Australia has been making waves in the environmental newsfeed this past year with some fantastic headlines: its energy sector powered 70% of the country’s homes using only renewable sources, a huge permaculture farm fed dozens and dozens of families with only organic produce, and even without human help, a supposedly extinct species of insectivore suddenly showed up. But this Sunday, Australia made just about its biggest wave yet.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull pledged more than 500 million Australian dollars for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef — the greatest single investment that this reef or any other coral ecosystem in the world has ever received.
[T]he Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a national non-profit . . . will use the money to counter water pollution, combat coral-eating starfish, increase public awareness, boost reef monitoring, and improve the environmental impact of surrounding businesses . . . The funds will also be used to expand reef restoration efforts, including trialling new techniques that can breed corals resistant to high temperatures and light stress.
For a while now, the Great Barrier Reef, which hosts about 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, is known to be in great danger. Its damage — including coral bleaching and ocean acidification — can be traced to climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, harmful coastal development, and continuous fishing despite the already-present negative effects. A 2016 study even said that more than 90% of the reef has already been affected by coral bleaching.
However, Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is confident that “the right plan and the right investment” will help secure what he describes as a “remarkably resistant” reef . . . “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it . . . Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”
Of course, we must inevitably mull over the damage humans have caused the beautiful coral ecosystem in the past decades, but it seems to have been resilient in maintaining itself and in forgiving us. Perhaps the millions of dollars pledged to its protection can finally help us start to make up for the damage and deserve its forgiveness. I honestly can’t help but hope it’s better late than never for us and the Great Barrier Reef.
Some animals, such as wild tigers in Kazakhstan, are making a comeback thanks to environmental groups. However, others, like the humble sea turtle, are escaping extinction all on their own.
Massive efforts to save the egg-laying turtles by changing fishing nets and creating protected and darkened beaches are working, said . . . Antonios Mazaris, an ecology professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.
“There’s a positive sign at the end of the story,” Mazaris said. “We should be more optimistic about our efforts in society.”
Before, endangered giant turtles had a difficult time with their survival due to hunting, fishing, habitat destruction, and pollution, among other things. In fact, only one of seven sea turtle species isn’t endangered. Mazaris recently found that of 299 sets of turtle populations, 95 increased. That’s serious cause for some… shell-ebration.
“Sea turtles are bellwethers. They’re flagships that we use to tell the story of what’s going on in the oceans… And that’s why people should care about turtles.”
Thanks to new fishing practices and allocated nesting hubs, the population of previously endangered giant turtles now increase by 10 – 15% annually. The Ridley sea turtle species had formerly seen a drop of roughly 38,000, and this initial devastation of turtle populations may have been our own doing. However, our awareness and action are also partially to thank now.
To prevent passersby having to rescue beached whales, activists are looking for ways to better protect marine life. Some are turning to lab-grown meat to combat overfishing, while others are dealing with poachers up front. Determined to keep their own Revillagigedo Islands afloat, Mexico is placing 57,000 square miles under protection.
“It’s an important place biologically for megafauna, kind of superhighway, if you will, for sharks, manta rays, whales and turtles,” [said] Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project… “It’s a pretty biologically spectacular location.”
Altogether, the islands are home to 366 species of fish, as well as a vast number of plants and birds. Though fishing villages have expressed concern, conservationists have assured that the reserve will help catch populations to quickly rise.
“We have a long way to go,” [Rand] says. “But there’s been incredible growth in the concept of large-scale marine protected areas. It’s almost becoming a race. Hopefully it’s starting to snowball.”
To conserve ecosystems, at least 30% of the ocean must remain untouched. I’d say 57,000 square miles is a pretty good start.
Believe it or not, anyone can turn plastic into a valuable and non-wasteful material — all it takes is resourcefulness. Whether as part of an art piece or repurposed into product packaging, the possibilities with plastic are endless. This Cameroon student is salvaging not just a handful, but thousands of plastic bottles into recycled fishing boats.
“We are fighting,” he said. “We are trying to find innovative solutions that are new and can be useful in order to add value to these bottles.”
Ismael Essome Ebode claims his project is meant to combat pollution.
He’s been testing the boat and trying to convince local fishermen to use it as a cheaper, environmentally-friendly option to wooden boats.
Despite enforcing a ban on disposable plastic bags in Cameroon in 2014, the law does not extend to rural areas. Other materials are too expensive for simple merchants, while plastic is available and affordable. Ebode has successfully crafted five boats, proving it doesn’t always take a village to make a difference.
The food industry has furiously been working towards a solution to combatting limited resources. Restaurants are attempting to save reefs by replanting oyster shells. Researchers are finding ways to grow protein by using energy sources. Now, Finless Foods is turning to lab-grown seafood, hoping to solve over-harvesting.
Finless Foods is beginning by replicating the cells of Bluefin Tuna because it is overfished… and can’t be reproduced in captivity.
“We’re growing a small sample of fish meat out from a real fish in a large bioreactor, in massive scale, in clean, sterile breweries that won’t engage in all sorts of harmful practices like run-off, won’t have high levels of antibiotics or hormones,”
31% of fish worldwide are being over-harvested. Additionally, urbanization, agriculture, general fishing, and other actions are causing the rapid decrease in fish populations.
“We are taking fish from the world’s ocean on an unsustainable pace. Globally speaking, it is one of the biggest environmental threats that this world faces.”
Other groups are also processing their own synthetic meats. It may seem a long way before cell-cultured foods hit the market, but some businesses are already aiming to get products out by 2018. If artificial salmon tastes as good as I hear it does, then there’s nothing fishy here.