Big Wave of Support for Our Oceans

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Posted for media use

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

NUSA DUA, Bali, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 ( News) – Financial contributions are rolling in to fund dozens of initiatives aimed at healing and protecting the oceans at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference held on the Indonesian island of Bali October 29-30.

Our Ocean, Our Legacy is the theme of this year’s Our Ocean Conference, reflecting human choices and actions to maintain the sustainability of ocean resources and to preserve our ocean’s health as a heritage for future generations.

Opening the conference Monday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his government has met its commitment of conserving 20 million hectares of territorial seas two years earlier than the projected date of 2020.

“We must be brave in making commitments and in undertaking concrete actions that start from each of us,” President Widodo said in his opening address.

He said Earth’s maritime resources are valued at an estimated US$24 trillion.

In recognizing the importance of oceans to many lives and the future of the Earth, the president listed the challenges – illegal unregulated and undocumented (IUU) fishing, piracy, human trafficking, drug smuggling, pollution and slavery.

Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows about 26 million tons of fish worth US$10-23 billion have been caught illegally per year, Widodo said.

He worries that unless overlapping maritime claims are resolved through negotiations and based on international law, they may pose a threat to stability.

The president is concerned about ocean health. “Our ocean is threatened by plastic debris, water pollution, destruction of coral reefs, warming of sea temperature, the rise of sea-levels, and so forth,” he said.

“Do not be too late to take actions in protecting our ocean. One single country cannot resolve the challenges alone,” said Widodo. “All countries must collaborate in tackling the problems and in optimizing the benefits of the oceans for common good.”

The European Union made 23 new commitments at the conference, announcing €300 million of EU-funded initiatives. They include projects to tackle plastic pollution, make blue economy more sustainable and improve research and marine surveillance.

This contribution comes on top of the over €550 million committed by the European Union, when it hosted the Our Ocean conference last year in Malta.

“The state of our oceans calls for determined global action,” said High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini. “With 23 new commitments, the European Union stays engaged to ensure safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans.”

“No country can succeed alone in this endeavour,” said Mogherini. “It requires determination, consistency and partnerships, within and outside our European Union, and it is in this spirit that today we renew the commitment to protect our oceans.”

The European contributions include €100 million for R&D projects to tackle plastic pollution and €82 million for marine and maritime research, such as ecosystem assessments, seafloor mapping and innovative aquaculture systems.

The new EU action also includes a €18.4 million investment to make the European blue economy – the economic sectors that rely on the ocean and its resources – more sustainable.

European Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said, “We need the oceans and the oceans need us. We have to urgently reduce marine litter and other sources of pollution, halt illegal fishing and support fragile marine ecosystems. We have to develop our blue economy – create sustainable jobs and growth – supported by cutting-edge research and new technologies. It is for this reason that we are making these commitments.”

The EU’s showpiece Earth observation program Copernicus is high on the list of new commitments. The program’s support will be enlarged with another €12.9 million for maritime security and for research dedicated to coastal environmental services, in addition to the €27 million Copernicus funds devoted at Our Ocean 2017 conference.

With its Maritime Surveillance System, Copernicus has supported EU commitments to reinforce maritime security and law enforcement.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska said, “Earth observation helps citizens around the globe to fight climate change, monitor the blue economy and marine pollution or to manage natural disasters.”

Marine litter in China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, will be fought with a €9 million EU-funded project. Another €7 million will go towards protection of marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

As one of its commitments, the European Commission is joining forces with United Nations Environment Programme and other international partners to launch a coalition of aquariums to fight plastic pollution.

EU Delivers on 2017 Ocean Commitments

Two years ahead of the initial deadline set, 10 percent of all EU waters have already been designated as Marine Protected Areas. With effective management, adequate funding and robust enforcement, Marine Protected Areas can have both conservation and economic benefits.

The 2017 Our Ocean conference in Malta was a game changer, mobilizing funding and ocean action at an unprecedented scale.

The European Union has already delivered on almost half of EU’s 35 commitments made at the last year’s conference, equalling €300 million.

The EU is now working with Indonesia and future hosts of Our Ocean conferences to keep the momentum going for cleaner and safer seas.

Previous conferences, hosted by the governments of Malta (2017), the United States (2014, 2016) and Chile (2015), have seen a wide range of commitments and billions of euros pledged.

The commitments are only one of the ways by which the European Commission works to accelerate the shift towards circular economy.

On January 16 the EU adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

On May 28 new EU-wide rules were proposed to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The European Parliament endorsed the proposal on October 23. The endorsement was accompanied by the “Ready to change” awareness-raising campaign supported by many aquariums.

Bloomberg and Dalio Give US$185 Million

In a video message at the Our Ocean Conference, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg and OceanX , founded by Dalio Philanthropies President Ray Dalio, announced their new partnership to align and increase their support for the oceans.

Bloomberg and OceanX’s first joint project will be an expedition to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on OceanX’s marine research and exploration vessel, the Alucia, to explore the region, demonstrate the importance of the marine national monument and illustrate the need for marine conservation across the globe at a time when the oceans require our critical attention.

The effort will be seeded by a combined four-year commitment of over US$185 million.

“More than three billion people depend on the oceans for food and their livelihoods. That means threats to marine ecosystems – like climate change and overfishing – also threaten lives around the world,” said Bloomberg. “We’re teaming up with OceanX to ensure that ocean conservation receives the attention it deserves.”

Focusing on key coral geographies and top fishing nations, over the next four years Bloomberg will support data-driven strategies in fisheries management, coral conservation and pollution reduction in 10 priority countries –  Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, and the United States. The initiative will promote global action with government leaders, the private sector, and key NGO partners.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper commented, “The Our Ocean Conference provides a crucial forum for raising concern about the plight of the world’s marine realm and exploring ways we can protect this vast but limited source of biodiversity and sustenance.”

The nonprofit WCS is a partner of Bloomberg Philanthropies “Vibrant Oceans” coral reef initiative to protect a portfolio of reefs most likely to endure warming ocean temperatures.

“Protecting the health and vitality of coral reefs, among the most biodiverse habitats on earth, is crucial to conserving the earth’s marine biodiversity,” Samper said. “Over the next four years, WCS will leverage its scientific and conservation expertise to conserve coral reefs in nine sites in the coastal waters of Fiji, Indonesia, and Tanzania, hardy ecosystems that were chosen because their reefs exhibit a resilience to increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change.”

At the same time, WCS will work with communities and national authorities in these and other countries to strengthen monitoring, governance and build effective policies for managing coral reefs over the long term.

“Crucial to saving the world’s coral reefs will be successful partnerships with local community residents who rely on marine resources for health and well-being,” said Samper.

“WCS will continue to work with local partners to identify and reduce threats to reefs while maintaining livelihood options and food security for coastal towns and villages. By taking action at both regional and local levels, we can help preserve the ocean as an irreplaceable natural legacy for future generations.”

Young People Take Part in Ocean Solutions

The 2018 Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit was held on October 29-30 at the Tanjung Benoa Hall of the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

The summit was attended by 189 participants aged 17 to 35 who hail from 52 countries. They were selected from 500 candidates representing 56 countries.

The event featured seminars and interactive discussions at the breakout room, focusing on areas of action such as sustainable blue economy, marine pollution, marine protected areas and maritime security.

Featured Image: Surfing Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia, May 29, 2018 (Photo by Wavehaven) Creative Commons license via Flickr

EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2018 ( News) – Two of the world’s largest ocean economies – the European Union and China – have agreed to work together “to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy,” the Council of the European Union announced after the unique ocean partnership agreement was signed.

The pact was signed in Beijing at the 20th EU-China summit on July 16 by leaders at the highest level from both governments.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the summit. President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker represented the European Union. And the EU leaders had talks with President Xi Jinping as well.

The leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying in a joint statement that, “This has greatly enhanced the level of EU-China relations, with fruitful outcomes achieved in politics, economy, trade, culture, people-to-people exchanges and other fields.”

Following the summit, Presidents Tusk and Juncker and Premier Li agreed the joint statement and the annex on climate change and clean energy.

President Juncker said, “Our cooperation simply makes sense. Together we account for around a third of the global economy. Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day.”

The leaders agreed to promote “the circular economy within the blue economy” based on “clean technologies and best available practices.”

The partnership contains clear commitments to protect the marine environment, tackle climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The leaders reaffirmed the importance of fighting climate change. All said they are committed to advancing cooperation on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and fully support this year’s UN climate summit, the 24th, known as COP24, which is scheduled for December in Poland.

China, the EU and its Member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and stated that they “respect the maritime order based on international law.”

The EU said it welcomes the ongoing consultations between China and ASEAN countries aimed at the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

The South China Sea disputes involve island and maritime claims among: Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters, conducting “freedom of navigation” operations there.

The EU and China jointly called upon “all relevant parties” to engage in dialogue, to settle disputes peacefully, and refrain from actions likely to increase tensions.

The EU and China say their goal is “to promote peace, security and sustainable development.” To that end, they have agreed to foster closer business-to-business interaction and exchanges of information among stakeholders such as enterprises, research institutes, financial institutions and industry associations.

Cooperation will extend to improving knowledge of the oceans through “better ocean literacy, enhanced ocean observation and open science and data.”

In their joint statement, the leaders welcomed “the increase in high-level contacts on environmental protection and natural resource conservation, and the importance of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda, in particular on issues such as pollution prevention and control, biodiversity conservation, CITES implementation and enforcement and wildlife trafficking, and elimination of illegally harvested timber from the markets, as well as desertification and land degradation.”

The two sides welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution titled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” and look forward to the presentation of a report by the Secretary General in the next General Assembly as a basis for further work.

The EU and China will work together actively with a view to achieving the preservation of biodiversity. The EU welcomes China’s commitment to organize COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, which should mark the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

The two sides agreed on the transition to a circular economy as a priority for their cooperation, recognising the contribution of resource efficiency to meeting climate and sustainable development targets and agreeing to enhance cooperation and support joint actions in this field.

To formalize this aspect of their relationship, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, thus establishing a high level policy dialogue.

Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening EU-China cooperation on water in the framework of the EU-China

Water Policy Dialogue, and acknowledged the role of China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in supporting the implementation of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU-China partnership agreement sets out general lines for future collaboration in areas such as:

  • the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas
  • the fight against marine pollution including marine plastic litter and micro-plastics
  • the mitigation of and adaption to climate change impacts on oceans, including the Arctic Ocean
  • the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources
  • fisheries governance in regional and global settings and the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The agreement pleases EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who is responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

“With the partnership signed today, the European Union and China are stepping up their joint efforts, towards a more sustainable future for our oceans and the millions that make their living from them,” he said.

“Across the world, I see growing awareness of the need for joint solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and seas,” said Vella. “From cleaning up plastic pollution to tackling overfishing, no one country or continent can shoulder these colossal tasks on their own.”

Featured Image: Striped dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lajes do Pico in POrtugal’s Azores Islands, August 15, 2013 (Photo by Tim Ellis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Gold Rush Beneath the Deepest Sea

A crab defends its territory on a seamount in the North Atlantic. Seamounts host a very rich biodiversity, with corals, crustaceans, sponges and echinoderms among the most frequently found organisms. (Photo courtesy Mountains in the Sea Research Team, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) Public domain

A crab defends its territory on a seamount in the North Atlantic. Seamounts host a very rich biodiversity, with corals, crustaceans, sponges and echinoderms among the most frequently found organisms. (Photo courtesy Mountains in the Sea Research Team, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 31, 2018 ( News) – Cold, dark, and under extreme pressure, the deep sea holds a wealth of unique and unusual species, habitats and ecosystems. And it contains rich mineral resources, some of them in unique or highly enriched concentrations.

Deep-sea mining is the retrieval of mineral deposits from the deep sea below 200 meters, an area that covers about 65 percent of the planet’s surface, making it the largest habitat for life on Earth.

“The deep seabed … contains valuable mineral deposits. There is growing commercial interest in mining the ocean floor for these minerals. We might be entering into a gold rush to get to these resources and there is a growing competition between countries and companies to exploit these minerals with limited consideration for the effects on nature,” said Carl Gustaf Lundin, director, Global Marine and Polar Programme, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Regulations under development at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to manage deep-sea mining are not sufficient to prevent irrevocable damage to these marine ecosystems and a loss of unique species – many yet to be discovered, warns a new report from the IUCN.

The report, “Deep seabed mining: a rising environmental challenge,” provides a comprehensive overview of deep-sea mining and its potential environmental impacts.

The report was launched July 16 in Kingston, to coincide with this year’s gathering of the International Seabed Authority, the treaty organization established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, at its July 2 to 27 meeting.

At the 24th ISA meeting, from left: Alfonso Ascencio-Herrera, ISA Legal Counsel and Deputy to the Secretary-General; Pearnel Charles, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica; Michael Lodge, ISA Secretary-General; and Mariusz Orion Jędrysek, ISA Assembly President, Kingston, Jamaica, July 24, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

At the 24th ISA meeting, from left: Alfonso Ascencio-Herrera, ISA Legal Counsel and Deputy to the Secretary-General; Pearnel Charles, Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica; Michael Lodge, ISA Secretary-General; and Mariusz Orion Jędrysek, ISA Assembly President, Kingston, Jamaica, July 24, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

The ISA was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.

The ISA’s current goal is to agree on a mining code to regulate the exploitation of the deep seabed. The organization must address both sides of its dual mandate – promoting the development of deep-sea minerals while ensuring that this development does not harm the environment.

There is growing commercial interest in deep-sea mineral deposits as a result of projected rising demand for copper, aluminium, cobalt and other metals. These minerals are used to produce high-tech applications, such as smartphones, and green technologies, such as electric storage batteries.

The IUCN report advises that an effective regulatory framework based on high-quality environmental impact assessments and mitigation strategies is needed to avoid lasting harm to the marine environment from deep seabed mining.

These strategies, in turn, must be based on comprehensive baseline studies to improve the understanding of the deep sea, which remains understudied and poorly understood.

The International Seabed Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities, authorizing them to explore and exploit specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources.

The Convention has also established a body called the Enterprise, which is to serve as the Authority’s own mining operator, but while much discussion in Kingston revolved around the Enterprise, no concrete steps have yet been taken to establish it.

Some 150 participants from national governments, civil society, contractors, and academia attended the ISA Council meetings in Kingston, and 220 attended the Assembly.

The Council made progress on the draft exploitation regulations, while recognizing the need for further work on the payment mechanism, environmental protection, and the Enterprise.

As of May 2018, the ISA had issued 29 contracts for the mineral exploration of the deep sea.

Seventeen of these contracts are for exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone  and Central Indian Ocean Basin. There are seven contracts for exploration for polymetallic sulphides in the South West Indian Ridge, Central Indian Ridge and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and five contracts for exploration for cobalt-rich crusts in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Commercial mining in international waters is expected to begin no earlier than 2025. Exploratory mining in the national waters of Japan started in 2017, and commercial mining is predicted to occur in Papua New Guinea by 2020.

But according to IUCN experts, the mining code currently under development lacks sufficient knowledge of the deep sea and a thorough assessment of environmental impacts of mining operations that are necessary to ensure effective protection of deep-sea life.

“We are operating in the dark,” says Lundin. “Our current understanding of the deep sea does not allow us to effectively protect marine life from mining operations. And yet, exploration contracts are being granted even for those areas that host highly unique species.”

“Exploitation of minerals using current technologies could potentially destroy the rich deep-sea life forever,” warned Lundin, “benefitting only a few, and disregarding future generations.”

For an idea of how valuable these minerals are, the IUCN reports that, “Ferromanganese crusts on seamounts in the central Pacific are estimated to contain about four times the cobalt, three and a half times more yttrium, and nine times more tellurium than the entire known land-based reserves of these metals.”

Cobalt is used in alloys for aircraft engine parts, in batteries and in electroplating as well as to color ceramics.

Yttrium is used in making red phosphors for color television picture tubes, to make superconductors and to increase the strength of aluminium and magnesium alloys. It is used in the making of microwave filters for radar and is added to the glass used to make camera lenses to make them heat and shock resistant.

Both have medical uses. A radioactive isotope of cobalt is used to trace cancers, and the radioactive isotope yttrium-90 can be used to treat some cancers, such as liver cancer.

Tellurium is alloyed with copper and stainless steel to improve their machinability. Tellurium has been used to vulcanize rubber, to tint glass and ceramics, in solar cells, in rewritable CDs and DVDs and as a catalyst in oil refining. It can be used with silver, gold, copper or tin in semiconductor applications.

Though there is little empirical evidence of the impacts of deep-sea mining, the potential impacts are worrying, says the IUCN report. Impacts include direct physical damage to marine habitats due to the scraping of the ocean floor by machines and the stirring up of fine sediments on the seafloor that can smother animals and cloud the water.

Also expected are the toxic pollution due to leaks and spills, noise, vibrations and light pollution from mining equipment and surface vessels.

“Potential adverse environmental effects include the actual removal of minerals, some of which have formed over millions of years and host a diverse array of species; physical disturbances that can alter or destroy deep-sea habitats; and the disturbance of seafloor sediment, which could create plumes of suspended particles that will take time to settle and affect the marine environment beyond the mining area,” the IUCN report states.

Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC)’s experimental ore collector is launched from the deck of the organization’s research vessel Hakurei. The equipment collected crushed polymetallic sulphides at a depth of 1,600 meters. These were lifted to a support vessel using submersible pumps and a riser pipe. Summer 2017 (Photo courtesy METI/JOGMEC via IUCN) Posted for media use.

Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC)’s experimental ore collector is launched from the deck of the organization’s research vessel Hakurei. The equipment collected crushed polymetallic sulphides at a depth of 1,600 meters. These were lifted to a support vessel using submersible pumps and a riser pipe. Summer 2017 (Photo courtesy METI/JOGMEC via IUCN) Posted for media use.

Deep seabed mineral extraction will take place with equipment operated remotely under extreme physical conditions, the report explains. Technical challenges include designing machinery to excavate, collect, grind and lift to the surface minerals from 1,000-6,000 meter depths, while withstanding considerable differences in pressure, temperature, density, salinity and acidity.

“With regulations for commercial deep-sea mining currently under development, we are facing a unique window of opportunity to ensure that potential impacts of these operations are properly assessed, understood and publically discussed,” says co-author Kristina Gjerde, IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme senior advisor on the high seas.

“Stringent precautionary measures to protect the marine environment should be a core part of any mining regulations, yet these remain missing in action,” said Gjerde.

“In addition to this,” she warned, “the ISA’s challenging and conflicting mandate will require improved oversight by the international community to ensure marine life is adequately protected.”

On July 26, the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority adopted:

  • The strategic plan (2019-2023) with some amendments;
  • A decision to prepare a high-level action plan with performance indicators and outputs; and the budget for 2019-2020.
  • The Assembly meeting of the 25th Session of the ISA will take place in Kingston, Jamaica, from July 21-26, 2019.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has been ratified by 168 parties, which includes 167 states (164 member states of the United Nations plus the UN Observer state Palestine, as well as the Cook Islands, Niue and the European Union). The United States has refused to ratify the Convention, arguing that the treaty is unfavorable to American economic and security interests.

Featured Image: Porcelain crabs, like the one pictured, possess a unique filter feeding mechanism. Scientists found this crab in a suction sample while in the deep-sea scientific research submersible Johnson-Sea-Link II. 2018 (Photo by Liz Baird / NOAA) public domain.


Tidal Wave of Support Lifts World Oceans Day

Schooling fairy basslets on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, July 8, 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Schooling fairy basslets on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, July 8, 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 12, 2018 ( News) – To celebrate World Oceans Day, June 8, nations throughout the world showed an unprecedented commitment to healthy, thriving oceans and seas, free from plastic pollution, say officials at UN Environment, based here in Nairobi.

World Oceans Day has come a long way from 1992 when it was first proposed by Canada. Now the ocean has its own Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 14, which commits countries to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

Eight new countries have joined UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign in the past week, making Clean Seas the largest global compact for combating marine litter, with commitments from 51 nations covering 62 percent of the world’s coastlines.

India made a bold commitment to address plastic pollution upstream by banning all single-use plastics by 2022, and to address the problem downstream, with a full coastal audit, developed in partnership with the Clean Seas campaign.

Across Nigeria, currently one of the Top 10 biggest plastic polluters, 26 major plastic waste recycling plants will be opened as part of the country’s commitment to the campaign. Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim met with Nigerian government officials June 8 to discuss the scope of their collaboration with Clean Seas.

Other countries who pledged this week to step up their protection of the ocean and their coastlines include: Argentina, Cote d’Ivoire, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Guyana and Vanuatu.

“There is now more momentum than ever before to beat plastic pollution and protect the oceans that we all share from the tide of disposable plastic,” said Solheim. “Seeing so many countries rise to the occasion by joining the Clean Seas campaign means we are all moving towards healthier oceans that are free from pollution and full of life.”

This week, Heads of State met with the leaders of international organizations at the G7 summit in the coastal province of Quebec, Canada, to discuss strategies to address specific challenges for the oceans, including plastic pollution, overfishing, rising sea levels and the resiliency of coastal communities.

“The facts are clear. Our oceans are a mess,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared at a G7 outreach event. The G7 group of advanced economies, consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union also attends G7 meetings.

“Plastic waste is now found in the most remote areas of the planet. It kills marine life and is doing major harm to communities that depend on fishing and tourism,” Guterres warned.

Five of the G7 Nations Endorse Ocean Plastics Charter

Pointing out that one mass of plastic in the Pacific is now bigger than France, Guterres welcomed the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter, agreed on Saturday by five of the G7 nations, without the United States and Japan. The move is being seen by some observers as a watershed moment for cleaning up ocean trash.

“Recognizing that healthy oceans and seas directly support the livelihoods, food security and economic prosperity of billions of people,” the G7 leaders met in Charlevoix with the heads of state or government of the Argentina; Bangladesh; Haiti; Jamaica; Kenya; Marshall Islands; Norway; Rwanda, which chairs the African Union; Senegal; Seychelles; South Africa; Vietnam; and the heads of the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD, “to discuss concrete actions to protect the health of marine environments and ensure a sustainable use of marine resources as part of a renewed agenda to increase global biodiversity protection.”

The G7 final communique, agreed by all G7 members except the United States, says, “We endorse the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities , and will improve oceans knowledge, promote sustainable oceans and fisheries, support resilient coasts and coastal communities and address ocean plastic waste and marine litter.”

In the Banc D'arguin, Mauritania, the Imraguen group is famous because of its way of fishing, without boats, but with dolphins. When dolphins make a circle around fishes, fishermen throw their nets and bring the fish up on shore. June 18, 2006 (Photo by Christine Vaufrey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In the Banc D’arguin, Mauritania, the Imraguen group is famous because of its way of fishing, without boats, but with dolphins. When dolphins make a circle around fishes, fishermen throw their nets and bring the fish up on shore. June 18, 2006 (Photo by Christine Vaufrey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

“Recognizing that plastics play an important role in our economy and daily lives but that the current approach to producing, using, managing and disposing of plastics and poses a significant threat to the marine environment, to livelihoods and potentially to human health, we the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union endorse the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter.”

The charter outlines a “resource-efficient lifecycle management approach to plastics in the economy,” which includes working toward making all plastics recyclable by 2030, reducing single-use plastics and promoting the use of recycled plastic.

It also pledges to build out recycling infrastructure, and innovate around more sustainable technologies.

“But we all need to do so much more,” Guterres emphasized, “not just on plastic waste but on all ocean issues.”

Greenpeace International agrees.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said in a statement, “While the leadership to outline a common blueprint is good news, voluntary charters focused on recycling and repurposing will not solve the problem at the source.”

“Governments must move beyond voluntary agreements to legislate binding reduction targets and bans on single-use plastics, invest in new and reuse delivery models for products, and hold corporations accountable for the problem they have created,” Morgan urged.

More governments than ever are implementing some kind of intervention against single-use plastics, from bans, restrictions and levies on disposable plastic items to the implementation of better recycling facilities and the development of viable alternatives to the most common contributors to marine litter.

UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter. By connecting individuals, civil society groups, industry and governments, UN Environment aims to transform habits, practices, standards and policies around the globe to reduce marine litter and the harm it causes.

British Commonwealth Nations Adopt Blue Charter

This year, international concern for the plight of the global ocean is at an all-time high. In April, the 53 countries of the British Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter, creating a guide to cooperative action on ocean issues.

Commonwealth countries recognize that time is of the essence and they are cooperating to achieve their goals.

In the words of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, the time has come to “move from words to actions.”

Already, eight Action Groups led by Commonwealth countries are being established. More are anticipated.

“Innovation is key to this whole issue. We need practical new ideas for on-the-ground action – that’s what the Action Groups aim to deliver,” comments Nick Hardman-Mountford, head of the Oceans and Natural Resources Division at the Commonwealth.

And groups are acting now. Australia, Belize, and Mauritius have stepped forward to co-lead a Blue Charter Action Group on coral reef regeneration. Just a few years ago, scientists were lonely voices sounding the alarm about coral. Now it is common knowledge that the world’s reefs are in peril, and protecting the corals must extend to actively restoring them.

Likewise, Sri Lanka is leading a Mangrove Restoration Action Group. Cyprus is leading on sustainable aquaculture, and New Zealand is tackling ocean acidification.

“To see Commonwealth leaders stepping forward for the ocean was a real ‘pinch-me moment,'” says Jeff Ardron, who coordinates work under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Think Blue Ocean Education Portal Emerges

The launch of Think Blue took place on June 8, World Oceans Day, in Salvador, Bahia with the World Bank, Virtual Educa, Discovery Education, The Smithsonian, Intel Corporation, Brazilian and international partners with endorsements by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

The OECS will soon be populating the Think Blue portal with original education content on the Blue Economy, as well as outfitting it with the artificial intelligence algorithm for enhanced use: video here.

The new ocean education portal, Think Blue: Innovation in Ocean Education, aims to accelerate access to ocean education, linking technology, adaptive learning, and ocean-based industries to foster a skills and knowledge-based future.

The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that these skills will be linked to ocean-based industries – coastal tourism, shipping and transport, fisheries and aquaculture – as they are projected to provide the greatest number of new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Already, we are experiencing high demand in these ‘blue’ sectors, particularly in coastal and island countries across the globe.

Think Blue points out that progress towards meeting the education targets of the Sustainable Development Goals and for meeting the rising demand for skilled employment in ocean-based industries is hindered by a shortage of at least 68.8 million teachers and educators as projected by UNESCO.

Think Blue is offered as an enhanced portal solution for innovation in ocean education, prompting and supporting life-long learning.

Think Blue aims to act as a “one-stop-shop tool” for searching and accessing aggregated quality ocean education content on marine conservation, plastic pollution management and advocacy, technical industries and marine policy, says Think Blue Coordinator Jorge Barbosa.

“The portal aims to apply disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize individual searches and yield better results for all audiences,” Barbosa says. “The portal represents a shift in mindset towards the use of edu-tech products and disruptive technologies to better prepare current and future generations to steer the planet toward a sustainable future.”

Featured Images: Humpback whale breaches right next to a pair of kayackers off Moss Landing, California, July 20, 2014 (Photo by Wade Tregaskis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Europe Bans Plastics for Ocean Health

Plastic fishing gear and strapping litters a beach in northern Norway, which is not an EU member state. April 27, 2014 (Photo by Bo Eide) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Plastic fishing gear and strapping litters a beach in northern Norway, which is not an EU member state. April 27, 2014 (Photo by Bo Eide) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 30, 2018 ( News) – Beachgoers love to have fun in the sun, eating, drinking and smoking all the while, but the plastic food and drinks containers, straws, cigarette butts and plastic carrier bags they use just once are littering oceans and seas and piling up on coastlines.

Plastics can be carried by wind and rain into drains or rivers that flow into the sea. Plastics can blow away from landfills and end up in rivers or oceans.

A member of the Gullane Beaver Scout Group finds cotton buds with plastic stems on Scotland's Gullane Beach, January 11, 2018 (Photo by Scottish Government) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A member of the Gullane Beaver Scout Group finds cotton buds with plastic stems on Scotland’s Gullane Beach, January 11, 2018 (Photo by Scottish Government) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Now the European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Announcing the new rules on Monday, EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly. Single use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives.”

“This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

“Our collection target for plastic bottles will also help to generate the necessary volumes for a thriving plastic recycling industry,” said Katainen, who hails from Finland on the Baltic Sea, where waste generated by recreational and tourism activities is piling up.

With the new rules, Europe is tackling the 10 plastic waste items most found on Europe’s beaches and promoting sustainable alternatives.

If the proposed rules become law, there will be a plastic ban on products where alternatives are readily available and affordable. The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks, and for balloons, which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead.

These 10 types of items together account for 70 percent of the marine litter in Europe.

  1. Cotton buds: Ban on single use cotton buds made with plastic, to be replaced on the market with sustainable alternatives.
  2.  Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers: Ban on single use cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers made with plastics, to be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.
  3. Sticks for balloons and balloons: Plastic sticks for balloons to be banned and replaced with sustainable alternatives. On balloons, producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection, waste treatment and introduce new labelling on the environmental impact of the product and recycling options for consumers.
  4. Food containers: Significant national consumption reduction of plastic food containers. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment.
  5. Cups for beverages: Significant national consumption reduction of plastic cups for beverages. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment.
  6. Beverage bottles: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of beverage containers; product design requirements to attach caps and lids to beverage containers; 90 percent separate collection target for plastic bottles. Member States will be obliged to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example, through deposit refund schemes.
  7. Cigarette butts: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, cleanup, collection and waste treatment of cigarette butts and other plastic tobacco product filters.
  8. Bags: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of lightweight plastic carrier bags, in addition to existing measures in the existing Plastic Bags Directive.   After addressing plastic bags in 2015, 72 percent of Europeans said they have cut down on their use of plastic bags, according to Eurobarometer.
  9. Crisp packets/sweets wrappers: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of plastic packets and wrappers.
  10. Wet wipes and sanitary items: New labelling requirements for sanitary towels and wet wipes to inform consumers on environmental impact of the product and how to dispose of it properly. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of wet wipes.
  11. Fishing gear: For fishing gear, which accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter, the Commission aims to complete the existing policy framework with producer responsibility schemes for fishing gear containing plastic.

Producers of fishing gear containing plastics will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment. They will also cover the costs of awareness-raising measures.

The Commission reasons that the new rules will give companies a competitive edge. Having one set of rules for the whole EU market will create a springboard for European companies to develop economies of scale and be more competitive in the booming global marketplace for sustainable products, the Commission said in a statement.

By setting up re-use systems, such as deposit refund plans, companies can ensure a stable supply of high quality material.

In other cases, the incentive to look for more sustainable solutions can give companies the technological lead over global competitors.

The packaging producers, on whose cooperation the success of these new rules depends, appear to be on board.

Kristian Hall, president of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment , said on May 23, “Our industry is committed to supporting increased recycling of its packages and securing long-term sustainable recycling solutions. Hence, the members of ACE, BillerudKorsnäs, Elopak, SIG Combibloc, Stora Enso and Tetra Pak, have decided to launch a dedicated platform to drive and coordinate the industry’s engagement in beverage carton recycling, including the non-paper components of our packages across Europe.”

The new platform will be based in Frankfurt, Germany. It will collaborate with national carton industry associations, member company initiatives and other stakeholders.

Hall said, “Recognizing that sustainable recycling programs require collaboration within and beyond our own industry, the new platform will actively seek alliances and partnerships with industry actors sharing similar needs to optimize recycling solutions.”

All the materials used in beverage cartons are recyclable. Recycling beverage cartons reduces carbon emissions and enables a better use of raw material resources.

Recycling of beverage cartons in Europe (EU-28) has grown steadily over the last years, with around 430,000 tonnes recycled in 2016. This represents a rate of 47 percent of all cartons sold in Europe being recycled, with some countries like Belgium or Germany having rates over 70 percent.

PlasticsEurope, an association of plastics manufacturers, says it has been “at the forefront of the fight against marine litter and is fully committed to helping put an end to the leakage of plastics into the environment.”

But PlasticsEurope is against plastic product bans. The association says, “…plastic product bans are not the solution and will not achieve the structural change needed to build the foundation for a sustainable and resource efficient economy; as alternative products may not be more sustainable.”

To reduce littering, PlasticsEurope wants governments to integrate the issue of marine litter in their national waste management strategies. It says waste management infrastructure needs to be improved so that all plastic waste is collected and then used as a resource. Landfilling has to be avoided.

PlasticsEurope supports innovation and mindful product design and also supports awareness-raising campaigns, “which lead to responsible consumption and an understanding that waste is a resource.”

Together, the new rules are expected to put Europe ahead of the curve on a big issue with global implications.

The EU’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “This Commission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States. Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food.”

“Today’s proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures,” said Timmermans. “We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favorite products.”

Featured Image: Plastic litters a beach on the Atlantic Ocean at Igueldo, Basque Country, Spain,  February 17, 2009 (Photo by Igeldo Donostia) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Insurance Industry Wakes Up to Ocean Risks

Sea level rise inundates streets in St. Louis, Senegal which borders the Atlantic Ocean on Africa's west coast. September 2015 (Photo by Patrick Schumacher) Public domain via Flickr

Sea level rise inundates streets in St. Louis, Senegal which borders the Atlantic Ocean on Africa’s west coast. September 2015 (Photo by Patrick Schumacher) Public domain via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda, May 10, 2018 (  News) – Unprecedented changes occurring in the oceans signal the urgent need for a multi-sectoral approach, with businesses, governments and the insurance industry working together, finds a new report presented at the world’s first Ocean Risk Summit by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The report, “Ocean connections: An introduction to rising risks from a warming, changing ocean,” was commissioned by XL Catlin, a global insurance and reinsurance company headquartered in Bermuda. It covers rising ocean temperatures and stressors such as ocean acidification and a reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the oceans on the marine environment and human life, and their consequences for society.

“The changing chemistry and physics of the ocean as a result of climate change can have devastating consequences for human life, health and livelihoods, the scale of which we are only beginning to realize,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.

“The insurance industry can play a significant role in helping businesses, governments and communities mitigate damages and better adapt to these changes,” said Lundin. “Insurance against the loss of ecosystems can provide the much needed protection for people dependent on them for their livelihoods, while encouraging their sustainable management.”

The IUCN report was released Tuesday as high-profile speakers from across the political, economic, environmental and risk sectors gathered in Bermuda for the first Ocean Risk Summit.

The island, a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean that lies 1,070 km (665 miles) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is on the front line of ocean changes, exposed to rising sea levels, declining fish stocks and an expected increase in tropical cyclone intensity.

The event, which wound up today, featured high-level speakers providing expert data, analysis and innovative tools to help participants identify potential exposures to ocean risk and prepare to tackle its far-reaching and costly consequences.

Speakers at the summit included IUCN Patrons of Nature HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and HM Queen Noor Al Hussein of Jordan, and Founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson.

Charles Cooper, chief executive of Reinsurance at XL Catlin, said, “Ocean risk is among the biggest challenges we face, but with the right approach, we can incentivize positive change, to protect natural and human capital for the future.”

Insurance Industry Warned: Prepare for Ocean Risks

The Ocean Risk Summit also received another report, “Ocean Risk and the Insurance Industry” by mathematician and climate modeler, Dr. Falk Niehörster.

It assesses how the global insurance sector, founded on the need to protect against loss in the marine shipping sector, now needs to equip itself, such as building new modeling systems to account for multiple and inter-connected risks.

These risks include coastal inundation caused by sea-level rise, intensifying storms, and threats to human wellbeing caused by factors such as the loss of marine food resources and a growth in ocean-borne viruses.

Dr. Niehörster told local news outlet Bernews, “This is a wake-up call to the insurance sector to focus on the risks emanating from ocean change. It makes clear there is urgent work needed to better prepare the industry, which in turn can help build resilience to economies and society most at risk from these impacts.”

The IUCN report warns that ocean warming will affect global food security as a result of changes in fishery yields and the distribution of fish stocks. Damages to property and the displacement of people are expected to rise as a result of sea-level rise and frequent extreme weather events such as storms and floods.

The health of marine species and humans will be affected by increasing bacteria and virus outbreaks as pathogens spread more easily due to the warming waters, while travel and tourism will be impacted by frequent coral bleaching events, the IUCN reports.

There is no comprehensive analysis of the costs to society from ocean stressors, but the IUCN warns that these costs will be significant.

For instance, the 2016 algal blooms and aquaculture fish kills in Chile due to a strong El Niño Eastern Tropical Pacific warming pattern resulted in losses of up to US$800 million.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2017 was the most expensive year in history for losses from weather and climate-related events, costing the global economy an estimated US$320 billion.

Blue Resilience Carbon Credits

Today, The Nature Conservancy and XL Catlin announced a project to develop Blue Resilience Carbon Credits. These will, for the first time, value the combined carbon sequestration and resilience benefits provided by coastal wetland ecosystems.

Support provided by XL Catlin will allow The Nature Conservancy to explore the development of a system of credits assigning a market value to the resilience services provided by these ecosystems, which are historically undervalued.

“Blue carbon is an emerging opportunity for wetland conservation and restoration, gaining popularity in international policy spheres,” said Maria Damanki, global managing director for the ocean at The Nature Conservancy.

“Wetlands help to fight both climate change and achieve greenhouse gas mitigation targets, whilst helping to make coasts more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” she said.

“An economic incentive is vital for coastal wetland conservation to curtail wetland destruction by creating a financial value for the resilience these systems offer. This is why the Blue Carbon Resilience Credits are so important,” said Damanki.

Paul Jardine, chief experience officer for XL Catlin, said, “In 2017 XL Catlin launched its Ocean Risk Initiative to help identify solutions and build resilience at local, regional and global levels to the implications of ocean related risk. Our collaboration with The Nature Conservancy is an exciting and real-world example of our commitment.”

The hope behind the Blue Resilience Carbon Credits initiative is that, for the first time, insurance firms and other businesses will be able to offset their carbon footprints while better understanding the contribution they are making to reducing coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable coastal areas.

Featured Image: Coastal damage in the aftermath of the 2015 floods on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Photo by Rajiv Jalim) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Pacific Gyre Could Be Plastic-Free by 2028

Ship tows The Ocean Cleanup's 2016 prototype plastic collector into the North Sea for testing. (Photo courtesy The Ocean Cleanup)

Ship tows The Ocean Cleanup’s 2016 prototype plastic collector into the North Sea for testing. (Photo courtesy The Ocean Cleanup)

By Sunny Lewis

DELFT, The Netherlands, April 5, 2018 ( News) – A new ocean cleanup prototype is being deployed on the North Sea today. It is one of the last steps as the nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup prepares to launch the first ocean plastics cleanup system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) this summer.

Since the summer of 2016, The Ocean Cleanup has been testing a series of prototypes at its North Sea site offshore of The Netherlands.

These tests are helping the group’s workers to gain experience in deploying offshore structures and to maximize the cleanup systems’ capacity to handle the harshest conditions they could face in the Pacific Ocean.

Afloat in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons – and new research shows the situation is rapidly getting worse. These are the findings of a three-year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company. Their findings were published March 22 in the journal “Scientific Reports.

The study shows the region contains up to 16 times more plastic than previously estimated, with pollution levels increasing exponentially.

“We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered”, said Dr. Julia Reisser of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, chief scientist of the expeditions. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.”

Oceanogrpaher Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup, lead author of the study, explains, “Although it is not possible to draw any firm conclusions on the persistency of plastic pollution in the GPGP yet, this plastic accumulation rate inside the GPGP, which was greater than in the surrounding waters, indicates that the inflow of plastic into the patch continues to exceed the outflow.”

Map of the five ocean gyres of the world where ocean plastic accumulates. (Map by The University of Waikato) Posted for media use

Map of the five ocean gyres of the world where ocean plastic accumulates. (Map by The University of Waikato) Posted for media use

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth.

Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using conventional methods – vessels and nets – would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete.

The Ocean Cleanup’s passive systems are estimated to remove half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years, at a fraction of the cost. Their first cleanup system is set to be deployed mid-2018.

Here’s how it works. Instead of nets, this cleanup system is equipped with an impermeable screen to catch the sub-surface debris. Sea life can safely pass underneath the screen with the current.

Scale model tests show the screen can catch anything from one centimeter plastic particlesup to large discarded fishing nets several meters in size.

The screen is made from a tightly constructed, geotextile-inspired material that is impermeable to marine life.

The system has a floater, a two kilometer long continuous hard-walled pipe made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) a durable and recyclable material.

Togther with the screen, its purpose is to catch and concentrate plastic while providing buoyancy to the whole system.

A large sea anchor slows the system down to let it move slower than the plastic, thus capturing it.

Algorithms help specify the optimal deployment locations, after which the systems roam the gyres autonomously. Real-time telemetry will allow The Ocean Cleanup team to monitor the condition, performance and trajectory of each system.

These systems fully rely on the natural ocean currents and do not require an external energy source to catch and concentrate the plastic. All electronics used, such as lights and the AIS, an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services, will be solar powered.

These ocean cleanup systems are scalable. The group says, “By gradually adding systems to the gyre, we mitigate the need for full financing upfront. This gradual scale-up also allows us to learn from the field and continuously improve the technology along the way.”

“Over the past three years,” the group says, “we moved from feasibility research, to reconnaissance missions, to extensive scale model and prototype testing. We expect our first operational cleanup system to be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by mid-2018.

“Our idea has developed and improved substantially since the first conceptual design and the feasibility study. Since there is no previous technology like ours, we believe the best way to move forward is to test fast and often to look for the things that do not yet work as planned,” the group explains.

By scaling up, researching and working together with offshore companies such as Boskalis, SBM Offshore and Heerema and institutes, including IMARES, Deltares and MARIN, we believe initiating the cleanup by mid-2018 is achievable, the group says.

Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup and co-author of the GPGP study, said, “To be able to solve a problem, we believe it is essential to first understand it. The results provide us with key data to develop and test our cleanup technology, but it also underlines the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem. Since the results indicate that the amount of hazardous microplastics is set to increase more than tenfold if left to fragment, the time to start is now.”

The major gyres of the ocean are located in the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Ocean gyres in the Northern hemisphere rotate clockwise and gyres in the Southern hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise due to the Coriolis effect, and both types gather plastic marine debris.

As most everyone in the world knows by now, plastic debris is a serious threat to marine animals. While large pieces of litter can have big impacts on marine animals, less obvious are the dangers of plastics measuring less than five millimeters in size, known as microplastics. These tiny bits of debris are affecting some of the planet’s largest animals.

Baleen whales strain thousands of gallons of water each day for plankton, small fish, or crustaceans. Not only does their filter feeding behavior enable them to consume microplastics, reportedly by the thousands per day, but because most whales have a thick blubber layer, fat-soluble chemicals leached from the plastics can be readily absorbed into their bodies.

Other marine mammals, such as dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions can also be affected. If the small fish and other prey they consume have themselves consumed microplastics, the debris can accumulate as it makes its way up the food chain.

In a recent study scientists found 83 percent of observed oceanic-stage loggerhead sea turtles in the North Atlantic had plastic in their gastrointestinal tracts. Plastics ranging from one to five millimeters in length were noted in 58 percent of individuals. This is especially bad news for sea turtles, as all seven species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened.

Although it’s not an ocean gyre, the Mediterranean Sea, too, is greatly affected by marine litter. In this area, research on the impact of plastic debris on large filter-feeding species such as the fin whale is still in its infancy.

Though removal is an important piece of the puzzle, prevention is the ultimate key. By working to prevent marine debris through education, outreach, and making an individual effort to reduce our own contributions, we can put a stop to this global concern.

Featured image: A live leatherback turtle entangled in fishing ropes, Grenada 2014. (Photo by Kate Charles, Ocean Spirits) Posted for media use.


Japanese Whalers Range Southern Ocean Unopposed

Sea Shepherd crew, left, confronts Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean during the group's Operation Leviathan 2006-2007. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) Posted for media use

Sea Shepherd crew, left, confronts Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean during the group’s Operation Leviathan 2006-2007. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BURBANK, California, January 18, 2018 ( News) – The Japanese whaling fleet is killing minke whales  in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica right now without opposition for the first time in 12 years.

Citing Japan’s military grade technology and new anti-terrorism laws that make interference with Japan’s whaling fleet in Antarctica a criminal offense, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society  is not pursuing the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean as it has done every year since 2006.

Japan’s whaling fleet sails at the end of every year to the Southern Ocean to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which has been in place since 1994. That year Japan announced it would increase its catch of whales there, in the name of science, they claim. Over the years thousands of whales have been killed in the sanctuary, despite a worldwide ban on commercial whaling imposed in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Conservationists view Japan’s whaling as illegal because it is conducted under a provision of the IWC rules that allows for research whaling, but Japan takes the meat from the whales they catch and sells it for profit.

Captain Paul Watson, who founded Sea Shepherd in Vancouver, Canada in 1977, has used confrontational tactics to interfere with Japan’s whaling fleet to protect the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

He has purchased ships, painted them black, and sailed them to the Southern Ocean in search of the Japanese whalers. When he found them, Watson’s crews placed Sea Shepherd ships in the paths of the whaling vessels, hurled flares and bottles of rotten butter aboard them, sent representatives to board them carrying a stop whaling message to the captain, even collided with the whalers to knock them off their game.

Watson is proud of the fact that no one has ever been injured or killed in these confrontations, and some 6,000 minke whales, and hundreds of endangered humpback and fin whales have been saved from the Japanese harpoons. But now, faced with stiffened Japanese resistance, Watson is directing his efforts toward saving other marine species instead of whales in the Southern Ocean.

“Japan is now employing military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us,” Watson said in August 2017.

During Operation Nemesis in 2016-2017, the Sea Shepherd ships did get close, he said, and their helicopter managed to get evidence of Japan’s illegal whaling operations but the Sea Shepherd could not physically close the gap.

“We cannot compete with their military grade technology,” said Watson.

“This year,” Watson explained, “Japan escalated their resistance with the passing of new anti-terrorism laws, some of which are specifically designed to condemn Sea Shepherd tactics. For the first time ever, they have stated they may send their military to defend their illegal whaling activities.”

“The Japanese whalers not only have all the resources and subsidies their government can provide, they also have the powerful political backing of a major economic super-power,” Watson said.

But the Sea Shepherd’s financial resources are limited and Watson says his ocean protection organization faces hostile governments in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Watson said, “The decision we have had to face is: do we spend our limited resources on another campaign to the Southern Ocean that will have little chance of a successful intervention OR do we regroup with different strategies and tactics?”

He has decided to regroup and come up with a different plan to shut down “the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet,” but Watson vows he will not abandon the whales or the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Sea Shepherd exposed Japan’s activities to the world with the Animal Planet TV show “Whale Wars” and the organization’s own documentation.

Watson says Sea Shepherd helped to push Australia into taking Japan to the International Court of Justice, IJC, where their operations were ruled to be unlawful. Japan was ordered by the ICJ to cease whaling.

Japan did so for a year and then returned with a new program, that Watson says is also illegal. The new program reduced their self-allocated kill quota from 1,035 whales a year, including a yearly quota of 50 endangered Humpbacks and 50 endangered Fin whales, to 333 whales each year.

This means that since 2015, at least 1,400 whales have been spared the lethal harpoons. Now, 702 whales every year will continue to live.

Now, Watson says, it’s time for the Australian government to live up to their promises. Sea Shepherd has been down in the Southern Ocean doing what the Australian government has the responsibility to do but have refused to do, and that is upholding international and Australian conservation law.

Instead of supporting Sea Shepherd the Australian government has been supporting the Japanese whalers by harassing Sea Shepherd and obstructing Sea Shepherd’s ability to raise funds by denying the group’s status as a charitable organization.

Regardless of opposition, Sea Shepherd has grown enormously over the 40 years since it was founded. The organization now has offices in: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Galapagos, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.

“Perhaps more significantly than anything else, there are now voices in the Japanese government opposing the continuation of whaling. Our efforts have been like acupuncture needles stuck into Japanese society, probing and provoking responses. We have exposed the incredible waste of money, the corruption and the shame this dirty business has brought to all the Japanese people,” Watson said.

Watson has had his own legal problems over the years. Pursued by Japan and Costa Rica, he fled to live in exile in France. Click here to see a complete account of these issues and Watson’s recovery from them.

He says Sea Shepherd’s efforts to go after and shut down whalers will continue, not only against Japanese whaling, but also against Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic whaling.

“This is what we have been doing for 40 years,” Watson said, recalling his early intervention against Russian whalers off the California coast in 1975, even before he formed the Sea Shepherd two years later.

He was then one of the founding members of the NGO Greenpeace, which originated in Vancouver, Canada in 1971.

Because Watson pushed a strategy of direct action in conflict with the Greenpeace interpretation of nonviolence, he was ousted from the Greenpeace Board of Directors in 1977. He then left the organization to found the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Watson said, “We will never quit until the abomination of whaling is abolished forever by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.”

Greenpeace, which also went after the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean until 2008, has instead mounted a campaign focused on changing the Japanese perception of its whaling program at home, although Greenpeace campaigners risked 10 years in jail for exposing corruption in the program.

It was not until after a Greenpeace campaigner’s conviction that the Fisheries Agency of Japan admitted that at least five officials had been involved in illegally taking whale meat as bribes and for profit.

This year, Greenpeace is returning to Antarctica to document what is happening in the newly protected Ross Sea – large-scale factory fishing of Antarctic krill, the basis of the region’s food web, plastic pollution and climate change.

On December 1, 2017, the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area came into force. Created by the Antarctic Ocean Commission, it covers 1.5 million square kilometres, currently the world’s largest protected area. Now, Greenpeace wants a higher level of protection.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, now is sailing South. For the next three months, the crew will work alongside a team of campaigners, photographers, film-makers, scientists and journalists to build a case for the world’s largest protected area: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

This year, Sea Shepherd is taking other direct actions to save threatened marine life, including the critically endangered vaquita porpoise in the Gulf of California.

Threats to the 30 remaining vaquita are caused by human greed, says Watson, despite the species’ protected status in Mexico and a designated vaquita refuge created in the upper Gulf.

Fisherman, poachers often working with drug traffickers, are setting illegal gillnets hoping to catch a fish similar in size to the vaquitas, the totoaba. This critically endangered bass is prized for its swim bladder which is sold on the black market in China and Hong Kong for tens of thousands of dollars, earning it the nickname “aquatic cocaine.”

As the vaquita swim in the refuge, they become entangled in the totoaba nets, and, unable to reach the surface, they drown.

As a direct-action organization, Sea Shepherd is working in partnership with the Mexican government on Operation Milagro IV to protect the vaquita refuge. Two Sea Shepherd ships have been stationed in the Gulf of California since fall 2017, working to remove gillnets, patrol for poachers, document and collect data to share with the scientific community, and report all suspicious activity to the Mexican Navy, who will make arrests as needed.

This protective effort has run into armed opposition. On January 2, despite gunshots being fired at its surveillance drone again, Sea Shepherd, together with the Mexican Navy, drove poachers off the protected vaquita refuge and saved the life of an endangered totoaba fish from their illegal nets.

This was the second shoot-out, and the first in daylight, directed at Sea Shepherd in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico, in less than a week. In the first incident, on Christmas Eve 2017, poachers shot down the conservationists’ night vision drone.

“The endangered vaquita would now be extinct if not for our intervention,” says Watson, who takes credit for many other victories for ocean creatures.

“We shut down the entire Southern Ocean pirate toothfish fleet. We have intercepted and stopped poachers off West Africa, in the marine reserves of the Galapagos, Sicily and Panama,” said Watson. “We have removed hundreds of tons of ghost nets and plastics from the sea, and most importantly we have shown the world what a few passionate and courageous people can do.”

“Our objective is to continue to serve and protect all life in the Ocean from illegal and greedy exploitation by destructive humans,” Watson said. “Sea Shepherd is guided by this one reality: If the Ocean dies, we die!”

Featured image: Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson in Antarctica, 2009 (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) Posted for media use.


Abandoned Fishing Gear Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

Fishing nets in Karpathos, Greece. By Miemo Penttinen, Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Fishing nets in Karpathos, Greece. By Miemo Penttinen, Creative Commons license via Flickr.













Guest Contribution, GoGreen August 16, 2017

Since humans began casting their nets out to sea, fishing gear has been abandoned in the world’s oceans, either as forgotten equipment or left as trash. It is also common for gear to get lost or torn away from fishing boats. As a result, a phenomenon called ‘ghostfishing’ has wreaked havoc throughout much of the world’s oceans. What people are unaware of is that these abandoned fishing nets and traps ensnare marine life and cause them to drown or starve to death.

‘Ghost gear’ can come in many forms, anything from floating nets, lines or pots intended to catch crab, lobster or shrimp. In more technical terms, it’s known as Abandoned, Lost, or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG). Unfortunately, ALDFG is left in the sea and has the ability to capture fish, turtles, whales, sharks, rays, invertebrates, and even birds. Marine life often can’t escape and creatures live out the rest of their dying days in gear that’s recklessly left behind by humans. Hundreds of marine animals die daily from ghostfishing. According to the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative, ALDFG kill over half a million sea creatures each year in Puget Sound alone.

Harmful Effects of Ghost Gear

Nets stay afloat and move around the ocean, capturing all creatures in its path. From the weight of the catch, the net eventually sinks and shakes out some of the organisms, and then the net is light enough again to move upward. This cycle repeats itself and the net continues to trap the marine life that gets in its way. Lines and nets can also get caught on rocks, reefs or shipwrecks, which is again problematic because marine creatures can get trapped and be maimed, drown, or starve to death. Pot traps unfortunately catch more than just crab, lobster and shrimp. Many bottom dweller creatures make their way into these traps and never find a way out.

According to Earth Island, fifty or sixty years ago, nets were more commonly made out of biodegradable materials such as hemp or cotton. These materials break down more quickly than plastic-based nets that can remain in the ocean for up to 600 years. Today it is more common to find nets and fishing gear made out of synthetic, degrade-resistant materials such as nylon. ALDFG plastics are also harmful to the oceans because they break down into smaller plastic particles and are ingested by marine life. Polyurethane chemicals from ALDFG also end up leaching into the water.

The Fight Against Ghostfishing

As the fishing industry has grown throughout the centuries, more and more fishing gear has been lost, abandoned or thrown away at sea. Ghostfishing is now considered a global problem. The report ‘Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear‘ issued by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 640,000 tons of ALDFG are spread out across the world’s oceans. This makes up about 10 percent of the global oceanic litter. But now that the problem of ghostfishing is more widely known, there are more efforts to help address it.

One of the biggest impediments to dealing with ALDFG is that most fishing takes place in international waters. Implementing international regulations is not an easy endeavor and as a result, marine ecosystems continue to suffer. But there is work being done to put a price tag on the marine creatures that die from ALDFG. The California SeaDoc Initiative has found that, in one year one abandoned net can kill about $20,000 worth of Dungeness crabs. If some folks are not convinced by the environmental impacts of ghostfishing, perhaps they’ll change their mind when they start to see how it affects the economy of the seafood industry.

There is also a push for shoreline collection facilities or programs that take old or broken nets. Instead of throwing these nets out to sea as an ‘easy way’ to get rid of them, commercial and recreational fishers can take in their old or broken nets and have them recycled or repurposed. One initiative that tries to prevent gear from being thrown overboard is the Fishing for Energy program. They provide gear removal services at various ports throughout the United States and sort the gear into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Any material that can’t be recycled gets converted into energy by Covanta Energy. Old fishing gear is also being repurposed by Net-Works, a European company that turns ALDFG into carpet tiles.

There are also initiatives that help clean up the mess that’s already been made. Ghost Fishing is an organization that started out de-littering shipwrecks for aesthetics near the Netherlands, but soon they discovered the importance of removing abandoned fishing gear to help save the marine creatures they would find trapped in them. They’ve now created a Ghost Fishing Network to reach out to groups worldwide that are also tackling the issue of ALDFG in the seas.

At GoGreen, we are trying to raise the conscience of the community and the world about the importance of protecting our environment.


Oceans Inspire Global Call to Action


Diver explores a soft coral cave in Fiji, June 6, 2009 (Photo by thundafunda) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 13, 2017 ( – Ending the United Nations’ inaugural Ocean Conference on a wave of enthusiastic determination, the 193 UN Member States Friday agreed on a Call to Action  listing specific measures to restore health to Earth’s degraded oceans by 2030.

This outcome document, together with 1,328 voluntary commitments to action, represents a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.

The commitments address Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean,” said President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji, which co-organized the conference with Sweden.

“Henceforth,” said Thomson, “none can say they were not aware of the harm humanity has done to the ocean’s health. We are now working around the world to restore a relationship of balance and respect towards the ocean.”

Recognizing that the wellbeing of present and future generations is linked to the health and productivity of the ocean, all countries agreed, “to act decisively and urgently, convinced that our collective action will make a meaningful difference to our people, to our planet and to our prosperity.”

The Call to Action recognizes the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate; countries agreed to develop and implement measures to address the effects of climate warming on the oceans, such as acidification, sea-level rise and increase in ocean temperatures that harm corals and other marine life.

“We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events,” the UN Member States declared in their Call to Action.

“We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth,” they stated.

“We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean and its ecosystems and to protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity,” they stated. “We recognise that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of our ocean.”

The Call to Action includes measures to protect coastal and blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass and coral reefs, and wider interconnected ecosystems, as well as enhancing sustainable fisheries management, including to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield.

Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and secretary-general of the Ocean Conference, said the conference moved the world closer to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed unanimously by UN Member States in 2015.


At the Oceans Conference, from left: President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji; Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party spokesperson Isabella Lövin; UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference Wu Hongbo of China. June 8, 2017 (Photo by Evan Schneider courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Participants from member States, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia engaged in wide-ranging discussion and shared state-of-the-art knowledge and latest information on marine science and challenges,” Wu said. “They showcased and put forward many innovative solutions, which can help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, and through its interlinkages the other SDGs and targets.”

Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama emphasized the threats of climate change and ocean litter, declaring that greedy nations and commercial interests threaten livelihoods in small island developing states such as his South Pacific island home.

Among its many voluntary commitments as co-organizer of the Ocean Conference, the Government of Fiji launched the Fiji Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to protect whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. This commitment is a follow-up to Fiji’s declaration of its Exclusive Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary in 2003.

There are 10 confirmed species of whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. Humpback whales breed and calve there, and as many as 15 other cetacean species pass through on their migrations or reside there is small numbers.

But population levels of humpback whales and other whale species are at critically low levels, and the Oceania humpback whale sub-population has been declared endangered.

Sweden, the other Ocean Conference co-organizer, also has made many voluntary commitments to ocean restoration, including a contribution of 50 million SEK (US$5.5 million) to The Blue Action Fund, which makes funding available for the activities of national and international nongovernmental organizations in their efforts to help conserve marine and coastal ecosystems.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with KfW Development Bank founded the Blue Action Fund as a response to the funding gap for the conservation of marine biodiversity, networks of marine protected areas and transboundary conservation measures. The Fund will work in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific region.

“Do what you can, do it wisely, and most importantly do it now. A healthy ocean is not a luxury item. It is a necessity for survival,” Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden told the Stockholm Resilience Centre event on engaging the private sector in SDG 14 held on June 9 at UN headquarters.

“All alarm bells are ringing: We are coming dangerously close to fatal tipping points,” the princess said, emphasizing the critical role of the ocean in sustaining life on Earth. “Taking care of the ocean means taking care of ourselves,” she said.

The Crown Princess spoke at the side event featuring the efforts of nine of the world’s largest seafood companies, members of the science-based sustainability initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS).

The princess praised the SeaBOS commitment to sustainable seafood by connecting the global seafood business to science; wild capture fisheries to aquaculture; and European and North American companies to Asian companies.

Conference organizers say commitments made at the conference indicate that the world is on track to designate more than 10 percent of the oceans as Marine Protected Areas by 2020.

Many countries announced steps to reduce or eliminate single use plastics and microplastics that end up in the oceans, where they harm sea birds and animals.

Numerous countries announced that they are stepping up their efforts to reduce the amount of sewage and pollution entering the ocean from land-based activities.

Many commitments focused on expanding scientific knowledge about the ocean and developing and sharing innovative technologies to address ocean challenges.

There were new commitments to protect and manage fisheries. Some countries announced “no-take zones” for certain fisheries.

Commitments were made to establish systems that allow consumers to more easily source sustainable fish.

New commitments were made to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to curtail fishing subsidies that result in depleted fish populations.

In the Call to Action, the UN Member States agreed to develop an “international legally binding instrument” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the so-called high seas.

They want the UN General Assembly to decide on the convening and on the starting date of an intergovernmental conference to negotiate this legally binding agreement on high seas governance before the end of its 72nd session on September 25.


Featured Image: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at the UN Ocean Conference, June 9, 2017 (Photo courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Mayday: All Hands on Deck for Oceans


Common dolphins off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, Feb. 17, 2013 (Photo by John Kay) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 6, 2017 ( News) – “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean,” President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji declared on opening day of the inaugural UN Oceans Conference .

At UN headquarters in New York on Monday, he told thousands of participants: heads of State and Government, civil society representatives and business people as well as ocean and marine life advocates, “The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways.”

Thomson spoke out against “inexcusable” actions, such as dumping the equivalent of one large garbage truck of plastic into the oceans every minute of every day, driving fish stocks to the points of collapse, and destroying marine life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The five-day Ocean Conference, initiated by Sweden and Fiji, opened Monday on the UN’s annual World Environment Day with a Fijian traditional welcome ceremony.

It is the first UN conference to focus on one specific Sustainable Development Goal: Number 14 – conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources to benefit present and future generations.

Isabella Lövin, Swedish deputy prime minister, minister for International Development

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Cooperation and a Green Party member, said, “Saving our oceans requires global leadership now. The situation is urgent. The trend we are seeing with overfishing, emissions and littering means that unless we do something by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”

As conference organizers, Sweden and Fiji want to mobilize and accelerate engagement on sustainable ocean management and development to strengthen sustainable development in the most vulnerable countries and regions.

Warning that the special relationship between people and the ocean that brings untold benefits for life is under threat as never before, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the opening of the Ocean Conference that the problems of the ocean—all created by human activity, can all be reversed and prevented with decisive, coordinated action.

“Oceans are a testing ground for the principle of multilateralism,” said Guterres. “The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe. Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

The sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as combating poverty, food security, combating climate change, sustainable production and consumption, and supply of clean water and sanitation for all.

“Oceans are of vital importance to our survival and that of the entire planet. They are a crucial source of protein for the world’s poorest people. Failing to save the oceans will lead to widespread global insecurity,” warned Lövin.

But Lövin struck a note of optimism on opening day. “We are truly looking forward to seeing new partnerships being formed, and new voluntary commitments on SDG 14 being submitted during and after the conference, and warmly welcome the commitments already made,” she said. “The momentum is really energizing.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the incoming president of the next UN Climate Conference in November, emphasized the links between ocean and climate health.


The United Nations Oceans Conference opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony in the Hall of the UN General Assembly, New York, NY, June 5, 2017 (Photo by Ariana Lindquist courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Climate change poses the biggest threat the world has ever known. And the quality of our oceans and seas is also deteriorating at an alarming rate. They are interlinked, because rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidity and warmer waters have a direct effect on our reefs and fish stocks and the prosperity of our coastal communities,” said the Fijian leader.

The main areas of work at the Ocean Conference will be a political call to action, a segment on partnership dialogues and voluntary commitments. To date, more than 830 voluntary commitments have been registered. See them at: Ocean Conference Commitments

The commitments should be specific, measurable, achievable, resource based, with time-based deliverables.

“The Ocean Conference is where we truly begin the process of reversing the cycle of decline into which our accumulated activities have placed the ocean,” said Thomson.

“By adding to the conference’s register of voluntary commitments; of producing practical solutions to Ocean’s problems at the Partnership Dialogues; and through the affirmation of the conference’s Call for Action, we have begun that process of reversing the wrongs,” he said.

A sampling of the voluntary commitments registered to date shows a wide variety of ocean protection efforts:

  • The International Labour Organization commits to achieving decent work through the elimination of exploitative labor conditions for fishers and seafarers
  • Panama commits to emissions reduction from international shipping through the Panama Canal.
  • Canada commits to protecting at least 10 percent of its marine environment by 2020 with 0.9 percent of its coastal and marine areas as of 2017 already protected.
  • Samoa commits to establish a National Marine Sanctuary together with scientific research, monitoring, and education programs to foster a marine ethic of conservation and marine stewardship.
  • Greece commits to establishment of a Marine Protected Area at the coastline of Plakias, Crete to protect endangered species, increase biodiversity, conserve important ecosystems and increase eco-tourism.
  • Turkey commits to conclude Marine Litter Action Plans at the end of 2018 which will be prepared for each province that borders the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea or Sea of Marmara. Strong waste management policies as well as reduction, reuse and recycling activities are encouraged by Turkish government.
  • Adidas, the shoe manufacturer, commits to produce one million pairs of shoes made from with recycled ocean plastic by the end of 2017, Phase out the use of virgin plastic, and invest to divert plastic litter from coastal communities and turn it into products.
  • The Walton Family Foundation commits to work with Indonesia, the United States, Mexico, Peru, and Chile to improve fisheries management for the benefit of fishing communities and ocean habitats over the next 10 to 20 years and work to ensure that fish entering the European Union, Japan and the United States are sustainably caught.
  • The civil society organization commits to raise awareness for ocean conservation through the power of music. Collaborations bring together Dr. Sylvia Earle, Sir Richard Branson, Fabien Cousteau, and like minded platforms, organizations, businesses and radio stations from around the world.


From Microbeads to Macrosystems: Oceans Under Stress


Mass coral bleaching at Pulau Semakau (East), with petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, Singapore, July 23, 2016. (Photo by Ria Tan / Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BALI, Indonesia, March 2, 2017 ( News) – “On bathroom shelves around the world sit products that are destroying life in our oceans. Tiny pieces of plastic in our face scrubs and toothpastes, used to make products feel smooth, are washed away in drains to then fill the stomachs of marine animals who confuse it for food. No beauty product is worth destroying the world’s beautiful oceans, not to mention our own human well-being. There are alternatives!” says Indonesian-Australian model, actress and V-Jay Nadya Hutagalung.

Natural substances that biodegrade harmlessly and serve the same purpose as microbeads include jojoba beads, apricot kernels, ground nutshells and salt.

So let’s choose what we buy carefully and together, with the combined power of our voice and our wallets, we can urge beauty companies to end their use of microbeads,” Hutagalung told delegates to the fourth World Ocean Summit organized by the global media group “The Economist” in Bali February 22-24.

The glamorous media personality called on the cosmetics industry to stop adding exfoliating microplastics to their products and support the new #CleanSeas global campaign launched at the World Ocean Summit.

The #CleanSeas campaign is a project of UN Environment, headquartered in Nairobi, the United Nations’ highest environmental authority. UN Environment is a new name for the former UN Environment Programme, UNEP, a name that reflects its present status as a full-fledged agency of the United Nations.

Some countries have already banned products containing microbeads. Less than one millimeter wide, they are made from plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene and nylon.

President Barack Obama signed a bill outlawing microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics by mid-2017.

Products containing microbeads will be banned from sale in the UK by the end of 2017.

And in January, New Zealand Environment Minister Nick Smith announced that cosmetics containing microbeads will be banned as of July 2018.

Australia has not yet banned microbeads. But in February 2016 Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he would introduce a law to ban them if companies did not comply with a voluntary phase-out.

California passed a law banning soaps, facial and body scrubs, toothpaste and other products with plastic microbeads as of January 1, 2020.

Last year, the Canadian government officially listed microbeads as a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act, giving it the ability to ban the plastic beads.

Not waiting for these bans to take effect, many companies are already phasing them out. For instance, of the 14 companies in the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, five have already stopped using microbeads in their products and the rest will do so by 2018 or 2019.

The #CleanSeas campaign is targeting other plastics as well, setting its sights on eliminating single-use plastics such as straws, bags and packaging materials from the ocean within five years.

Ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide.

The World Ocean Summit host country, Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with 17,000 islands spread along more than 5,000 km, has committed to slash its marine litter by a full 70 percent by 2025.

Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica announced plans to reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

Each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans of the world, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least US$8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems.

Because plastics do not break down for many years, marine birds and animals eat the plastic material which accumulates in their tissues or perforates their digestive systems.

The UN campaign cites a 2016 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calculating that at the rate humans are dumping plastics into the oceans, by 2050 they will contain more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

The #CleanSeas campaign is asking industry to recognize that it’s important to minimize plastic packaging and redesign their products. Consumers are urged to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to the oceans.

Through a wider-angle lens, the 2017 World Ocean Summit trained a critical eye on the vital issue of how to finance a sustainable ocean economy.

Sponsored by nonprofit organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, the summit aimed to consider how capital and the private sector can drive scalable, sustainable investment in the ocean.

A sustainable ocean economy could be a tremendous economic and investment opportunity, but a new, intensive phase of economic activity in the ocean is beginning, with climate change opening the Northwest Passage across the Arctic, warming and acidifying the oceans, bleaching coral reefs and causing sea levels to rise across the world.

The first global plan to save coral reefs from complete eradication caused by climate change, pollution and poor fishing practices was launched at the World Ocean Summit.

A project of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the initiative is called 50 Reefs. It brings together ocean, climate and marine scientists as well as conservationists from around the world to develop a list of the 50 most critical coral reefs to protect.

Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, said, “When people think of climate change, they often think of extreme heat, severe storms, and raging wildfires. But some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight – on the ocean floor.

In fact,” said Bloomberg, “90 percent of coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 and saving the remaining coral reefs are critical. Without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world’s marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods. We must not allow this to happen.

Coral reefs worldwide have been estimated to have a conservative value of US$1 trillion, which generates at least $300-400 billion each year in terms of food and livelihoods from tourism, fisheries and medicines according to 2015 reports from WWF and the Smithsonian Institute.

This is an all hands on deck moment,” said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at Australia’s University of Queensland. “We are establishing the first global coalition of philanthropic, governmental and non-governmental organizations that will be aimed at slowing the decline of the world’s coral reefs, thereby preserving the livelihoods and culture of reef-dependent communities all over the world.

A panel of top marine scientists will oversee a process to prioritize reefs worldwide deploying a transparent “decision algorithm” developed at the Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland.

“What we already know about the future of our coral reefs is alarming: Without immediate action, we could lose this crucial ecosystem entirely within a few short decades,” said Paul G. Allen, philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder. “What we don’t yet know – the data gap leading scientists are seeking to fill through this initiative – are exactly where to focus critical conservation efforts to ensure the long-term survival of coral reef habitats.

The final 50 Reefs list and corresponding initiatives, to be announced later this year, is expected catalyze the global action and investment required to protect these reef systems for the future.

Caption:Tiny plastic beads, used in products such as facial cleansers and toothpaste, have started showing up in lakes and oceans around the world. Some U.S. states, including Minnesota, are working to ban products with microbeads.  (Photo by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Pristine Ross Sea Wilderness Protected


Map of the newly protected marine area in the Ross Sea (Map by Pew Charitable Trusts courtesy New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

HOBART, Tasmania, Australia, November 8, 2016 ( News) – The European Union and 24 national governments have agreed to safeguard an expansive area in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, to take effect December 1, 2017.

At a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart late last month, all members agreed to a joint proposal by the United States and New Zealand to establish a 1.55 million square kilometer (598,000 square mile) area of the Ross Sea that will be protected from human activities.

The new marine protected area is now the world’s largest. By comparison, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was previously the largest marine protected area, covers 1.508 million square kilometers (583,000 square miles).

 To the west of the new marine protected area (MPA) lies Ross Island and to the east Roosevelt Island, while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf. It is located about 320 km (200 miles) from the South Pole.

This new MPA will limit, or prohibit, fishing and krill harvesting to meet conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives.

Seventy-two percent of the MPA will be a no-take zone, which bans all fishing, while other sections will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

 The United States and New Zealand worked together on the MPA proposal, a logical development as they are next-door neighbors in Antarctica. McMurdo Station, a U.S. Antarctic research center on the south tip of Ross Island, is in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound. Just three kilometers (two miles) away by road is the Scott Base, New Zealand’s research facility also in the Ross Dependency.

CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright says the decision was years in the making. “This has been an incredibly complex negotiation which has required a number of member countries bringing their hopes and concerns to the table at six annual CCAMLR meetings as well as at intersessional workshops.”

A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalized, but the establishment of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point,” said Wright.

Australia welcomes the establishment of the newly protected area. Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Gillian Slocum, said the Ross Sea MPA is an important step towards achieving strong conservation outcomes.

We are heartened by the adoption of the Ross Sea MPA and we congratulate all members for taking decisive action towards meeting a 2009 commitment to establish a representative system of MPAs within the CCAMLR area,” Slocum said.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully hailed the breakthrough agreement that will safeguard what he called “one of the world’s few remaining pristine natural environments.

 “New Zealand has played a leading role in reaching this agreement which makes a significant contribution to global marine protection,” he said.

The proposal required some changes in order to gain the unanimous support of all 25 CCAMLR members and the final agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests,” McCully explained. “The boundaries of the MPA, however, remain unchanged.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said creation of the Ross Sea MPA is “…proof that the world is finally beginning to understand the urgency of the threats facing our planet.

The United States is grateful for the cooperation with our New Zealand co-sponsors of the proposal, and of all CCAMLR members, including Russia, to make this achievement possible,” Kerry said.

His nod to Russia for its agreement comes after previous CCAMLR meetings with a different outcome. In 2013, for instance, Russian delegates tried everything from delay and confusion tactics to challenging of the legality of CCAMLR’s right to establish MPAs to avoid an accord.

But Kerry says the lengthy and sometimes frustrating negotiations were worth it for this year’s outcome.


U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine ecologist Lisa Ballance in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica, at a site where NOAA satellite-tagged one of the local forms of killer whales, 2007. (Photo by NOAA) public domain.

The Ross Sea Region MPA will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet,” he said, “home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”

The Ross Sea is one of the last stretches of seas on Earth that remains relatively unaffected by human activities and almost totally free from pollution and the introduction of invasive species.

Marine biologists regard the Ross Sea as highly biodiverse, after a long history of human exploration and scientific research, with some datasets going back over 150 years.

The sea is inhabited by at least 10 mammal species, including the Antarctic minke whale, killer whale, Weddell seal, crabeater seal, and leopard seal.

There are 95 species of fish and and over 1,000 invertebrate species in the Ross Sea, including the Antarctic toothfish, Antarctic silverfish, Antarctic krill, and crystal krill.

In summer, the nutrient-rich water supports abundant plankton, tiny crustaceans that provide food for fish, seals, whales, seabirds and shore birds.

Numerous environmental groups have campaigned to make the area a world marine reserve, citing the rare opportunity to protect the Ross Sea from human degradation.

The nonprofit Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) based in Washington, DC, a coalition of over 30 nongovernmental organizations, has been advocating protection of the Ross Sea for years.

ASOC says conserving the MPA is critically important because of the rich array of species living there. “Although the Ross Sea encompasses less than 13 percent of the circumference of Antarctica, and just 3.3 percent of the area of the Southern Ocean, it provides habitat for significant populations of many animals, including 38 percent of the world’s Adélie penguins, 26 percent of Emperor penguins, more than 30 percent of Antarctic petrels, six percent of Antarctic minke whales, and perhaps more than 30 percent of Ross Sea killer whales,” the coalition says.

 The new MPA “…has the richest diversity of fishes in the high latitude Southern Ocean, including seven species found nowhere else, with an evolutionary radiation equivalent to the Galapagos, the African rift lakes, and Lake Baikal, all designated as World Heritage Sites for their exemplary fauna,” says ASOC.

Any alteration of the food web or degradation of habitat will have the same damaging effects that have been documented elsewhere on Earth, such as toxic algal blooms, oxygen-deprived dead zones and jellyfish invasions,” the NGO warns.

 Exploratory fisheries first appeared in the Southern Ocean in the early 1960s with full-scale commercial fisheries underway by the 1970s, targeting fish and krill. In a familiar pattern, fish populations were discovered, exploited, depleted and then the fisheries closed.

Willie Mackenzie, with Greenpeace UK’s biodiversity team, blogged in response to agreement on the new MPA, “Known as ‘the Last Ocean,’ the Ross Sea has been identified by scientists as the most pristine shallow ocean left on Earth. It’s stunning, but we were starting to wonder if it would ever be protected.

To finally reach agreement on the Ross Sea MPA, a time clause of 35 years was included in the accord, so in 35 years CCAMLR members will again have to decide on the future of the Ross Sea.

Mackenzie wrote, “Marine protection, to be truly effective, needs to be long lasting so we have all those years ahead of us to make sure when the Ross Sea sanctuary is up for renewal, there is no resistance to making it permanent. We’re pretty confident that by 2051 it will be a simple decision!

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Featured image:  Emperor penguins on sea ice near Ross Island, Antarctica, October 28, 2012 (Photo by Johannes Zielcke) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Quieting the Oceans


Mother humpback whale and calf near the island of Maui, Hawaii, July 17, 2015. (Photo courtesy NOAA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GLOUCESTER, Massachusetts, September 22, 2016 ( News) – Years of campaigning and courtroom battles by U.S. conservationists to limit the underwater noise that turns the oceans into hell for whales and dolphins are beginning to pay off.

On September 13, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its final Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap, which will guide the agency in better managing the effects of ocean noise on marine life during the next decade.

For many marine animals sound is a primary means of communication, orientation and navigation, finding food, avoiding predators, and mate selection.

While ocean noise can be caused by natural or human sources, it is humans who make the loudest sounds.

Explosives, oceanographic experiments, geophysical research, underwater construction, ship traffic, intense active sonars, low frequency military sonars, and air guns used in seismic surveys for oil development are among the most disruptive underwater noises.

Sustainability and resiliency of marine resources are important to NOAA,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “We knew we had to have a vision for understanding and addressing how growing levels of ocean noise are affecting marine animals and their habitats in complex ways, and the roadmap provides that,” Sobeck said.

The roadmap will serve as a guide across NOAA, reviewing the status of the science on ocean noise and informing next steps.

NOAA is already taking on some of the roadmap’s recommendations, such as the recent launch of an underwater network of acoustic monitoring sensors.

The strategy suggests key roles for continuing partnerships and starting new ones with other federal agencies, industries, academic researchers and environmental advocates.

NOAA’s ocean noise strategy outlines several approaches that we can take with other federal and non-federal partners to reduce how noise affects the species and places we manage,” said W. Russell Callender, assistant NOAA administrator for its National Ocean Service. “It also showcases the importance that places like national marine sanctuaries have as sentinel sites in building our understanding of ocean noise impacts.”

NOAA received more than 85,000 public comments on the draft roadmap, and says it improved the final version based on this input.

NOAA has the scientific and technical expertise to assess what’s happening with ocean noise, help identify gaps in knowledge, and use various tools to alleviate or mitigate its effects,” said Richard Merrick, NOAA Fisheries chief scientist.

Our approach looks for creative and wide-ranging solutions to ensure the agency is effectively understanding and addressing how ocean noise affects the resources placed in our trust in the coming decade,” Merrick said.

The roadmap comes a month after NOAA Fisheries released its final acoustic guidance to better predict how human sounds underwater affect marine mammal hearing. The technical guidance is one example of a targeted action the roadmap recommends.

This summer, conservationists have been winning in the courtrooms, too.

On July 15, a ruling in the Natural Resources Defense Council‘s latest sonar case came down from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which presides over the western United States. “It was a major victory not only for marine mammals, but for the law that protects them,” wrote Michael Jasny, director of the NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land and Wildlife program.

The case concerns the Navy’s SURTASS LFA sonar system, a technology whose powerful, low-frequency signals can impact some marine mammal species – disrupting their ability to feed, breed, and communicate – over hundreds of miles,” Jasny wrote.

The case arose in response to a move by the U.S. Navy in 2012. The Navy, which takes the position that the oceans are already too quiet, asked the federal government for permission, under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, to harm endangered whales and other species across more than 70 percent of the world’s oceans.

The Navy argues that it needs the low frequency sonar because with the “advancement and use of quieting technologies in undersea platforms, threats faced by the U.S. Navy are becoming increasingly difficult to locate using the passive acoustic technologies that were effective during the Cold War.”

The range at which U.S. anti-submarine (ASW) assets are able to identify submarine threats is decreasing and at the same time improvements in torpedo design are extending the effective weapons range of those same threats,” the Navy explains on its website devoted to SURTASS LFA

SURTASS LFA sonar is providing a quantifiable improvement in the Navy’s undersea detection capability and improving the survivability of U.S. forces by extending the amount of time that naval forces have to react to potential threats,” the Navy states.

NRDC, the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, and other conservationists urged the government to take a precautionary approach, especially in the vast reaches of the ocean where little is known. Yet in the end, wrote Jasny, “the Service gave the Navy a virtual blank check, declining to protect habitat in most regions.

But the judges of the Ninth Circuit disagreed. They ruled that “systematic under protection of the marine mammals” could not be squared with the law.

This is not the first time a federal court has ruled against the Service on LFA sonar. In 2003 in a case known as NRDC v. Evans, and again in 2008’s NRDC v. Gutierrez, the courts found that the agency’s mitigation measures fell far short of what the law requires.

In September 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii entered an order settling two cases that challenged the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coasts of Southern California and Hawaii. The order secured long-sought protections for whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals by limiting Navy activities in vital habitat.

The settlement stems from the court’s earlier finding that the Navy’s activities illegally harm more than 60 separate populations of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

The settlement manages the siting and timing of Navy activities, taking into account areas of vital importance to marine mammals, such as reproductive and feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas in which small, resident populations are concentrated.

For the first time, the Navy agreed to put habitat for numerous marine mammal populations off-limits to mid-frequency sonar training and testing and the use of explosives.

If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive,” said David Henkin, an attorney for the public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice, who brought the initial challenge on behalf of Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Mammal Institute.

We challenged the Navy’s plan because it would have unnecessarily harmed whales, dolphins, and endangered marine mammals, with the Navy itself estimating that more than 2,000 animals would be killed or permanently injured,” said Henkin. “By agreeing to this settlement, the Navy acknowledges that it doesn’t need to train in every square inch of the ocean and that it can take reasonable steps to reduce the deadly toll of its activities.

The settlement will expire late in 2018 and will protect habitat for the most vulnerable marine mammal populations, including blue whales off the coast of Southern California, the world’s largest mammal, endangered after centuries of whaling, and small, resident whale and dolphin populations off Hawaii.

“This settlement proves what we’ve been saying all along,” said Marsha Green, president of Ocean Mammal Institute. “The Navy can meet its training and testing needs and, at the same time, provide significant protections to whales and dolphins by limiting the use of sonar and explosives in vital habitat.

Featured Image: Lieutenant Commander Joe Pica observes a curious humpback whale during recovery of an underwater acoustic current meter. Dominican Republic. February, 2006. (Photo courtesy NOAA) Public domain

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How ocean pollution affects humans [Infographic]

How ocean pollution affects humans How ocean pollution affects humans – Graphic by the team at


What you do on land can change the fate of what goes on off shore – and small changes in habits can have a large impact on improving our oceans.


Prevent rubbish and chemicals from flowing into the sea.  Keeping your property’s drains clear is your responsibility.


Household cleaning products, batteries, paint and pesticides can threaten water quality.


And opt for no packaging when possible. Carry a reusable water bottle, carry a cotton tote bag and recycle when possible.


Pesticides from gardens and lawns can wash into the ocean.


Overfishing, loss of habitat and market demand has decreased fish populations. When shopping or dining out, choose seafood that is sustainably sourced.


Take your rubbish with you after a day at the beach, and don’t remove rocks and coral.


Next time you’re off on a dive, cruise or kayak – be mindful of the marine life around you. Find some eco-friendly tours and packages that will respect the marine environment.


If you liked this you’ll also love our great infographic on 50 Amazing Facts About The Ocean



If nothing else, this gives us some perspective regarding our role on Earth. We are treating our oceans like our own private junkyard dumping thousands and thousands of tonnes waist straight in – and what will the result be? More dead ocean areas, no more marine life or what? What do you think will become of our oceans and what can we do to stop this?

TorbenLonneTorben Lonne @TorbenLonne

Chief-editor at @divein_news
Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand – and dived most of his life in most of the world.

Making Waves on World Oceans Day

Making Waves on World Oceans Day2
NEW YORK, New York
, June 14, 2016 ( News) – Musician Jack Johnson started the Wave for Change conservation social media campaign just in time for World Oceans Day this year. The Hawaii-based performer is asking people around the world to do something for the ocean – cut down on plastics, use more renewable energy and spread the word that the oceans need our help.

Doing a Wave for Change is easy and fun, says Johnson, himself a singer-songwriter, musician, actor, record producer – and a former professional surfer.

  1. Make a promise to the ocean such as shopping with reusable bags or giving up plastic straws.
  2. “Sign” your commitment by recording yourself saying your commitment and making a wave with your body – doing the wave!
  3. Share it with the world! Pass it on by sharing your video online with the tags #WaveForChange and #WorldOceansDay. Don’t forget to tag World Oceans Day on Facebook & Instagram, and @CelebrateOceans on Twitter.

Johnson celebrated World Oceans Day in New York on June 8, its annual date, at the United Nations with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with whom he made a strong connection two years ago in Samoa.

Back then, Ban came aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule’a and offered the gift of a message in a bottle, a handwritten note pledging to take action and protect the world’s oceans.

Along her sailing route since then, the Hokule’a crew has collected 40 pledges from around the world and ceremonially returned the bottle to the secretary-general in honor of World Oceans Day 2016.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center left, holds hands with Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, who holds the hands of two Hawaiian dancers behind him at a welcoming event for the Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, World Oceans Day New York City, June 8, 2016 (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) Posted for media use.

The winners of the Third Annual World Oceans Day Photo Competition were announced at the ceremony. Among the five judges was native Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet” is the theme of World Oceans Day this year, and there is no one on Earth who knows the effects of climate change to the oceans better than World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas of Finland.

 “We don’t need to be reminded of the challenges we currently face with a changing climate – the impacts on the ocean are clear: sea level rise, eroding  coastlines, warmer waters and ocean acidification,” said Taalas on World Oceans Day.

We are currently witnessing unprecedented coral bleaching, which may be endangering some of the world’s best-known coral reefs,” he said, among them the Great Barrier Reef along the east coast of Australia, the world’s longest reef.

The most pristine section of the big reef is experiencing the worst mass bleaching event in history, scientists have found during aerial and in-water surveys.

After surveying more than 500 coral reefs from Cairns, Australia to Papua New Guinea, scientists rank the overwhelming majority of reefs in the most severe bleaching category.

The powerful El Niño event and long-term global warming joined forces with potentially harmful effect on marine ecosystems. This may impact the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Taalas.

We now know that although the oceans are seemingly endless, their capacity to withstand human activities is limited, particularly as they also cope with the threats posed by climate change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message.

 “Urgent action on a global scale is needed to alleviate the world’s oceans from the many pressures they face, and to protect them from future dangers that may tip them beyond the limits of their carrying capacity,” said the secretary-general.

Long overlooked in international negotiations about climate change, the role of oceans was taken into account for the first time at the 2015 UN climate change conference in Paris and is part of the Paris Climate Agreement, now signed by 175 countries.

Oceans are also specifically recognized in the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by the UN last fall.

 “To implement these agreements, multi-stakeholder partnership and collaboration are key,” advised Taalas.

Given the close inter-linkages between the ocean and climate, WMO works closely with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO on ocean and climate observations, ocean and atmospheric research, as well as forecasting and early warning systems for hazards like tsunamis and storm surges.

Taalas warned that there is ocean warming both at surface level and deeper down. He said the ocean is absorbing more than 90 percent of the excess heat from human activities and about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide.

And, the rate of sea level rise is increasing. From 1901-1990 it was 1.9 mm/year. It was 3.0 mm/year during the period 1990-2010; and from 1993-2016 the rate of sea level rise 3.3 mm/year.

Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

 And finally, Since pre-industrial times, surface ocean waters have become nearly 30 percent more acid, Taalas warned.

WMO will therefore intensify its drive to improve multi-hazard early warning systems, provide science-based climate services for sustainable coastal planning, and the preservation of coastal ecosystems that act as natural barriers such as corals and mangroves.

 “For all of these reasons, WMO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO need to stand together and continue close collaboration as leaders in the global community on these matters,” he said.

There are 11 young people from throughout the world on this year’s World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council . One of them is Caitlin Philipps, 16, of Melbourne, Australia, a sailor and school leader.

The ocean is my starting point,” says Philipps. “I come from a family of sailors and therefore salt water runs through my veins. It is my first home and the place where I feel free.

The ocean is the beating heart of the planet. It utterly destroys me that we as humans believe that the Earth is ours to corrupt and bleed dry when we share it with 8.7 million other species of plants and animals.” Philipps said. “The ocean is the most exploited system on the planet and that’s why I am here. It’s my starting point to change the world because as Emma Watson has said, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ So, what better time.

Main Image: Musician Jack Johnson Kicks Off the #WaveforChange: World Oceans Day 2016 (Screengrab from video) Posted for media use

Featured Image : Exploring the ocean at sunrise on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, July 12, 2014 (Photo by Andrew Dai) Winner in MassAudubon’s 2014 Photo Contest in the 18 and under “People in Nature” Category. Creative commons license via Flickr    

World Running Out of Time to Sustainably Manage Oceans

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 18, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The greatest threat to the world’s oceans comes from human failure to deal quickly with the many problems that human activities have created in the marine environment, finds the first World Ocean Assessment written by a UN-convened group of experts.

“Human impacts on the sea are no longer minor in relation to the overall scale of the ocean. A coherent overall approach is needed,” according to the report, presented to the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, at a meeting from September 8 to 11.

“Many parts of the ocean have been seriously degraded,” the report states. “If the problems are not addressed, there is a major risk that they will combine to produce a destructive cycle of degradation in which the ocean can no longer provide many of the benefits that humans currently enjoy from it.”

The World Ocean Assessment does not include any analysis of policies. It is intended to support informed decision-making and contribute to managing human activities that affect the oceans and seas in a sustainable manner, under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 World Ocean Assessment’s Ten Themes:


  1. Climate change: Climate change means rises in sea level, higher levels of acidity in the ocean, the reduced mixing of ocean water and increasing deoxygenation.

“The ocean is acidifying rapidly and at an unprecedented rate in the Earth’s history. The impact of ocean acidification on marine species and food webs will affect major economic interests and could increasingly put food security at risk, particularly in regions especially dependent on seafood protein,” according to the assessment.

“The consensus is that increases in global temperature, in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in the radiation from the sun that reaches the ocean have already had an impact on some aspects of the ocean and will produce further significant incremental changes over time,” the report states.

  1. Overexploitation of marine life: Harvesting of living marine resources has exceeded sustainable levels in many regions. And overexploitation has caused ecosystem changes such as the smothering of corals by algae caused by the overfishing of herbivorous fish in parts of the Caribbean.

Overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat and climate change are all putting pressure on fish reproduction with important implications for food security and biodiversity.

Women fish in shallow water in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania (Image credit: Matt Kieffer creative commons license via Flickr)


  1. Food security and food safety: Fish products are the major source of animal protein for a large fraction of the world’s population, but globally, the current mix of the global capture fisheries is near the ocean’s productive capacity, with catches on the order of 80 million tons a year.

Ending overfishing, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and rebuilding depleted resources could result in a potential increase of as much as 20 per cent in yield, according to the assessment, but rebuilding depleted stocks would be costly. In some areas, pollution and dead zones are also depressing the production of food from the sea.

  1. Biodiversity: The pressures on marine biodiversity are increasing, particularly near large population centers, in biodiversity hotspots, and in the open ocean, which has so far suffered limited impacts.
  1. Crowded Ocean Spaces: Conflicting demands for dedicated marine space arise from the expansion of longstanding ocean uses, such as fishing and shipping, and from newly developing uses, such as hydrocarbon extraction, mining and offshore generation of renewable energy. As yet there is no clear overarching management system or evaluation of their cumulative impacts on the ocean environment.
  1. Pollution: The burgeoning human population as well as industrial and agricultural production are increasing the emissions of harmful materials and excess nutrients into the ocean.

Sewage discharge levels often are beyond local carrying capacities and can harm human health; still, discharges of industrial effluents and emissions are growing.

Plastic marine debris from the poor management of waste streams on land and at sea means that fish get caught in “ghost” nets, seabirds and seals die from eating plastic bags. Plastic debris destroys the natural beauty of many ocean areas, affecting the livelihoods of local residents who work in the tourist industry. Less obviously, zooplankton and filter-feeding species suffer from the nanoparticles into which those plastics break down, with “serious effects all the way up the food web.”

HumpbackMorroBayHumpback whale breaches in Morro Bay in front of smokestacks at San Luis Obispo, California (Image credit Devra creative commons license via Flickr)


  1. Cumulative Impacts: The cumulative adverse impacts of activities that in the past seemed sustainable are resulting in major changes to some ecosystems and in a reduction in the services they provide. For instance, where biodiversity has been altered, the resilience of ecosystems to climate change is often reduced.
  1. Uneven Benefits: Differences in capacities to manage sewage, pollution and habitats create inequities between developed and developing countries. Gaps in capacity-building hinder less developed countries from taking advantage of what the ocean can offer them, and reduce their capability to address the ways they degrade the ocean.
  1. Coherent Marine Management: This requires taking into account the effects on ecosystems of each of the many pressures, what is being done in other sectors and the way that they interact. The ocean is a complex set of systems that are all interconnected, and a coherent management approach requires a wider range of knowledge about the ocean.
  1. Solutions Delayed are Solutions Denied: There are known practical measures to address many of the pressures on marine ecosystems that are degrading the ocean, causing social and economic problems. Delays in implementing known solutions, even if they are only partial and will leave more to be done, mean that “we are unnecessarily incurring those environmental, social and economic costs,” the assessment warns.

The World Ocean Assessment was born 2002, when the World Summit on Sustainable Development recommended that there be a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, and the UN General Assembly accepted that recommendation.

In December 2010, the General Assembly established a formal Group of Experts to produce the first World Ocean Assessment by 2014. A much larger pool of experts assists the Group of Experts in conducting the assessments and provides peer-review to ensure the high quality of the outputs.

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, acts as the secretariat for the World Ocean Assessment.

A Bureau of 15 UN Member States, representing the regional groups of the United Nations, oversees the entire process.

Find the basics behind the first World Ocean Assessment here.

Read a summary of the World Ocean Assessment here:

About the Author: Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990. Find ENS online at:

Featured image: Endangered Hawaiian monk seal entangled in marine debris (Image credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

TerraMar: Uniting to Protect Our Precious Ocean Resources

Guest blog by Ghislaine Maxwell, Founder of the TerraMar Project

The oceans cover over seventy percent of our planet’s surface. To quote former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea; whether it is to sail or to watch; we are going back from whence we came.”

The ocean creates more than fifty percent of the oxygen we breathe. It regulates our climate and generates ninety-eight percent of the rainfall. Sixteen percent of the global population depends on fish as its primary source of protein.

Fisheries employ approximately 200 million people and generate billions of dollars of revenue worldwide. International trade in coastal and marine fisheries in the U.S. alone is worth $70 billion. By any measure, the ocean is essential to life on Earth as we know it.

Despite the ocean’s essential role to our food security and to trade, its value and importance are undervalued. The ocean is at the bottom of our consciousness, the last on anyone’s philanthropic giving list and the least important in terms of government policy.

At the TerraMar Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to create a global community to speak for the high seas, we aim to change that, raising the profile of the ocean in our daily lives. If we do not value our ocean or fully understand the essential global services it provides, how can we protect it? If we eat the last of the remaining fish, allow pollution to run rampant, continue to dump trash in the ocean, and to mine at will, where does that leave future generations?

Legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau summarized it perfectly when he said, “For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”

The TerraMar Project was created to build a global community of citizens to ask governments and industries to mandate sustainable use of the ocean resources. One of our top priorities is asking for an ocean-specific Sustainable Development Goal at the United Nations in September 2014 when the UN votes on a global sustainable roadmap.

Consumers, investors; including impact investors; and businesses have a crucial role to play. Food resources, financial benefit, and planetary services all have an immense dollar value attached to them. Loss of fish stocks leads to job losses. Poor ocean management results in $50 billion dollars of lost revenue a year, according to the World Bank.

Ocean acidification, caused by the ocean absorbing carbon pollution, and ocean warming are leading to damaged food chains, stronger storms and subsequent vast economic loss; think hurricane Sandy or typhoon Huiyan with commensurate loss of life and property. The ocean is ripe for impact investment that is based in sustainable management. It behooves us all to protect one of our greatest resources.

When a single fish costs $1.7 million dollars, we can agree that scarcity is driving up the price. That’s what someone paid for a blue fin tuna in 2013.

Why should anyone care if one species is fished to extinction? The ocean requires its apex predators such as tuna to maintain balance. And tuna is not the only apex species under threat. We are extracting 100 million sharks a year; only for their fins; and the number of many other apex species are at historic lows. The fine balance is changing and the outlook is negative.

Wild fish is most renewable and sustainable food source we have. If properly managed, fished, and maintained, we can have a balanced ocean ecosystem and global fish stocks to last generations while feeding a growing population.

Investments in sustainable fisheries and ocean preservation ventures need to move from uncoordinated innovation to a mature marketplace while building easy-to-understand and profitable models that can capitalize on the growing interest from impact investors.

The consumer market needs further development as well. The fish and seafood supply chain is overrun with middlemen; a fish can change hands fourteen to fifteen times before it hits the plate in the U.S. This opaqueness makes it hard for sustainable suppliers to differentiate themselves from their unsustainable competitors. Also, it is often difficult for the end user to know the true origin or variety of fish. If you take the head and skin off of a fish, most professional chefs can’t tell which fish it is.

There are only a few main fish processors dominating the industry and this makes it difficult for others to enter the business. Some of the biggest business opportunities, as a result, lie in traceability, processing technology, and branding.

Other challenges face the seas because we treat the world’s oceans like a giant trashcan. Five massive whirlpools of debris; mostly plastic; churn in five major oceans. Between Hawaii and San Francisco alone, an estimated 3 million tons of rubbish fill the water. Much of the material is suspended in the water column or broken into tiny bits called microplastics, which carry toxic contaminants. Plastic debris of all sizes kills millions of fish, sea birds, and marine mammals every year. Discarded fishing gear, some of the pieces large enough to shroud skyscrapers, drift through the water catching and killing everything in their path.

TerraMar seeks to partner with all relevant industries to promote best; and sustainable; practices on and around the ocean.

In fisheries, TerraMar would like to promote sustainable and managed fisheries that have a proven track record of increasing fish stocks and promoting an industry standard, both of wild and farmed fish. The more fish there are in the ocean, the healthier and more resilient the ocean will be. The more marine parks we establish, the more fish there will be in the ocean. The more we adopt sustainable fishing practices, the more we can count on fish remaining a key food source for future generations.

TerraMar needs your participation to secure a thriving ocean. You can start by signing the I Love the Ocean Pledge. Join the biggest movement for change in the ocean.

Image credit: Pristine Reef by Dr. Enric Sala