YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
A huge double win for the oceans this week, with Canada moving to ban both single use plastics and the captivity of whales and dolphins. On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will ban certain types of single-use plastics as early as 2021. The country will start with a review of the science, but is likely follow the example of the European Union, which voted in March to ban 10 single-use plastics that most often end up in the ocean, including plastic cutlery, plates and cotton-swab sticks. “As parents we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles,” said Trudeau. “That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”
The same day, the Canadian parliament passed legislation banning whales, dolphins and porpoises from being bred or held in captivity. The bill, which is expected to become law, took several years to pass in the House of Commons after it was initially introduced in 2015. It would penalize anyone who keeps a cetacean in captivity, breeds or impregnates a cetacean, or anyone who possesses or seeks to obtain reproductive materials of cetaceans. The legislation targets anyone involved in holding the animals "for entertainment purposes" and bans the import and export of such animals.
A "dead zone" of oxygen-starved water larger than the state of Israel is threatening to form in the Gulf of Mexico, endangering all marine life living there. Scientists said the zone could spread to around 8,717 square miles, which is just short of the 2017 record but far larger than the five-year average of 5,770 square miles. The impending disaster has been blamed on unusually high rainfall across the US Midwest in spring that has washed vast amounts of farm fertilisers along streams and rivers through the Mississippi River Basin out into the Gulf.
An airline has announced it’s been conducting trials of plastic free flights, with the aim of going plastic-free by the end of 2019. The first flight took to the skies just after Christmas, operated by a Portuguese airline called Hi Fly that says it can "no longer ignore" the impact the single-use material has on the environment. The company replaced plastic cutlery and containers with bamboo and compostable alternatives crafted from recycled material. The flight took passengers from the carrier's headquarters in Lisbon to Brazil on an Airbus A340 on Boxing Day.
Of the coral reefs that have been accurately mapped, little is known about their health, the kinds of fish that live there, or the composition of coral species. The problem is seawater – which is difficult for satellite and airborne cameras to see through. Now, a team of scientists has developed a suite of instruments mounted on a low-flying plane called the Global Airborne Observatory, which effectively can peel back the seawater and map the seafloor to a depth of 50 feet, in three dimensions.
US special forces veterans are deploying to save coral reefs, thanks to the efforts of a Florida NGO called Force Blue. The initiative aims to help coral reefs, assist veterans in finding a new purpose after service, and to call military members’ attention to environmental issues that they might otherwise ignore. The group takes veterans who were trained by the military to dive and uses this expertise in service of the seas, working with NOAA to repair damaged reefs and help stop the spread of coral diseases.