Monthly Marine Happy Headlines – March 2023

Welcome to our newest feature, Monthly Marine Happy Headlines!

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 – A High Seas Treaty has been reached after a decade of talks

Reported by the Guardian, following almost 20 years of negotiations, on Saturday 4th March 2023, United Nations member states agreed on a legal framework for parts of the ocean outside national boundaries. This High Seas Treaty aims to place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030. This will help to protect against the loss of wildlife and play a critical role in the impacts of climate change.

Ocean ecosystems produce half the oxygen we breathe, and act as a vital carbon sink (soaking up excess carbon dioxide). Yet until now, fragmented and loosely enforced rules governing the high seas have rendered this area more susceptible than coastal waters to exploitation.

Headline 2 – Skomer Island proves to be a conservation success story

The waters around Skomer and the Marloes peninsula constitute Wales’ only Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) to date. It’s an area rich in biodiversity and home to significant conservation success

Skomer Island provides a great place to feed for all manner of marine life. From seabirds and seals to dolphins, harbour porpoise, sea sponges, anemones and soft corals, and even 65 types of sea slug, the island is a vital refuge. Regular monitoring has shown the recovery of the MCZ scallop population, following the introduction of a byelaw prohibiting the removal of scallops in 1990. The grey seal population is also thriving. A record 446 pups being born in the MCZ in 2021. These trends show the value of long-term datasets – having good baseline data allows the team to know what is normal. 

Whilst the story of Skomer MCZ is full of successes, it highlights the fact that designation alone is not enough. Good management, and engagement with other sectors, is crucial for MCZs to thrive

Headline 3 – Aquariums around the world are collaborating to restore populations of zebra sharks

The zebra shark is a large, distinctive shark that lives in shallow coral reef habitats in tropical waters. Its appearance, which changes as the shark reaches maturity, has caused confusion among divers. While the zebra sharks are born dark brown with yellowish stripes, as they reach adulthood, they shed their stripes for small black dots against a tan body, closely resembling the leopard species. 

Like many shark species, zebra sharks are endangered. They are harvested by inshore fisheries in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and other countries for their meat, as well as its liver for vitamins, and fins for shark fin soup. 

However, a world first major science-backed shark re-introduction project, featuring zebra sharks, has been hailed a success. Undertaken by ReShark, aquarium-bred zebra sharks are released into marine protected areas such as Raja Ampat. Made up of 75 partners from 15 countries, 44 aquariums have bred these gentle predators from eggs to pups to juveniles. The first two juveniles, affectionally named Charlie and Kat, have just been released into the wild. The team hopes to release a further 500 over the next several years. 

While scientists rewild animals on land all the time, no one has ever tried to do the same with endangered sharks – until now


Headline 4 – The NHS worker singlehandedly rewilding kelp forests in Sussex

Reported by The Guardian, NHS worker Steve Allnutt has taken it upon himself to help restore 3 hectares of kelp forests in Sussex.

Kelp is vital for the health of the ocean: it grows in “forests” that are a huge nursery for migrating marine life, provides critical habitats for young marine species and acts as an important carbon sink. Kelp forests are one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, and vital in the fight against climate change. However, they are disappearing at an alarming rate. 

Having watched the lush beds disappear from local waters over the years, Steve made it his mission to rewild local kelp beds. An unusual setup – in his garage, he works around his busy schedule as a full-time physical therapy technician to grow collected kelp tissue before planting it into the ocean. To cover the initial cost he picked up extra shifts. Later, he launched a crowdfunding scheme – called the Sussex Seabed Restoration Project. This has raised more than £17,000. 

Headline 5 – Scientists find deepest fish ever recorded at 8,300m

Reported by The Guardian, scientists have captured footage of a fish swimming more than 8km underwater. This sets a new record for the deepest fish ever recorded!

The fish is ,an unknown snailfish species belonging to the genus Pseudoliparis. It was filmed at a depth of 8,336 metres in the Izu-Ogasawara trench, south-east of Japan. This is despite previous hypotheses that it may be impossible for fish to survive at depths greater than 8,200 metres. 

The footage was captured from an autonomous deep ocean vessel as part of a two-month expedition that began last year. The expedition’s chief scientist and founder of the Minderoo-UWA Deep Sea Research Centre, Prof Alan Jamieson, said specific adaptations enabled some snailfish species to live about 1,000 metres deeper than the next deep-sea fish.

Enjoyed Happy Headlines – March 2023?