Larges shark fin seizure in Hong Kong history, New technology could forecast ocean acidification levels, Popular opinion could kill Iceland’s commercial whaling, COVID-19 – plastic waste increase and much more…
Hong Kong has seized 26 tons of smuggled shark fins, sliced from some 38,500 endangered animals, in the largest bust of its kind in the southern Chinese city. The record haul was discovered in two containers from Ecuador and highlights the continued demand for shark fin, which is served at wedding banquets in many Chinese communities. The city’s customs department unveiled the haul on Wednesday and said it smashed previous records. “Each consignment consisting of 13 tons broke the previous record seizure of 3.8 tons of controlled shark fins made in 2019,” customs official Danny Cheung told reporters.
Together with an international team, Senckenberg scientist Uwe Fritz described a new species of mata mata turtle based on genetic analyses. Until now, it had been assumed that the genus Chelus only contained a single species. The new description also necessitates a reassessment of the conservation status of these species, which are frequently sold in the illegal animal trade. The study was recently published in the scientific journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
University of Colorado – Boulder researchers have developed a method that could enable scientists to accurately forecast ocean acidity up to five years in advance. This would enable fisheries and communities that depend on seafood negatively affected by ocean acidification to adapt to changing conditions in real-time, improving economic and food security in the next few decades. Previous studies have shown the ability to predict ocean acidity a few months out, but this is the first study to prove it is possible to predict variability in ocean acidity multiple years in advance. The new method, described in Nature Communications, offers the potential to forecast the acceleration or slowdown of ocean acidification.
5. Coronavirus is causing spike of plastic waste. Conservationists fear it may be permanent
Surgical masks, gloves, protective equipment, body bags — the Covid-19 crisis has spurred a rapid expansion in the production of desperately-needed plastic products, with governments racing to boost their stockpiles and regular citizens clamoring for their share of supplies. Such production is necessary. But all that plastic ends up somewhere — and environmental campaigners fear it is just the tip of a looming iceberg, with the pandemic causing a number of serious challenges to their efforts to reduce plastic pollution.
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An international research project has revealed the highest levels of microplastic ever recorded on the seafloor, with up to 1.9 million pieces in a thin layer covering just 1 square meter. Over 10 million tons of plastic waste enters the oceans each year. Floating plastic waste at sea has caught the public’s interest thanks to the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ seeing moves to discourage the use of plastic drinking straws and carrier bags. Yet such accumulations account for less than 1% of the plastic that enters the world’s oceans.
Climate change and warming seas are transforming tropical coral reefs and undoing decades of knowledge about how to protect these delicate and vital ecosystems. Many of the world’s coral reefs are seeing biodiversity plunge in the face of repeated coral bleaching events. Protected areas, called marine reserves, are an effective and long-established tool in the conservation toolbox. Marine reserves have been used for decades to enhance biodiversity and fish biomass by preventing damage and over-exploitation by fishing.
Retailers in California can once again hand out free single-use plastic bags under an executive order announced on Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the latest turn away from reusable bags amid the coronavirus outbreak. The order permits stores to provide customers with disposable plastic bags for the next 60 days. “It is critical to protect the public health and safety and minimize the risk of Covid-19 exposure for workers engaged in essential activities, such as those handling reusable grocery bags,” it states.
A team of researchers from the University of Tasmania has found evidence of microplastics in ice cores collected off the coast of Antarctica. In their paper published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, the group describes their study of the cores and the plastics they found. Last year, a team of researchers found examples of microplastics in Arctic ice floes, further evidence of the spread of the pollutants in the world’s oceans. In this new effort, the team in Tasmania has found evidence of microplastics in ice cores collected in Antarctica ten years ago.
Using the most advanced Earth-observing laser instrument NASA has ever flown in space, scientists have made precise, detailed measurements of how the elevation of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have changed over 16 years. The results provide insights into how the polar ice sheets are changing, demonstrating definitively that small gains of ice in East Antarctica are dwarfed by massive losses in West Antarctica. The scientists found the net loss of ice from Antarctica, along with Greenland’s shrinking ice sheet, has been responsible for 0.55 inches (14 millimeters) of sea-level rise between 2003 and 2019 — slightly less than a third of the total amount of sea-level rise observed in the world’s oceans.
12. Dissolved oxygen and pH policy leave fisheries at risk
14. North Atlantic right whales in poorer condition than Southern counterparts
Endangered North Atlantic right whales are in much poorer body condition than their counterparts in the southern hemisphere, according to a new study by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists and their colleagues. The team used drones and aerial photogrammetry to measure the body length and width of individual right whales in four regions around the world. They then compared the body condition of individual North Atlantic right whales with individuals from three increasing populations of Southern right whales in Argentina, Australia and New Zealand waters.
A new way of looking at marine evolution over the past 540 million years has shown that levels of biodiversity in our oceans have remained fairly constant, rather than increasing continuously over the last 200 million years, as scientists previously thought. A team led by researchers from the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham have used a big data approach to study this question, which has been disputed by palaeobiologists in recent years.
The UK’s vast marine territories are monitored by the Royal Navy using high tech sonar equipment. Sonar systems emit and receive acoustic signals which can be analyzed to detect underwater objects and map our subsea environments. The Defence and Security Accelerator 1 (DASA), a part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), contracted the IMI and Systems Engineering & Assessment Ltd. (SEA) to develop an AI algorithm capable of automatically classifying underwater environments directly from sonar measurements.
Researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences have taken a step closer to solving one of nature’s most remarkable mysteries: How do salmon, when it’s time to spawn, find their way back from distant ocean locations to the stream where they hatched? A new study into the life cycle of salmon, involving magnetic pulses, reinforces one hypothesis: The fish use microscopic crystals of magnetite in their tissue as both a map and compass and navigate via the Earth’s magnetic field.