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Marine Life & Conservation

Sea Shepherd Announce Operation Reef Defense

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Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has announced the launch of Operation Reef Defense, a global campaign to end the destruction of coral reefs and the many threats they face worldwide.

Coral reefs represent some of the planet’s most biologically diverse ecosystems providing critical habitat to approximately 25 percent of all marine species, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human-induced activities such as pollution, overfishing, reef wildlife trafficking, coastal development and global warming. Thirty percent of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 50 years, and another 30 percent have suffered severe damage. Of the reefs remaining, it is estimated that 60 percent could face extinction in less than 25 years.

According to Sea Shepherd Hawaii Director & Reef Defense Campaign Leader, Deborah Bassett, “With the oceans of the world under attack from commercial extraction and pollution, our mission remains steadfast to defend marine habitat and wildlife to the fullest extent — from the smallest of reef species to the largest marine mammals and apex predators. Time is running out for these great rain forests under the sea, so we must act now.”

Although Sea Shepherd is best known for its direct action efforts on the high seas, Sea Shepherd remains committed to protecting marine wildlife in all habitats, including the coastal awareness campaign orchestrated for Operation Reef Defense. Sea Shepherd plans to collaborate with Hawaiian dive shops and the surfing community to bring light to the destruction happening beneath the waves. With the campaign currently underway in Hawaii, Sea Shepherd’s global chapters will soon mirror similar programs in their local waters.

Reef degradation is a global crisis. Of the 100 countries with coral reefs, reef degradation is highest in Southeast Asia where nearly 95 percent of the region’s reefs are threatened, mainly due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices. The loss of underwater life and habitat is also ever-present in our own backyard of Hawaii, where the top ten sought-after species of fish for aquariums have decreased by 59 percent over the last 20 years, while the most popular aquarium fish has declined in abundance from 38 to 57 percent. In Jamaica, it is estimated that almost all of the reefs are dead or severely degraded from overfishing and coastal pollution.

Sea Shepherd’s Vice President Robert Wintner, a veteran campaigner against the aquarium trade and its devastating impact to Hawaiian reefs stated, “Sea Shepherd will champion marine habitat and wildlife from the ravages of urban and corporate effluent and the destruction caused by the aquarium trade. Massive reef wildlife dies every year as disposable ornamentation in the vicious cycle of wildlife trafficking for the pet trade. Death generates continuing demand, driving the aquarium trade to strip reefs bare. Over 25 million sea creatures are in the commercial aquarium pipeline at any given moment – and nearly all will die within a year from the point of capture.”

“Sea Shepherd is very much concerned for this wildlife and needs public support to translate these concerns into action. We may lose support from people who keep captive marine wildlife for a hobby, but as Captain Paul Watson has stated — our clients are the creatures of the sea. We hope that all people who are concerned for the oceans will recognize the importance of protecting reef eco-systems worldwide, and that if any of our supporters do keep marine wildlife in an aquarium, they will care for the wildlife they have and refrain from purchasing any more,” Wintner added.

Coral reefs simply cannot support continued unlimited resource usage or unmanaged global trade. Such drastic ongoing decline of healthy reefs will pose serious consequences for animals both on land and in the water and people worldwide.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust UK about the Big Shark Pledge.

The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.

Find out more at: www.bigsharkpledge.org and www.sharktrust.org.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills

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The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.  

The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEOUntreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk. 

We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”  

Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean. 

The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.  

Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours. 

According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards. 

Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation SocietyUntreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”  

In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.  

A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant. 

“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”. 

If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.   

For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.

Header image credit: Natasha Ewins

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