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Analysis and Comment (51)

About 18% of the world’s seagrass stocks have disappeared over 20 years. Richard Unsworth

For the love of cod, let’s save our disappearing seagrass

Seagrass is one of the most important coastal habitats where young ocean-going fish such as Atlantic cod can grow and develop before setting out on the journey of life. But these critically important habitats…
Coral reef ecosystem off Palmyra Atoll part of newly expanded Marine National Monument. Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Pacific Remote Islands protection not just a drop in the ocean

This fall, President Obama signed a proclamation that created the biggest marine reserve in the world. By extending the protective boundaries around Wake Island, Jarvis Island and Johnston Atoll from 50…
Apollo Bay in Victoria. Australia’s coastal towns are vulnerable to changes in the surrounding seas. ccdoh1/Flickr

Your coastal town’s climate score? There’s a website for that

Australia’s coastal towns, many built around fisheries and tourism, are particularly vulnerable to climate change. South east and south west Australia are marine hotspots — they are warming much faster…
Only recently discovered, the Burrunan dolphin is now in need of urgent conservation action. AMMCF

Small and isolated dolphin populations are under threat

The Burrunan dolphin, Tursiops australis, has only recently been discovered but is already under threat due to its small and isolated populations. Our team of researchers from the Australian Marine Mammal…
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…
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? 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? 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. 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…
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. 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. 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. 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. 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…
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…
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…
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.” 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. 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”? 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. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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? 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. 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. 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? 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. 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…
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. 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. 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 (2)

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…