Newfound Ocean Zone Home to 100 Species

Just a while ago, a previously unexplored region of the Indian Ocean gave us more than 11 new species to look forward to reading about, including crustaceans with fascinating appearances and others. This is an amazing breakthrough for marine biology. But accomplishments in the field just seem to keep coming, as scientists from Oxford University travel Bermudian waters to discover a new area.

But that’s not yet the amazing part — the newfound ocean zone they call Rariphotic Zone (or rare light zone) seems to be home to 100 previously unknown species as well.

[M]ore than 100 new species were discovered including tanaids – minute crustaceans – dozens of new algae species and black wire coral that stand up to two metres high . . . The survey team spent hundreds of hours underwater, either scuba diving or using submersibles and remote operated vehicles which can reach depths of 6,500 feet (2,000m).

The team of marine biologists also found a huge algal forest on an underwater mountain about 15 miles from the Bermudian coast. Gardens of corals populated by urchins, eels, crabs, fish, and other creatures were also discovered to exist on this mountain’s slopes. For reference, the world has a total of around 100,000 underwater mountains, with only 50 that have been intimately explored by scientists.

Alex Rogers, Professor of Conservation Biology at Oxford University and scientific director of Nekton — the British charity which organized the ocean exploration trip — has a rightful opinion. The discovery of an entirely new ocean zone forwards the idea that there is far more diversity to look into. We may not have even laid eyes on so many ocean species.

“The average depth of the ocean is 4,200m. If life in the shallower regions of the deep sea is so poorly documented it undermines confidence in our existing understanding of how the patterns of life change with depth,” he added.

“[This is] evidence of how little we know and how important it is to document this unknown frontier to ensure that its future is protected”.

What he’s saying is very significant. Huge actions towards marine conservation are happening, such as Australia’s 500 million dollar pledge to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. But if we really want to protect the oceans and marine life, first we need to know in detail what we are protecting. And there is so much left to know.

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Endangered Giant Turtles Are Escaping Extinction

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.

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Daycares Ban Glitter To Prevent Microplastics Pollution

As oceans fill to the brim with discarded plastics, communities are doing what they can to manage the destructive material. While independent brand Eco Connect is finding ways to make plastic reusable, places like Kenya are simply banning the medium entirely. In the U.K., environmentalists are taking a less radical but highly effective step towards cleaner oceans. Daycares in southern England are officially banning glitter to prevent microplastics from contaminating water.

“Glitter is absolutely a microplastic and has the same potential to cause harm as any other microplastic…” [said research associate Alice Horton.]

Considering glitter is purely ornamental, there truly is no use for the material. Effective in only 19 Tops Day Nurseries, the ban won’t make a significant impact, but it sends a clear message.

“On a small scale, one nursery banning it is unlikely to have any environmental impact, but it’s a good environmental statement to make, like one person choosing not to buy bottled water to reduce plastic bottle waste. [It is] not going to change the world but [it] sets a target for others.”

Sometimes, change isn’t all about results — making a difference can arise from how one inspires another.

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Royal Family Plans For Waste-Reduction At Palace

In the war against plastic, the U.K. is proving itself to be a leading champion. Its ban on cosmetic microbeads and large-scale installation of water fountains is doing wonders for the nation. Now, Queen Elizabeth is taking her own measures against waste, phasing out plastic straws and bottles in all royal estates.

A palace spokesman told the press that there was a “strong desire to tackle the issue” at the highest levels. “Across the organisation, the Royal Household is committed to reducing its environmental impact,” he said.

On top of its plastic wipe-out, the palace itself is getting a green makeover. Solar panels will line its lush gardens, and the building will sport more efficient energy and composting systems. With 300 million tons of trash a year making their way into tranquil oceans, the Royals aren’t a family to be stagnant about it.

Prince Charles has delivered several speeches about damage to the oceans… he warned of an “escalating ecological and human disaster” from refuse in the seas. Charles and Dame Ellen MacArthur… offer a million-dollar cash prize to anyone with a great idea for keeping garbage out of the ocean.

I tip my hat off to you, Royal family. And I’m sure the fish do, too.

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Antarctica To Build Giant Wildlife Protection Reserve

Across the globe, busts against wildlife smugglers have been more copious than nature can handle. Though species such as the crest-tailed mulgara have made epic and unexpected comebacks, it isn’t the case for most. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Greenpeace is shutting down climate change and poaching with a wildlife reserve in Antarctica.

Will McCallum, of Greenpeace’s new Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “The next few years are absolutely essential for the future of our oceans and we are in desperate need for governments to come together and do what is best for these amazing ecosystems.”

As city dwellers, we often remain oblivious to the consequences of melting ice caps and hits to the food chain. Nonetheless, there is much value in keeping our polar wonderland’s seals, penguins, and whales afloat.

“This will bring huge benefits in protecting this amazing ecosystem, in preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of the ocean and in the wider fight against climate change.”

The reserve will cover 1.8m square kilometers of the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula. Not only will the eventual rise in fish populations excite seafood lovers — the world may not go down sinking after all.

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Belize Puts Indefinite Ban On Oil Drilling

Though global efforts to counter climate change have been plentiful, greed remains on top of the food chain. Man has exploited nature to no end. While the earth is slowly recovering, not every starfish will save itself. Of the nations participating in oil explorations, little Belize has had enough. As the Trump administration opens more waters to drilling, Belize is placing a moratorium on its own.

“Belize is a small country making a mighty commitment to putting the environment first,” says Nadia Bood, a reef scientist with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The developing country produces some 3,000 barrels of profitable oil per day, but its people know better. Despite a gleaming export income, the nation-that-could believes more in the value of its coral reefs.

“Ending oil activities will encourage other countries to follow suit and take the urgent action that is needed to protect our planet’s oceans,” says Chris Gee, a campaigner at WWF.

With a $200 million annual tourism cut that supports 190,000 livelihoods, banning excavations may not be a misstep after all.

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U.K. Bans Production Of Cosmetic Microbeads

You know plastic waste is a problem when the UN is taking matters into its own hands. Its Environment Programme has partnered with 200 countries, of which the U.K. is taking things a step even further. Seconding an American enterprise, the U.K. is finally bringing a lingering microbead ban into effect.

“The world’s oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life,” said environment minister Thérèse Coffey.

The ban will force manufacturers to revamp products like exfoliators and toothpaste. Overall, it’s a good start for one of the world’s leading plastic consumers. The embargo will work hand-in-hand with additional efforts to charge extra for plastic products.

Mary Creagh MP, (environmental audit committee) EAC chair, said: “The microbead ban is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.”

For Mother Nature, hard work doesn’t come to an end. Ultimately, it’s us who suffer without her.

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United Nations Resolution To Address Plastic Waste

You know ocean plastics are getting out of hand when beach resorts use them to decorate. According to the U.N., enough is enough. To put an end to plastic pollution, the U.N. Environment Programme drafted a resolution signed by 200 partner countries.

“There is very strong language in this resolution,” [said] Norway’s environment minister, Vidar Helgesen…

“We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.”

Projected to host more plastic than marine life by 2050, the ocean could use a helping hand. The new resolution hopes to slash the eight million tons of plastic that end up tossed every year. Participating countries are aiming to abolish “useless” plastic products such as straws.

“While this is not a treaty, significant progress is being made … 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea,” said the chief of public advocacy at UNEP, Sam Barrat.

Change, like any other, will take time. But at least we’ll no longer be risking plastic chunks in seafood platters.

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Divers Play Music For Coral Reefs

Environmental enthusiasts celebrate nature in different ways. Some host fun runs. Others put together benefit film screenings. This group of divers housed an underwater music festival.

About 400 divers and snorkelers gathered together… for the 33rd annual Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, held at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys. Organizers provided divers with a “submerged soundtrack” of nautical tunes by broadcasting music underwater through speakers suspended beneath boats.

The Florida Reef is the only remaining coral barrier reef in the United States. Because of constant deterioration, it could use all the help it can get.

“The Underwater Music Festival is a way to celebrate the coral reef, and we celebrate it by looking for a balance between protection of the reef and public enjoyment. The more people realize what’s down there and enjoy it, the more they’re likely to protect it,” explained Bill Becker, co-founder of the music festival.

Talk about letting loose your inner mermaid for a cause! Remember, kids: clean waters make for happy waters.

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Restaurants Saving Reefs With Oyster Shells

If there’s one industry proving itself to be an environmental hero, it’s the food industry. Restaurants have been teaming up to donate food to the needy as well as come up with more sustainable recipes. Now, restaurants in the Gulf Coast are giving back to nature by returning empty oyster shells.

While it’s common practice among seafood restaurants to send their empty shells to landfill with the rest of their waste, a handful of regions are beginning to put the shells to more productive use by returning them to the ocean, where they become the building blocks of restored oyster beds.

But if the discarded shells are empty, how are they helping to repair reefs? Not to worry. Young oysters will cling to unoccupied shells. The Nature Conservancy has since called for a $150 million investment in the hopes of repairing 100 miles of reefs.

the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the program has collected over 2.8 million oyster shells–enough to cover 5.5 acres in the Gulf. Each oyster shell returned to the ocean, Berte says, can become the habitat for 10 baby oysters. Additionally, adult oysters can filter around 15 gallons of water a day–significant for a region plagued with water-quality issues.

The reef restoration program has continued to prove the success of sustainable businesses. If more shell donations mean more oyster servings, I know I’m definitely off to a seafood joint tonight.

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