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Climate
A.millepora in the Great Barrier Reef. Petra Lundgren, Juan C Vera, Lesa Peplow, Stephanie Manel and Madeleine JH van Oppen

Hope for Great Barrier Reef? New Study Shows Genetic Diversity of Coral Could Extend Our Chance to Save It

A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at "unprecedented" risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef's history.

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A turtle swims over the bleached coral at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef in February 2016. The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

Great Barrier Reef at ‘Unprecedented’ Risk of Collapse After Major Bleaching Event

By Daisy Dunne

The record-breaking marine heatwave in 2016 across the Great Barrier Reef has left much of the coral ecosystem at an "unprecedented" risk of collapse, research shows.

A new study published in Nature finds that the surge in sea temperatures during the 2016 bleaching event led to an immediate and long-lasting die-off of coral.

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Animals

Greenpeace Finds Amazon Reef Formation Where Total Plans to Drill for Oil

A team of scientists on board the Greenpeace Esperanza ship have documented the existence of a rhodolith field where French company Total intends to drill for oil, 120km off the northern coast of Brazil.

The finding proves the existence of a reef formation in the area and invalidates Total's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which states the closest reef formation is 8 kilometers (approximately 5 miles) away from one of the oil blocks.

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Animals
Loggerhead turtle trapped in an abandoned drifting net in the Mediterranean Sea. Jordi Chias / naturepl.com

640,000 Metric Tons of Ghost Gear Enters Oceans Each Year

Governments around the world are waking up to the scourge of plastics on our oceans and its creatures by banning items such as shopping bags and drinking straws. But an often-overlooked form of plastic waste is also a major threat to our seas: "ghost" gear.

A report released Thursday from World Animal Protection highlights that every year 640,000 metric tons of fishing nets are lost or discarded in our oceans each year, trapping and killing countless marine mammals, including endangered whales, seals and turtles. Shallow coral reef habitats also suffer further degradation from the gear, which can take up to 600 years to decompose.

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Health
Shirley Pomponi dives in shallow waters in The Bahamas to examine diverse sponges and octocorals. Don Liberatore

Deep-Sea Coral Ecosystems May Hold Cancer Cures, But They Face Threats

By Holly Binns

To Shirley Pomponi the sea sponges lining her office shelves are more than colorful specimens; they're potentially lifesaving creatures, some of which could hold the complex secrets to cures for cancers and other diseases.

The marine biotechnology expert, who is research professor and executive director of the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, has spent more than 30 years studying deep-sea sponges, simple organisms that are often found in coral ecosystems in all of the world's seas.

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The Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. Simisa / Wikimedia Commons

Seychelles Creates Groundbreaking Marine Reserve With Help From Leonardo DiCaprio

The Seychelles has created two vast new marine protected areas in the Indian Ocean after a groundbreaking finance deal brokered by the Nature Conservancy and other stakeholders, including environmentalist and Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio.

In exchange for writing off a portion of its debt, the island nation agreed to protect a total of 81,000-square-miles of ocean—that's about the size of Great Britain.

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Animals

Scientists Battle Mysterious Pathogen Destroying Coral Reefs Off Florida Coast

By Robynne Boyd

Off the coast of Broward County in southeast Florida, a 330-year-old coral colony has withered in the water thanks to a mysterious pathogen. At the height of its health, this slow-growing variety of coral, known as mountainous star, looked like a car-size brown mushroom cap scored by ridges and valleys and colored with splashes of fluorescent green. Today the countless minuscule sea-anemone-like polyps that form the colony have turned white and died, laying bare the skeletal structure below.

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Fungie the dolphin in Ireland, where 250,000 bottlenose dolphins visit every summer. Belinda Wicks

Irish Parliament Votes to Ban New Fossil Fuel Exploration

Ireland's Dáil Éireann, the country's lower house of parliament, voted 78-48 Thursday to advance a bill to stop the government from issuing new contracts for both on and offshore oil and gas exploration.

Despite strong opposition from the Irish government, the legislation was backed by thousands of activists, campaigners, parliamentarians as well as a surprising supporter who believes in life after oil: Cher.

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Energy
Coastline in Amami City, Kagoshima. TANAKA Juuyoh / Flickr

Oil Spill From Sanchi May Have Reached Japan

By Andy Rowell

Oil from the stricken oil tanker Sanchi, which exploded and sank in the East China Sea, may have now reached the shores of Japan, according to the country's Coast Guard.

Reuters reported Friday that residents on the Japanese Amami-Oshima islands, famed for pristine beaches and reefs, have reported black oil clumps being washed up.

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