September was a great month for ocean conservation, check out some of the positive news below.
Huge pub chain cuts out straws
Wetherspoons, a huge UK pub chain, has announced that it’s going to phase out plastic straws from its pubs, switching to paper straws instead from January 2018. This is great news as this chain is such a large user of plastic straws that it could prevent up to 70 million plastic straws from reaching landfill or the oceans each year. It’s also helping the wider campaign to stop using plastic straws to gather momentum by adding its well known name to the list of big brands who are ditching plastic straws for the health of the ocean.
Great step forward for Pacific Bluefin tuna
At the latest meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, who are the brains behind the management of tuna stocks in the western Pacific Ocean, an agreement was made to recover this population to a sustainable level and to make a long term plan for the health of the stock. The stock is currently about 2.6% of the historical population size; however, the aim is to get it back to about 20% of historic levels by 2034. This is a massive step forward, and a great target, but the countries involved must stick to their commitments and carefully monitor their catches to make sure that these targets remain feasible. More research is also needed to understand the migration patterns of these tuna, and more about their biology. With tight controls on the number caught of fish caught, these tuna will get the chance to recover from intense fishing pressure.
Easter Island Marine Protected Area
One of the biggest marine protected areas has just been created off the coast of Easter Island. It’s called the Rapa Nui marine park, and it’s about the same size as Chile. The hope is that it will provide protection to 142 species that are only found in this area, and 27 of these are thought to be at risk of going extinct. This is a really productive area of ocean, meaning there are huge numbers of fish and several types of high level predator, including scalloped hammerhead sharks and humpback and blue whales. The marine park was voted for 73% in favour by the the Rapa Nui population of Easter Island, and extractive activities and industrial fishing will be banned from taking place inside the boundaries.
Great Barrier Reef is on the mend
Recent research dives to some of the most bleached parts of the coral reef are showing hopeful signs of recovery. Small eggs have been found in amongst the bleached coral, showing that there is still some healthy coral there and it’s capable of producing eggs. The research team also observed that a large proportion of the coral colonies on the inshore reefs had recovered and had regained their colour. There was some growth in in extent of the corals, showing that they are recovering well. It remains to be seen whether the eggs that are produced are able to be fertilised at the next annual spawning event, but if so this could represent a significant step forward in coral reef recovery.
Sea turtles spring back
A new analysis of global sea turtle abundance has been released, which shows that most populations of sea turtles are bouncing back after historical declines. This shows that efforts to protect sea turtles from their greatest threats, including getting caught accidentally in fishing nets and being caught for aphrodisiacs or decoration, are working. Even better news is the discovery that, with adequate protection, really small populations of sea turtles at risk of extinction can bounce back. This research reveals the success of long term turtle conservation efforts so far, but the researchers point out that this must be maintained in order to keep the future bright for sea turtles.
Cover photo by Tashiana Photography