Monthly Marine Happy Headlines – January 2023
Each month, we spotlight several marvellous marine discoveries, spreading ocean joy around the globe. From conservation success stories to empowering community action, the discovery of new species, and ground-breaking research articles, join us for some ocean joy!
Headline 1 – UK Government decision will see the creation of more mini wetlands
Positive news from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) as, after a long fought battle, the UK Government have agreed to implement key legislation requiring new developments in England to include mini wetlands. These include rain gardens or ponds, which will help to prevent flooding of people’s homes and businesses. It is estimated that these proposed mini wetlands will not only provide £3bn in reduced damages but will provide a natural resource for people’s mental wellbeing by putting blue and green space in urban areas directly where people live and work.
Following 10 years of campaigning, the WWT, and other organisations are keen to work alongisde the government to ensure implementation delivers the maximum possible benefits for wildlife and people.
Headline 2 – France votes to ban deep-sea mining in its waters
Back in November 2022, during the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would be calling for a complete ban on deep-sea mining. This marked the first time a head of state has directly called for an outright ban on this particular activity.
Other countries, including Costa Rica, Chile, Germany, France and Spain have caused for a “precautionary pause”, whilst Lisbon and Palau launched an alliance of nations calling for a moratorium against deep-sea mining. Fiji, Samoa and Micronesia subsequently joined this alliance. On the other hand, nations such as Norway, South Africa, Australia, Japan and India have an expressed a desire to continue collaborating on the rules to allow mining to commence or continue.
Whilst further research is required, scientists are deeply concerned about the potentially devastating impact on marine ecosystems. As well as the climate, given the vast amounts of CO2 stored at these depths. Nicholas Thierry, the Green MP who tabled the motion, welcomed the vote as a “victory for the seabed and environmentalists”.
Headline 3 – Five new deep-sea squat lobster species discovered
Munidopsid squat lobsters (family Munidopsidae) are among the most abundant decapods found in the depths of our oceans. Despite calling one of the harshest environments their home, they are the most diverse group of squat lobsters in the East Pacific. Each year, numerous new species of deep-sea squat lobsters are discovered. This year proved no exception, with researchers describing five new species.
However, the current classification is based on morphology, or character traits. In a new study, published just this year, researches at Harvard University combined molecular data and microCT to show a wider species distribution range and shallower genetic diversity. This study calls for the revision of the current classification of squat lobsters.
Headline 4 – ‘Bubble barrier’ plastic pollution reduction trial in Netherlands proves successful
Each year, over 8m tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, with over half of all plastics ever manufactured made in the last 15 years. Plastic created from fossil fuels are over a century old. Development of plastic products accelerated after World War II and it transformed the modern age. Plastic was used to create everything from life-saving medical equipment, to space travel, to consumables, e.g., bottles, tea bags, wipes. However, due to its convenience, plastic items were, and remain, casually discarded, and now, 40 percent of the plastic produced every year is single-use plastic.
Plastic pollution can alter habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change, directly affecting millions of people’s livelihoods, food production capabilities and social well-being.
Most of the plastic in our oceans flows from land and it is estimated 60-80% of this originates in our rivers. The concept of a ‘bubble barrier‘ was devised by a Dutch team in 2017 in an attempt to design a solution to catch plastic over a river’s full width and depth before directing it to a collection system to compress the waste. The first barrier was installed on a waterway in Amsterdam in 2019. And last summer, a second was installed in the mouth of the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) river at Katwijk in mid-western Netherlands after locals expressed dismay at plastic pollution littering the town’s beach.
Headline 5 – Scientists discover new emperor penguin colony
Reported recently by The Guardian is the positive news that a new colony of emperor penguins has been discovered. This brings the total known breeding sites around the coastline of Antarctica to 66, according to the British Antarctic Survey.
Identifying the colony, which resides in one of the most remote and inaccessible regions of Antarctica was achieved using satellite images, and is an exciting discovery. With sea ice melting at an alarming rate, the climate crisis poses an existential threat to these, and other colonies, as emperor penguins are the only penguins that breed on sea ice, rather than land. In fact, it is feared that Emperor penguins could disappear by 2100 if nations don’t cap emissions.