PADI (Professional Association of Scuba Divers) is inviting you to dive in (literally) to make positive changes for our ocean. The scuba diving behemoth and PADI AWARE, a non-profit public charity driving change for our ocean at the local level, are celebrating the fourth annual AWARE Week from Sept. 18 - 26 this year.
During this event, PADI dive centers, resorts and professional divers from around the world host local events to advance conservation awareness and engagement.
"Aware Week started in 2018 to bring together divers all over the world to be a voice for the ocean and act for change," said Kristin Valette Wirth, chief brand and membership officer for PADI Worldwide. "PADI and PADI AWARE Foundation believe in the power of people to help address threats facing our ocean today and that large-scale transformation starts with individuals acting locally for global impact."
This year's explicit conservation mandates include advancing PADI's Conservation Blueprint, an initiative encouraging conservation action in direct support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Valette Wirth told EcoWatch. According to PADI, the focus will be on how to take PADI's existing Vulnerable Species Protection and Marine Debris programs "to the next level" by also addressing critical marine issues such as climate change, marine protected areas and coral reefs. These represent the five key components of PADI's Blueprint for Ocean Action and directly align with and support UN efforts.
On the marine debris front, PADI is inviting ocean enthusiasts and divers to collect trash from the shorelines and seafloor through its signature citizen-science diving program, Dives Against Debris. Everything collected is sorted, weighed and then added to a global database that can be used by marine researchers and policymakers for conservation action. The scuba organization hopes to use this data about what is entering our ocean to positively influence upstream policy changes to curb this flow.
"As divers, we have the skills and vantage point to gather data that no other community can," Valette Wirth explained to EcoWatch. "Around the world, more than 90,000 PADI Divers and Torchbearers for the ocean have removed and reported marine debris from underwater environments since 2011, representing the largest underwater citizen science database and movement for marine debris on the planet."
A diver removes a discarded face mask floating in the ocean during a dive. PADI
The impressive scale of data collected by the recreational dive community and its global nature allow for PADI AWARE to collaborate with scientists, researchers and independent research organizations to broaden and strengthen their data. In this way, marine debris trends and potential solutions can be addressed more quickly and effectively, Valette Wirth added.
Recently, data submitted from 118 different countries by PADI divers has been used in a global analysis of marine debris to identify marine debris hotspots and how they came to be. As different policy solutions are proposed, recreational scuba divers can help "in real time" through continued data collection that will speak to the effectiveness of any policies implemented, Valette Wirth said.
Essentially, PADI wants to galvanize the global diving community to clean our seas and put pressure on key decision makers to increase protections for the ocean, Valette Wirth said. Through the collective impact of their efforts, PADI believes global ocean impact can be achieved.
"Protecting the ocean requires the actions of everyone around the globe working together," said Valette Wirth. "Together with PADI AWARE Foundation, Seiko and our other partners in conservation, we recognize that anyone with passion for the ocean can become an ocean ambassador and contribute to worldwide efforts to save the ocean... AWARE Week 2021 will inspire people with a clear and effective path to action for the planet."
A novice Dive Against Debris participant removes and coils ghostline found on a coral reef during a Dive Against Debris. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
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U.S. officials are blocking the import of solar panels from China they believe may have been produced using forced labor. Experts warn the move may slow President Biden's push for more renewable energy projects.
Industry executives and analysts said solar panels from at least three Chinese companies have been targeted in recent weeks and several product detentions were confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), The Washington Post reported.
According to CNN, China's Xinjiang region has evolved over the last two decades into a major production hub for solar panel parts supplying the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the report In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labour and Global Solar Supply Chains published in May of this year by Sheffield Hallam University suggested that much of the work to put together those parts might rely on forced labor. The companies have been exploiting the region's Uyghur population and other ethnic and religious minorities to produce goods for the global supply chain of solar panels, the report said.
In June, CBP banned imports of silica-based products made by Hoshine Silicon Industry Company as well as goods made using those products. The company is the world's largest producer of metallurgical-grade silicon, a key raw material used in solar panels, the news report said. At the time, The Washington Post reported that the ban could have "widespread impact" on the entire solar energy industry, which is dominated by Chinese suppliers who source materials from Hoshine.
"Almost the complete solar industry is affected by Hoshine," Johannes Bernreuter, a research analyst with expertise in the solar supply chain, told The Post.
When it announced the protective measure, CBP said it had information "reasonably indicating" that Hoshine's plants in China's Xinjiang region use forced labor, The New York Times reported. This finding triggered a ban under a U.S. law prohibiting the import of goods made by coerced workers.
CBP officials estimated that the United States has imported at least $150 million in products made with Hoshine materials over the last 2½ years, as well as more than $6 million of direct imports from the company.
Solar is currently the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the United States. The Biden administration hopes to boost the alternative energy from 3% of electricity generation to more than 40% by 2035. The administration has also set a goal of 100% of the U.S. electricity to come from carbon-free sources by 2035, The Times reported. This can include alternative energy sources such as solar, wind or nuclear. Prior to this ban, Biden had hoped to meet this lofty goal by more than doubling the annual pace of solar installations nationwide and cutting the price of solar panels by more than half, the news report said.
Chinese companies currently dominate the global production of solar panels, so cutting off that supply could make it harder and/or more costly to grow the solar industry domestically. Some industry leaders have voiced concern that further implementation of the ban could slow the construction of new solar-energy projects throughout the country.
The ban also "brings to the fore the tension between the [Biden] administration's human rights agenda and its efforts to address the climate crisis," The Washington Post reported.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who oversees CBP, has said the administration remains committed to renewable energy but that it will not tolerate human rights abuses. He said, "Our environmental goals will not be achieved on the backs of human beings in a forced-labor environment," The Times reported.
Mark Widmar, chief executive of First Solar, told The Post that CBP enforcement actions have "had a real significant disruption to a lot of planned projects and their ability to complete them this year. It's going to be very challenging, very difficult." First Solar is a U.S.-based panel manufacturer that doesn't use Chinese materials.
When addressing the ban's impacts, Mayorkas concluded, "But, and this is very important, we're going to root out forced labor wherever it exists, and we'll look for alternative products to achieve the environmental impacts that are a critical goal of this administration."
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Solar panels allow you to harness the sun's clean, renewable energy, potentially cutting your electric bills as well as your environmental footprint. But do solar panels work on cloudy days, or during seasons of less-than-optimal sun exposure? For homeowners who live outside of the Sun Belt, this is a critical question to consider before moving ahead with solar panel installation.
In this article, we'll go over how solar panels work on cloudy days, whether solar panels work at night, and how to ensure you always have accessible power — even when your panels aren't producing solar energy.
How Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days
Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels can use both direct and indirect sunlight to generate electrical power. This means they can still be productive even when there is cloud coverage. With that said, solar panels are most efficient and productive when they are soaking up direct sunlight on sunny days.
While solar panels still work even when the light is reflected or partially obstructed by clouds, their energy production capacity will be diminished. On average, solar panels will generate 10 to 25% of their normal power output on days with heavy cloud coverage.
With clouds usually comes rain, and here's a fact that might surprise you: Rain actually helps solar panels work more effectively. That's because rain washes away any dirt or dust that has gathered on your panels so that they can more efficiently absorb sunlight.
Do Solar Panels Work at Night?
While solar panels can still function on cloudy days, they cannot work at night. The reason for this is simple: Solar panels work because of a scientific principle called the photovoltaic effect, wherein solar cells are activated by sunlight, generating electrical current. Without light, the photovoltaic effect cannot be triggered, and no electric power can be generated.
One way to tell if your panels are still producing energy is to look at public lights. As a general rule of thumb, if street lamps or other lights are turned off — whether on cloudy days or in the evening — your solar panels will be producing energy. If they're illuminated, it's likely too dark out for your solar panel system to work.
Storing Solar Energy to Use on Cloudy Days and at Night
During hours of peak sunlight, your solar panels may actually generate more power than you need. This surplus power can be used to provide extra electricity on cloudy days or at night.
But how do you store this energy for future use? There are a couple of options to consider:
You can store surplus energy in a solar battery.
When you add a solar battery to your residential solar installation, any excess electricity can be collected and used during hours of suboptimal sun exposure, including nighttime hours and during exceptionally cloudy weather.
Batteries may allow you to run your solar PV system all day long, though there are some drawbacks of battery storage to be aware of:
- It's one more thing you need to install.
- It adds to the total cost of your solar system.
- Batteries will take up a bit of space.
- You will likely need multiple batteries if you want electricity for more than a handful of hours. For example, Tesla solar installations require two Powerwall batteries if your system is over 13 kilowatts.
You can use a net metering program.
Net metering programs enable you to transmit any excess power your system produces into your municipal electric grid, receiving credits from your utility company. Those credits can be cashed in to offset any electrical costs you incur on overcast days or at night when you cannot power your home with solar energy alone.
Net metering can ultimately be a cost-effective option and can significantly lower your electricity bills, but there are a few drawbacks to consider, including:
- You may not always break even.
- In some cases, you may still owe some money to your utility provider.
- Net metering programs are not offered in all areas and by all utility companies.
Is Residential Solar Right for You?
Now that you know solar panels can work even when the sun isn't directly shining and that there are ways to store your energy for times your panels aren't producing electricity, you may be more interested in installing your own system.
You can get started with a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.
FAQ: Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?
How efficient are solar panels on cloudy days?
It depends on the panels, but as a rule of thumb, you can expect your solar panels to work at 10 to 25% efficiency on cloudy days.
How do solar panels work when there is no sun?
If there is literally no sunlight (e.g., at night), then solar panels do not work. This is because the photovoltaic effect, which is the process through which panels convert sunlight into energy, requires there to be some light available to convert.
However, you can potentially use surplus solar power that you've stored in a battery. Also note that solar panels can work with indirect light, meaning they can function even when the sun is obscured by cloud coverage.
Do solar panels work on snowy days?
If there is cloud coverage and diminished sunlight, then solar panels will not work at their maximum efficiency level on snowy days. With that said, the snow itself is usually not a problem, particularly because a dusting of snow is easily whisked away by the wind.
Snow will only impede your solar panels if the snowfall is so extreme that the panels become completely buried, or if the weight of the snow compromises the integrity of your solar panel structures.
Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy, rainy or snowy days?
Cloudy days may limit your solar panel's efficiency, but you'll still be able to generate some electricity. Rainy days can actually help clean your panels, making them even more effective. And snowy days are only a problem if the snow is so extreme that the panels are totally submerged, without any part of them exposed to the sun.
Komodo dragons seem like the stuff of fairy tales and myths.
The living dragons have can grow up to 10 feet long and have a forked tongue, shark-like teeth, armored scales and venom-laced saliva, The New York Times reported.
Unfortunately, while this living legend still walks among us, that may not be the case for long. The Komodo dragon has recently been moved from vulnerable to endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species. The move came after a new report underscored how much Komodo habitat will be lost to sea-level rise in the coming years.
"It's had a genuine change in status, a deterioration," said Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List unit, which assesses the conservation risk of 138,000 species and counting, reported The Times. "It's moving toward extinction."
The world's largest lizard is endemic to a few Indonesian islands, including the World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park and neighboring Flores. As such, as its habitat becomes fragmented and overcome by the rising sea, the reptiles have nowhere else to go, The Guardian reported. Komodo dragons are vulnerable because they are unable to retreat to higher ground as the seas rise.
Komodo dragons are popular in zoos and wildlife parks. Joshua J. Cotten / Unsplash
"They're quite tight, in terms of where they can live," Gerardo Garcia, a conservation biologist at the Chester Zoo in England and advocate for Komodo dragon protection efforts in Indonesia, told The Times.
According to a new IUCN study, the climate crisis is largely to blame for the reptile's dim future outlook. Scientists believe that Komodo habitat on the island of Flores in southeastern Indonesia already shrunk by more than 40% between 1970 and 2000. This trend is only set to get worse, the study showed. The IUCN estimated that 30% of Komodo dragon habitat, which usually sits lower than 700 meters above sea level rise, will be inundated in the next 45 years.
According to Extinction Photo, while habitat destruction from development as well as natural disasters is the leading cause of the decline in large lizards, this is followed by loss of large prey such as deer and poaching of the lizards themselves.
The study is the first peer-reviewed paper on how global heating will affect the Komodo dragon. It concluded that "urgent conservation actions are required to avoid risk of extinction."
In recent years, Komodo habitat has also become "increasingly fragmented" due to human activity, which, as more land is lost to development and rising seas, will make it less genetically varied, less healthy, and more vulnerable to extinction, The Guardian reported.
"Because of human pressure, the forest is slowly being cut down and disappearing, and the savannah is affected by fires and degradation. That is why the animals are really in small little pockets," Gerardo Garcia, curator of vertebrates and invertebrates at Chester Zoo, told the news report. "Habitats are being made even smaller due to rising sea levels."
If and when the ancient species goes extinct, it will have a devastating effect on the local ecosystem because the dragon is the apex predator on the islands, said Juliet Hausser of Flores Island's conservation organization. Furthermore, the ancient species has been around for millions of years and can survive in "extremely harsh conditions," so this change in status is really telling about what is happening to their habitat, she said.
The IUCN red list status reclassification and update is the first for the lizard in over 20 years and was largely driven by the results of the study. Experts hope the new label will motivate international policymakers and conservation groups to strengthen and expand protections for the dragon and its natural habitats, The Times reported. This is especially important for the population of dragons that live outside of protected areas.
"The idea that these prehistoric animals have moved one step closer to extinction due in part to climate change is terrifying – and a further clarion call for nature to be placed at the heart of all decision making on the eve of the COP26 in Glasgow," Andrew Terry, the conservation director at the Zoological Society of London, told Discover Wildlife.
Currently, the total adult population of Komodo dragons is estimated to be no more than 1,400 individuals, which are split into eight subpopulations with less than 500 individuals in the largest, Discover Wildlife reported. This is a steep drop from the 5,000 to 8,000 adults estimated about 25 years ago, The Times reported.
"The real concern is what's going to happen in the future," Hilton-Taylor told The Times.
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Recently, the most comprehensive study of its kind linked exposure to air pollution to increased severity of mental illness, The Guardian reported.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, tested 13,000 people in London, England and used frequency of admission to hospitals or visits to community doctors and nurses as a measure of severity, the news report said. The researchers found that relatively small increases in exposure to nitrogen dioxide had negative effects on mental health, including a 32% increase in the risk of needing community-based treatment and an 18% increase in the risk of being admitted to a hospital.
Lead researcher Ioannis Bakolis of King's College London said there is no safe level of air pollution.
"Even at low levels of air pollution, you can observe this kind of very important effect," Bakolis told The Guardian.
Importantly, the researchers also found that even a small reduction in a single pollutant could reduce illness and save the UK national healthcare system tens of millions a year.
The scientists noted that their findings likely would apply to most cities in developed nations around the world. According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of the world's population breathes air that exceeds safe levels. The study showed that millions would be harmed by incremental increases in air pollution, and, conversely, reducing air pollution could therefore benefit millions of people.
Crucially, the findings indicate that growing up in polluted places increases the risk of mental disorders. Because many cities and developing nations are crowded and polluted, this raises questions of environmental justice.
The Guardian previously reported that even small increases in air pollutants lead to significant rises in depression and anxiety. Dirty air was also linked to increased suicides. Unrelated studies have linked air pollution to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and stroke.
According to IQ Air, a similar 2019 study of mental health data from 151 million people in the United States and 1.4 million in Denmark found that long periods of increased air pollution could be linked to a 17 percent increase in bipolar disorder, 6 percent in depression diagnoses and a 20 percent increase in personality disorder diagnoses. Those scientists likened the level of air pollution measured to what could typically be found in major urban areas.
In other parts of the body, dirty air can cause everything from blindness to heart disease to increased cholesterol to cancer. A 2019 global review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ in the human body.
For the new study, the link between increased chemicals in polluted air and mental health issues was strongest for NO2, which is largely emitted by diesel vehicles, The Guardian reported. Small particle pollution, which is produced by burning all fossil fuels, also ranked high.
The scientists followed up seven years after the first treatment and found the link to air pollution was still apparent. The findings were not explained by a range of other possible factors including age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation or population density, although unidentified factors might still play an important role, the researchers noted.
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The climate crisis and warming waters may cause tuna to redistribute, threatening tuna-dependent economies in the Pacific, a new study concludes.
"All fish have preferred water temperatures, i.e., temperatures that suit their physiology best and which provide optimum conditions for growth and reproduction," explained Johann Bell, lead author on the study and senior director of tuna fisheries at Conservation International's Center for Oceans. The international nonprofit works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people through science, partnerships and fieldwork.
Water temperature affects the distribution and abundance of prey species, Bell continued. As the ocean warms, new locations may become more favorable for prey species, and the fish will move accordingly. The predatory fish like tuna will follow. If not, a shortage of food could affect their growth and survival, Bell said.
The study found that the best conditions for skipjack and yellowfin tuna — the target species for the large purse-seine fishery in the Pacific Islands region — will progressively keep moving to the east as the ocean warms. Therefore, a greater proportion of these tuna will be caught in high-seas areas to the east of and outside the jurisdictions of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Bell said.
Schools of tuna in the Pacific. David Itano / SPC
As defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal nations around the planet have jurisdiction over the natural resources of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that extends up to 200 miles off their shores. Within EEZs, nations can choose to ban, regulate and enforce use of marine resources and fisheries. Beyond these zones, the rest of the ocean is considered high seas, "virtually ungoverned open territory" and functionally a "fishing free for all," said Global Fishing Watch. As tuna move out of EEZs into the high seas, this could also upend efforts to create a sustainable fishery because lack of enforcement can lead to greater overfishing, a Conservation International representative said.
Many SIDS currently gain income from fishing their EEZs for tuna and other preferred catch and/or from selling licenses to other nations to do so in their waters.
The Conservation International study covered 10 Pacific SIDS in particular, who currently rely on their tuna populations and who may face empty seas and revenue streams in the near future. These are: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
The research, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, found that if ocean warming continues at current rates, the tuna catch in the combined waters of the 10 Pacific SIDS is expected to decline by an average of 20% by 2050. All 10 will suffer catch reductions.
The study also quantified these potential losses. Lower tuna catches are expected to reduce the "extraordinary economic benefits" from access fees that Pacific SIDS receive from other "distant water fishing nations" that fish in their abundant waters, including the U.S., European Union, China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, Bell said. Under a high emissions scenario, these losses could result in annual local government revenue reductions in the range of 8-17%, the research found.
"The losses are also expected to reduce the financial flexibility needed to assist communities to adapt to climate change," said Manu Tupou-Roosen, director general of the Pacific Islands Foreign Fisheries Agency, a partner in the study. Many Pacific SIDS have few other options to generate revenue required to invest in education, health, infrastructure, etc., Bell said.
Small island nations and developing countries are already disproportionately suffering the effects of the climate crisis despite contributing a vastly smaller share to its worsening.
"This is a climate justice issue," Bell said. "The 10 Pacific SIDS have a deep economic dependence on tuna fishing but contribute little to global warming. The SIDS will be undermined through no fault of their own, he said, because they've made trivial contributions to the emissions now warming oceans and driving tuna out of their EEZs.
"In contrast, nations responsible for 60% of historical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would benefit from the migration of tuna to the high seas where they do not have to pay fees," he added. "This is clearly an unjust situation directly due to the effects of climate change."
The study also detained strategies to prevent tuna migration and to ensure that regional fisheries continue to flourish.
Additionally, it identified two pathways to limit the impacts of the likely tuna migration away from the region. One calls for the drastic curbing of fossil fuel emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris agreement. This would slow ocean warming and largely prevent redistribution of tuna, the study said. The other works within political frameworks to allow Pacific SIDS to still receive financial benefits from tuna regardless of the distribution of the fish.
"Tuna redistribution is one of the many consequences of climate change, one which is expected to further weaken Pacific economies and important food systems already heavily impacted by COVID-19," said Stuart Minchin, director general of the SPC, another study partner. "This critical situation has already been raised in several international fora including the UN Security Council and will be highlighted by the Pacific Island region at COP26 in Glasgow. We strongly hope that it will lead to concrete commitments by the COP and the UNFCCC architecture including its financing mechanisms."
Schools of tuna in the Pacific. John Muir / SPC
In a remote part of the Gulf of Mexico, the ocean still teems with life. The under-explored reefs there are still rich, something that many other coral reefs around the globe can no longer say. Now, Oceana is working to protect these biodiversity hotspots before it's too late.
On Aug. 23, the nonprofit conservation organization completed its first-ever expedition to investigate and document the condition of two reefs in the Gulf of Mexico using cutting-edge technology. Project Alacranes focused on Scorpion Reef (Arrecife Alacranes in Spanish) and the Bajos del Norte National Park, which contain some of the greatest biodiversity in the Gulf.
Mariana Reyes, oceans and fisheries scientist at Oceana in Mexico, told EcoWatch, "These two sites are ecologically and economically relevant for the region." According to Oceana, Scorpion Reef is the largest reef in the southern Gulf of Mexico and is a designated marine protected area (MPA). Numerous endangered and commercial species reproduce within the MPA and migrate beyond that to fishing grounds when mature. The waters also support the important red snapper and grouper fisheries, and more than 15 percent of spiny lobster catches in the Yucatan are from Scorpion Reef and its surrounding area, Reyes added.
Diver and soft coral in Bajos del Norte. Rodrigo Friscionne
Expedition leader Mariana Reyna also shared Scorpion Reef's importance to a planet increasingly confronted by the climate crisis and warming oceans. The reef is included on a 2018 list by Conservation Letters of coral reefs that are "healthy and diverse enough to have a better chance of surviving the effects of climate change," said Reyes.
In the case of Bajos del Norte, the reef has been identified as a possible important connection between the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, Reyes said.
Reyes pointed out that, in theory, these remote areas should be "relatively undisturbed" by the impacts of human activities — thanks to their distance from the coast. Nevertheless, Scorpion Reef shows signs of being affected by human impacts including tourism and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Luckily, Reyes said, Bajos del Norte shows very few signs of human impact. Scientists want to understand why this is and how to prevent further degradation of both reefs.
Branching coral in Alacranes. Rodrigo Friscionne
"Our objective is to collect scientific information that allows us to determine the current status of this marine protected area (MPA), and to use this information to promote the changes needed to protect and guarantee the future of this important ecosystem," said Renata Terrazas, leader of Oceana in Mexico.
"That is why it is so important to explore these places where few expeditions have been and with technology that has never been used in these areas to collect the evidence necessary to protect and preserve this habitat," Reyna said.
While Scorpion Reef is an MPA, "In the case of Bajos del Norte, the risk is greater because it has no legal protection, and very little research has been done on its status, nor on the species that live there," Terrazas added.
Over the 15-day expedition, scientists explored the two areas. They were happy to report that the reefs were "full of life with an abundance of fish, invertebrates, and other animals that are signs of a healthy reef," Reyes said. They also observed many corals with disease and mortality in two species. They will continue analyzing their findings.
Juvenile Bluehead Wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) in Scorpion Reef (Arrecife Alacranes). Rodrigo Friscionne
The researchers also completed environmental DNA analysis and photomosaic modeling. The latter will be used to create 3D maps of the reefs and enable a census of species located thereon. This information can help managers evaluate current management tools for these reefs and determine how best to preserve them, Reyes said.
"The recovery and conservation of marine habitats in Mexico translate into greater economic and social benefits, especially for local fishermen. Adequate protection of these reefs ensures that future generations can enjoy their beauty and resources," said Miguel Rivas, director of habitat campaigns at Oceana.
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The athlete, who is a life-long environmentalist, has partnered with financial technology innovator Ando to fight and reverse climate change through sustainable banking. And, he's inviting you, me and everyone who will listen to join him in investing in our collective future.
According to Honnold, the majority of big banks have been bankrolling the polluting fossil fuel industries for decades. In an Oct. 2020 piece penned for Outside magazine, Honnold explained, "When you put your money in a bank it doesn't just sit there — the bank loans up to 90% of its capital to other projects... Six of the top ten institutions supporting increased fossil fuel extraction are U.S.-based."
This has resulted in trillions of bank client dollars being pumped into planet-damaging fossil fuel industries with zero control in the hands of the individuals whose money it actually was, Ando said in an announcement of their partnership with Honnold. The amount tops $3.8 trillion of banking clients' money being invested in fossil fuels in just the five years since the Paris agreement, an Ando representative told EcoWatch.
"It's ironic that most people's money winds up being used for all kinds of projects that they personally would never support," Honnold wrote in Outside. "An individual can go vegan, compost, and turn their thermostat down only to find that the money in their savings account is funding a pipeline or fracking."
In the piece, the legend also drew parallels between his "impossible-dream-turned-real" ascent of El Cap and the global fight against climate change. He called the latter the "apex issue facing our generation — an issue that feels too big and too complex to act on" just as his climb had felt before he conquered it.
Honnold noted that the climate crisis is "all-encompassing" and "urgent" because it will impact almost every other environmental issue. Most scientists agree that as a global community we only have until 2030 to make meaningful changes before the worst effects of warming are permanently baked into our future, he wrote.
Now, through this partnership, Honnold and Ando are inviting people to make one of the most meaningful and powerful changes they can: switching to a sustainable bank like Ando. This will ensure that their money is used as a force of environmental good instead of financing additional fossil fuel extraction.
Ando is a "radically transparent banking service" with a mission to end the banking industry's financing of fossil fuels, the Ando representative said. All customer money run through Ando — including Honnold's and anyone he convinces to create an account — is exclusively invested in carbon-reducing projects striving to reverse the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.
"That's what's so exciting about Ando — we invest 100% of deposits into green initiatives like renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Finally, you're in control, able to bank with a company that shares your values and uses your money to help heal the planet," the partnership announcement added.
As a fully transparent bank, Ando allows clients to choose how their money can impact the planet. Ando
As it turns out, swapping to a sustainable bank like Ando allows an individual to have up to 27 times the impact of other environmental actions like going vegan, taking shorter showers, or installing solar panels on their roof, an unrelated study by Nordea Group Sustainable Finance found.
Honnold and Ando hope to mobilize the former's enthusiastic fan base towards their shared mission. Honnold wrote, "The simplest way to reduce energy extraction from the Arctic, tar sands, and via fracking and coal is to decrease the funding to these dirty technologies. Being deliberate and choosing a sustainable bank is key."
The environmentalist and athlete concluded, "After all, your bank is using your money to impact the world, one way or another."
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The plant is spewing high and dangerous amounts of smelly hydrogen sulfide gas and soot into the air above Catawba, South Carolina and nearby counties. While emergency orders have been issued to stop the smell created by the New-Indy Containerboard paper mill, no regulatory actions have been taken to curb their air pollution.
Issues began after an investment group led by Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots football team, acquired the mill in 2019 for about $300 million, Reuters reported. It was previously owned and run by Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc.
Towards the end of 2020, the plant shut down to convert to making cardboard instead of bleached paper products. This manufacturing switch also led to a build up of fiber waste in collection bins, which likely elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide output, a New-Indy corrective action plan filed with regulators said, Reuters reported.
"Hydrogen sulfide is a gas formed by decaying organic matter — in this case waste from the paper mill," WFAE reported. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), absorbing hydrogen sulfide through the skin or inhaling it can cause everything from nausea and headaches to skin and eye irritation to delirium and convulsions.
In February, the New-Indy plant reopened after completing its processing conversion, and complaints began pouring in of a noxious smell, reported WBTV.
"Sour, pungent, sharp distinct smell," said Bridget Francis, who also lives in the nearby Legacy Park neighborhood, reported WBTV in March. The news agency described the fumes as "a smell so strong it is almost indescribable" and likened it to "rotten eggs, nail polish, sewage and more."
In March, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) told WBTV that the smell was not toxic and that they thought it could be related to the paper plant switching from white to cardboard processing. New Indy Containerboard paper plant is 25 minutes from the Legacy Park neighborhood.
Nevertheless, DHEC set up a complaints hotline. Since its inception in March, over 30,000 complaints have been filed about the smell, some even from North Carolinians. And, the issue wasn't just an olfactory nuisance: Some residents reported symptoms of nausea, headaches and burning in their eyes, throats and lungs, WBTV reported. These are the same symptoms that the CDC associates with exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
By April, DHEC discovered that the manufacturing change had indeed created a total reduced sulfide ("TRS") residual, which does often smell like rotting eggs. An Environmental Affairs Bureau of Air Quality Inspection/Investigation Report found that the New-Indy mill is exceeding its annual capacity for burning fuels by almost double the maximum allowed, WBTV reported.
According to Reuters, an April site visit to the mill by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncovered hydrogen sulfide levels as high as 15,900 parts per billion. Breathing problems, headaches and nausea can occur from prolonged exposures between 2,000 and 5,000 parts per billion, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said, Reuters reported. Death can even occur from concentrated exposures, the news report added.
DHEC's investigation also uncovered issues related to the mill's handling of wastewater. WFAE reported that the mill began diverting "foul-smelling liquids" into an open-air lagoon instead of to their incinerator and steam stripper — devices used to remove contaminants from industrial waste before they are released — when it began its conversion to cardboard manufacturing in Nov. 2021.
Unfortunately, along with hydrogen sulfide, the mill also releases dangerous levels of soot. The amounts of soot even rival and beat the release levels of the country's largest oil refineries, Reuters reported. Despite this, no regulatory action has been taken against New-Indy for this air pollution crisis.
Soot is actually small particulate pollution, which is "among the most harmful pollutants," Reuters noted. In New-Indy's case, the soot comes from burning wet bark and old tires in power milling operations.
New-Indy's most recent stack test, from 2020, revealed small particle pollution that maxed out at nearly 300 pounds an hour, Reuters reported. This is as much as 50 times higher than other large U.S. paper mills, the news report noted after an examination of disclosures with the EPA. For contrast, the news report offered Exxon Mobil Corp's Baton Rouge oil refinery, which averaged 138 pounds an hour during its latest available stack test. This was already the highest among U.S. refiners, Reuters noted.
Despite this, regulators told Reuters that the mill's performance was "within federal limits."
New-Indy's 2016 stack test, conducted when it was still run by Resolute Forest Products, measured particulate matter production at the same boiler averaging around 100 pounds per hour, or 36% less than the 2020 average rate, the news report added.
Other comparable paper mills can operate with "only 13 pounds per hour of small particle pollution," Reuters noted.
"I haven't seen anything like this in 20 years," Amy Armstrong, executive director of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), told the news report.
In May, state and federal orders were finally given to New-Indy. The EPA issued an emergency order for the New-Indy plant to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions and to install air pollution monitors around the plant, Reuters reported. According to The State, DHEC's order merely asks New-Indy to check its regulations and equipment in order to decrease emissions.
In July, the federal government issued an injunction under the Clean Air Act against New-Indy, WSOC reported. Data from July 9 showed that hydrogen sulfide was still detected in all five neighborhoods where the monitors have been placed, the report noted. The injunction will serve "essentially [as] a follow-up" to make sure the company continues to follow requirements set by the EPA.
Additionally, three federal lawsuits have been filed against the mill owners, alleging that the odor is harming local families, WFAE reported.
Currently, residents are still awaiting a solution to their health and air pollution crisis. As one resident told the EPA, "We are prisoners in our own smelly home."
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The recycling industry in America is broken, but some companies are trying to make it better.
The U.S. relies on single-stream recycling systems, wherein recyclables of all sorts are placed into the same bin to be sorted and cleaned at recycling facilities. This seemingly simple system actually results in very little being correctly recycled and requires more manpower on the processing side to sort through what well-meaning consumers incorrectly toss into their recycling bins.
The issue, a new study shows, is that Americans want to recycle, but don't know how to do it correctly. The study was conducted by SK Group, who polled 1,500 U.S. adults in May about their attitudes towards and actions concerning sustainable packaging. They found that 72 percent of Americans are likely to give preference to products that use packaging that can be easily recycled or reused. However, because they don't understand what can actually be recycled, a major disconnect occurs between intention and outcome.
As it turns out, only two in five Americans feel "completely confident" that they are recycling correctly at home, the data showed. 42 percent of the same study population were not aware that some recyclable containers, such as plastic bottles, cannot be recycled unless you first remove labeling and other packaging materials. When dirty and labeled recyclables are tossed in with clean recycling from which labels have been stripped, they contaminate the entire bin. This results in tons of unnecessary waste.
Single-stream recycling bins don't always work to keep recyclables clean enough for processing. Nick Fewings / Unsplash
This is what motivated SKC Inc., an SK Group company, to develop Ecolabel — the first Shrink Sleeve Label (SSL) that doesn't need to be removed from PET bottles for them to be properly recycled. Most current bottle labels are made from PETG or PVC and printed on with inks that run. These labels cannot be recycled along with plastic bottles in most recycling plants.
Bob Cowley, vice president of sales and marketing at SKC Inc., explained: "To properly recycle many PET bottles, the user has to remove the plastic sleeve prior to tossing it in a recycling container or the recycler needs to separate the label from the bottle... When it is recycled with the label on, there is a very high risk that either the ink [printed on the label] will bleed into the wash water and stain the recycled plastic or the mixture of ink and film will cause clumping. Both of these results contaminate the recycled material, forcing it to be thrown away."
Ecolabel instead utilizes a special film that doesn't clump and a washable ink that dissolves without contaminating the end product, Cowley said.
"This means that bottles with the Ecolabel SSL can be recycled in the same stream as the PET bottle," he added. "The bottle as a whole — label and all — can be recycled."
SKC Inc.'s new Ecolabel allows for PET bottles to be recycled "as is," with the label still on. SKC Inc.
Critically, this removes the "burden off the consumer and recyclers" while making participation in recycling that much easier. The end result is a much higher probability that recyclables won't end up in a landfill, the plastic films expert said.
Recyclops, another startup working to address the recycling problem in America, is tackling the collection process by "changing the model entirely," a company representative told EcoWatch. They're innovating the recycling pickup process, using an Uber Eats-style phone app to facilitate the pickup of recyclables from areas that aren't being serviced. This gets more clean recyclables to recycling centers for processing.
The sustainable living expert estimated that nearly 50 million households across the U.S. currently lack recycling options due to cost and logistical challenges. Many rural areas and smaller cities simply cannot afford to run a recycling program and cannot pay the increasing rates that private companies wish to charge. These are the communities he hopes to reach with Recyclops.
How it works: Recyclops leverages independent contractor drivers to complete recycling routes, thus creating income for locals and sustainable living options for residents.
Recyclops works closely with town and city officials before launching to garner their buy-in. On the customer side, they focus on education and access, regularly sending out recycling tips and inviting the community to cleanup days.
Once launched in a community, Recyclops uses their smart-routing app on mobile phones to create pickup routes for gig economy drivers who use their own vehicles to gather recycling from customers. This approach has made it easier for Recyclops to expand to smaller cities and towns that otherwise wouldn't have easy access to a recycling stream, Smith said.
This also decreases the carbon footprint of recycling because there is no need for large dumpster trucks, which create more greenhouse gases, Smith said.
"Often, consumers give up on recycling when the hurdles [such as not having curbside recycling available or requiring drop-off] are too great, and we see those recyclables end up in landfills. Without intervention, we'll see 12,000 metric tons of recyclables in landfills by 2050," said Recyclops founder and CEO Ryan Smith. "Our model solves these logistical challenges which enables us to go into these underserved communities and begin operating right away."
The company currently serves more than 10,000 households in nearly 100 cities across 10 states. In 2020 alone, they diverted more than 3 million pounds of recyclables from landfills.
Recyclops recently closed a $3 million seed round investment. The funding will allow the recycling-technology startup to further develop their proprietary technology and expand to 20 additional states. This will bring over 100,000 households currently without recycling options into the Recyclops network, the company representative said.
"We're looking forward to being able to provide an option to these communities and continue our mission to innovate sustainable solutions," Smith said.
Recyclops also requires recyclable items to be bagged separately and for cardboard to be isolated. This cuts down on contamination and creates cleaner recycling.
Finally, they are also working with brands like Glad to develop more sustainable packaging solutions and other companies like Imperfect Foods to help them recycle hard-to-recycle food packaging materials.
Smith concluded, "People want to do the right thing, but we have to make it convenient — to make it frictionless. And that's what we aim to do."
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Human-created noise pollution is altering seagrass beds on a cellular level and causing them to uproot themselves. This could have dire effects on marine ecosystem health, water quality, shoreline stabilization and the climate crisis.
Seagrasses are the only flowering plants that grow in marine environments. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, seagrasses have dotted our ocean for at least 70 million years. Today, there are about 60 species of fully marine seagrasses, and they are found in undersea meadows along the shores of every continent except Antarctica, reported The Blue Carbon Initiative.
The above-ground grassy plant provides critical habitats and food for fisheries, sea turtles, manatees and other marine animals. They also filter sediment and runoff from land, thereby improving water quality.
A crocodile living in seagrass beds in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Fabrice Dudenhofer / Ocean Image Bank
Below the ocean floor, seagrasses have deep root systems which trap sediment and sequester carbon into the marine soil, sometimes up to four meters deep, The Blue Carbon Initiative found. Because of this ecosystem function, seagrasses sequester approximately 10 percent of carbon buried in ocean sediment annually (around 27.4Tg of carbon each year). They do so despite accounting for less than 0.2 percent of oceans around the world. The report estimated that seagrasses around the world may hold as much as 19.9 billion metric tons of organic carbon, making them a critical blue carbon sink.
A healthy seagrass bed serves a variety of ecosystem functions. Benjamin L. Jones / Unsplash
On the human front, seagrasses work with mangroves and coral reefs to build up and secure sand and sediment, which prevents shoreline erosion. These ecosystems also create a natural coastal barrier against storms and flooding and protect shoreline properties and developments.
Despite all these functions, seagrasses "do not get the respect they deserve" as the "ocean's unsung hero," the Ocean Conservancy reported. In fact, they are among the world's most threatened ecosystems and we've lost almost 30% of Earth's seagrass ecosystems to date. Major threats include degradation due to poor water quality from runoff due to poor land-use including deforestation and dredging, boat propeller scarring and the climate crisis. Unfortunately, annual losses are also accelerating, The Blue Carbon Initiative reported.
Now, a new study has found that human-created noise is also to blame.
Noise is a nuisance that can sometimes be unbearable. This is true even in the ocean, where an unrelated study from 2021 found that human-created noise pollution is harming marine animals by damaging their hearing, changing their behaviors and even harming their chances of survival. The newest study, published in Communications Biology, linked noise pollution to another crippling effect — this time in seagrasses. Unwanted noisiness is altering the marine plants on a cellular level and causing them to uproot themselves.
Humans have ruined the ocean's natural soundscape through shipping, oil and gas extractions and renewable energy development, Inside Science reported. All of these act as a noise pollutant underwater, with far-reaching consequences.
Authored by Michel André from the Technical University of Catalonia in Spain, the study initially focused on creatures with hearing organs, such as dolphins and fish, the news report said. Then, they studied noise impacts on animals that lack traditional hearing structures, like octopuses and squids. They found that noise damages the organs these animals use to orient themselves.
"And this was truly something that changed our perspective of how noise pollution could affect [the] marine environment," André told Inside Science.
His curiosity led him to wonder if a similar organ in plants that helps them detect gravity and push their roots down into the seafloor might also be affected by artificial, subaquatic noise, Hakai Magazine reported. He and his team focused on a species of seagrass, P. oceanica, prevalent near their laboratory in Barcelona, Spain. Playing sounds with changing frequency representative of human activities, the scientists measured the effects of such sound drowning on 84 seagrass plants in experimental tanks.
The noise level was roughly 157 dB underwater, which is "somewhere between a bass drum and a subway train," Inside Science reported. As it turns out, just two hours of noise exposure damaged the plant organ responsible for detecting gravity, which could affect the plant's ability to stay rooted in the soil, the report continued.
The scientists involved in the study believe it to be the first-ever to inquire into the impact of noise on plant structure. André believes that plants could be harmed more than other organisms because they cannot get up and leave, should a location become unbearably and excessively noisy, Inside Science reported.
The team also found that the number of starch grains inside the organ decreased, and a symbiotic fungus inside the organs likely involved in nutrient uptake also suffered, Hakai Magazine reported. This type of damage could affect seagrass's ability to store energy and continue to grow.
"If the sound is affecting the starch, then carbon metabolism within the plant is going to change, for sure. And this might have effects on the role the plants have on carbon sequestration at the bigger scale," said Aurora Ricart, a marine ecologist at Maine's Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences who was not involved in the research, Hakai Magazine reported.
Should that happen, the other ecosystem functions that seagrasses currently serve — as habitats, food sources, shoreline stabilizers and blue carbon sinks — would also degrade.
André clarified that his intention was not to prevent humans from operating at sea, Inside Science reported. Instead, the scientist concluded with a hope that his data would inspire humans how to best live with nature, "which is the only way we can have a chance to survive on our planet."
A healthy seagrass bed in Lakshadweep Islands. Umeed Mistry / Ocean Image Bank
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Something strange is happening to sea turtles in the Florida Keys, and scientists and conservationists are working together to understand why.
Stranded green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Southernmost island chain in the United States are showing high rates of internal and external tumors — 51.5% to be exact. This is more than double the 22.6 percent incidence rate for green sea turtles in Florida overall.
The tumors are caused by fibropapillomatosis (FP), a "transmissible tumor disease of ecological importance," said Bette Zirkelbach, the manager at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL who coordinated the study. Every species of sea turtle is affected, but green sea turtles, especially in the Florida Keys and around other developed islands, seem particularly prone. The wildlife rescue expert and education specialist explained how the tumors grow internally in sea turtles as well as externally on their eyes, flippers, necks and more. Tumors can inhibit critical activities such as foraging, swimming, ingestion, breathing and more, leading to hunger, distress and even death if untreated.
The Turtle Hospital has been treating sea turtles with FP tumors for more than 35 years. Now, they're collaborating with Annie Page-Karjian, an assistant research professor & clinical veterinarian at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, and Force Blue, an organization that trains combat veterans and military divers for new ocean conservation missions, to complete the Florida Keys Sea Turtle Health Study and find the root of the disease.
The Florida Keys Sea Turtle Health Study is a novel, collaborative research project involving scientists, conservationists and veterans. David Gross
Page-Karjian, a marine disease ecology and sea turtle health expert, led the study. The goal was to conduct a health assessment of free-ranging juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys. The waters are an exemplary foraging ground for these turtles, Zirkelbach added. Despite this, little is known about the movement, foraging ecology, and health of the local population.
"We are studying this disease in the region of the world where it is thought to have originated, to learn more about the epidemiology and pathophysiology of FP," Page-Karjian said. "This disease is enzootic in Florida's green sea turtles, a federally protected species, and can be debilitating or even fatal in some cases."
A green sea turtle named Tenora was euthanized in Sept. 2020 after having a large external tumor on her left shoulder and similar ones on her lungs. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
"Understanding the habitats of green turtles with this alarming FP rate is a crucial step toward elucidating factors that may contribute to the disease," Zirkelbach said. Because the Florida Keys waters host green sea turtles as they forage and grow, the waters are "of particular concern," she added.
Currently, threats to sea turtle health globally include environmental degradation, infectious diseases, biotoxins and chemical contaminants. FP has been observed in turtles around Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Africa, Australia, Cuba, Costa Rica, the Caribbean Islands and the Bahamas. It is primarily observed in sea turtles around developed coastlines, and studies suggest a link between FP and human impacts on the environment. Scientists believe the disease, which is related to a herpes virus, might be linked to warmer seas and polluted waters, Zirkelbach said. If this is the case, increases in ocean temperatures linked to the climate crisis could increase disease range and/or prevalence.
The Force Blue team provided primary funding and manpower for the study. The organization's mission is to redeploy Special Operations veterans into the world of marine conservation. As part of this project, the team trained for and participated in the capture and release of sea turtles on the water for this project. In South Florida, the group has contributed to other notable conservation work, including reattaching 100-year-old coral heads ripped up by hurricanes and helping to restore endangered corals ahead of Super Bowl LV.
The work also serves as a type of in-field, mission-based "therapy" for these warriors and military divers, Zirkelbach added. The veterans enjoy "a new mission and a sense of continued service" in fighting for the planet, Force Blue Executive Director Jim Ritterhoff said.
Force Blue team members trained on proper handling and release of sea turtles to participate in the study. Bette Zirkelbach / Turtle Hospital
Over 10 days, the field team collected, sampled, tagged and released 38 green sea turtles. All work was conducted pursuant to NMFS ESA Permit No. 21169 and FWC MTP 204.
Next, blood and tissue samples will be processed and analyzed to understand turtle diet, disease prevalence, biotoxins present and everything in between. The research team wants to know what is going on with turtles and what that can teach us about the health of the oceans.
For vulnerable and endangered species like sea turtles, emerging wildlife diseases like FP and other consequences of increased human activities threaten their future. Scientists and conservationists like the study team must come up with "innovative approaches" to help maintain healthy populations until the chronic underlying causes of these issues can be addressed, Zirkelbach said, quoting another study that the Turtle Hospital collaborated on.
So, what's the takeaway?
Page-Karjian explained. She said, "Sea turtles are considered suitable indicators of ecosystem health, so by understanding their health status, we can get a sense of things that are going right (and wrong) in their preferred habitat — coastal seagrass ecosystems."
Because turtles are a sentinel for the seas, and due to the connectivity of planetary systems, we can extrapolate to the overall health of the oceans and the planet as we analyze the general state of wellness of sea turtles, Zirkelbach noted. She said, "Sea turtles have survived our planet for over 100 million years. What is happening to the health of sea turtles will eventually affect all life. Important data collected from projects like the Florida Keys Sea Turtle Health Study can help policy makers to better manage our marine ecosystems" for the benefit of all.
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Are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) effective? Yes, but not as well as we thought, a new study finds.
Globally, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is known as one of the biggest threats to the health and future of the oceans. MPAs attempt to protect enough critical marine habitat to ensure survival of ocean life despite this. Unfortunately, illegal fishers intentionally target reserves because they know that fish are more abundant within those areas, Pew Charitable Trusts reported. Now, this study shows how detrimental illegal fishing is even to nearby protected areas, because of an "edge effect."
Recently, IUU fishing has taken the global spotlight. To shed more light and galvanize collaborative solutions, the United Nations declared June 5 the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.
For decades, marine policies have advocated for MPAs as a critical tool in the fight against illegal fishing, citing the "spillover effect" as the crucial benefit. The idea is that protecting certain areas from fishing and development will allow fish and invertebrate stocks to recover and migrate out (or spillover) to unprotected areas where fishing is allowed. Thus, overall fish populations should increase within MPAs and immediately outside.
For the most part, MPAs work. A new study, however, shows that fishing right outside of protected areas similarly has a negative spillover effect that moves backwards into MPAs. Human pressures have a detrimental effect on marine wildlife living close to the edges of such regions. Illegal fishing and overfishing are the main human actions causing this reverse spillover, the study showed. It was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Because of this newfound effect, the study estimated that over half of the world's marine protected areas are failing to protect ocean biodiversity, The Times of Israel reported. The study, conducted by Tel Aviv University hopes to bolster the effectiveness of MPAs around the world by suggesting ways to buffer them from negative human impacts.
The study came to its conclusions by surveying the amount of fish in the "in between" areas of MPAs to measure their overall effectiveness. Thousands of studies have proven the efficacy of MPAs by sampling and comparing "inside" and "outside" fish populations. Little research has been done in the areas in between, however, reported The Times of Israel. The researchers compared estimates of fish and marine invertebrate populations from 27 MPAs from around the globe in which fishing is banned. They found that "there is a prominent and consistent edge effect that extends approximately 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) within the MPA, in which [fish] population sizes... are 60 percent smaller than those in the core area." Again, this is mainly because of fishing. What that means, alarmingly, is that "global effectiveness of existing no-take MPAs is far less than previously thought," especially for smaller MPAs, the study said.
Researchers found that protected areas smaller than 10 square kilometers account for 64% of all 'no-take' MPAs in the world, where fishing is totally banned. Some 40% of MPAs are just one square kilometer, which means that the entire area probably experiences this edge effect, they added.
Importantly, no edge effects were found in MPAs which had no-fishing buffer zones created around them. Edge effects were also less pronounced even without buffer zones as long as bans against fishing were enforced, the study found.
"MPAs with buffer zones did not display edge effects, suggesting that extending no-take areas beyond the target habitats and managing fishing activities around MPA borders are critical for boosting MPA performance," the researchers concluded.
They told the Times of Israel, "These findings are encouraging as they signify that by putting buffer zones in place, managing fishing activity around MPAs and improving enforcement, we can increase the effectiveness of the existing MPAs and most probably also increase the benefits they can provide through fish spillover."
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