YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
The oceans never stop surprising us. Earlier this week, a couple sailing in the southwestern Pacific Ocean came across a huge, floating mass of volcanic rocks, with some boulders as large as basketballs, blanketing the ocean as far as their boat’s spotlight could illuminate. The rocks — a raft of pumice estimated to be as large as 200 football fields — transformed the ocean into an opaque, undulating crust. Scientists say the raft resulted from an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga this month, and it is slowly floating toward Australia.
Researchers are divided about whether marine life, hitching a ride on the rocks, might help replenish the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s great natural wonders, which has been threatened by consecutive bleaching events in recent years as a result of climate change, and is at risk of eventually dying. The pumice pieces — some no larger than marbles — could be teeming with marine life including bacteria, algae, barnacles, mollusks, anemones, worms, crabs and it is hoped, corals, along with the organisms that support their growth. A professor who has been studying the effects of underwater volcanic eruptions for two decades said he hoped corals would arrive in the millions. Even if only 1% survive, he said, it could be a blessing for the Great Barrier Reef – but not everyone agrees.
Regional rivals India and Pakistan both made moves this week to ban plastic – a rare ray of light amid troubles in Kashmir. Punjab has become the latest region in Pakistan to ban plastic bags, as the country battles to reduce single-use plastics. The south-eastern province of Sindh announced it will ban polythene bags from October, and last week a ban took effect in Islamabad. Meanwhile across the border, India could soon ban six single-use plastic products as early as next month. The ban will be comprehensive and will cover manufacturing, usage and import of plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and certain types of sachets.
Cuba has introduced sweeping reforms of its fishing laws in a move seen as smoothing the way for possible collaboration with the US on protecting their shared ocean, despite Donald Trump’s policy of reversing a thaw in relations. The move is the first time the text of an environmental law in Cuba specifies the need for scientific research, which experts say will mean greater reliance on state-of-the-art US technology. Despite having some of the world’s best preserved marine ecosystems, Cuba has seen declining fish populations, including of key commercial stocks. The new laws aim to curb illegal fishing, recover fish populations and protect small-scale fisheries.
A Spanish endurance athlete has completed a 2,951-mile journey from San Francisco, California, to Oah’u in Hawai’i, using just a specially-designed stand-up paddleboard – and saw plastic nets and other debris float past him every day. "I am feeling so good after 76 days in the middle of the ocean," Antonio de la Rosa told CNN. He added that he hoped the trip would bring attention to the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
The agency that manages Australia's Great Barrier Reef has downgraded its outlook for the corals' condition from "poor" to "very poor" due to warming oceans. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's condition report, which is updated every five years, is the latest bad news for the 133,360 square miles coral network off the northeast Australian coast – as climate change and coral bleaching take their toll.
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