Every week Ocean Wise combs the headlines to bring you the most interesting ocean news. This week, the island nation of Seychelles protects a swath of ocean equivalent to the size of Great Britain, the black market trade in sea cucumbers ramps up, and researchers uncover a secret trick in Amazonian trees for preserving water — and so much more. Read on!

Ecosystem Impacts

Noise from shipping vessels may interrupt foraging in porpoises, a new Danish study has revealed. While high-frequency noise from sonar has previously been shown to harm whales, this is the first study to focus on low-frequency noise from shipping vessels, which is the most prevalent source of human-made noise in the ocean. Via ScienceNews

Researchers from Global Fishing Watch used satellite data to track the movement of 70,000 fishing vessels from 2012 to 2016. The results are dire, demonstrating that 55% of our oceans are currently being industrially exploited with the fishing’s world footprint now four times the size of agriculture. China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea are leading the hunt, accounting for over 85% of fishing in the high seas. According to the researchers, the biggest influences on fishing trends are not natural (weather patterns, seasons), but political and cultural. Via National Geographic and BBC.com

A new study from PLOS One shows that partnerships between protected and unprotected lands are more likely to support biodiversity, compared to isolated, unsupported protected areas, especially in the new unstable era of climate change. The adaptability of local species in these partnership areas increases two fold compared to isolated protected areas. Via ScienceDaily

Water Supply

A recent wave of droughts in the Amazon has led researchers to investigate drought resistance in tropical trees. Turns out that Amazonian trees have a unique method for dealing with water scarcity, using living cells that surround their xylem (similar to the human vascular system) to regulate the storage and release of water. This is great news for preserving the Amazon rainforest, one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet. Via Phys.Org

Little-known fact: concrete in wastewater plants erodes rapidly, often lasting less than a decade before repairs or wholesale replacements are needed. Scientists have looked into the unsexy mystery, caused by a  concrete-eating bacteria, and discovered a solution. By either using a geopolymer concrete that isn’t as susceptible to acid or coating traditional concrete with a non-stick bacteria-resistant coating, they can extend the life of a concrete wastewater plant. Via Phys.Org

Everything from antibiotics to acetaminophen to drugs for treating high blood pressure are turning up in the waters of the Hudson River. Some 11% of the  river is treated wastewater, suggesting that all the 16 drugs discovered come from sewage. Another reason to boost that hypothesis is that concentration levels were on par with caffeine and artificial sweeteners found there. Not only is the Hudson a source of drinking water for many communities, but drug levels are high enough in some locations to affect marine life. Via Phys.Org

Government Action

The black-market trade in sea cucumbers is on the rise, says a study released this month in the journal Marine Policy. This is worrying for ocean health because the humble sea cucumber plays a key role in maintaining coral reefs and healthy ecosystems. Another worrying sign: a recently proposed  bill in the US (HR 2504) may weaken oversight of international sea cucumber trade, if passed. Via National Geographic

The Seychelles, an island nation that is 99% ocean, has recently created two protected marine areas with a combined area about the size of Great Britain. The decision was supported by evidence gathered by the Pristine Seas study, consisting of over 260 dives. The protected ocean will support the nation’s 100,000 citizens, who rely heavily on marine resources, and provide sanctuary for the planet’s most endangered sea life. Via National Geographic

Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has introduced bill C-69, introducing the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) for large resource projects in Canada. The IAA aims to streamline the assessment process while expanding the review to include social, health, and economic impacts, as well as increasing consultations with the public and indigenous communities. Via TheNorthernMiner

Renewable Energy

Our use of fossil fuels will be felt for centuries to come, say scientists at the Potsdam Institute. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases before the end of the 21st century, sea levels will continue to rise for at least another three hundred years. The study further suggests that for every additional five years it takes for emissions to peak and start falling, that sea levels will rise an additional 20 centimetres by the year 2300. Via Scientific American

Tesla’s battery bank in South Australia has already proved itself capable of stabilizing the electricity grid and taking over when traditional power stations fail. Now it is being praised for charging at night using wind turbines and discharging during peak times, effectively “time-shifting” wind energy from when it is available to when it is actually needed. Via  The Guardian


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