YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
 

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WHALES

With the latest Parley SnotBot expedition currently underway in the Dominican Republic, this week’s ocean news is coincidentally pretty heavy on whales. Marine biologists in Brazil were stunned to discover a young humpback whale washed up on a remote, forested island in the Amazon River, at a time of the year when it should have already migrated thousands of miles to Antarctica. By the end of the week, scientists were speculating that the young whale was likely sick and washed ashore on the high tides caused by the full Moon.

Meanwhile, a new report suggests that plastics are an increasing cause of concern due to potential sources of chemicals that disrupt hormones and affect the growth and reproductive success of whales. Wildlife in the oceans and on land are subject to cocktails of pollutants known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), but little is still known about how these common substances interact in the environment, despite years of research.

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PLASTIC POLLUTION

Meanwhile, a scientist researching life in the deepest parts of the planet’s oceans has found widespread PCB and microplastic contamination. Marine biologist Alan Jamieson discovered plastic fibers and fragments in 72% of amphipods living in the six deepest ocean trenches. In the least polluted, half of the creatures contained plastic. In the 6.8-mile-deep Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, all of the specimens had plastic in their gut.

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CLIMATE CHANGE

Evidence for man-made global warming has reached a "gold standard" level of certainty, adding pressure for cuts in greenhouse gases to limit rising temperatures, scientists said this week. Confidence that human activities were raising the heat at the Earth's surface had reached a "five-sigma" level, a statistical gauge meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the signal would appear if there was no warming. The last four years have been the hottest since records began.

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INNOVATION

A substance discovered in squid teeth could create a new breed of strong, biodegradable materials. Their teeth are composed almost entirely of an easily synthesized protein that can be turned into biodegradable items with a wide range of possible applications. Potential uses include a thin, protective coating for synthetic plastic-based fibres like polyester, acrylics, and nylon, which make up about 60% of all clothing manufactured today.

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LAKES

A city in Ohio has voted to give Lake Erie “personhood” status, following devastating algae blooms caused by agricultural run-off. The unique charter amendment establishes the huge lake as a person and grants it the legal rights that a human being or corporation would have. It will allow the people of Toledo to act as legal guardians for Lake Erie – as if they were its parents – and polluters of the lake could be sued to pay for cleanup and prevention programs.

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