Reasons to be Cheerful

Holly Griffin provides a monthly round-up of the best positive ocean news

Holly is an Environmental Geography graduate and is interested in helping to bridge the gap between marine conservation and the general public. She believes that raising awareness of ocean issues in an accessible way is the key to engaging people.

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MARCH 2017

New study reveals success of Palau MPAs

new study has just been published showing that Marine Protected Areas in Palau are working really well and are effectively increasing fish stocks. The study in Palau has found that there were more of the top predators in the protected areas than in the open areas, and that bigger protected areas allow for the recovery of a more individuals and habitats, which are often larger in size. There are also additional benefits to the fishing that takes place in the open areas right next to a No-Take MPA, because the fish don’t know where the boundaries are so they swim out of the area and can be caught nearby. A healthy and diverse marine environment is more resilient to withstanding the impacts of climate change, so it’s clear that we need to designate and effectively manage more areas of the ocean. have.

Drones for dugongs

Dugongs are vulnerable to extinction, and they’re often killed by getting caught up in fishing nets. Their behaviour makes them seem super secretive: they’re slow moving, don’t splash around or jump out of the water and they normally swim at a depth of about 5 to 10m. Even though they have to surface to breathe, sightings are few and far between and so conservationists are often not sure how many there are left. But now the IUCN in Sri Lanka are stepping up their conservation game by integrating drones into their conservation and management strategies. The drones can film large areas of water from a height and search for evidence of dugongs surfacing to breathe. So this drone tech is going to be crucial in gathering data to monitor dugong numbers, track their movements and to help crack down on the fishing activity that is threatening the numbers of these gentle sea creatures.

Hydrophones reveal evidence of rare whales

Hydrophones were set up in Cook Strait, New Zealand, last summer by a team of marine ecologists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research for New Zealand, to listen out for whales that were passing through the area. The results are now being released and scientists think that it could be the first time that audio of the Gray’s and strap-toothed beaked whales have been recorded in New Zealand’s waters. Other whales have been identified too, including Antarctic blue whales and Antarctic minke whales. These audio recordings tell us more about which species pass through New Zealand’s waters, and this is really helpful from a conservation perspective because it means we are now learning so much more about which species we need to protect, and where they’ve been. This information needs to be incorporated into future policy and planning. Keep on singing, whales.

Kenya bans plastic bags

The Kenyan Government will be implementing a ban in the next six months on imported plastic bags for commercial and household packaging. Some of the major supermarket chains in Kenya have shared their support for the move, deeming it to be a great step forward in the mission to tackle the country’s plastic pollution problem. Recyclable plastic bags and paper or cardboard alternatives will be offered to ease the transition away from single-use plastic convenience bags. Kenya hopes to follow Rwanda in their successful clean-up mission, where they phased out single-use plastic bags nine years ago, leading to a significantly cleaner environment.

Power to the Philippine fishermen

The Philippine Government, in conjunction with the NGO, Rare, has announced that small-scale fishing communities will have more influence and control over the management of their fisheries and marine sanctuaries as part of the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan. This is said to be a ‘pivotal point for fisheries management in the Philippines’, and it’s expected that involving the fishing communities more with the management of the coastal waters and resources will improve the sustainability of the marine environment. The plan aims to establish networks of Marine Protected Areas, and the local fishing community will be heavily involved in the protecting these areas, in return for preferential access to other managed-access fishing grounds outside the MPA. As one of the ‘top 10 fishing nations in the world’ with a strongly ocean-based economy, it’s super important that steps like this are taken to ensure that the marine environment is adequately protected, which will in turn support the national economy and ensure improved and sustained food security for Philippine coastal communities.

Sky lantern ban

Balloons and sky lanterns are released regularly in their thousands, but then burst and fall to the ground or straight into the ocean. Even if they fall to land they can very easily be washed into watercourses after heavy rainfall, and end up at sea anyway. Seabirds and marine life confuse balloons for food and mistakenly eat them, causing some serious health issues. As they’re made of plastic they can take years to break down in the ocean. Sky lanterns also have a metal frame which causes further pollution problems and lasts a lot longer. What’s great, though, is that the impact of balloons and sky lanterns is being recognised and Scottish councils are starting to ban the release of helium balloons and sky lanterns on their land. Last month, Torfaen Council, Wales, also stepped forward to introduce a voluntary ban on sky lanterns, bringing Wales a step closer to a wide scale ban on sky lantern releases.g up at sea.

Emergency measures funded to save the last 30 vaquitas

An emergency action plan is being put in place to rescue and protect the remaining 30 vaquitas and give them a chance to recover away from danger. The vaquita is a critically endangered porpoise that only lives in the Gulf of California, and it is extremely vulnerable to the totoaba fishing industry. The remaining vaquitas will be taken to a temporary sanctuary area, where they will be safe from the gillnets that they so often get caught in. This temporary measure is being funded by the Mexican government’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, who have committed $3 million to kickstart the construction of a sea pen to house the vaquitas, but the project is also appealing for funding support from the public. Fingers crossed that rehoming the vaquitas, just for a while, will help their numbers recover and boost the resilience of this tiny porpoise to dangers they face everyday.


UN launches ‘Clean Seas’ to combat plastic

The UN ‘Clean Seas’ programme is encouraging governments, industries and consumers to step up and tackle marine plastic pollution. The campaign is focusing on getting governments on board with making ocean-friendly policy changes, getting industries to clean up or reduce their packaging production and tackling the throwaway society mindset.Starting in April 2017, Computer giant Dell is going to be incorporating ocean plastics in with other plastics to make packaging trays for their laptops. There are already 10 countries signed up to the Clean Seas campaign, including Indonesia which has pledged up to $1 billion per year to drastically cut down on marine plastic pollution. They’re aiming for a massive 70% reduction in marine waste in 8 years – a super ambitious target but a great one to have.

Let’s talk tuna

The Co-op have changed up their tuna sourcing policies, by raising the level of certification that they require for their own-brand pole and line sourced tuna. Their own-brand tuna now must come from either a Marine Stewardship Council certified fishery or a fishery that is part of a fisheries improvement project (FIP). Co-op have said that they will stock Princes and John West tuna in their stores, two of the least sustainable tuna suppliers, but only if their tuna is sourced from fisheries improvement projects before the end of 2017. So they’re incentivising the brands to up their game and take steps to ensure that their tuna fisheries are sustainable, which is good for business but even better for the tuna. Waitrose is also imposing sustainability deadlines on their suppliers, and making tuna-friendly policy changes to make sure that only pole and line caught, or MSC certified tuna is given shelf space by the end of 2017.

Delhi bans single-use plastic

The National Green Tribunal of India has banned single-use plastics in Delhi. This is huge news because it’s thought that India is one of the biggest marine plastic polluters in the world, and so creating a ban on wasteful single-use plastic in the area will help to stem the pollution pile-up. Often plastic ends up in landfill and is burnt, giving off harmful gases, so the less plastic that is discarded in Delhi in the future, the fewer gases will be released into the atmosphere causing air pollution. Prevention is better than cure in the case of marine plastic, and this move to ban highly wasteful and environmentally-damaging single-use plastics will hopefully be a real step forward in the mission to curb marine plastic to combat marine and air pollution.

Coca-Cola show the oceans some love

Coca-Cola have said that they now support the idea of a well-managed Deposit Return Scheme for their drinks bottles. As such a huge name in the drinks world, and therefore a huge producer of single-use plastic, this change of heart by the company has the potential to have a really positive impact on the oceans. Deposit Return Schemes work on the basis that you pay a bit more when you buy a plastic bottle, but then if you return it to a designated place then you get that money back.  It’s hoped that it’ll increase the amount of bottles that are recycled and so reduce the amount of bottles that are littered, often ending up at sea.


Air China refuses to carry shark fin cargo

Air China has taken a bold step and banned cargoes of shark fins on its services which is a huge step forward in combatting the shark fin trade that is decimating shark populations and driving some species to endangered status. As much of the fin cargo is transported by sea, this decision will not single-handedly curb the shark fin trade, but it’s such great news because this decision by a big company to put ethics and environment over business shows a change in China’s attitude to the health of the oceans.

Where the whale sharks are…

An exciting drone project has been developed to help fill in gaps in our knowledge about whale shark movements. Whale sharks are particularly difficult to track because they dive very deep and migrate vast distances. So the development of the ‘Wave Glider’, a wave-powered drone that listens for signals from whale sharks that are tagged with an acoustic tag and then communicates information about their location back to land, is great news. The study found whale sharks in places where they weren’t expected to be at that time of year, which shows that this tool will be able to teach us a lot about their movements. These drones can power themselves using solar power and can be left alone to do their thing for a year, making them a really important tool. So hopefully in the coming years we’ll know more about what whale sharks do all year and where they go, and this will help us to protect them.

Super fragile deep-sea ecosystems defended from fishing gear

A new conservation measure has been approved by the European Parliament this month that will protect deep sea ecosystems in the North-East Atlantic from trawling. Deep-sea ecosystems are often overlooked and they are so fragile that any damage caused by fishing gear can take hundreds of years to recover. So banning trawling in these very deep areas (deeper than 800m) that are delicate and largely unknown is a positive for the North-East Atlantic marine environment. Deep-sea species like monkfish, orange roughy and ling will be protected from longlines, gillnets and bottom trawlers. What’s more, the UK’s largest fishing association approve these new regulations too!

Protection for Mid-Atlantic deep-sea canyon creatures

Deep-sea corals in the US waters of the Mid-Atlantic are now safe from damage by trawling. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is the first of eight of these US Councils to use the power that they have to be able to cordon off areas of the deep sea to damaging fishing gear. A new zone has just been designated, called the Frank R. Lautenberg Deep-Sea Coral Protection Area and it’s 40,000 square miles of safe space for deep sea corals. It includes lots of undersea canyons, particularly deep and narrow sections of seafloor that harbour very fragile and rare species.


President Obama bans oil and gas drilling in Arctic, indefinitely

President Obama has permanently banned drilling for oil and gas in the majority of US Arctic waters, and is preventing future leasing.  Importantly, he has taken steps to prevent the undoing of this new ocean protection legacy that he will leave behind him in the new year. This designation is said to be permanent, so it won’t need reviewing every few years, and could be difficult to roll back by the next President due to the use of a law from 1953, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. What’s also great is that Canada has announced a similar ban in conjunction with this one: Prime Minister Trudeau has also banned the allocation of oil and gas drilling licences in Canadian Arctic waters, and this will be reviewed every 5 years. These announcements mean that fragile Arctic marine ecosystems and communities who live in these regions will be protected from the risk of damage by oil spills.

The MPA wave keeps on going

The fact that new MPA designations keep featuring in each of these monthly positive rundowns is a reason to be cheerful in itself. Here are a few more designations that have been announced in December that are helping the global coverage percentage creep up:

  • Four new MPAs have been designated in Mexican waters – tripling the amount of existing areas and taking the total to 91 million hectares.
  • The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area protects 112,300 square kilometres of the Bering Sea, which is a hugely rich, complex and fragile marine environment. It’s depended upon by ‘40 tribes of coastal Yup’ik and Inupiaq peoples’, and this designation will help protect these communities and ecosystems from encroachment by activities such oil and gas exploration and shipping, that combined with the impacts of climate change, are threatening livelihoods in the area.
  • There are now four new Marine Conservation Zones in Northern Ireland that will contribute to creating an ‘ecologically coherent network’ of these MCZs across the UK. These new designations will offer protection to fragile seagrass systems, sections of deep sea, a submerged coastline (which proves global sea level change), the ocean quahog (a kind of edible clam) and sea pens. Find out more about where they are
Supermarkets agree to ‘Switch The Stick’

Loads of leading UK supermarkets and health and beauty retailers have pledged to ‘switch the stick’ and stop selling cotton buds with plastic stems and switch to rolled paper stems instead. Thanks to a campaign by, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Boots and Superdrug have all agreed that their own brand cotton buds will be plastic free by the end of 2017. This is brilliant news for the sea because plastic cotton bud stems are one of the major polluters of coastlines (23.7 of these plastic cotton buds were found on average every 100 METRES).  They’re often flushed down the loo and can find their way into the oceans where they are near impossible to remove. Over time, they break down into smaller plastic fragments and eventually microplastics that cause a whole load of other problems. So phasing out plastic from this very common product is a real step forward and will help to cut down on plastic sewage related debris in the oceans.

Marine reserves help boost hawksbill sea turtle numbers

A healthy juvenile population of an endangered species of sea turtle has been discovered on Glover’s Reef Atoll in Belize which falls inside the Glovers Reef Marine Reserve. This is positive news for the highly endangered hawksbill sea turtles, as there is concern that their population size is falling, therefore discovering a group of young individuals offers hope for the future. This group of juveniles is likely to have appeared due to the protected waters status of the reef, which offers a safe space for species to develop away from human activity. Hopefully, this indicates that more effectively managed marine reserves will help the recovery of more species that are under pressure.

More than 5% of global ocean now protected

2016 was an exceptional year in terms of the designation of new Marine Protected Areas. At the beginning of the December, the percentage of the global ocean that is now designated as any form of MPA hit 5%. This is massive news, and shows a growing global commitment to the health of the oceans. It’s been calculated that 3.6 million square kilometres of ocean have been designated since April, which is pretty staggering, and means that finally the global percentages of protected waters are creeping up. Most of this was in the form of 5 Very Large Marine Protected Areas (VLMPAs).


$1.5 billion additional funding for Canadian Ocean Protection Plan

Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged $1.5 billion to the Canadian Ocean Protection Plan, to fund improvements in marine management along the Canadian coastline. The idea is to improve marine safety and help the recovery of fragile marine ecosystems. Oil spills have recently affected the Canadian coastline, and so some of this funding will be used to research how best to deal with oil spills to minimise the environmental damage. With such a long and busy coastline, it’s really important that Canada has the resources available to be able to manage it effectively, and this funding will be a welcome boost.

California is first US state to ban plastic bags

California has become the first US state to ban single use plastic bags. There were already some local bag bans within the state, but this new ban that was voted for by a referendum on November 8th is statewide. The win was pretty narrow, 51.97% to 48.03%, but now it has passed it’s hoped that this ban will cut down on the amount of single use plastic given out in the state, and that it might encourage other states to follow suit. We’re starting to see evidence that a charge on bags is working in England, so hopefully a ban in California will be even more effective.

Obama bans new oil drilling in Arctic for 5 years

New offshore oil drilling has been banned in the Arctic between 2017 and 2022, and existing leases won’t be able to be renewed. This is big news for two reasons. Firstly, the Arctic has large oil reserves and extracting and burning these means that we will be adding to our fossil fuel emissions, therefore speeding up the onset of climate change. If we don’t extract it then we can’t burn it. Secondly, the Arctic is an ecologically fragile area, and drilling for oil comes with the constant risk of oil spills and damage to the sea bed. So now that drilling for oil will be banned in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, these areas will remain healthy and therefore help to build up resistance to climate change. Drilling will still be allowed in some areas that have the ‘highest resource potential, lowest conflict and established infrastructure’. Even so, President Obama’s decision to limit drilling activity is definitely a positive step forward for climate change mitigation and the protection of the Arctic marine environment.

Signs of success with coral reef transplanting

Coral reefs are in need of a helping hand, and research into advanced restoration approaches is underway, potentially offering a ‘glimmer of light’ for damaged reefs. Scientists are developing programmes where small pieces of healthy coral are transplanted into a new area, helping to form the base of a new reef in the future. Studies in Florida are showing potential for this transplanting approach in the future, where coral microfragments that were planted 3 years ago are now 6 to 8 times larger and are starting to fuse together. Another transplanted reef in Japan  has developed far further and has been seen to spawn, the natural way in which reefs replenish themselves. This is heartening as it shows we might be able to manually replenish struggling reef systems, and then with time they will continue to look after themselves. Plenty more research is needed, but microfragmentation could offer hope to struggling reefs in the future.

5p charge leads to 85% drop in plastic bag use

It’s estimated that more than billion plastic bags were given out by big supermarkets in England in 2014. That’s an insane amount of single-use plastic, and we see the problems it causes all the time in cities, waterways and the open oceans. The great news is that, the number of plastic bags given out dropped to 600 million in the first 6 months after the ban, and now Defra estimates that we’ve used 85% fewer plastic bags than last year.  Also as a result of the 5p charge, the number of single use plastic bags found on beaches is down by 40%. This is a brilliant success, and just shows what a positive change a small charge on widely available and environmentally damaging products can make.


Extra protection for sharks and rays

Some sharks and rays can swim happier this month. Thresher sharks, Silky sharks and Devil rays are now listed under CITES Appendix II which means that they are offered some protection from the international shark fin trade. Appendix II is where species are put that need protection to make sure that trade doesn’t undermine their sustainability. It means that only fins from sustainable sources will be able to be traded internationally, and that any sharks that are caught will have to be recorded to help monitor numbers.

Antarctica’s Southern Ocean gets world's largest MPA

Marine Protected Area designations are gaining momentum this year, and now Antarctica is getting its turn. The importance of Antarctic waters as the ‘engine room of the ocean’ is being recognised, and the recent meeting in Hobart, Australia, between representatives from 25 different governments led to the designation of three zones totalling 600,000 square miles. Krill form a part of these ecosystems, and they may be small but they are hugely important to the stability of the food chain in the Antarctic. Healthy krill stocks will help support a healthy marine ecosystem. Krill are thought to be particularly affected by climate change, therefore we need to protect a large area of this ecosystem to help it resist the onset of climate change-induced issues and resist the decline of the small but mighty krill.  The area is classified as part of the ‘high seas’, meaning that it doesn’t come under any one country’s jurisdiction, and so these areas are much harder to protect.

Ecuador, Costa Rica and Columbia create giant marine reserve

There’s a new MPA off the coast of New England. Nearly 5000 square kilometres of ocean has been protected through the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. This area protects undersea volcanoes and canyons, and these areas harbour deep water and often endangered species. Each new designation is helping the overall percentage of the world’s oceans that are protected to creep up.

Cracking down on illegal fishing – tracing by numbers

One of the difficulties with tracking fishing vessels at sea is that they can change their name, call sign or the flag they fly (the country that they say they are from) pretty easily, and this makes it easier to dodge the authorities if they are fishing illegally. Having an IMO number attached to a vessel helps authorities to monitor them more closely and spot suspicious activity like attempts to mask the identity of a fishing boat. IHS Maritime will now be allocating IMO numbers to a greater range of fishing vessels.  Previously only merchant vessels and fishing boats of 24m and larger that weigh more than 100 gross tonnes could apply for an IMO number, but it has just been changed so that fishing vessels that are 12 metres or longer and that weigh under 100 gross tonnes can have one too. The Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, who authorise vessels to fish on the high seas, will now require all eligible vessels who fish in their region to have an IMO number. It’s at no extra cost to the fishermen and is hoped that more vessels with IMO numbers will mean greater traceability in the fishing industry and will help increase transparency and crack down on illegal fishing.


New MPAs in UK Overseas Territories

The UK has designated a huge area of our Overseas Territories as marine protected areas. The areas are located around islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, where some areas will fully ban commercial fishing, but will continue to allow smaller-scale, more sustainable fishing. Some will allow some commercial fishing, but will ban activities such as mining.The area will be monitored using new ‘Eyes on the Seas’ technology, combining information from satellites and drones to monitor the levels of compliance with the rules in very remote areas.

France taking big steps to reduce single-use plastic

France has become the first country to ban disposable plastic cups and plates. 4.73 billion disposable cups are thrown away every year in France, but from 2020 they will need to be made of at least 50% biodegradable products that the public will be able to compost at home. This figure will be increased to 60% by 2025. France also banned single-use plastic bags in July this year, meaning they’re taking great steps forward in the campaign to reduce plastic was

New MPA protecting undersea volcanoes

There’s a new MPA off the coast of New England. Nearly 5000 square kilometres of ocean has been protected through the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. This area protects undersea volcanoes and canyons, and these areas harbour deep water and often endangered species. Each new designation is helping the overall percentage of the world’s oceans that are protected to creep up.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument expanded

President Obama has expanded an existing marine reserve, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, taking it up to 582, 587 square miles. Commercial fishing and mining will not be allowed in the area, but some low level recreational fishing will be. Protecting large areas like this will help remove pressure on the marine ecosystems from human activity and will help fish stocks to recover. More individuals will be able to reach reproductive size and will therefore be able to start to rebuild the fish stocks. This expanded MPA is great news, but it won’t actually mean anything unless it is well policed and the regulations enforced. Otherwise we’re celebrating a line on a piece of paper, a ‘Paper Park’. Without good policing, vessels will still be able to fish in the area, but developments in satellite monitoring technology mean the future is getting brighter for fisheries enforcement.

Global Fishing Watch

Speaking of satellite technology, a new tool, Global Fishing Watch, has just fully launched. It allows anyone to login and see what commercial fishing is happening all over the world. It’s a great tool to be able to track fishing vessels to show if they are law-abiding, or to have evidence if they’re not. It will also allow the public to take an interest in our global fisheries and how they’re managed.


IKEA goes circular

Our society is pretty wasteful, but Ikea are taking a step towards tackling this by creating a ‘Circular Ikea’. The idea is that new products made of recycled materials will be integrated into their range, and existing products will be able to be repaired and recycled. Everyone loves Ikea so it’s great that they’re flagging up how we’ve reached ‘peak home furnishings’, and they’re a powerhouse in their field so it’s time for other companies to follow on. The more we recycle, the less plastic will find its way into the sea.

The next UNESCO World Heritage Sites might include the deep sea

At the moment the deep oceans are barely protected. To be honest, we don’t even know much about what’s down there to protect. However, there’s talk that the next UNESCO World Heritage Sites may include deep ocean habitats. This would be a massive deal. It would mean the importance of the deep sea and high seas is being recognised, but it would also be a positive step towards the protection of deep sea species and important breeding grounds from damaging human activities.

5p plastic bag success

It looks like the plastic bag charge is working for the sea. Some estimates have been made and scaled up, and it looks like, if we carry on using bags at the same rate as we did in the first six months after the 5p charge came in in England, then usage will have dropped by 83% from the 2014 figure of 7.64 billion plastic bags. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all saw reductions of between 70-80% in bag usage in the first year after the charge was brought in. So good news, everyone keep doing what you’re doing – it’s going well.

RePlast – building blocks from ocean plastic

Once plastic has found its way into the ocean it’s notoriously difficult to remove, but some people are finding a way. Gregor Gomory created RePlast, building blocks made of compressed marine plastic that don’t need any glue. The plan is to use them as an alternative building material for low-cost housing. They help to reuse existing plastic, they’ve got a low carbon footprint and they’re a good incentive to chase marine plastic and extract it. Good for people and good for the sea.

Talking about polystyrene

People are making noise about needing to ban polystyrene because of the impact it has on the ocean. It takes hundreds of years to decompose, leaks carcinogenic chemicals into water bodies and can cause choking and starvation in marine life. Wales was the first country in the UK to charge for plastic bags, and this move was driven by the consumers. Now environmentally conscious shoppers are concerned about the amount of single use polystyrene and they’re calling for a ban for polystyrene fast food containers. Looking at the success of the plastic bag charge, this one is definitely worth pursuing.

JULY 2016

Microbeads are going to be banned in the UK

There was talk a while ago about the government working with the cosmetics industry to phase out microbead use voluntarily, but now the UK will be following the US and banning them completely. This is such great news for the ocean because toiletries are often full of tiny plastic microbeads that are used as an exfoliant. They’re too small to be filtered out by waste water treatment works so they just go straight out to sea where they’re eaten by marine life. Banning microbeads is a simple(ish) way of cutting down on our marine plastic pollution as it’s a problem many people don’t even know about.

Protection for deep sea species in the North-East Atlantic

It has recently been agreed that there will be a ban on fishing below 800 metres deep in the North-East Atlantic which is great news for conservationists (and the fish). Deep sea ecosystems are really fragile because they grow so slowly that if they are wiped out by fishing gear they can take many hundreds of years to grow back. However, some conservationists argue that these negotiations have taken a long time to agree on and that protection like this is needed far more widely than just the North-East Atlantic.

Numbers of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are creeping up

Since the rapid increase in the number of very large MPAs at the end of last year, the pace has slowed down but new MPAs are still springing up which is great news for ocean health. In the last couple of months both Cambodia and Malta have taken steps to protect their marine environment: Cambodia has designated its first MPA to protect vulnerable marine species and habitats and Malta has designated eight Special Protection Areas (to protect birds).

#oceanoptimism is on the rise

The power of positivity as a fuel for change is being more widely recognised. Articles like this one talk about how too much negativity can turn people off from important conservation issues as people feel overwhelmed, guilty or think that it’s too late to do anything. Pointing out the good news is so important to try to keep a balance, and to motivate people to stay engaged with the issues and step up for the sea where they can.

Edible 6 pack rings

This is a great idea by Saltwater Brewery in Florida. They have piloted edible and biodegradable 6 pack rings made from barley and wheat left over from beer production. Huge numbers of 6 pack rings end up in the sea and marine life gets tangled in them. These ocean-friendly 6 pack rings can be eaten by marine life, and if not eaten they’ll totally biodegrade rather than drift for hundreds of years as plastic would. Hopefully this can set an example to the industry and cut down on future plastic use. Watch a video about it here.