May 2017 marks a whole year of Reasons To Be Cheerful. Here’s some positive ocean news from last month.
Basking shark hangout could get MPA status
A new proposed marine protected area could be designated to protect endangered basking sharks off the coast of Scotland. It’s normally really difficult to protect species that migrate a long way, like sharks, whales, dolphins and tuna, because they don’t stay still long enough for it to be worth designating a specific area. This population of basking sharks off the west of Scotland has been tagged and monitored for a while now. What’s great is the data is showing that they’ve been returning to this proposed marine protected area for consecutive years, which could mean that it’s an important breeding or feeding ground. Protecting this area will help preserve these basking sharks’ favourite haunt, encouraging them to keep returning year on year and supporting the growth of this endangered population.
Talk about potential plastic straw tax
There’s talk of a need for a plastic straw tax, in the same way as a plastic bag tax, which is being driven by a recycling and waste firm, Business Waste. Plastic straws are hugely wasteful, they’re used for a few minutes and then thrown away, and they’re one of the top items of litter found on UK beaches. Business Waste suggested that a tax could encourage people to think twice about whether they need a straw, and could offer a way to get around the cost and complexity of creating and rolling out something new to replace straws in our everyday lives. The UK 5p plastic bag tax was really effective at cutting down on plastic bag usage, and so it’s great that conversations are now starting to happen about whether this is something we need to do with plastic straws.
The Ocean Cleanup hits funding target
The team behind one of the biggest ocean cleanup proposals so far this month announced that they have reached the fundraising target they needed to begin their pilot trials in the Pacific this year. They’ve raised US$ 21.7 million, allowing them to test the new technology that they have also recently announced. Previously the cleanup technology was going to be fixed to the seabed, but now it’s going to be mobile to aim to collect more plastic and faster than previously planned. This is a great step forward, and The Ocean Cleanup team says that they’re looking to get the technology working in the most polluted areas of the Pacific in the first half of 2018.
Helpful coral reef neighbours
A new study has shown that unhealthy reefs recover best when they are close to patches of healthy reef, so that coral larvae can spill over and repopulate the areas that have been damaged. A coral reef reproduces by releasing eggs and sperm into the water at the same time. These then form larvae in the water and drift to nearby areas with the current. This new study has identified that it’s not the quantity of coral larvae that drifts into the damaged reef area, but it’s actually how regularly the larvae drift and settle that is more important. This is a great discovery in coral reef science because it means that we can focus on protecting networks of coral reefs. We need patches of healthy reef dispersed as widely as possible, so that there is a consistent spillover that can reach and help the unhealthy areas recover.
The MCS Plastic Challenge
The Marine Conservation Society Plastic Challenge was announced last month, which is encouraging people to take real steps to cut their single-use plastics this month. The aim of the challenge is to swap out as many single-use plastics as possible, swapping in reusable, long-lasting alternatives. It’s also a sponsored challenge, and all money raised goes towards helping the MCS tackle plastic pollution on our coasts. Find out more about the challenge, get some plastic-free tips and sign up here.
Cover photo by Tashiana Photography