Marine Protected Areas Revisited inquiry

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The Environmental Audit Committee is calling for evidence on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK and the Overseas Territories. This follows on from the previous Committee’s reports into Marine Protected Areasᅠ(PDF 390.14 KB) and Sustainability in the UK Overseas Territories (PDF 1.43 MB).

The Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto pledged that it deliver a ‘Blue Belt’ of MPAs around the coasts of the UK and its Overseas Territories. These include Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), Nature Conservation MPAs, Special Protection Areas and those designated under EU law as Special Areas of Conservation. At the time of the Committee’s previous report, 27 MCZs had been created. The second tranche, a further 23 MCZs, were launched in January 2016. The third tranche of zones are planned for consideration in 2017, to be implemented in 2018. The 2015 manifesto also committed to creating MPAs around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories. So far, MPAs have been announced around the Pitcairn Islands in September 2015 and around Ascension Island in January 2016.

The committee will examine the government’s current progress so far on implementing MPAs and ask what more it needs to do to meet its manifesto commitment. It will follow-up on the recommendations made in its previous reports and it will undertake post-legislative scrutiny of the Marine and Costal Access Act 2009.

The Committee is calling for written evidence on various points (go to web page below). Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words and should be made through the online portal no later than 5pm on Friday 7 October 2016.

For further information click here


UK NEWS        

MPs urge Government to ban microbeads in cosmetics

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Cosmetic companies should be banned from using plastic microbeads in bathroom products – such as exfoliating scrubs, toothpaste and shaving gel – because of the marine pollution they are causing, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee has demanded.

Microplastic pollution comes from the fragmentation of larger pieces of plastic waste, small synthetic fibres from clothing, and the microbeads used in cosmetics and other products. It is estimated that as much as 86 tonnes of microplastics is released into the environment every year in the UK from facial exfoliants alone.

National ban:

Most large cosmetics companies have made voluntary commitments to phase out microbeads by 2020. However, the committee found that a legislative ban would have advantages for consumers and the industry in terms of consistency, universality and confidence. The committee would like to see a national ban on microbeads by the end of 2017.


The industry is failing to label products containing microbeads clearly. If the government fails to introduce a ban, the committee is calling on it to introduce a clear labelling scheme for microbeads during the transitional period of a voluntary phase out, to provide transparency for customers.

Impact on human health and the environment:

Microplastic pollution is potentially more environmentally damaging than larger pieces of plastic because it is more likely to be eaten by wildlife, and microplastics have a greater surface area with which to transfer chemicals to and from the marine environment. Relatively little research has been done so far on potential impacts to marine life, human health or the marine economy.

Microbeads are a significant and avoidable part of the problem. However, the wider issue of microplastic pollution cannot be set aside once microbeads have been dealt with. Between 80,000 & 219,000 tonnes of microplastics enter the marine environment across Europe per year. Opportunities to capture microplastics through enhanced washing machine filtration systems and improved waste and water sewage treatment processes must also be explored.

Marine plastic debris:

Persistent marine plastic debris are rapidly accumulating in the world's oceans. Most of the world's ocean plastics by weight are large pieces of debris (e.g. fishing equipment, bottles and plastic bags). However, the dominant type of debris by quantity is microplastics.

Source of information here


312,000 people call for microbead ban in skincare products on World Oceans Day

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

In June the Marine Conservation Society delivered over 312,000 petition signatures to Number 10, calling on the prime minister to ban the toxic microplastic particles known as microbeads. Found in products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste, millions of the tiny plastics are flushed unwittingly into the world’s oceans every year where they ultimately end up in the marine food chain. A recent study has found that the oceans’ fish are becoming smaller due to the effects of ingesting microplastics.

The long list of names were presented at Number 10 by the Marine Conservation Society together with Greenpeace UK, the Environmental Investigation Agency, and Fauna & Flora International. Microbeads were banned by President Obama in the US last year and the UK government has already referred to the tiny plastics as a ‘very serious’ problem for the marine habitat, saying it would support a ban in principle.

For more information about microplastics, see the Scrub it Out webpages.


Great British Beach Clean

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Join the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) on the beach for the UK's biggest beach clean and survey. This is the UK's biggest beach clean and litter survey – come and help thousands of other people across the country to give MCS vital data to fuel their litter campaigns to stop it getting there in the first place. There are events all around the country. Simply find an event using the list or map and register to volunteer. The events will take place over the 16th–19th September 2016. If you can't find an event near you, MCS would love you to organise one – it’s easy!

To find out more, click here


Take part in the UK Jellyfish Survey!

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

When you go down to the beach this summer, please keep your eyes peeled for jellyfish. We don't know much about these creatures but we do know that several species of threatened sea turtle feed on them. Sea turtles are seasonal visitors to UK seas, migrating from their tropical nesting beaches to feed on jellyfish. 

But jellyfish blooms can also impact the way we use the sea, from seaside holidays, fish farming, to nuclear power stations. Tell us (the Marine Conservation Society) where you see jellyfish so we can map them, understand how they may be affecting us, and where they may be attracting turtles.

Download your free Jellyfish Identification Guide to help you work out what youメve spotted

To take part, click here


Big Seaweed Search

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Contribute to research by recording seaweed species found on your local shore. UK coasts and shallow seas are nicknamed a ‘goldilocks’ zone for seaweeds – it’s not too hot, nor too cold for them. Conditions are just right! Over 650 species live and thrive around our shores. But marine environments are changing – sea temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising and the ocean is becoming more acidic, and this is affecting the distribution of different species of seaweed.

We want to know more about some of the seaweed species found in UK waters, identifying exactly where they are found and how this may change over time. So, we want you to head to the coast this summer and start exploring! It's easy to take part. A ‘Big Seaweed Search’ guide explains what you need to do, and helps you to identify each of the seaweeds we are focussing on. And you can complete the simple survey on a mobile, tablet or pc. Join The Big Seaweed Search

The project is a partnership between the Natural History Museum and the Marine Conservation Society.

Source of information, click here


Catchment Partnership Action Fund: projects funded in 2015–2016

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

This report, produced by the Environment Agency, outlines projects funded under CPAF in 2015 to 2016.

The aim of the Catchment Partnership Action Fund is to deliver improved water quality to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive. The fund helped to support catchment partnerships and provide a way of funding local projects which addressed objectives set out in River Basin Management Plans. In addition, the fund was also used on support tools, guidance, and training for the partnership hosts.

To access the report click here


UU and contractors fined almost £1m for polluting brook with corrosive bleach

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

United Utilities Water Limited (UU) has been fined £600,000 and its contractor KMI+ £333,000 at Bolton Crown Court after pleading guilty to polluting a brook, following a prosecution by the Environment Agency.

As part of improvement works at a water treatment plant, the contractor emptied and removed a tank which had been used to store sodium hypochlorite. Sodium hypochlorite is used in the water purification process and is also the principle ingredient of household bleach. It is very corrosive and is highly toxic to aquatic organisms. The majority of the contents of the tank were removed but up to 300 litres of the chemical was left in the bottom and needed to be emptied; this was done by diluting the chemical with water, letting it overflow into a bunded area unattended overnight. Neither company had surveyed the drainage adequately and did not realise there were faults in the drainage system which meant the diluted toxic chemical entered the surface water drainage system and discharged to Bradshaw Brook, a trout spawning ground. A 1.7 km stretch of the brook leading towards Jumbles Reservoir was so badly polluted that virtually all aquatic organisms, including fish, shrimp and earthworms were killed. Up to 900 dead fish were recovered, including Brown Trout, Loaches and Bullheads, but the number killed is likely to be much greater. Both UU and KMI+ pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity and co-operated with the prosecution.

Read the full press release here:


Can I catch and sell bluefin tuna?

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Nearly every summer since the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) vested in 2010 they have heard reports of people finding bluefin tuna in UK waters. They discourage any fishing activity targeting them.

Atlantic bluefin tuna is recognised as an endangered species by the WWF and the IUCN Red List. It should not be targeted and if caught accidentally they must be returned to the sea, alive and unharmed if at all possible. If this is not possible then the fish may be landed but must not be sold. The UK is a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and supports its efforts to ensure the future sustainability of bluefin tuna.

Virtually all tuna available for use in the UK is from abroad. In 2014 UK vessels landed £149,760 worth of tuna in the UK, mainly bonito tuna. If you find a bluefin tuna you should report this to the nearest MMO office. Sightings of shoals of the species at sea can also be reported to ICCAT.


Understanding underwater noise

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

As human activities in the marine area increase so does underwater noise. Understanding and mitigating the impact of this is an important part of the sustainable development of our seas and protecting the marine environment for future generations.

Underwater noise from human activities can affect marine organisms, from fish to marine mammals, in a variety of ways. Noise can mask sounds they use to communicate and find food. It can cause physical injury and even death. Noise is recognised as a pollutant as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. This also states noise should be included as part of Environmental Impact Assessments when consenting development in the marine area.

The Marine Noise Registry has been launched (see next section of the highlights).

This is a data input space for industry and regulators. It collects estimated location and date data on noisy activities (during the planning stages) and actual location and date data (after the activity has been completed).

Read more here:


Marine Noise Registry introduced by Defra and JNCC to collect and display data on noisy activities in marine areas

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The MNR is to record human activities in UK seas that produce loud, low to medium frequency (10Hz–10kHz) impulsive noise.

The initial purpose of using the MNR to record manmade impulsive noise is to quantify the pressure on the environment by providing an overview of relevant impulsive sound sources. This will help define the baseline level for impulsive noise in UK waters as part of other research. Some of the activities included on the MNR are: impact pile driving, geophysical surveys (seismic, sub-bottom profiling and multibeam echosounders), explosives, military related sonar, and certain acoustic deterrent devices.

Marine licence applicants may be asked to provide additional data about the noise impact of their projects through the MNR. Data collected through the MNR will help the UK to assess its ability to achieve ‘good environmental status’ under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Information from the register will also be fed into a Europe-wide registry through OSPAR (the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North-East Atlantic).


The hidden depths of data and evidence

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is a data driven organisation. They share the register of data they hold and publish the data they create so that anyone can see and use it themselves.

Our understanding of available data and its context forms a key part of the evidence on which the MMO build their decisions and marine plan policies. As part of their work towards greater transparency they have been proactively publishing their reports and data since 2010. They also hold other people’s data; these are not theirs to share but they do publish a list to let you know what they have and who they got it from. They are also able to display much of these data visually on their Marine Information System.

Read more here:


Part 2 of the MMO's Evidence Strategy is published

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Evidence is used across the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) from conservation to marine planning. The Evidence Strategy sets out how the MMO will deliver its evidence requirements over the next five years, increasing access to high quality research and improving our understanding of our seas. This final part of the strategy follows on from the publication of Part 1 in July 2015, and focuses on knowledge exchange, influencing and partnerships.

It sets out how the MMO will work with others to help shape the future of marine research, increase access to and awareness of existing evidence and support the Defra’s commitment to improve the quality and sustainability of our natural environment through research and data. The strategy also introduces a new method for identifying areas for collaboration. To better promote these opportunities and encourage involvement across academic sectors, the MMO has introduced a series of Evidence Delivery Plans. Each evidence requirement will have a tailored delivery plan, identifying specific research requirements, detailing how the evidence will be used, a proposed method for filling the gap and a summary of existing evidence and current activity.


MMO Statement of Public Participation

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has published the Statement of Public Participation (SPP) for the north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west marine plan areas and proposed engagement timetable.

The SPP sets out how and when the MMO will engage with stakeholders as they develop a marine plan. It helps ensure that the marine planning process is transparent, and that stakeholders understand how they can be involved and influence the development of a marine plan. Each SPP includes a timetable for engagement. This provides more detail on when and how the MMO will engage with stakeholders throughout the marine planning process for these areas.

You can find out more about the SPPs here, including stakeholders, principles of engagement and communication channels. The draft SPPs were published for consultation in April 2016. Details of the consultation are available here.


Call for issues with supporting evidence for next phase of marine planning

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has launched a ‘Call for Issues with Supporting Evidence’ for the north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west marine plan areas. This is the start of a conversation with stakeholders about what are the opportunities, challenges and needs for the marine plan areas over the next 20 years. It also is looking to gather evidence to support these issues.

The call was open from 30 June to 5 August 2016. It includes information gathered on environmental, social, economic and governance opportunities and challenges for each of the marine plan areas. A number of workshops took place in July across the marine plan areas.

An issue is an opportunity or a challenge to the marine plan area, that is likely to drive change (such as port infrastructure), or be affected by change (such as climate change) over the 20 years the marine plans cover. It must also be something that can be addressed, at least in part, by marine planning. Issues must be supported by evidence. Evidence includes a wide range of types and sources including:

  • social, economic or environmental data
  • academic research
  • government policy
  • expert opinion

More information on marine plans is available here


Defra delays its 25-year Environment Plan

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Defra has informed the industry that its 25-Year Environment Plan will NOT now be published before the end of 2016; the framework for the Plan that was expected this summer is also delayed.

In a letter to stakeholders, Defra explained that the original timings of the framework and the subsequent Plan ‘did not take into account [Britain’s] decision to leave the EU. As a result we will not be publishing the framework this summer or the plan by the end of the year’. The letter added that ‘[Defra wants] to reassure you that government is committed to developing a long term plan for the environment. The reason for the delay is because the outcome of the EU referendum vote provides us with the opportunity to expand the scope of the plan to consider a long-term vision for the type of environment we want in Britain outside of the EU’.

At present, Defra offers no new timescale for a post-Brexit Environment Plan, which was originally revealed in its Single departmental plan: 2015 to 2020 report, which set out its objectives for 2016.

Source of information:


Lamprey Watch

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The Lamprey Watch project seeks to help conserve and protect the UK’s lamprey species and needs your help! Lamprey Watch is a project run by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.  It aims to educate people about lampreys in Scottish waters. They want to encourage anyone with access to suitable rivers to look out for lampreys during the spawning season and submit records of any observations. 

Lampreys are a very primitive type of fish with elongated eel-like bodies and a large disc-like mouth.  They have unusual life cycles.  Their larval stages are blind and burrow in riverine sediments where they live for many years feeding on organic detritus.  They eventually transform into adults, with fully developed eyes and a large toothed sucker and usually migrate to sea, where they feed parasitically on other fish – rasping their flesh and sucking blood. After a number of years at sea they return to rivers to breed and die.

There are three lamprey species in Scottish waters and these are of significant conservation interest. They are sensitive to water pollution and their presence in a river catchment is a sign of good water quality.  Migratory lampreys are designated as indicator species under the EU Water Framework Directive for assessment of transitional (estuarine) waters.  Their migrations may be impacted by poor water quality or hindered by artificial barriers such as weirs.   Hence SEPA has an interest in gauging their presence or absence in particular water catchments.

The easiest way to spot lampreys is to check out suitable nesting habitat during the spawning season.  Use the lamprey guide to learn how to identify and distinguish between the different species and get hints and tips on the best times and places to see lampreys from the blog on ‘Lamprey Watch’.  The distribution of lampreys in many of Scotland’s rivers is poorly known and the occurrence of the migratory species can be sporadic.  Your sightings of where and when they occur can help SEPA build up a better picture of the distribution of these enigmatic creatures.


New UEA-Government research centre

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

A new marine science centre has been launched in Norwich aiming to provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the world’s seas and society, from climate change, to energy and food security. The Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas (CCSUS) brings together over 40 scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

The scientists will combine leading-edge marine science with practical expertise and the latest technological know-how to ensure that our seas and oceans are used sustainably for the benefit of people in the UK and world-wide. Scientists based at Cefas, Lowestoft, and UEA will collaborate with policy makers, advisers and industry to support UK and international marine policy in a range of areas including marine fisheries, energy and conservation. They are expected to search for real-world solutions to big issues, such as responding to the impacts of marine climate change on wildlife and fisheries, managing the extraction of aggregates from the seabed while protecting marine habitats, and understanding how ocean circulation changes the risks of oil spills.


A 400% rise (over 10 years) in wipes on beaches is putting marine life at risk – sign up to the MCS campaign

(Posted 8 September 2016)

Wet wipes have so many uses – general cleansing, baby wipes, removing make-up. But instead of ending up in the bin when they're finished with – millions are being popped down the toilet because they're labelled as flushable. The problem is, they don't meet the water industry standard.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) explain: flushed wet wipes are a nightmare. It only takes a few to clog drains, and when they team up with fats and oils they make giant fatbergs which can block our sewers. Raw sewage can then back up into people's homes or overflow into rivers and seas. Last year during their Great British Beach Clean, MCS found almost 50 wet wipes for every kilometre of beach that was cleaned – a 30% rise on the previous year and a 400% rise in a decade. Flushed wet wipes make water bills more expensive, pollute beaches and harm marine life.

MCS are running a campaign to persuade retailers and manufacturers to clearly label their wet wipe products with a ‘Don’t Flush’ message on their packaging so they go in the bin, not down the toilet.

See the petition here


The Royal Society of Biology states ‘UK science must be protected in wake of EU Referendum’

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The referendum outcome will result in the UK leaving the European Union. There will now be a period of uncertainty in many areas of UK policy, including bioscience research and practice, and its funding, until new decisions are made or existing arrangements confirmed.

Dr Mark Downs CBiol FRSB, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology said:

‘It will be vital to recognise the importance of UK science and scientists as the terms of our EU exit begin to be considered. It is well proven that research and the biosciences are a key engine for sustainable growth and public benefit for the UK. It is essential that in our next set of economic and policy decisions we keep that in clear view and ensure that good science and research community advice is effectively heard. Science by its very nature is a collaboration. Strong research partnerships with EU-based scientists will continue to be essential for the UK. Ease of exchange and movement of people will remain critical. We must ensure that research currently enabled by EU funding can continue, and we must reassure the brightest and best researchers and students that the rights they have now will continue’.

In the run up to the referendum the Society gathered evidence from its members and the wider bioscience community and presented this to Parliamentary inquiries, as well as making relevant information available via their website. The Society will continue to work to ensure that UK national and international policies are effectively informed by excellent bioscience and bioscientists.,4BKTS,1TTHA,FTTJ6,1


North Sea cod faces ultimate test to assess whether it is sustainable

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

North Sea cod has recently entered Marine Stewardship Council assessment – widely regarded as the ultimate test of seafood sustainability. The move has been organised by a coalition of fishing organisations, supermarkets, seafood brands, and the seafood industry body ‘Seafish’ following significant efforts to improve the stock by Scottish and English fishermen.

The assessment process could lead to North Sea cod becoming MSC certified within the next 18 months, putting it back on the menu for ethically-minded shoppers and diners, who have avoided the fish for more than a decade because of overfishing concerns.

The cod stocks in the North Sea peaked at 270,000 tonnes in the 1970s, when Scottish and English cod was widely sold and enjoyed. The stocks had fallen to just 44,000 tonnes in 2006. However, a concerted effort, principally by Scottish and English fishermen, has seen stocks rise to a level of 149,000 tonnes last year. This was achieved through collectively adopting sustainable fishing practices such as modification of fishing gear, 'real time' closures, and sea area closures to protect spawning females.

Read more here



Ecosystem overviews and status of fish stocks presented to European Commission

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) deliver an overview of the status of a host of fish and shellfish stocks across the Northeast Atlantic and present the newly developed ecosystem overviews. The seminar included presentations on new science initiatives, long-term trends with respect to maximum sustainable yield in EU waters​?, and fisheries' economic performance.

For more details click here


A better future for the EU deep sea

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

At the end of June the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission reached an agreement on how 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. In 2012, the Commission had proposed a package which included the full phasing out over two years of deep-sea gears in contact with the sea bottom. This proposal was rejected by the Council and the Parliament. Today's agreement offers alternative protection measures.

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.


As global per capita fish consumption hits all-time high, UN warns on overharvesting

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

A new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that while growth in aquaculture has helped drive global per capita fish consumption above 20 kilograms a year for the first time, almost a third of commercial fish stocks are now overharvested at biologically unsustainable levels.

The latest edition of the agency’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report attributes stronger aquaculture supply and firm demand, record hauls for some key species and reduced wastage as some of the reasons for the increased consumption. It also notes that despite notable progress in some areas, the state of the world’s marine resources has not improved.

It notes that some 57 million people were engaged in the primary fish production sectors, a third of them in aquaculture, and fishery products accounted for 1% of all global merchandise trade in value terms, representing more than 9% of total agricultural exports.

To read more click here


Fears for bass recovery result in zero catch advice for 2017

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says the latest advice from ICES that no seabass should be caught in 2017 from the stock in UK’s waters reveals the desperate situation this restaurant and recreational angling favourite is in. The advice confirms fears that the population – which is mainly shared with France and the Netherlands – has now slipped to dangerously low levels and is at risk of not recovering properly.

This news comes on the back of emergency measures imposed by the EU in 2015 and then further restrictions to the fishery from January this year including a complete ban in February and March to protect spawning aggregations of seabass.

Whilst it’s clear these measures are achieving reductions in catches and helping to protect juveniles, they don’t go anywhere near enough to prevent further declines in the population which is now at a critically low level. MCS strongly supports the scientific advice for a zero catch next year, but says that in order to get anywhere near this, additional selectivity and avoidance measures and much better monitoring will be needed.

MCS already has a red rating for the seabass fishery in its Good Fish Guide (, advising all consumers and businesses to avoid buying bass until the fishery has recovered to a healthier state.

To read more click here


Global collaboration doubles sustainable catch in five years

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

A new report published by the Marine Stewardship Council to mark World Oceans Day shows how effective management and improvements made by MSC certified fisheries are delivering measurable, positive impacts in our oceans, from reducing bycatch to advancing scientific understanding of marine environments.

Since 2010 the volume of global wild seafood catch that is MSC certified has almost doubled from 5% (4,541,358 tonnes) to 9.4% (8,821,221 tonnes) in 2015. Across 33 countries, 281 fisheries are now independently certified to the world’s most recognised and credible standard for sustainable fishing.

The 2016 Global Impacts Report provides a quantitative analysis of the progress made by MSC certified fisheries since the MSC program began and highlights the significant improvements made over the last five years.


Eight Breakthrough Innovations Saving Our Oceans

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

To celebrate World Ocean Day, National Geographic showcases eight fascinating innovations. Ocean-related technology is riding the innovation wave, and consequently we’re seeing some amazing breakthroughs in ocean health and exploration.

  • The Snotbot can hover above a whale to collect mucus from a whale’s blow to gain valuable biological information such as stress hormones, without stressing the animal.
  • Fishface – an affordable fish identification tool being used for population assessments in Indonesia.
  • Whale alert app alerts mariners about the potential presence of whales to avoid deadly ship strikes, a leading cause of death for these protected species.
  • SkySails – Cargo ships with high altitude sails can save 10–30% on daily fuel use.
  • Global fish watch is a platform to monitor global fishing activity run by SkyTruth, Oceana and Google. It pools together historical data from a satellite-based vessel monitoring system and uses an algorithm to assess where fishing has occurred. With advancement in tools like this for global fisheries monitoring, the writing is on the wall for taking down lots of illegal ‘pirate’ fishers.
  • Saildrone is an autonomous wind-propelled sailing vessel that can conduct scientific missions independently in rough weather for months.
  • Saltwater Brewery has developed an edible and biodegradable six-pack ring out of wheat and barley from their brewing process.
  • Live Dives – we can watch things happening live in the ocean from our computers or phones, and interact with the divers and robots. The cutting edge in this field is high-definition, 360-degree cameras propelling footage immediately into virtual reality headsets from hard to reach habitats such as the deep sea.


Celebrating ten years of conservation success for the Albatross Task Force

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

To mark World Oceans' Day, the RSPB and Birdlife International are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Albatross Task Force.  This is one of their most successful conservation programmes and serves as a powerful reminder of what can be achieved through hard work, expertise, creativity and the generosity of their supporters. 

The British Antarctic Survey began systematic monitoring of albatross populations at Bird Island, South Georgia in the 1970s, continuing work started back in 1958-64. These studies of age, reproductive performance and survivorship started showing declines by 1979. From then on, albatrosses became one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world with 19 out of the 22 species of albatross at risk of extinction. The declines were primarily driven by huge numbers of birds being accidentally caught on longline fishing hooks and trawl cables: an estimated 100,000 albatrosses were being killed this way every year.

In the early 2000s, conversations started between the RSPB and Birdlife about what action could be taken to deal with the crisis.  They needed to influence policies that governed regional fisheries but they also decided they needed to employ people to work with fishermen to train them catch fish rather than seabirds. The Albatross Task Force was formed in 2006 and since then the results have been spectacular.  Thanks to their work, seven out of the ten fisheries originally identified as seabird bycatch hotspots have now adopted regulations to protect seabirds during fishing. But most importantly, they have improved the conservation prospects of four albatross species which no longer appear in the top three extinction risk categories.



New Foresight project launched on the future of the sea

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

This project will look at the important future trends, challenges and opportunities for the UK from the sea.

The sea covers 70% of the world’s surface and is essential to regulating global temperature, water, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Including its overseas territories, the UK has jurisdiction over the 5th largest area of ocean of any country in the world. Technological advances are creating new opportunities to understand the sea, its resources and the effects of climate change.

The government are undertaking a Foresight project to consider the role that science and technology can play in understanding and providing solutions to the long-term issues affecting the sea. This will involve working with policy-makers to identify the most important future trends, challenges and opportunities for the UK from the sea. It will begin by focusing on the following areas:

  • resources and economic potential of the sea
  • environmental issues
  • governance of the sea

Source of information:


Rising sea levels will cause irreversible changes to plant communities in a Welsh wetland

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

As global temperatures continue to warm, sea levels are expected to rise, increasing the risk of saltwater inundating wetlands in low-lying coastal areas. A study in Wales describes how rising sea levels will result in a shift from a wetland rich in plant diversity to one dominated by saltwater and mud in 200 years’ time.

To read more, click here


Using DNA-based methods for environmental monitoring and decision-making

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

This report reviews recent advances in DNA-based methods for environmental monitoring and decision-making in the absence of a regulated framework to validate the methods.

The Environment Agency are working closely with the research community to develop new ecological monitoring methods and tools that seek to provide greater insight into the make-up of biological communities and to improve their current monitoring of individual species. Two approaches are being focused upon: one targets DNA extracted directly from the organisms themselves, and the other uses environmental DNA (eDNA) which is released from an organism via faeces, urine, slime, skin, etc into environmental samples such as water, soil and sediments.

To read more click here


Bioremediation of antibiotic pollution by a salt marsh plant

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The effects of antibiotic contamination may be attenuated by the common reeds. The study found that the common reed (Phragmites australis), sourced from a temperate estuary with brackish water, had capacity for the bioremediation of the veterinary antibiotic enrofloxacin (ENR). The authors suggest that salt marsh plants and their associated micro-organisms could be a valuable asset in the recovery of contaminated estuary environments.

Salt marsh plants can remove antibiotic contaminants by direct uptake through their roots. The microbes found around the root system and within the surrounding sediment are also capable of degrading pollutants. The aim of this study was to determine the extent to which the common reed and its associated root-sediment microbial community can absorb or degrade the antibiotic ENR.

To read more click here


Implementing the EU Water Framework Directive – lack of evidence for Eastern European countries

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

A recent study has analysed research on implementing the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in Europe and identified a number of research gaps that could be filled. For example, some countries, such as Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, have not been well studied and more research on the experiences of such countries would build up knowledge on the implementation of the WFD across Europe.

The first management cycle of the River Basin District management plans ran from 2009–2015. Having reached this important milestone, this study is the first to assess the research on implementation of the WFD in the EU. The researchers used meta-analysis, combining the information from many studies, to comprehensively review academic studies on the implementation of the WFD.

To read more click here


New environmental DNA method detects invasive fish species in river water

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Scientists have developed a new way of monitoring Ponto-Caspian gobies, a group of widely invasive fish species, by detecting traces of their DNA in river water. In a recent research paper, it was found that it offers a quicker, easier and cheaper way of monitoring the fish than conventional catching or sighting methods.

Current catch and sighting methods for monitoring Ponto-Caspian gobies are labour-intensive, expensive, need specialist skills and are not very sensitive. These species are particularly difficult to monitor because they hide under stones, and initially appear at sites such as harbours that are difficult to monitor by conventional approaches. Environmental DNA (eDNA) assays are an emerging and increasingly popular technique for monitoring biodiversity, particularly for species that are hard to detect using conventional methods. They detect the presence of a species from traces of DNA that it has left behind in the environment (eg from their cells) and they are already available for a number of species.

To read more, click here


Aerosol pollutants may have long-range effects on ocean oxygen levels

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Oxygen decline is occurring in many of the world’s oceans and has important consequences for marine ecosystems, but the causes are not fully understood. Aerosol pollutants may be partly responsible, according to a new study which modelled the effects of atmospheric pollution over the Pacific Ocean. The findings suggest that air pollution can exacerbate climate impacts on the ocean, even when the source is far away.

To read more, click here


Phosphorus flow severely affected by human activity in three large river basins

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Recent research shows that human activities have caused phosphorus to accumulate in soils and water bodies, creating a legacy that could last for decades. The researchers focused on phosphorus in three river basins: the Thames (UK), the Maumee (USA) and the Yangtze (China). The Thames is the only river basin in the study to show clear signs of improvement, highlighting that better sewage treatment facilities and reduced fertiliser use are key reasons for the overall decline in phosphorus levels in this basin since the late 1990s.

To read more, click here


Could freshwater crustaceans curb algal blooms?

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Algal (cyanobacterial) blooms are a major threat to marine and freshwater ecosystems, as well as to human health. This study investigated a way to reduce numbers of harmful cyanobacteria using freshwater crustaceans. Data from a large Swedish lake show that this approach can be effective but is best used alongside other methods, such as nutrient reduction.

To read more, click here


Good water quality improvements in the River Seine – but more needs to be done to reduce nitrate pollution

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Water policies at European and French national levels have led to a clear improvement in the water quality of the River Seine. A significant reduction in phosphate and ammonium pollution, and increasing oxygen concentrations are evident. However, nitrate concentrations are still higher than the recommended level for Good freshwater status, despite substantial reductions of surplus nitrogen in agricultural soils over the past few decades. This study recommends strengthening current agri-environmental management measures to help the river to return to a fully healthy status.

To read more click here


Nudging may be better than shoving: voluntary non-monetary approaches to conservation

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Voluntary non-monetary conservation – where citizens implement actions without a financial incentive – is an emerging approach to biodiversity protection that could be applied in many countries and environments. This study makes recommendations for actions, such as being simple and affordable, and calls for conservation scientists to recognise their value as a complementary tool alongside traditional market-based and coercive approaches, such as payment for ecosystem services and national parks.

For more on this, click here


How to choose the most cost-effective methods for improving marine water quality

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Agricultural run-off can contain pesticides, sediment particles and nitrates and is a major threat to the health of the sea. Although there are policy frameworks to reduce run-off water, they often don’t clearly explain how to maximise benefits. A new study provides an economic framework that prioritises methods based on their cost-effectiveness, which could help policymakers to reduce the pollution of marine ecosystems.

The researchers conclude that investment should be directed towards the conservation projects that are the most cost-effective. The approach presented here could help inform the economic analysis required by the Water Framework Directive, as it includes, for example, the ability to prioritise for multiple pollutants and to differentiate their importance within the same prioritisation. This can improve efficiency, but is often not done due to its complexity. This new, simpler approach might help to overcome the current difficulties, as it is easy to apply and sufficiently flexible to account for multiple costs and multiple pollutants.

Read more here



Demonstration Test Catchments newsletter spring/summer 2016

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The DTC newsletter highlights aspects of the research, recent key activities, plus events and information on related projects, with links for you to follow up on more detailed information about individual items and topics of interest. The topics in this issue include:

  • The Eden DTC in December 2015 – the wettest month on record and a sign of things to come?
  • Winter floods in the Eden: Action Planning
  • Putting a value on soil loss
  • Soil erosion and landslides in Cumbria – Using research networks to provide reactive evidence
  • Farmer Discussion Group in the Avon – insight into mitigation
  • Wensum DTC: Manor Farm biobed highly effective at degrading waste pesticide residues
  • Wensum DTC: 2015–16 cover crops trials.


A ‘how to’ guide for catchment partnerships

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

There are significant benefits to partnership working. It can lead to extra funding, bring in expertise and generate more buy-in from people. WaterLIFE has been working in three UK catchments (the Soar, Camlad and Tamar) to increase skills and resources across the catchment partnerships in these areas so they are better equipped to improve the health of the water environment.

WaterLIFE have produced a ‘how to’ guide for catchment partnerships designed to increase capacity within these organisations. The guide includes the essential ingredients to getting a partnership started, expanding a partnership, case studies to showcase best practice and successes, and also points to the tools available to partnerships.

The guide explores three essential steps:

  • Getting started – identifying relevant groups, building the partnership, gathering the data and evidence, and developing targeted catchment plans.
  • Building momentum and broadening the partnership – deepening understanding about the issues that affect the catchment and empowering groups through citizen science.
  • Create an identity and build an audience – widening your appeal, creating an identity and inspiring others.

Download the guide here:

Source of information:


The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture is the flagship publication of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. This premier advocacy document is published every two years to provide policymakers, civil society and those whose livelihoods depend on the sector with a comprehensive, objective and global view of capture fisheries and aquaculture, including associated policy issues.

Access the document here:


Marine Stewardship Council Global Impacts Report 2016

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

Our oceans are home to an extraordinary diversity of life. They regulate the climate, and provide us with food, income, joy and wonder. Seafood provides a major source of protein for nearly 3 billion people, while many millions of people rely on fishing for their livelihood. But the health of our oceans and the fish stocks that are so crucial to coastal communities and national economies are under threat with 29% fished beyond sustainable limits. As the global population continues to grow, recovering overexploited and depleted stocks, while ensuring the rest are managed sustainably, is crucial for future food security and prosperity.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was established in 1997 to address unsustainable fishing and safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Working with scientists and marine experts, they have developed the world’s most recognised standard for sustainable wild-caught seafood. Well-managed fisheries that ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks and keep ecosystems healthy can be certified to this standard, and their products sold with the blue MSC ecolabel. This report looks at the impact of the MSC from the first certification in 1999 to 2015, showcasing recent improvements and highlighting the overall progress that certified fisheries have made to secure thriving fish stocks and healthy oceans.

Access the report:


Marine Planning Newsletter – August 2016

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

This is the newsletter from the MMO (Marine Management Organisation). This issue includes news on the next phase of marine plans as well as updates on the South and East Marine Plans.

Access the newsletter here


England Natural Environment Indicators

(Posted 8 September 2016)             

This publication covers the indicators developed to assess progress against the Natural Environment White Paper, published in 2011 under the 2010 to 2015 Coalition Government.

Access the 2016 report here

For previous reports click on