Every week Ocean Wise combs international headlines to bring you the most important ocean news. This week: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch reaches new extremes, the Newfoundland cod fishery faces more challenges and much more — read on!

Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The United Nations published four scientific reports on biodiversity this week, highlighting dramatic declines in plants, animals and clean water. While all parts of the world are affected, one of the most striking findings is that, if current trends persist, there will be no “exploitable fish stocks” in Asia by 2048. In plain words: the most populated continent will run out of fish in 30 years. Via CBC

Despite making a remarkable comeback over the last decade, Newfoundland’s northern cod stocks have fallen 30% over the past year. Scientists and some fishermen are calling for quotas to freeze or decrease until the stock is reestablished. Via Globe and Mail

A study on stranded sea otters shows that the animals often have injuries caused by great white sharks and that bites are highest where kelp concentration is lowest. This makes sense because animals use kelp forests to hide from predators, but there are signs that the otters’ current habitat is overcrowded. Sea otter have rebounded in California, from 50 in 1938 to about 3,200 today. Those sea otter population won’t spread unless the kelp beds do. Via Hakai Magazine

Plastics and Pollution

The great Pacific garbage patch is four to sixteen times higher than previously thought, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports. The largest ocean gyre contains about over 80,000 tons of plastic, an increase only partially attributed to a more thorough methodology that included aerial photos, trawling samples, and an analysis of ocean currents and sources of plastic waste. Via ScienceNews and Nature.

Climate Change

Sea ice in the High Arctic is surprisingly larger than last year’s record low.

Last week, Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent — when the ice covering the Arctic Ocean is at its greatest spread — and this year’s figure is 60,0002 km larger than last’s. A relatively late freeze last year might be responsible and persistently high air temperatures throughout the winter. The lowest recorded sea ice years are 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Via National Snow & Ice Data CenterA citizen science project called Rink Watch predicts that the number of skating days will decrease by 34% in Toronto and by 19% in Calgary by 2090. Wayne Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford is discussing installing a number of artificially cooled outdoor rinks to preserve open-air skating. Via NY Times

MIT researchers have found a way to extract water from even the driest of desert air. The system works on sunlight and requires no pumps or compressors, yet it can produce 250 milliliters of pure water per day per kilogram of metal-organic framework (MOF).  Via MIT

Government Initiatives

US national flood insurance is in serious debt from bailing out property-owners. Could outdated science be to blame?

The National Flood Insurance Program, which covers some 5.2 million landowners in the U.S, is struggling under debt and repaying claims. New research suggests that the program is using outdated science to predict flood risk. A comprehensive evaluation of floods driven by rivers and rainfall, rather than just coastal flooding, suggests that 41 million Americans should be buying flood insurance, rather than 13 million currently insured. The risk estimates also fail to account for rising sea levels and storm surges. Via Scientific American

Energy and Power

Fusion is the energy of the future and always be, as the joke goes. But a new collaboration between MIT and the Italian energy giant ENI suggests that fusion energy could be a reality far sooner.  The new design, tiny compared to current prototypes, uses high temperature superconductors and produces twice as much power as it consumes. A working fusion reactor could be on the grid in 15 year. Via The Guardian

The US Department of Energy has discovered a new way to produce toluene, an octane-boosting additive in gasoline. After finding a reference to toluene-producing bacteria from a paper published in the 1980s, researchers started looking at bacteria in sewage sludge and anoxic lake sediments. For the first time, the process will enable biochemical synthesis of an aromatic fuel hydrocarbon from renewable resources. Via Eurekalert!


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