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Oceans

Despite Oceans ‘In Crisis,’ Global Treaty Talks Falter

In the wake of collapsed U.N.-backed talks, ocean defenders this week are urging global governments to reach a robust treaty by year's end to safeguard the world's high seas from exploitation and the climate crisis. "Government promises to protect at least a third of the world's oceans by 2030 are already coming off the rails," Will McCallum of Greenpeace's Protect the Oceans campaign said in a statement Monday. A failure to reach a Global Ocean Treaty in 2022 would mean "no way to create ocean sanctuaries in international waters to allow them to achieve that 30×30 goal," he said. "This treaty is crucial because all of us rely on the oceans: from the oxygen they give to the livelihoods and food security they provide."

Protests Grow In South Korea Over Japan’s Fukushima Water Plan

Seoul, South Korea - Lee Dong-ho, 73, has been fishing waters off South Korea’s southern coast near Japan for 40 years and his eldest son is now taking over the family business, their lifeblood. Lee farms snapper and yellowtail, mackerel and anchovy, and runs a drying and processing plant. “We are surrounded on three sides by the sea,” Lee, who lives in Dadae village on Geoje Island, told Al Jazeera. South Korea has transformed its fishing industry over the past 30 years amid criticism of overfishing. Lee represents positive change as most of his business involves marine-fish farming – as opposed to open-water catching – which now makes up more than half of South Korea domestic seafood production.

Should Marine Species Own The High Seas?

Later this year, the United Nations will finish hosting the final negotiations on a new conservation treaty for the high seas, as waters that lie outside national jurisdiction are known. These cover more than half of Earth’s surface and contain much of the planet’s biodiversity. The moment marks a tremendous opportunity in humanity's losing battle against biodiversity loss.  Thus far, however, conversations about how best to protect the high seas have missed a crucial element, one that could well be the single boldest, most important conservation move that humankind could make: recognizing the property interests of the marine species now living there. Every whale and shark and sea turtle, every tuna and toothfish, every octopus and even every salp and sea urchin and anemone, has a right to own their part of the ocean. 

Atlantic Ocean Current At Weakest State In ‘Over A Millennium’

The Atlantic Ocean current that plays a major role in the world’s weather is at its weakest state in “over a millennium”, researchers have found. The research combines various lines of evidence to create a “consistent picture” of how the ocean current system, which is known as the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” (AMOC), has changed over the past 1,600 years. Sometimes called the Atlantic’s “conveyer belt”, the AMOC is a vast ocean current system that moves warm, salty water from the tropics to regions further north, such as the UK. The gulf stream is part of the AMOC. As the AMOC carries warm water northward, it releases heat into the atmosphere. The release of ocean heat keeps countries warm – and without it, winters in the UK could be close to 5C colder.

Bags And Balloons: Plastic Pollution Choking Sea Life

A dead manatee in Florida was found to have swallowed so many plastic bags they formed a cantaloupe-sized ball in its stomach, while a baby turtle had its intestines perforated by tiny plastic fragments. They are some of 1,800 marine mammals and turtles found to have ingested or been entangled by plastic along American coastlines since 2009, according to a report from conservation NGO Oceana published Thursday. The group's report attempts to describe the cumulative impact of plastic pollution on marine fauna in the United States in the last decade, despite growing recycling practices.

Deep Sea Mining Threatens More Than The Seafloor

Interest in deep-sea mining for copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, and other valuable metals has grown substantially in the last decade and mining activities are anticipated to begin soon. Deep-sea mining poses significant risks, not only to the area immediately surrounding mining operations but also to the water hundreds to thousands of feet above the seafloor, threatening vast midwater ecosystems. Currently, 30 exploration licenses cover about 580,000 square miles of the seafloor on the high seas and some countries are exploring exploitation in their own water as well. Thus far, most research assessing the impacts of mining and environmental baseline survey work has focused on the seafloor. However, large amounts of mud and dissolved chemicals are released during mining and large equipment produces extraordinary noise—all of which travel high and wide. Unfortunately, there has been almost no study of the potential effects of mining beyond the habitat immediately adjacent to extraction activities.

Activists Charged With Felonies After Delivering Formosa Plastic Pollution To Lobbyists

Two Louisiana environmental activists, Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh, were taken in handcuffs and leg irons from a Baton Rouge police station to jail after they voluntarily surrendered themselves on felony charges after months' earlier delivering plastic pollution pulled from Texas waters to fossil fuel lobbyists' homes. The two posted bond and were released later the same day. “The women are accused of terrorizing oil and gas lobbyists by giving them a file box full of plastic pellets found in Texas bays near a plastic manufacturing facility owned by Formosa Plastics,” NOLA.com reports. Rolfes and McIntosh are being charged with felony “terrorizing” under Louisiana Revised Statute 14:40.1, according to their attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pam Spees. The charges carry sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment.

Tired Of ‘Writing Obituaries For Coral Reefs,’ Surfing Scientists Find Ways To Save Them

Grim reports and unsettling headlines paint a bleak future for Earth’s coral reefs, which are projected to be wiped out by the end of the century due to climate change and pollution.  But a new study shows that this future can be prevented — and outlines the relatively small steps humanity can take to ensure coral reefs’ long-term protection and productivity.  Building off of previous work, a group of marine scientists — all of them ardent surfers — identified the criteria that make a coral reef receptive to conservation.  This research found that conservation efforts should focus on areas with low-to-medium human impacts on coral reefs, according to Jack Kittinger, a member of the research group and head of Conservation International’s global fisheries and aquaculture work.

New Climate Data Points To Mass Extermination

In the brain, when neurons fire off electrical signals to their neighbors, this happens through an “all-or-none” response. The signal only happens once conditions in the cell breach a certain threshold. Now an MIT researcher has observed a similar phenomenon in a completely different system: Earth’s carbon cycle. Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics and co-director of the Lorenz Center in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, has found that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain threshold...

Campaigner Calling For The Final Straw

By Hannah Wilkinson for JMU Journalism - A Wirral man who has devoted his career to helping and protecting sealife is calling on businesses to help in the fight to keep local waterways safe and clean. While there is growing public awareness that the use of plastics is having a major detrimental impact with dangerous materials making their way out to sea, marine mammal medic, Chris Cureton, is a man on a mission. Last month, the JD Wetherspoon pub chain too the decision to remove plastic straws from its 900 UK bars, and Chris is hoping to encourage other firms to do the same. Mr Cureton told JMU Journalism: “I’m very focused on marine plastic pollution and its impact on marine life both locally and globally. “After seeing some campaigns around the world attempting to reduce the use of single use plastic straws, I decided to kick off the campaign locally focusing on New Brighton and Wallasey.” He only started his campaign at the beginning of September, but 13 local Wallasey and New Brighton businesses have already agreed to completely remove plastic straws from their venues. Other outlets have agreed to not automatically put straws in glasses, but will still have them on offer. ‘The Last Plastic Straw’ is a worldwide campaign striving to educate the public about the problems associated with of single use plastic, its effects on health, the environment, and the oceans.

Most Powerful Evidence Climate Scientists Have Of Global Warming

By Sabrina Shankman and Paul Horn for Inside Climate News - Earth's temperature is rising, and it isn't just in the air around us. More than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet's surface. Their temperature is rising, too, and it tells a story of how humans are changing the planet. This accrued heat is "really the memory of past climate change," said Kevin Trenberth, the head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and co-author of a new paper on ocean warming. It's not just the amount of warming that is significant—it's also the pace. The rate at which the oceans are heating up has nearly doubled since 1992, and that heat is reaching ever deeper waters, according to a recent study. At the same time, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been rising. The charts that follow show how the oceans are changing and what they're telling us as a thermometer of global warming.

Fukushima Plant Is Releasing 770,000 Tons Of Radioactive Water Into Pacific Ocean

By Dahr Jamail for Truthout - When Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant suffered a triple-core meltdown in March 2011 as the result of devastating earthquake, most people had no idea this was only the beginning of a nuclear disaster that has arguably become the single worst industrial accident in human history. Keeping the three core meltdowns cool has been an ongoing challenge that has yet to be met. As fresh water is pumped over the cores, it is then stored on site in massive tanks. The Tokyo Electric Power company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, then has to figure out what to do with that water. Recently, TEPCO announced that it would dump 770,000 tons of radioactive tritium water into the Pacific Ocean. The announcement infuriated local fishermen and environmental groups across Japan. According to Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist and winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson prize, their outrage and alarm is not without merit. "The release of thousands of tons of radioactive tritium by a giant utility company into our aquatic and natural environments is a blood-chilling prospect," Savabieasfahani told Truthout.

Fukushima Plant Releasing 770,000 Tons Radioactive Water Into Ocean

By Dahr Jamail for TruthOut. When Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant suffered a triple-core meltdown in March 2011 as the result of devastating earthquake, most people had no idea this was only the beginning of a nuclear disaster that has arguably become the single worst industrial accident in human history. Keeping the three core meltdowns cool has been an ongoing challenge that has yet to be met. As fresh water is pumped over the cores, it is then stored on site in massive tanks. The Tokyo Electric Power company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, then has to figure out what to do with that water. Recently, TEPCO announced that it would dump 770,000 tons of radioactive tritium water into the Pacific Ocean.

A Campaign To Eliminate Plastic Straws Is Sucking In Thousands Of Converts

By Darryl Fears for The Washington Post - Straws are among the most common plastic items volunteers clean from beaches, along with bottles, bags and cups, conservationists say. Americans use half a billion straws every day, at least according to an estimate by Be Straw Free, based on information from straw manufacturers. That many straws could wrap around the Earth 2½ times. The slightest wind lifts plastic straws from dinner tables, picnic blankets and trash dumps, depositing them far and wide, including in rivers and oceans, where animals often mistake them for food. And they are ubiquitous. Nearly every chain restaurant and coffee shop offers straws. They’re in just about every movie theater and sit-down restaurant. Theme parks and corner stores and ice cream shops and school cafeterias freely hand them out. But they are starting to disappear because of the awareness campaign Cress and dozens of conservation groups are waging. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom bans them, as do the food concession areas of Smithsonian Institution museums. Keith Christman, a managing director for plastics markets at the American Chemistry Council, which promotes plastics manufacturers and fights attempts to ban plastic, said in a National Geographic article two months ago that the group would do the same for attempts to eliminate plastic straws.

Australian Oil Well Leaked Into Ocean For Months – But Spill Kept Secret

By Michael Slezak for The Guardian - An offshore oil and gas well in Australia leaked oil continuously into the ocean for two months in 2016, releasing an estimated 10,500 litres. But the spill was never made public by the regulator and details about the well, its whereabouts and operator remain secret. In its annual offshore performance report released this week, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority included a mention of a 10,500-litre spill in April 2016. It provided limited details about, noting that it had been identified during a routine inspection. After inquiries from the Guardian, Nopsema said the leak went on for two months, at a rate of about 175 litres a day. It went unnoticed while the floating platform was undergoing maintenance and was only discovered when the platform returned. A spokesman for Nopsema said the leak had been caused by a seal degrading. The regulator investigated the spill and said the operator had been ordered to check the seals were working before disconnecting the platform. But despite requests to reveal exactly where the spill occurred, or what company was responsible, Nopsema refused to disclose the information, revealing only that it was in the North West Shelf. The Nopsema spokesman said that since companies were compelled by law to report these leaks the regulator believed there was an “implied duty of confidence”.
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