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Highly Protected Marine Areas: Scrapped!
The Scottish government has scrapped its plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), despite it being part of the government sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens, worse the Green’s endorsed it! The Royal Commission for Environmental Pollution stated that 30% no-take-zones were required 20 years ago!
Just 10% was to be ‘highly protected’ and the consultation as to locations had only just begun but that didn’t stop some of the fishing industry creating a media frenzy and even the BBC joined in without, what we would suggest, due-diligence. Marine Concern has two complaints in with the BBC about the way in which it reported, due to little, to no response, a report is currently being sent to the Ombudsman.
So much for the signed up to agreement of 30 X 30, that’s 30% of land and sea, protected by 2030. The environment minister said, “We don’t adhere to the International Union for Nature Conservation criteria for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). So what do they adhere to?
Marine Concern are about to submit three FOI’s; Define: - ‘Sustainable’, ‘Protection’ and ‘MPAs’. Common terms but apparently not what you would think if you are in government.
Great news, part of the 30 X 30 pledge: Let's take it on face value, - not before time and desperately needed!
We have added two links here due to the fact that there appears some discrepancy between time-lines; 10/20 years of deliberations. Either way, we feel that this is a step in the right direction but the devil is in the detail: What are the protection levels? When will it become a legal requirement and who is watching/prosecuting?
Much of Earth's ocean is classified as "High Seas"; outside international borders and jurisdiction. Around two thirds of earth's oceans. Currently protection is around 1 to 1.5%.
Scotland's Environment Minister Mairi McAllan Tweeted, Great news for world's oceans. Scotland already has 37% Marine Protected Area. We disputed this figure with the Minister, where she stated, Perhaps we should call them designated! We still maintain that Scottish seas, nature protection is closer to 3.7%.
Hence the saying, the devil is in the detail!
Phrases like, - Maximising sustainability, maximum sustainable yield, or anything similar.
The latest term to join the spin is Nature Positive, straight out of COP 15 but it appears that nobody actually knows what it means!
Also, during COP 15; what is a Protected Area? (Remember the 30 X 30 pledge, that should be 30% of land and sea protected by 2030). It looks like it might be an area that is not protected or will allow damaging activities, such as scallop dredging/bottom trawling; - Will that be called, Nature Negative?
Confused? We think you are meant to be; the 30% plus figures that you might have seen banded about by governments are generally closer to 3%, even less on the High Seas. The latest is that Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) might include fishing. The term "fully" protected appears to have been added to the repertoire; that's why we simply refer to 'No-Take-Zones', they do exactly what they state.
It gets worse, in Scotland the Scottish government has yet to define the word, - ‘SUSTAINABLE’.
More on the Sustainable Seas page.
We started our school assembly talks this week concerning ‘rubbish’ and ‘marine litter’, we have presented to the whole of the largest school in Ayrshire.
The feed-back has been great with many interested in getting involved with the school’s ‘Eco-Groups’. One first year pupil even mentioned the plastic eating bacteria!
A great book linking science and schools is now out; “Marine Mammals, A Deep Dive into the World of Science”. Published by Springer, it is also available as Open-Access. The chapter titled; - “Plastic Debris and its Impacts on Marine Mammals”, fits right in, with things that the full age range of school youngsters can take part in.
If we can help in any way to facilitate school/group talks please get in touch via our contacts page. It is vital that today’s young folk understand the issues that will affect them. Following a recent evidence session at the Scottish Parliament some of our elected members would benefit from reading about marine ecosystems as well (before voting on them), the lack of knowledge is frightening!
Another year on since COP 26 was held in Glasgow; what has occurred?
Next to nothing in political circles, three Prime Ministers but they come and go like buses, unlike the marine environment that is mainly going! Going downhill with little real protection in Scotland.
We are still waiting for a definition regarding; - sustainable. We are still waiting for evidence to Scottish government claims, including one for; “We are World leaders”!
Meanwhile we are preparing a Parliamentary Question for the Environment Minister, concerning Marine Protected Areas and Highly Protected Marine Areas; more when/if we get a response.
As a 1.5oC rise in Global Warming is listed as 50/50 by scientists in the next 5 years, Marine Concern reports on a meeting held with the Scottish government Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform.
It does not make for comfortable reading, in short; -
Read more on the Sustainable Seas page.
should it be;
We are clever enough to develop the combustion engine and computers, BUT we do not have the intelligence to protect our future, not to mention that of our kids, and future generations!
Welcome to the Anthropocene, storms, floods, droughts, fires, and temperature extremes; followed by the next Mass Extinction Event. What makes it worse, the first event actually caused by one of the planet's species.
A recent comment of, “Blah, Blah, Blah” in relation to hot aired politicians, may not have been out of place while we are in the era of baloney and bluster. Not to mention Trump’s previous ‘roll-back’ of more than one hundred environmental rules on clean air, water, wildlife, and toxic chemicals. Taking the US out of the Paris Agreement, shows the fragility of the current system. Closer to home, the action of opening up more oil fields and coal mines while expecting other countries to reduce carbon emissions is hypocritical.
Proportionally, Scotland reflects the percentage of sea and land, with that of the Earth, most of its coverage is sea. We now know the oceans are drivers for weather, they have the ability to store and release greenhouse gases, Earth’s regulator; however huge methane hydrates are close to erupting and if the massive reserves in the Arctic erupt its game-over for humans and most of the current ecosystems.
Meanwhile here in Scotland, the host of the climate change conference, where the Scottish Green Party is now in a co-sharing power agreement, the sea appears to be the last item on the agenda. The government will have you believe that 37% of Scottish seas are protected, through Marine Protected Areas and other designations; however, this purported ‘protection’ allows for the destructive extraction methods including scallop dredging and bottom trawling, as well as, pollution from what is in reality an unregulated growing salmon farming industry. The actual level of protection i.e., no-take-zones is under 5%!
Seabed protection could sequester carbon, new algal growth would assist while producing oxygen and yet action is dormant. There is however, hope, a local MSP is due to ask the Scottish Government a marine question in Parliament, the first week of COP26….watch this space!
For more on COP, climate change and biodiversity loss, including the importance of understanding the Carbon-Cycle coming soon, such as the UN Chief saying, "We are digging our own graves"!
For more infomation and further reading, please follow the link to the Marine Concern Sustainable Seas page:
A fulmar in the Arctic Ocean, these birds follow ships for hundreds of miles.
Soaring on air currents produced by the ships they glide from port to starboard and back,
sometimes dipping to the seas surface to recover food in the ship's wake.
Never before have the Earth's resources been put under so much pressure. One of the main issues is that of the human population and aspirations to 'improve' and grow. Generally, the western world uses far greater resources per-capita. The problems that Earth faces are complex, not just a question of population but also a combination of population, life-style and industrial growth. It was once suggested that we would never over-fish global stocks, we still empty rubbish into the oceans as if they are bottomless; our actions have adverse effects. We don't fully understand marine ecosystem interactions; our concept of, "out of sight, out of mind" and profit over environmental issues, prevails.
Orca with a White Sided Dolphin, one of the 'residents' in the Johnson Strait of Canada's west coast. The residents are fish eaters; over-fishing and the growth of salmon farms are having an adverse effect.
The Box Theory
The 'Box Theory': Putting it simply, we live in a 'box' or rather a sphere; nothing can come in or go out. Now that the human population has exceeded seven billion, the earth is literally bulging at the seams. Commercial resources are under great pressure and the question of what to do with the waste has not been thoroughly thought through.
We are now starting to see the effect on our oceans, nowhere free from plastics, nowhere safe from exploitation or pollution. Unbridled growth has a cost, from climate change to biodiversity loss. Conditions are changing, species are threatened, anthropogenic activities are causing major unbalance to Earth systems.
Walrus, one of the Arctic's iconic mammals. These mammals have evolved to deal with the freezing waters, oddly enough they need ice in order to haul-out, warm and rest, especially the young. Arctic ice is becoming thinner and covering less sea area year on year, making existence for these animals harder.
Science has long been aware that Earth's oceans have a huge effect on the climate, but it has only been more recently that we have seen advances in marine science and the major implications that our actions have not only on the climate, but seawater acidity, marine ecosystems and the food-web.
The Rio 'Earth' Summit in 1992 raised issues about Climate Change and more than 150 countries signed up to its accords. At last, governments are starting to take it seriously, that said, the Trump era shows just how precarious environmental issues are. Will it be enough, will it be in time to actually make a difference or will governments slip back and renege on their commitments?
During the Earth Summit, Biodiversity Loss was also part of the agenda, also signed up to by the 150 or so countries however, biodiversity appears to have taken a back-seat on the world scene but in the marine environment, where we still don't fully understand the effects of food-web interactions, this lack of action may just come back to haunt us!
The Global problem with plastic has been highlighted for years but few have taken it seriously, until now it seems. BBC's Blue Planet II was 2017 best-watched program with more than 14 million people watching. The plastic problem was highlighted with graphic scenes. As a result, the public is better informed and many are concerned for the future. The UK government purportedly raised the bar by addressing the issue; a 'World Leader' they stated but giving a 25-year time scale is hardly taking the matter sincerely, we need to act and act now.
Ghost Fishing: This discarded fishing net was photographed high up in the Arctic Circle, north of 80 Degrees!
Close to the ice pack, this fishing net may have been covered, uncovered, and covered, again and again by annual ice cycles. It may have circled the Arctic, even the Atlantic by ocean gyres for many years.
Ghost fishing kills indiscriminately.
A Polar Bear or 'Ice Bear' as they are often called. Pictured of the east coast of Greenland.
Ice loss is causing a major problem for the Arctic. Some of the loss is due to climatic change, but the input of fresh water from melts is accelerating sea water change, reducing sea water density, reducing the deep water movement.
The Polar Regions have been highlighted in the media in recent years and for good reason, as it is these northern and southern extremes that are subject to an accelerated escalation in temperatures. An increase, just a small increase in temperature in the polar regions can and will have catastrophic affects to more than just our climate. Recent records have been broken in Siberia, approaching 40 degrees Centigrade and these extremes on a global scale have a profound effect.
Cold, salty, hence dense seawater sinks from the Arctic Ocean and effectively gives the ocean conveyor a ‘kick-start’. The ocean conveyor extends around the globe and has an influential effect on our climate; global climate! Seawater density is important as it creates layers of isolated waters which circumnavigate oceans. Ocean gyres form, the North Atlantic Gyre being the most important for western Europe. The Gulf Stream transports warming water from the Gulf of Mexico, it separates over the Mid Atlantic Ridge and one of the spurs, the North Atlantic Drift Current is the basis for the mild wet weather experienced in Scotland, especially on the west coast. Its importance can be seen in the vegetation along Scotland’s west coast, the best terrestrial indication of the influence of the North Atlantic Drift Current is probably seen in the temperate ‘oak’ rain forests. Canada and Alaska have glaciers at the same latitude and that’s just the ‘tip of the iceberg’….sorry.
It is not just one ocean current that influences Scotland, the Canary Current, Continental Shelf Current and Boreal Currents all have an influence, so much so that the convergence of these currents, combined with Ekman Spirals and continental shelves produce nutrient up-welling, these in turn enable phytoplankton blooms. This abundance of food, combined with the convergence of warm and cold waters result in a pronounced species diversity and an increase in biomass, the west coast of Scotland has a similar species abundance as that of warm coral reef regions.
Temperature change does not just effect ocean currents. Melting permafrost has a profound effect, too much fresh water input can be cataclysmic in the Arctic, not only does it alter the seawater density but ‘green-house’ gases such as carbon dioxide and the more damaging methane get absorbed into the water, this in turn alters the Hydrogen ion concentration making the seawater more acidic (The Carbon Cycle).
Sea ice in the Greenland Sea
Ocean acidification has a dissolving effect on the shells of shellfish, both aragonite and calcium carbonate, the basis for animal shells. Molluscs especially are composed of the more susceptible aragonite, these in turn are the main food source for walrus, in one jump the whole food web is adversely affected.
Combine these changes with the reduction in sea ice and the effect that has on the albedo effect (reflecting the suns energy), coastal erosion, acceleration of the Greenland ice sheet and rising sea-levels, the overall effect will be disastrous on ‘keystone' species such as polar bears.
Methane hydrates can be found in the Arctic seabed deposits, they form a massive energy reserve, however a small temperature change could cause them to erupt, causing huge amounts of additional methane into the atmosphere, this creates a ‘positive feedback loop’, this is nothing good as ‘positive’ refers to acceleration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Some scientists consider that we are approaching a ‘tipping-point’, once reached there will be no turning back!
Fires are yet another side-effect of global warming, producing yet more climate changing gases into the atmosphere, and then aerosols add into the mix, this is a cataclysmic event in the waiting. All this and we have not even covered the anthropogenic increases in climate changing gases and emissions.
The virus pandemic has created a ‘lock-down’ event, where approximately one third of the global population has had what has been described as the ‘anthropause’, it has still not been enough to prevent current predicted temperature changes for the future, that said it has shown that capitalist society can change if it wants to, but will it and will it change in time?
Melting Ice Statue, Alaska
Amazing Colours in Ice Melt, Greenland
Calving Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska
It is not just the polar regions that are under threat; coral reefs, atolls and low lying islands are in dire straits.
Warming seas bring their own problems from sea level rise from thermal expansion to more extreme climatic events, warmer air carries more water; larger temperature extremes are the root cause of tropical storms, which often are not limited to the tropics.
Warm seas are not exempt from the effects, a minor alteration in coral growing regions is sufficient to cause 'bleaching', long term bleaching is causing mass die-offs around the world. Ocean acidification causes corals to dissolve further disrupting this unique habitat.
A small alteration in temperature could result in numerous barriers to fish and other species that are temperature dependent. Spawning and rearing parts of the fish lifecycles are particularly vulnerable to temperature change, trout, salmon and cod are an example of fish that suffer. It may not be possible for the fish to migrate to different locations, the habitats may be unsuitable, could even have a busy port or harbour for example where the fish could live. As some fish require colder water, it has been suggested that the warming Arctic may be a solution but this is probably not suitable either as the warmer Arctic is also becoming more brackish from freshwater input. If temperature alone were not a big enough issue to overcome, the temperature changes are also likely to adversely affect the bottom of the food chain, phytoplankton; no food, no fish and for us, no fish, no food!
Changes in species diversity has unknown effects on trophic levels.
Whole islands, island communities and huge areas of densely populated land are at risk of becoming submerged.
Regions of oligotrophic waters rely on differing systems to support life, coral reefs are one such ecosystem which is under threat.
Coral bleaching, where the coral polyps expel the algae component causes major disruption and can cause the death of the entire reef.
Problems from fishing of the top predators causes untold and often unknown turmoil to food webs. Ocean acidification bleaches corals, one of the globes greatest habitats in nutrient deficient waters.
In fact many of the world's major cities lie close to sea level and are at threat from rising tides and storm surges.
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NB. All photographic stills are copyright © of Mark-MC.