First, a story from EurekAlert titled “Antarctic species threatened by willful misinterpretation of legal treaty.” The legal body that governs fishing, resource extraction, and other operations in the Southern Ocean is called the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The international treaty that formed this commission allows for “rational use” of Antarctic waters for fishing. However, some member countries have interpreted this to mean the unfettered right to fish. While the governing language for fishing activity should never have been as ambiguous as the term “rational use” is, the situation for international fishing in the Southern Ocean now seems akin to an honor system. And now that some nations are used to heavily fishing these areas, it could be extremely difficult for the convention to lay down any necessary MPAs.
Next up is an article from Mother Nature Network, which claims that the chemical oxybenzone, found in many brands of sunscreen, is lethal to corals even in small doses. While this certainly could cause problems for coral reefs on a local scale, it’s important that we keep this issue in context. National governments and policy makers should remain focused on mitigating and preventing climate change through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, regulations on plastic pollutions, and greater support for establishing marine protected areas. This sunscreen issue is best addressed on a local or community scale. It is a great way for the individual consumer to address coral bleaching by purchasing eco-friendly sunscreen or wearing more sun protection while diving. So while this is certainly a noteworthy issue that consumers should consider, let’s just make sure we don’t chalk up global bleaching events to chemicals in sunscreen.
We then brought our attention to a video posted on Youtube, and later covered by the Daily Mail, of a spearfisher’s encounter with a great white shark. If you haven’t seen the video, I highly recommend checking it out here. It’s quality footage of an up close interaction with a great white shark, an encounter which left both the diver and shark unharmed. However, the Daily Mail article and the diver himself both embellish the situation by claiming that the shark showed aggression, stalked the diver to the surface, and tried to eat him. None of this happened. The shark swam by the diver a couple of times, and the diver instinctively poked it away with the tip of his gun before getting back on the boat. I’m pretty sure if this were an orca encounter the headline would read “Diver has amazing encounter with majestic orca” rather than “great white shark appears out of nowhere to aggressively chase a screaming diver.”
We ended today’s episode by talking about seagrass habitats. An article on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s website highlights a study done by Australian researchers on carbon levels in damaged seagrass ecosystems. It turns out that these habitats can store carbon in the sediment for thousands of years through processes driven by their unique anoxic environment created in seagrass beds. All of this sequestered carbon, however, can be released into the atmosphere once seagrasses are disturbed by coastal development or pollution. This is yet another reason why protecting seagrass habitats is so important. Not only do they provide erosion control, increase water quality, and offer valuable habitats for juvenile fish, shrimp, and crabs, seagrasses also help to prevent harmful effects due to man made climate change.
Enjoy the Podcast!