Ocean News

News catch-up: from Copenhagen to China’s Yao Ming

29th December 2009

Apologies for the notably infrequent posts over the festive period. Rest assured news updates should now return to something approaching regularity, but here’s a brief catch up of stories from the past week or so.

The troubled Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in Denmark concluded on December 18th, yielding what has been reported internationally as a disappointing outcome. Although a deal was eventually reached (essentially aiming to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2C and pledging financial aid to developing nations) it lacked actual targets for cuts in carbon emissions and there was no agreement on an international, legally binding treaty. The details of the agreement can be found here, whilst more information on how climate change is affecting our oceans can be found here.

More positive news is that the European Commission has elected to close all fisheries for the endangered porbeagle shark, following scientific advice given at the recent European Fisheries Council meeting. Porbeagle sharks, a close relative of the great white, have been heavily targeted both for their fins and meat, but North Atlantic populations have been observed to collapse in recent years. Hopefully effective enforcement will follow this legislation and permit the recovery of porbeagle populations.

Whilst on the topic of sharks, Yao Ming – NBA and China’s most successful celebrity – has continued his support for WildAid’s ongoing campaign against the consumption of shark fin soup in a new video. The hope is that using a celebrity with which people identify will better help draw attention to the issue of shark finning and its impacts – a recent survey in China revealed that two thirds of participants were simply unaware that the favoured soup dish was from sharks. You can learn more about WildAid’s anti-shark finning campaign over on their SOSF project page.

Separate to the aforementioned climate conference, there is potential that the UK Government may be considering the establishment of the world’s largest marine protected area: the Chagos Archipelago. The Archipelago is the world’s largest coral atoll and contains half of the remaining healthy coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, making it a highly desirable conservation target. There would be issues with maintenance of such a large protected area (spanning over 200 miles), especially given the loss of income the prohibition of the area’s tuna fishery would incur, however these are thought to be severely outweighed by the benefits of conserving such a large area of the marine environment. Let’s hope that such a move is not lost amongst the forthcoming election.

In other news the mystery of the Amazonian manatee’s migration patterns has been solved. Work by researchers from Brazil has revealed that during the low-water season the manatee’s travel to deeper water, which affords them greater protection from predators but comes with the forfeit of poor foraging opportunities.

Be sure to read the next blog post of SOSF Chief Photographer Tom Peschak, in which he will recount his efforts to track down the West Indian manatee.