Oceans and coasts
The health of the Great Barrier Reef is at risk due to excessive coastal development, according to a new UNESCO report on the World Heritage listed area. “Wetlands along the coast are vital to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef region,” says University of York Researcher, Callum Roberts, who worries the reef will be ruined if port development and dredging proceed without proper caution.
Australia’s challenge to Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling programme in Antarctica will be heard at the United Nation’s International Court of Justice in The Hague in June. Japan continues to claim its annual whale hunt is for research purposes, and, therefore, exempt from the worldwide commercial whaling ban.
Japan has cut short its whale hunt with less than a third the kills it’s annual quota allows. Japan’s Fisheries Agency blamed adverse weather conditions and sabotage by activists. Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd meanwhile claimed success in it’s campaign to disrupt the hunt.
In some rare good news for sharks, whose global populations have been devastated by decades of overfishing, researchers have found numbers in Tasmanian waters are showing signs of recovery.
The World Bank has announced a new alliance and funding commitment to protect the world’s oceans from threats such as over-fishing and pollution. World Bank President Robert Zoellick highlighted the importance of sustainable healthy oceans to a living planet and healthy global economy, declaring the Bank’s aim to “leverage as much as $1.2 billion to support healthy and sustainable oceans,” in partnership with governments, the scientific community, civil society organizations, and the private sector. Commentators say market mechanisms will be key to putting fisheries and other ocean dependent industries on a sustainable path.
Despite Australia’s efforts to protect marine life, global fish stocks are collapsing due to overfishing. A key example is the jack mackerel - its numbers in the Southern Ocean have been decimated by 90% in just the last two decades. Now industrial fishing fleets are sailing further and further south into waters off Antarctica in search of catches, while the international community cannot agree on measures to make fishing sustainable. Oceanographer Daniel Pauly believes a major world power must take a stand and rally nations into action to protect fish stocks before it’s too late for them to rebound.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has announced it is using a donated military-style remote controlled drone to track the Japanese whaling fleet. The new technology gives the protest group a new edge in its campaign of direct interventions to stop whaling.
Earlier this month it was revealed that the Japanese Government is using $29 million from its tsunami reconstruction fund to support the whaling industry. Greenpeace has questioned whether this money is being siphoned away from real victims of the disaster.
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