drying shark fins
Demands of the shark fin trade

Global challenges and evolving threats: A comprehensive analysis of shark fishing

The ancient group of marine predators, which first appeared in the fossil record 440 million years ago, are facing a critical juncture in their existence. Though they have been resilient to other mass extinctions, the current one is caused by decades of industrial overfishing along with the growing demands of the shark fin trade. It has put those shark and ray species accessible to fisheries at risk of extinction, with far-reaching consequences for ocean ecosystems.

A pyramid-shaped "tree-reef" composed of six pear trees. Photo by Erik Hoekendijk / NIOZ.

Reefs made from sunken pear trees

Reefs are vital centres of marine biodiversity. Yet, human activities like overfishing, deep-sea mining, dredging and trawling have led to their significant decline worldwide. Hence, there is an urgent need to implement efficient restoration initiatives to restore biodiversity.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Marine Science reveals an unexpected ally in this mission: fruit trees.

The study, conducted in the Dutch Wadden Sea, involved sinking felled pear trees into the sea to reconstruct reefs and enhance local marine biodiversity. 

Pemuteran Sea Turtle Hatchery

Juvenile sea turtles feeding on small fish
Juvenile sea turtles feeding on small fish

A sea turtle hatchery in Pemuteran, Indonesia, established by Reef Seen Divers’ Resort founder, Chris Brown, has provided a sanctuary for endangered baby turtles to hatch and grow large enough to be released into the sea with better chances of survival. Claudia Weber-Gebert has the story.

Photo shows a coral reef with a background of the sun's rays shining into the waters
The Coral Reef Breakthrough seeks to protect at least 125,000 square kilometres of shallow-water tropical coral reefs.

Coral Reef Breakthrough: An initiative to safeguard world's coral reefs

Coral reefs are essential for marine biodiversity and climate resilience, supporting at least a quarter of marine species and offering ecosystem services worth up to US$9.9 trillion annually. More than a billion people, including vulnerable coastal communities, depend on them for their livelihoods.

Today, these vital ecosystems are under threat due to the climate crisis and human activities, and time is running out to protect them.

Great Barrier Reef at the Whitsunday Islands, Australia.
Great Barrier Reef at the Whitsunday Islands, Australia.

Great Barrier Reef narrowly escapes UNESCO World Heritage downgrade

Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981, narrowly avoided a downgrade to the "in danger" status during a recent meeting of the World Heritage Committee. The decision was made despite the repeated warnings by experts about the escalating impact of climate change on the world's largest coral reef system.

Rui Matsumoto taking an ultrasound reading on a whale shark. Photo by Simon Pierce
Rui Matsumoto taking an ultrasound reading on a whale shark. Photo by Dr Simon Pierce

Studying wild whale sharks in the Galapagos with underwater ultrasound and blood sampling

(VIDEO: Researcher Al Dove collecting a blood sample. Video by Dr Simon Pierce)

DS: What were some of the challenges encountered when doing underwater ultrasounds? How did the team overcome them?

Vibrant life on GBR - as it should be
The Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,500 types of fish, over 400 kinds of hard corals and dozens of other species.

Australia pledges 1 billion to protect Great Barrier Reef

Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the nearly decade-long conservation package days ahead of a February 1 deadline set by UNESCO to submit a report on the reef's state of conservation, and months after it narrowly avoided being placed on the UN's cultural agency's "danger" list due to the threat of climate change.

“Any additional funding for the environment in Australia is welcome, as it is severely under-resourced. However, handing out cash for the Great Barrier Reef with one hand, while funding the very industry – fossil fuels – that’s driving devastating climate impacts like marine heatwaves and coral bleaching, means they are adding to the very problem they are claiming they want to fix.”

— Climate Councillor, climate scientist and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University, Professor Lesley Hughes

Lake of Dreams: The Remaking of Tennessee's Gray Quarry

Gray Quarry, Tennesee, USA. Photo by Gordon Hutchinson
Gray Quarry, Tennesee, USA. Photo by Gordon Hutchinson

Avid diver and professor of computing Dr. Phil Pfeiffer gives an account of how the love of diving, persistence, US$100,000, and a homebrew aerator turned an abandoned quarry in the US state of Tennessee into a thriving dive site for a region that lacked one—and had lost prospective divers for want of a site.