Great Barrier Reef tourism: caught between commerce and conservation alarm

Source: The Guardian

More people than ever are coming to see the reef and those who make a living showing it off want the world to know it’s still a natural wonder. But they worry about its future, and that of their 64,000-strong industry

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‘Possibly more famous than Australia’: Tourism operators say much of the Great Barrier Reef is still healthy and worth visiting despite bleaching in many areas. Photograph: Daniela Dirscherl/Getty Images/WaterFrame RM

In the dark clouds gathering over the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there has been a small silver lining for the people who make their living showcasing the natural wonder.

When the reef was rocked by an unprecedented second mass bleaching event in the space of a year, the coral hardest-hit by heat stress lay mostly in the tourist-heavy latitudes between Cairns and Townsville.

But despite last year’s damage compounded by new cases dotted across 800 reefs in a 1,500km stretch, not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which licenses operators to visit designated reef sites, confirmed it has received one request to change a permit. And that was not because of bleaching but Cyclone Debbie further south, whichdamaged that other hub of reef tourism, the Whitsundays after it escaped the bleaching.

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Sharks and rays win new protections at global wildlife summit

Source: The Guardian

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Devil rays swim slowly in groups, and are very easy to catch. Their gill plates have become popular as a supposed medicine in China. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Silky sharks, thresher sharks and devil rays all won new protections at a global wildlife summit late on Monday.

Sharks are the ocean’s top predators and play a vital role in many ecosystems but many species have been decimated by uncontrolled fishing, particularly the trade in fins which are used in soup in Asia.

The 182 nations of the Convention in the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), meeting in Johannesburg, voted to put in place its first measures to control the trade in these species. The move, along with protections for five other sharks at the previous Cites summit in 2013, suggest the tide is turning for sharks.

About 100 million sharks are killed every year, driven by a $1bn annual trade, and only a fraction have had any protection. Many of the predators are now among the most threatened creatures on the planet. But the new action by Cites has doubled to 20% the proportion of sharks targeted by the fin trade that are now regulated.

All the species protected by Cites on Monday are slow to mature and produce only a small number of pups at a time, making them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation.

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UK Wildlife Trusts call on UK Government to create more Marine Conservation Zones to fill gaps in UK network of marine protected areas

The Wildlife Trusts publish a new report, ‘The case for more Marine Conservation Zones’. The report identifies 48 areas at sea that still need protection for their marine habitats and wildlife.
Nine of the sites identified are off Devon’s coasts, with two areas in the Bristol Channel, one in Lyme Bay and six Devon estuaries recommended as MCZs.
Following the designation of 50 Marine Conservation Zones since 2011 (of which six are in Devon) these new sites would complete a network of special places where habitats and wildlife can flourish to safeguard healthy and productive seas for the future.
All but one of the Devon sites in the report have already been recommended as Marine Conservation Zones in a previous report to the government following local consultations representing all sea-users in the south west.
The new report is published in advance of the government’s plans to announce a third and final phase of Marine Conservation Zones – the government plans to consult the public in 2017 and designate the chosen sites in 2018 – and will  be presented to the environment minister, Therese Coffey.
The nine MCZs recommended in coastal and offshore areas of Devon are:
1. Axe Estuary
Where? East Devon, near Seaton
Why? Important for saltmarsh and mudflats, feeding grounds for wading birds and nursery areas for fish such as bass
2. Dart Estuary
Where? South Hams, upstream of Dartmouth
Why? Habitats provide food and shelter for huge range of species including seahorses, oysters, mussels, sponges and anemones.
3. Devon Avon Estuary
Where? South Hams, near Bigbury
Why? Important nursery areas for crustaceans, molluscs and juvenile fish
4. Erme Estuary
Where? South Hams
Why? Habitats for lobsters and crabs, spawning grounds for sea trout
5. Lyme Bay Deeps
Where? 1055 sq km in south-west of Lyme Bay
Why? Area used by white beaked dolphins for feeding, breeding and raising their young. Also important for common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise. Basking shark and minke whale also recorded here. Feeding grounds for seabirds such as guillemot, razorbill and Balearic shearwater
6. Morte Platform
Where? Bristol Channel, 5km off Baggy Point
Why? Rich communities of subtidal living reefs including ross worm reefs and mussel beds which provide shelter for many other marine species
7. North-west of Lundy
Where? Bristol Channel, north-west of Lundy
Why? Diverse seabed habitats supporting higher than average range of species, including burrowing worms, clams and anemones.
8. Otter Estuary
Where? East Devon, near Budleigh Salterton
Why? Important for saltmarsh and mudflats, feeding grounds for wading birds such as curlew and lapwing. Nursery areas for several fish species
9. Taw/Torridge Estuary 
Where? North Devon, near Barnstaple and Bideford
Why? Important habitat for migratory European eels, feeding grounds for wading birds, nursery area for fish such as bass
Further Information
Read “The case for more Marine Conservation Zones” report here

Bosland 10 Years Anniversary Conference Integrated governance: increasing opportunities for nature and society

boslab

Wednesday 12 – Friday 14 October 2016
Business Centre, Centerparcs de Vossemeren, Lommel, Belgium

Bosland, the largest forest and nature project in Flanders, was launched 10 years ago. A decade down the road we can look back on an impressive list of achievements of inclusive and sustainable forest management and governance. Although the core traditional forestry-related activities (timber, wood and biomass production) have been maintained and enhanced, a wide range of innovative approaches with significant social and scientific benefits have been successfully developed in the past years. Bosland is a true example of successful multifunctional territorial development and integrated forest governance.

Bosland’s 10th Anniversary is the occasion to share the main achievements of our project with the world.
Linked with the Natura 2000 Biogeographical Process, the conference programme not only celebrates the scale of our achievements, but also provides a platform for stimulating networking. Apart from the specific exchanges on inclusive territorial governance, sustainable forest management and science-based adaptive strategies, the programme also showcases innovative business case development in a challenging socio-economic environment. We are sure that our conference will be of high value to all attending.

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Awesome Oceans

About 70% of our planet is covered by oceans and seas: large, full of life and mysterious. They are a source of food, way of transportation, oxygen producer, and more.

This illustrated explainer video shows the fascination of the ocean, but also it biggest threats.

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European Community Reaches Agreement to Protect Deep Sea Fish, Sponges and Corals

The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission  reached an agreement on July 30, 2016 to better protect deep-sea fish, sponges and corals while maintaining the viability of the European fishing industry. The agreement brings the EU rules on deep-sea fisheries, which date back to 2003, in line with the sustainability targets enshrined in the EU’s reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
The text agreed contains a number of provisions that will help better protect the European deep seas. From now on, fishermen may only target deep-sea fish in areas where they have fished in the past (their so-called ‘fishing footprint’), thereby ensuring that pristine environments remain untouched. Trawls below 800m will be banned completely in EU waters, and areas with vulnerable marine environments (VMEs) will be closed to bottom fishing below 400m. To further protect VMEs, fishermen will have to report how many deep-sea sponges or corals they catch and move on to other fishing grounds in case a certain maximum amount has been reached.
These measures are complemented by a reinforced observers’ scheme that will improve the scientific understanding of the deep sea. Finally, specific measures, for example landings in designated ports, will be taken to improve enforcement and control. Fishing authorisations may ultimately be withdrawn in case of failure to comply with the new rules.
Deep-sea species are caught in deep waters in the Atlantic beyond the main fishing grounds on the continental shelves, in depths up to 1500 metres. This is a fragile environment which, once damaged, is unlikely to recover. Highly vulnerable to fishing, deep-sea fish stocks are quick to collapse and slow to recover because they reproduce at low rates.
Deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic are pursued in EU waters, including the outermost regions of Portugal and Spain, and in international waters governed by conservation measures adopted within the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), in which the EU participates along with the other countries fishing in the area.
Deep-sea fisheries account for about 1% of fish landed from the North-East Atlantic. The catches – and related jobs – have been declining for years, due to depleted stocks. The poor state of key deep-sea stocks and the lack of scientific data clearly demonstrated that a better management framework for deep-sea fisheries was necessary.

How MPAs can help mitigate impacts of climate change via coastal blue carbon, “fish carbon”, and more

mpa-news-logo-squareSource: MPA News

When nations gathered in Paris last December to forge a pact on climate change, the agreement’s original text made no mention at all of oceans.  Not only did this oversight ignore 71% of Earth’s surface; it also overlooked the fact that marine ecosystems act as an enormous climate control system.

The seas regulate the concentration of atmospheric CO2 worldwide by absorbing and storing it in a variety of ways.  A healthy, resilient ocean – where there is abundant plant life to convert CO2 to oxygen, and abundant animal populations to store carbon in their shells, bodies, and wastes – may be key to helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Marine protected areas can play a role in fostering that healthy, resilient ocean.  To be sure, addressing the enormous threat of global climate change will require much, much more than just MPAs.  But MPAs do offer legitimate ways to store carbon and to offset some of the impacts of a changing climate.  And practitioners are starting to explore some of these opportunities.

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