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A manta ray in the South China Sea. Greg Asner / Divephoto.org

Top 10 Ocean News Stories of 2017

By Douglas McCauley and Paul DeSalles

(The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.)

1. U.S. Drops Out of Paris

In our 2015 ocean top 10 list, we celebrated the adoption of the Paris agreement as a monumental achievement for slowing the warming, acidification and deoxygenation of our global oceans. In 2017, remaining nations like Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Syria ratified the agreement, bringing the total number of ratifying nations to 171. But in a radical about-face of global leadership on climate action, the Trump administration officially declared that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, citing unfair impacts on the American economy.

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Christy Williams / WWF

Celebrating the Biggest Conservation Wins of 2017

It's been a big year for conservation.

Together we assured the world that the U.S. is still an ally in the fight against climate change through the We Are Still In movement, a coalition of more than 2,500 American leaders outside of the federal government who are still committed to meeting climate goals. WWF's activists met with legislators to voice their support for international conservation funding. And we ensured that Bhutan's vast and wildlife-rich areas remain protected forever through long-term funding.

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The Good, the Bad and the Endangered: Wildlife Wins and Losses at CITES Standing Committee

EIA campaigners were at the 69th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC69) in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.

A packed agenda saw a wide range of issues raised for discussion, from tiger farms and domestic ivory markets to management of seized timber stocks and guidance for demand reduction programs. Throughout the meeting, EIA were busy preparing and making interventions, lobbying delegates and coordinating with other NGOs, trying hard to maximize the effectiveness of CITES in preventing over-exploitation of wildlife worldwide.

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Floating sea pen designed to hold captured vaquitas. Kerry Coughlin / National Marine Mammal Foundation

Endangered Mexican Vaquita Dies After Rescue Effort

By Mike Gaworecki

Last month, the government of Mexico launched a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered vaquita, a small porpoise known to reside only in the Gulf of California.

A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery (VaquitaCPR) that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating "sea pens" until the species' survival is no longer threatened by the illegal trade and fishing activities that have driven them to the brink of extinction.

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Scientists releasing the calf back into the wild. VaquitaCPR

First Vaquita Rescued in Bid to Save the Porpoise From Extinction

A project to save a small, critically endangered porpoise called the vaquita in the Gulf of California succeeded in capturing a 6-month-old calf in mid-October.

Veterinarians noticed signs of stress, so they made the decision to release it back into the wild, rather than keep it in a sea pen.

The project's leaders are heartened by the experience and hope to round up more vaquita to keep them safe from the still-present threat of gillnet entanglement in the northern Sea of Cortez.

For the first time, a team of scientists has captured and then released a vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a rare porpoise in the Gulf of California, as part of a project called VaquitaCPR aimed at hauling the critically endangered species back from the edge of extinction.

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Trader Joe's Stops Buying Mexican Shrimp After Pressure to Protect Vaquita

Conservation organizations announced Wednesday that Trader Joe's has declared it will stop buying shrimp from Mexico. The popular grocery store chain's decision follows pressure from organizations behind the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign, launched earlier this year to save the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise, from decades of decline due to entanglement in shrimp fishing gear.

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Thomas A. Jefferson

Mexico Launches 'Risky' Vaquita Roundup to Prevent Extinction of Tiny Porpoise

Wildlife officials in Mexico next week will attempt to capture and protect some of the last vaquita on Earth in a desperate effort to save these small porpoises from extinction. The operation in the Gulf of California, scheduled to begin Oct. 12, will use trained U.S. Navy dolphins to locate vaquita, whose numbers have dwindled by 90 percent in the past five years. Fewer than 30 remain alive today.

"We support this last-ditch effort to save the vaquita from extinction, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse to allow fishing to continue in its habitat," said Alex Olivera, the Center for Biological Diversity's Mexico representative. "These beautiful animals deserve to live free in the Gulf of California, but that will never happen until the Mexican government eliminates the illegal gillnet fishing that has driven these porpoises to the very brink of extinction."

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Vaquita killed in gill net fishery for totoaba in El Golfo de Santa Clara, Sonora, Mexico. Christian Faesi / Omar Vidal

China, Mexico and U.S. Target Illegal Totoaba Trade to Save Nearly Extinct Vaquita

As the first trilateral meeting of the governments of China, Mexico and the U.S. on illegal totoaba trade came to an end Friday, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) urged swift action to halt the trafficking of totoaba swim bladders and save the vaquita.

The world's most endangered marine mammal—the vaquita porpoise—is teetering on the brink of extinction as individuals are trapped as bycatch in gillnets cast illegally to capture totoaba—also a critically endangered species.

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Only 30 Left in the Wild: Saving the Nearly Extinct Vaquita

In one of the longest campaigns in Sea Shepherd's history, Operation Milagro III concluded its six-month operation in Mexico's Gulf of California to protect the near-extinct vaquita porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass.

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