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Analysis and Comment (45)

Not the sort of coastal effects you can sweep under the rug. Not the sort of coastal effects you can sweep under the rug. Jian Feng

China’s economic explosion is ravaging its coastal ecosystems

The speed and scale of China’s rapid economic growth has led to widespread degradation of its densely inhabited coastlines, according to an analysis of 60 years of social, economic and environmental data…
A dragnet that captures too much marine life. A dragnet that captures too much marine life. Joachim Müllerchen

We must rein in heavy fishing gear to allow the seas to recover

When the UK Environmental Audit Committee investigated the issue of protecting our marine environment last month, it concluded that there had been a woeful lack of decisive action from the government so…
The world’s five species of sawfish are the most threatened fishes in the world. The world’s five species of sawfish are the most threatened fishes in the world. David Wackenfelt

Plundered for their unique body parts, sawfish are on the brink

Sawfish are the most endangered group of marine fish in the world, largely thanks to overfishing and habitat loss. Formerly abundant, they have disappeared from many countries' waters, and in many others…
What would you pull out of the water if you knew you were watched? What would you pull out of the water if you knew you were watched? Dirk.heldmaier

Track boats with GPS to stop illegal fishers draining the seas

The ocean, seen from a beach or from a plane, seems vast, ancient and invulnerable. It’s hard to imagine that 90% of life on earth lives below the waves, across 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water and…
Is climate change good or bad news for sea turtles? Is climate change good or bad news for sea turtles? djblock99/Flickr

What does climate change mean for sea turtles?

You might have seen in recent news that climate change may increase the size of some sea turtle populations, by increasing the number of female turtles. These studies hinge on an unusual trait of sea turtles…
It seems that talk is at last followed by walk. It seems that talk is at last followed by walk. Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

US-led summit is welcome news for the ocean, at last

As it had already been cancelled once, due to the US government shut-down last October, the latest developments in Iraq made it seem likely the Our Ocean conference, organised by the US State Department…
Cabo Pulmo, in its current, concrete-free incarnation. Cabo Pulmo, in its current, concrete-free incarnation. Alan Harper

Mexican mega-hotel rises from the dead to threaten biodiversity hotspot once again

When former Mexican president Felipe Calderon shut down the development of a planned US$2 billion, 4,000 hectare hotel mega-resort in 2012, it looked as though the extraordinary diversity of the Cabo Pulmo…
The WA government has caught 172 sharks since installing drum lines - but not a single great white. The WA government has caught 172 sharks since installing drum lines - but not a single great white. AAP IMAGE/ SEA SHEPHERD

Five take-home messages from WA’s official shark cull numbers

Perhaps predictably, the Western Australian government has claimed that its shark drum line season, which ended last week, was a success. In a media statement, fisheries minister Ken Baston said that “172…
The United Nations is concerned about port expansions and dredging disposal in the Great Barrier Reef – but that bigger picture is ignored in new ‘Reef Facts’ commercials. The United Nations is concerned about port expansions and dredging disposal in the Great Barrier Reef – but that bigger picture is ignored in new ‘Reef Facts’ commercials. Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team

Great Barrier Reef ‘facts’ TV ads ignore dredge dumping risks

New “Reef Facts” commercials are currently airing during prime-time television shows in Australia, purporting to tell the “facts” about the environmental health of the Great Barrier Reef. It comes amid…
Global shipping is expected to triple by 2060. Global shipping is expected to triple by 2060. Let Ideas Compete/Flickr

We need a global conservation agreement for the high seas

The high seas cover about 50% of Earth’s surface and host a major share of the world’s biodiversity, but remain largely ungoverned. With increasing threats to open ocean ecosystems, now more than ever…
The ocean is all stirred up with what we’re doing to it. The ocean is all stirred up with what we’re doing to it. NASA

The ocean is not just huge, but also hugely important

Carl Sagan’s description of our planet as a “pale blue dot” captured two important elements about the Earth: its loneliness in the enormity of space, and the ocean’s overwhelming dominance of the planet…
Tiny phytoplankon are at the start of the food chain. Tiny phytoplankon are at the start of the food chain. R Kirby

The smartphone app that could rescue the world’s plankton

Phytoplankton are the microscopic plant-like cells that float in the sea’s sunlit surface. They underpin the marine food chain and controversy over their stocks means it’s necessary to better understand…
Garom, a sculpture made from discarded “ghost nets” in the Torres Strait. Garom, a sculpture made from discarded “ghost nets” in the Torres Strait. Australian Museum/Supplied

Ghostly art, made from debris that menaces marine life

With more than half a million people participating in last Sunday’s Clean Up Australia Day, it’s perhaps not surprising that some odd objects came to light. Not all the rubbish was on land, and not all…
Step away from the fish, with your beak in the air. Step away from the fish, with your beak in the air. Reemul

Marine conservation efforts are failing to take five key steps

Some of the world’s most vulnerable marine habitats are being failed by the conservation orders put in place to protect them. As the Environmental Audit Committee meets to discuss how it will implement…
Plastics, not to be confused with food. Plastics, not to be confused with food. Chris Jordan/USFWS

Plastic pollution is a problem we still know too little about

The recent storms have transformed many of the nation’s coasts – blasting away the sand from beaches, eroding cliffs, and damaging properties. More surprising is the sudden and often dramatic appearance…
Pirate fishers harm economies, ecosystems, and often their crew. Pirate fishers harm economies, ecosystems, and often their crew. Shawn Eggert/USN

Pirate fishing steals from poor and wrecks marine environment

When the Russian owned factory ship Oleg Naydenov was recently seized by armed Senegalese commandos for illegal fishing in Senegal’s exclusive territorial 12-mile fishing zone, it shone a much-needed spotlight…
It’s all uphill for salmon right now. It’s all uphill for salmon right now. David Cheskin/PA

Shrinking wild salmon starve at sea as North Atlantic warms

It is an enduring mystery how juvenile salmon, at 12cm long and weighing perhaps only 20g, can leave a Scottish river in springtime, undertake a sojourn of thousands of kilometres around the North Atlantic…
On your marks, get set, cross the Atlantic. On your marks, get set, cross the Atlantic. Uwe Kils

Rise and fall of eel numbers linked to ocean currents

Reports of the third successive year of rising eel catches in France suggests the eel’s drastic decline in numbers has finally bottomed out. However it’s important to note that today’s catches are a tiny…
Going fishing? 96% of Australia’s coastline is still open to recreational fishers. Going fishing? 96% of Australia’s coastline is still open to recreational fishers. Flickr/deswalsh

Paper parks or a world-class system of ocean protection?

The federal government’s recent announcement “reproclaiming” the new Commonwealth Marine Reserves overturns previous plans to protect Australia’s marine biodiversity, and review the management of Australia’s…
The Jetty at Lundy, England’s first marine conservation zone in 2010. The Jetty at Lundy, England’s first marine conservation zone in 2010. MichaelMaggs

Marine conservation bid upsets everyone it aimed to please

Worldwide, the use of Marine Protected Areas is recognised as an important strategy to safeguard marine biodiversity from the impact of over-fishing, pollution, and other environmental damage. In England…
Maria Island’s protected waters have given us insight into how species respond to warmer temperatures. Maria Island’s protected waters have given us insight into how species respond to warmer temperatures. Paul Benjamin

Marine reserves help fish resist climate change invaders

Southeast Australia is an ocean warming “hotspot” – a region where temperature at the ocean’s surface is increasing more rapidly than elsewhere. That means this part of Australia is like an outdoor laboratory…
Tiny Japanese skeleton shrimp Caprella mutica, found in concentrations up to 300,000/m2. Tiny Japanese skeleton shrimp Caprella mutica, found in concentrations up to 300,000/m2. SAMS

There are no barriers to prevent marine invasive species

Ash dieback, oak processionary moths, waterway minkes and parrakeets in Kew Gardens – there are plenty of species on and even above ground in the UK that didn’t originate in the country. The fifth Annual…
European green crabs, the party crashers of the American coasts. European green crabs, the party crashers of the American coasts. Lmbuga

Heed past lessons to save Arctic from invasive species

More shipping is sailing through thawing Arctic waters, but while these northern routes might provide opportunities for tourism, mining and cutting down delivery times, the ships may also carry stowaways…
Fishes' future rests in our hands. Fishes' future rests in our hands. WorldFish

Putting seas up for sale will not save the world’s fish

The oceans cover almost three-quarters of the planet’s surface, and for many people they represent the last great wilderness. But in fact the seas support many human activities, and have done for millennia…
A tide of tsunami debris is heading across the ocean - that doesn’t mean the ocean is broken. A tide of tsunami debris is heading across the ocean - that doesn’t mean the ocean is broken. US Navy

The ocean is not broken, but consumer behaviour is

In an emotional article making waves on social media at the moment, yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen reports seeing no marine life at sea, only floating rubbish, while sailing across the Pacific. He concludes…
“We all look the same, we need some diversity around here.” “We all look the same, we need some diversity around here.” Rick Stuart-Smith/Reef Life Survey

Novel method of measuring biodiversity reveals surprises

I first heard used the term “biodiversity” as a graduate student some years ago. While it appeared to be something everyone agreed was important, nobody could tell me exactly what it meant. It seemed to…
Looks like an oil slick, but the similarity ends there. Looks like an oil slick, but the similarity ends there. Badagnani

Sharks haven’t turned up in Hawaii for the toffee

Swimmers in Hawaii have been warned out of the water for fear of shark attacks after around 1,400 tonnes of molasses - treacle - leaked from a pipe into the sea while being transferred to a tanker from…
Skate, or “skate”? Skate, or “skate”? Andrew M Griffiths

Unchecked food fraud threatens vulnerable fish

The deliberate act of falsely representing, labelling or advertising food, known as “food fraud”, is not a recent phenomenon. The deceitful adulteration of food has a long history based on the promise…
These blue-green algae - cyanobacteria - would be the only winners from a warming ocean. These blue-green algae - cyanobacteria - would be the only winners from a warming ocean. Joydeep

If warming oceans leave algae hungry, we’ll go hungry too

Global warming is having a significant impact on marine life, as many marine organisms are adapted to live only within the average temperature range of their habitats. This applies to larger fish and sea…
By consulting more with fishers, governments can build support for conservation science. By consulting more with fishers, governments can build support for conservation science. Flickr/Ben Christian Photos

Marine parks won’t work unless fishers are on side

Last year the current government unveiled plans for the world’s largest network of marine parks around Australia’s coast. Now the Coalition has pledged to put a pause on the plan should it form government…
Right on cue with gaping jaw and rows of teeth. Right on cue with gaping jaw and rows of teeth. Loren Javier

It’s silly season, but there is a real shark threat to fear

Each summer, for several years in a row, a tabloid would send me a picture of a shark fin photographed off Cornwall and ask if it was a Great White. “No,” I would patiently explain, “it is a harmless basking…
Can British shores really attract more people than the Great Barrier Reef? Can British shores really attract more people than the Great Barrier Reef? USFWS Pacific

Cash from conservation zones doesn’t add up

What has nature ever done for us? This is what leading environmentalist Tony Juniper asks in his latest book. He wants us to account for the “ecosystem services” that nature freely provides in order to…
Calling something protected isn’t enough to protect it. Calling something protected isn’t enough to protect it. AAP Image/Australian Institute for Marine Science

Governments are not protecting the Great Barrier Reef

Announcements last week of the escalating damage to the Great Barrier Reef confirm Australia’s most famous and intensely managed Marine Protected Area has not been properly protected. UNESCO’s recent review…
Russia has turned its back on marine protected areas in Antarctica. Where to now? Russia has turned its back on marine protected areas in Antarctica. Where to now? Flickr/US Embassy New Zealand

Antarctic marine reserves: how many ways can you say “Nyet”?

Russia blocked the approval of new marine protected areas in the Antarctic this week, demanding more scientific information and a definition of marine protected areas. The surprise move postpones a joint…
Each Spotted Handfish has its own unique spot pattern. Each Spotted Handfish has its own unique spot pattern. Tess Moriarty

Australian endangered species: Spotted Handfish

The Spotted Handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) is a small fish that lives on the sea bed in the cool, sheltered waters of south-east Tasmania. It has modified pelvic fins that look like “hands”, hence…
Chagos: more marine life than practically anywhere else, and Captain Bird’s Eye is getting his hands on none of it. Chagos: more marine life than practically anywhere else, and Captain Bird’s Eye is getting his hands on none of it. Anne Sheppard/Chagos Trust

The Chagos Islands are unique and worth protecting

The Chagos Islands marine protected area is the largest of its kind in the world, encircling the dozens of tiny islands of the Chagos archipelago that lie in thousands of miles of Indian Ocean between…
On thin ice? On thin ice? Alan D. Wilson/naturespicsonline.com

All eyes turn to the prize as the Arctic opens for business

Foundation essay: This article on the future of the Arctic by Tavis Potts, Senior Lecturer in Oceans Governance at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, is part of a series marking the launch of…
The danger to marine life from ghost nets is symptomatic of the threat to Australia’s northern marine environment from illegal practise and overfishing. The danger to marine life from ghost nets is symptomatic of the threat to Australia’s northern marine environment from illegal practise and overfishing. AAP Image/Department of Heritage and Government

Australia’s northern waters: killer nets and flawed funding

Are we spending money on the wrong marine resources? While some $A100 million is being thrown at a new network of marine protected areas – a doubtful investment according to some commentators - the fabulous…
Why can’t people and marine parks get along? Why can’t people and marine parks get along? Flickr/f-l-e-x

Go fish: why fishers don’t care for marine parks

In what is either a win for fishers or another blow to reserves, recreational fishers have been allowed back into marine sanctuaries under controversial new reforms in New South Wales. In the past four…
Rubbish in the ocean - marine debris - is a terrible threat to wildlife. Discarded fishing nets are among the worst. Rubbish in the ocean - marine debris - is a terrible threat to wildlife. Discarded fishing nets are among the worst. AAP Image/Department of the Environment and Heritage/Melbourne Zoo

Ghostnets fish on: marine rubbish threatens northern Australian turtles

Each year around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is lost or thrown overboard by the fisheries around the world. These “ghostnets” drift through the oceans and can continue fishing for many years. They kill…
Shark fins are a delicacy in Asia, which can sometimes lead to unsustainable fishing practices. Shark fins are a delicacy in Asia, which can sometimes lead to unsustainable fishing practices. mario ruckh/Flickr

Shark protection developments have no bite

Whether it’s from fishing and by-catch, finning or even culling, global shark populations are under a growing threat from human activity. But how successful is international law at protecting some of the…
Networks of nature: a potato cod with striped cleaner wrasse at Osprey Reef, an area in the expanded marine reservations announced today. Networks of nature: a potato cod with striped cleaner wrasse at Osprey Reef, an area in the expanded marine reservations announced today. Flickr/richard ling

Big splash: welcome back to top-shelf marine conservation

Today’s announcement of a national network of marine parks is really a memorable day for Australian nature conservation. The political rhetoric and self-congratulation associated with major events is often…

Research and News (1)

Research Briefs (8)

Scuba divers assist in worldwide marine study

A team of “citizen scientists”, including more than 100 recreational scuba divers, have helped researchers identify new habitats…