Protection of species

The vaquita is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List
The vaquita is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List

Mexico enhances vaquita protection

The Mexican government has announced the successful conclusion of a project involving the placement of 193 cement blocks on the sea floor in strategic locations in the vaquita’s habitat.

Called the Concrete Block Planting project, the objective was to discourage the setting of gillnets within the Zero Tolerance Area, where the remaining vaquita population is localised. Large steel hooks protrude from the top of the blocks, trapping any gillnets they come into contact with.

Basking shark
The basking shark is a globally threatened species which faces a high risk of extinction

Basking shark gains special protected status in Ireland

In Ireland, new regulations giving the basking shark the "protected wild animal" status under the Wildlife Act came into effect on 9 October. The order was signed by Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue. This legislation was heavily supported by the Irish Basking Shark Group (ISBG), an international network of researchers, educators, and community representatives founded in 2009.

Fin whale feeding aggregation.
Fin whale feeding aggregation of ~70 fin whales encountered during RV Polarstern expedition in 2018

Groups of fin whales spotted in Antarctic, suggesting recovery after whaling

Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus quoyi) of the Southern Hemisphere were brought to near extinction by 20th-century industrial whaling. For decades, they had all but disappeared from previously highly frequented feeding grounds in Antarctic waters. Researchers estimate that by the time whaling was banned in the 1970s over 700,000 fin whales had been killed.  

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Merlin's Sentience: The Story of a Sea Turtle

Merlin, the sea turtle, illustration by Ila France Porcher
Merlin, the sea turtle. Illustration by Ila France Porcher

Sighting a sea turtle on a dive is always a pleasure. However, few know much about what they are like as animals. Being reptiles, it is assumed that they are essentially on automatic—emotionless and thoughtless. But we changed our minds about that when Merlin came. Ila France Porcher relays the tale of rehabilitating a sick sea turtle in Tahiti, at a time when turtles were often hunted for food.

Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis)
Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis) is one of the many shark species now protected in Hawaii.

Shark fishing is now illegal in Hawaiian waters

The ban does not apply to people with permits issued by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), shark fishing for public safety, sharks captured for self-defence, or sharks taken outside of state marine waters with required documentation.

According to Act 51, the conditions of non-commercial permits for the take of sharks “shall include native Hawaiian cultural protocol, size and species restrictions, and a prohibition on species listed as endangered or threatened.”

Shortfin mako shark
Shortfin mako shark

Ban on fishing of mako sharks reached at meeting

At the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) last week, North Atlantic fishing nations have pledged to ban catches of the shortfin mako shark.

The efforts to secure the ban was led by the UK, Canada and Senegal. The move means that the countries agreed to end overfishing immediately and to gradually achieve biomass levels that were enough to support maximum sustainable yield by 2070 for the species, according to an article in The Guardian.

Mmo iwdg / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Long-finned pilot whale cow with her calf, off the coast of Ireland. Photo by Mmo iwdg / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Buoy in Celtic Sea tracks oceanic noise

Equipped with an autonomous hydrophone, the buoy's function is to conduct for the first time real-time acoustic monitoring of the water's cetaceans to assess how oceanic noise pollution affects them. 

Deployed as part of the Smart Whale Sounds project, it will also track the distribution and behaviour of whale species in real-time and be used to train machine learning models to identify different species' calls. 

Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk
(File photo) Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk

Maldives backpaddles after outcry over lifting shark fishing ban

Shark fishing was completely banned in the Maldives in 2010 so when the country announced plans to discuss legalising the practice again, it created a massive backlash from the international community.

Sharks have always been a valuable tourist attraction in the small island nation and the declining status of shark fisheries, exacerbated by unresolved conflicts with other stakeholders led to the declaration of total shark fishing ban in 2010. With the shark fishing ban in place, sharks are now caught as bycatch in the Maldivian fisheries.