst disaster in Sri Lanka’s history. “We are seeing this exponential increase of marine deaths, including dolphins, turtles. The exponential increase started soon after this accident,” said Don Muditha Katuwawala, coordinator for Sri Lankan marine conservation group Pearl Protectors. Meanwhile, the country’s Marine Environmental Protection Authority said in June it had removed 1,000 tons of plastic debris along 200 kilometers (124 miles) of coastline, an incremental portion of the total spillage. Experts warn the pellets will wash up for years and become a permanent part of the currents and tides of the world’s oceans.
14. Report: Marine Protected Areas in Western Indian Ocean Increased Since 2015
A new report has found that countries in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region have set aside 143 marine and coastal locations as protected areas to build climate-resilient fishery systems and boost fish stocks. The protected areas cover 553,163 square kilometers, or nearly 7% of the total exclusive economic zone within the WIO region. 63% of the area encapsulated by protected zones have been created since 2015, a new publication by the U.N. Environment Program – Nairobi Convention and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association said. The paper noted marine protected areas (MPAs) act as buffers against overexploitation of fish stocks and protect fisheries jobs. Notable recent initiatives to entrench the MPAs concept in the region include South Africa declaring 20 new protected areas, and the Seychelles’ announcement it reached 30% of its coastal areas under protection in 2019.
15. Sea Wall Won’t Save Miami but Nature-Based Solutions Could
Miami, Florida is at increasing risk of flooding as sea level rises and storms intensify with climate change. But the sea wall the Army Corps is proposing—protecting only six miles of downtown from a storm surge—can’t save Miami and Dade County. Most of the city will be outside the wall, which will still trap water inside, and the Corps hasn’t closely studied how the sea wall could impact water quality. Green innovations are a better solution. A cement-based breakwater structure submerged offshore with coral transplants could provide habitat for entire ecosystems while affording protection. A modular marine and estuarine system has water flow through hexagonal channels of concrete, losing energy. The top can be filled with soil to grow coastal vegetation such as mangroves, providing even more protection as well as an ecosystem that benefits the bay. Novel green engineering can help the city thrive.
16. Better Design and Enforcement Could Lessen Nuisance of Fish Aggregating Devices
Fish Aggregating Devices—called FADs—allow fishermen to catch a high density of fish using less effort, time, and fuel. But they also result in five times more bycatch than other methods, pick up a high number of juveniles, and often become ghost gear, costing millions of dollars in cleanup efforts in fragile ecosystems. But there are answers for minimizing their impact. One is requiring vessels to use the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to track FADs. This would make finding and connecting them to their owner much easier, and enforcement strategies could incentivize owners to keep better track of their gear. FADs are legally considered fishing devices, so releasing them into protected areas is illegal, as is their abandonment. They could also be designed to decrease the possibility of entanglement and made from biodegradable materials.
17. Europe’s Sustainable Future Depends on the State of the Atlantic Ocean
The European Academies Science Advisory Council has released the results of a study of the state of the North Atlantic and its implications for Europe. It says the Atlantic adds a layer of variability to local sea-level rise in Europe, while the massive loss of ice mass in the Antarctic due to climate change could affect the gravitational pull on the earth’s oceans so that they move towards the Northern Hemisphere. European should “plan for a rise of one meter or more between 2000 and 2100,” says Prof. Michael Norton. The feared weakening of the Gulf Stream is not imminent. Nevertheless, scientists believe the danger is real and warn of its devastating consequences. The report also reveals future benefits from better understanding the state of the Atlantic and climatic conditions over Europe that affect everything from the supply of renewable energy to fisheries.
18. Protecting Whale Sharks in the Northern Arabian Sea
There is much to discover about whale sharks, which are highly vulnerable to ship strikes, bycatch, and pollution. These threats are of particular concern as the species is classified as “Endangered,” which has motivated satellite tagging programs to identify their movement patterns, identify areas of potential threats, and target effective conservation planning. Thanks to advances in satellite telemetry techniques, scientists have increased knowledge of the sharks’ migratory movements. A team of scientists, led by Lucy Arrowsmith of the University of Western Australia, tagged eight sharks in the northern Arabian Sea from 2011 to 2017 using Smart Positioning Tags (SPOT tags). The team observed the sharks remain close to the coast where cooler water temperatures were measured, further evidence for the habitat preferences of this species. “Highlighting these threats and demonstrating the complexity of whale shark movements is vital for their conservation,” said Arrowsmith.
19. Plastic Creates ‘Evolutionary Trap’ for Young Sea Turtles
A new study from the University of Exeter found plastic inside small juvenile turtles along both the east and west coasts of Australia. After hatching on beaches, sea turtles travel on currents in the open ocean. But because these currents now accumulate plastic, by feeding near the surface, many young turtles swallow it. “Juvenile turtles develop in the open ocean, where predators are relatively scarce,” said Dr. Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter. “Our results suggest that this evolved behavior leads them into a ‘trap’ — bringing them into highly polluted areas such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Juvenile sea turtles generally have no specialised diet — they eat anything, and our study suggests this includes plastic.” The researchers don’t yet know what impact ingesting plastic will have, but any losses at these early stages of life could have a significant impact on population levels.
20. Report: Australian Shark Nets Kill Turtles, Prompting Calls to End Use
New data shows turtles frequently die while caught in shark nets around Sydney beaches. The annual report on 51 shark nets running from Newcastle to Wollongong shows 40 of the 375 animals found in nets in the latest season were white, bull, and tiger sharks. Most other animals caught were dead by the time they were found, including five dolphins, as well as a fur seal trapped at Bondi. Twelve of the 18 turtles caught also died, including an olive ridley sea turtle. “The indiscriminate deaths that occur as a result of the outdated Shark Meshing Program in New South Wales must end,” Humane Society International Australia marine biologist Lawrence Chlebeck said. “The technology is nearly 100 years old, we would never accept safety technology that old in any other facet of our lives, why should ocean safety be any different?”
21. CVS, Target and Walmart Pilot Programs to Replace Plastic Bags
Given the reality that plastic bags are more likely to end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch than be recycled, the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag is looking for new ways for people to transport purchases without harming the environment. The consortium is starting a six-week pilot program to test four solutions at nine CVS, Target, and Walmart stores in Northern California. That’ll include a kiosk with totes inside the store, an app-based program that rewards people for reusing their bags, a bag sharing program for forgetful shoppers, and a tracking and rewards system. In addition, Walmart is testing reusable shipping containers and tracking how consumers use bags across the value chain. The consortium is also testing several other alternatives to plastic to make sure they work well for the retailer and consumer and match specifications of existing recycling and composting infrastructure.
22. Ancient Coral Becomes Bottom Trawling By-Catch
A new report reveals up to 5,000 tons of coral, some likely more than two millennia old, was scraped off the seafloor by bottom trawling nets in one year alone. Bottom trawling is a fishing practice where weighted nets are dragged along seamounts to scoop up fish like orange roughy. It is controversial, often due to the undersea species that end up as by-catch. The report also found more than 14 tons of corals were dragged up by the New Zealand fleet’s bottom trawling nets in the 2018-19 year alone, but only a fraction made it to the surface. Researchers estimated that 14 tons of coral in nets meant 1,515 to 4,769 tons had been destroyed on the seabed. Many of the seamounts in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are hotspots for biodiversity, including many ancient, slow-to-reproduce species.
23. Right Whales Increase Activity in Ocean Waters Slated for Offshore Wind Farms
In large swaths of ocean south of Martha’s Vineyard slated for wind energy development, critically endangered North Atlantic right whales are increasing their presence, according to a recent study. Using aerial survey data from 2011 through 2019, the study spotted 327 unique right whales, making the area a crucial habitat for a species on the edge of extinction. The study comes just as the country’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind 1, has cleared federal approvals. The project will include 64 turbines approximately 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Additional leaseholders in the area could significantly increase turbine counts. Offshore wind development could impact the whales in a variety of ways, including an increase in vessel traffic — one of the leading causes of right whale deaths — as well as increased ocean noise and habitat alterations, potentially affecting plankton populations.
24. Pandemic Upheaval Offers a Huge Natural Experiment
Researchers have been using the pandemic as a huge natural experiment to further scientific understanding. One project is Our Ocean in COVID-19, an effort to understand human–ocean interactions during the pandemic using eOceans, a new platform and app that allows researchers and citizen scientists to collect, share, and analyze ocean data. Another study synthesizes hundreds of reports of pandemic impacts on wildlife and the environment collected over the past year. In some cases, species seem to have benefited from human absence, but in others, they suffered as conservation work ground to a halt. For example, an estimated two million seabird chicks perished in 2020 because people could not reach breeding colonies to remove invasive rodents. The pandemic has highlighted the dual role of humans as threats to and custodians of nature, and revealed ways to favorably tilt the delicate balance to protect biodiversity. And the experiment isn’t over yet.
25. Hammerhead Shark Baby Boom Near Florida Hints at a Historic Nursery
Biscayne Bay, off the coast of Miami, may host a hammerhead shark nursery. If confirmed, it would be the first ever identified in United States Atlantic waters for this iconic shark species. Though the site is experiencing a hammerhead shark baby boom, officially designating the area as a nursery will require more monitoring. Juvenile sharks are more common at the site than other areas surveyed and the sharks come back to it for multiple years, but it’s unknown how long the sharks reside at the site — the third and final criteria for the site to qualify as a nursery. Great hammerhead sharks breed infrequently, about once every two years, and have been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as critically endangered. So when nursery areas are discovered, it’s important they remain safe.
26. Columbia River Salmon Reverse Migration Because the Water is Too Hot
A heat-stressed school of sockeye salmon were recently observed swimming in a tributary of the Columbia River in Washington state. The fish appeared to have lesions and fungus spots. They were migrating from the Pacific Ocean to their spawning areas upstream, but were “diverted” by rising water temperatures. The salmon turned around mid-migration to seek cooler water by heading into the Little White Salmon River, a tributary of the Columbia. A recent major heat wave pushed Columbia River water temperatures up to 70°F, an extreme temperature for sockeyes that can prove deadly if the fish are exposed to it for a prolonged period. Under regulations established by the Clean Water Act, the Columbia River is not supposed to reach more than 68°F. Don Sampson of the Northwest Tribal Salmon Alliance said, “The sockeye salmon in the Columbia River are dying. We’re in a salmon crisis.”
27. Proposed Industrial Fish Farm Faces Broad Opposition
A Norwegian investor wants to bring a new kind of fish farm to a stunning, island-studded bay at the base of Maine’s famous Cadillac Mountain. The project is uniting broad opposition in and around tourist-dependent Mt. Desert Island. The “American Aquafarms” project is the latest in a series of industrial-scale fish farms proposed for the state, highlighting how the nation’s demand for seafood is putting pressure on local marine economies. The project would grow as much as 30,000 metric tons of fish a year, enough to serve 5% of the combined U.S. and Canadian markets for Atlantic salmon. It would also bring more jobs to the area. But conservation groups, project neighbors, local lobstermen, and Bar Harbor’s tourism industry object to various aspects of the project, from ecosystem effects to light pollution and the impacts on the bay’s sheer visual beauty.
28. Pollution-Mapping App Goes Live
The industry-backed Eyesea pollution mapping initiative has gone live following six months of testing onboard commercial ships, recreational boats, and with community volunteers. The pollution mapping initiative collects and processes oceanic pollution data, which is used to build free, detailed maps and charts for governments, clean-up groups, researchers, local authorities, and a range of other stakeholders, enabling them to take targeted clean-up action and make evidence-based policy decisions. Graeme Somerville-Ryan, cofounder of Eyesea, said, “Crowdsourcing maritime pollution data is the democratization of environmental care initiatives – anyone can do it. At the company level, I have never seen cooperation quite like this – in any sector. Everyone understands we need a unified effort to make a difference, the ocean is too wide and the coasts are too long for us to act alone.”
29. Rhode Island’s Warming Waters Force Iconic Species Out
For generations, winter flounder was one of the most important fish in Rhode Island waters. Now, it is difficult to find. The harvesting or possession of the fish is prohibited in much of Narragansett Bay and in Point Judith and Potter ponds. Anglers must return the ones they accidentally catch to the sea. Overfishing is easily blamed, but winter flounder’s local extinction isn’t simply the result of overfishing. The climate crisis is likely playing the biggest role, by shifting currents, creating less oxygenated waters, and warming southern New England’s coastal waters. These impacts, which started decades ago, have and are transforming life in the state’s waters. The average water temperature in Narragansett Bay has increased by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1960s. Locally, iconic species are disappearing, southerly species are appearing more frequently, and more unwanted guests are arriving, like jellyfish.
30. Howden Broking Group Aims to Become Plastic Neutral
International insurance group Howden Group Holdings has partnered with ocean clean-up organization Seven Clean Seas (SCS) to achieve its goal of becoming plastic neutral. SCS will help Howden measure and reduce its plastic consumption and then offset what remains. Through SCS, Howden has already offset over 66,000kg of plastic, the estimated amount used by its workforce in 2020. The Group is also funding SCS’ innovative River Plastic Recovery System. CEO David Howden commented, “Our job is to mitigate risks, so while we’re looking at what products we need to develop to help our clients respond to increasingly prevalent ESG risks, we equally need to look internally and curb the impact our own businesses are having on the environment. Our partnership with Seven Clean Seas is an important part of this.”
31. A Sustainable Development Pathway for Climate Action Within the UN 2030 Agenda
Ambitious climate policies, as well as economic development, education, technological progress, and less resource-intensive lifestyles, are crucial for progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using an integrated modeling framework covering 56 indicators across all 17 SDGs, research published in Nature Climate Change shows that they are insufficient to reach the targets. Instead, the researchers propose an additional sustainable development package that includes international climate finance, progressive redistribution of carbon pricing revenues, sufficient nutrition, and improved access to modern energy. By quantifying climate and SDG outcomes, the researchers show that these interventions substantially boost progress towards aspects of the UN Agenda 2030 and help reach ambitious climate targets. Several important gaps remain, for example, with respect to the eradication of extreme poverty, but they can be closed by 2050 for many SDGs while also respecting the 1.5 °C target and planetary boundaries.
32. Study Provides First Holistic Assessment of Plastic Pollution in Caribbean
Plastics and other manmade fibres are contaminating the Caribbean Ocean and its islands, threatening its diverse marine life and the tourism industry on which economies depend. A new study, the first holistic assessment of marine and land-based plastic pollution in the Southern Caribbean, is the result of analysis from a sailing mission led by eXXpedition. Researchers collected samples in late 2019 from the seas and seafloor and from land-based assessments. The expedition identified 18 different polymers of plastic across the Caribbean, with the highest concentrations off Panama’s San Blas islands. The likely cause is a combination of ocean currents and run-off from mainland Panama, which has some of the highest estimated levels of mismanaged waste in the region. The authors suggest litter and microplastics may arise from the maritime and tourism industries, exemplifying the complexity of managing plastic pollution since both support the region’s economies.
33. Indonesia Assessing Fish Stock Health to Improve Sustainable Planning
Indonesia is assessing commercially valuable fish populations throughout its 11 fishing zones to improve the sustainable management of one of the world’s biggest fisheries. The findings will help policymakers identify areas with populations that are either healthy, recovering, or overfished. Indonesia is the second-largest marine capture producer, after China, harvesting 84.4 million metric tons of seafood in 2018. Its waters host some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity in the world, and the fisheries industry employs about 12 million Indonesians. The fisheries ministry is already creating a new management model to be tested in several fishing zones, designating some zones as fishing industry and nursery grounds. The concept may close the wealth disparity between fishing communities. “We’re trying to resolve this disparity in the fisheries sector with this measured fishing concept,” Muhammad Zaini, the ministry’s head of marine capture fisheries, said.