Reasons to be cheerful

My newsfeed has been full of pretty depressing ocean stories lately, and just scrolling through for a couple of minutes has been leaving me feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.  Photos of marine life tangled up in nets, piles of dead sharks and thousands of bright pink plastic bottles washed ashore from containers that went overboard  – this is just the start.

I’m not ignoring all that depressing stuff by any means, it’s all very real and concerning and it’s what made me write this, but it made me want to go in search of the positive stuff and to share and celebrate that. Too much negativity doesn’t help the situation, and we need to see and celebrate the successes which are happening but which are often overshadowed.

So here’s some cheerier news from the last month or so, to help keep those negative newsfeeds in perspective.

The waters around Ascension Island are going to become a marine reserve, roughly the size of the UK. Half of it will be closed to fishing which will give the fish stocks a chance to recover and to become more diverse and healthy. We’re still a long way off the aim of protecting 30% of the ocean, but this is still another great achievement and follows on from a run of designations made last year.

The USA have agreed to ban microbeads in cosmetics from 2017.  Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic which are used in lots of different facial scrubs as an exfoliant, and they are found in toothpastes too. When they go down the drain they are too small to be filtered out by water treatment systems and therefore go straight out and pollute the sea. Once in the sea they are often consumed by even the smallest creatures and they then work their way up the food chain until they end up in the fish we see on our plates. Banning them in cosmetics in the US is a fantastic move, and now we need the UK and other countries to follow suit.

Innovative new projects are out to tackle the problem of marine plastic pollution. The Ocean Cleanup is a project being developed which will extract plastic from the ocean using floating barriers in the path of natural currents. Their idea is that since there’s too much plastic out there to chase around, they let it come to them. They’ve recently announced they’ll be testing their pilot barrier soon, which is a great step forward.

Seabin is another cleanup project who have been promoting their plans lately. Their idea is to ‘keep the oceans tidy’, starting out in marinas and filtering the water to remove floating rubbish which is then pumped away and collected on shore.

A few days ago it was announced that the world’s largest population of giant manta rays is now being better protected. They’re found in Peruvian waters and need protecting from being hunted for their meat and gills which are highly sought after for trade and traditional medicine. So now giant mantas can’t be hunted in Peruvian waters, and if one is caught accidentally it has to be released straight away.

We’re learning more about the ocean and its inhabitants all the time. This week some amazing footage was released which was captured by a drone as it was repeatedly ambushed by a Great White shark, and each time it proved to be a very frustrating snack. This kind of footage is incredibly valuable to shark behaviour researchers. Watch the video here!

So, next time your Twitter feed is telling you it’s all bad, search #oceanoptimism and put a bit of positivity back in there.


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