2020 in review: For world’s oceans, a year of distress, discovery

© CI/Mark Erdmann

Nature saw its ups and downs in 2020, and Conservation News was there for it all. This month, we are revisiting some of the most interesting and significant stories and issues we covered in the past year. 

To read headlines about the ocean is to be subjected to a litany of bad news, with research showing that large swaths of the ocean are becoming increasingly hot, lifeless and acidic as climate change accelerates. Avoiding the worst climate impacts, scientists say, means protecting the ocean — and the people who depend on it — on a massive scale. 

From groundbreaking research into mysterious deep-water coral reefs, to helping fishers to (sustainably) weather a pandemic, Conservation International was at the leading edge of marine science and policy in 2020. Here are some of our most-read stories of the year. 

Combing through historical data and more than half a million records of corals worldwide, researchers identified more than 116 coral reefs flourishing throughout the high seas — the waters that lie beyond maritime borders. Conservation News spoke to the study’s lead author about why this discovery offers a ray of hope for the world’s dying reefs.

Read more here

A new study found that the pandemic is crippling small-scale fisheries — the coastal and non-industrial fishing enterprises that make up more than 90 percent of the global fishing industry. Conservation International’s Elena Finkbeiner, a co-author on the study, outlined the road to recovery. 

Read more here.

Conservation International’s diving safety officer, Edgardo Ochoa, visits some of the planet’s most spectacular reefs. He never knows quite what corals or fish he’ll encounter. But there is one thing he has come to expect on every dive: plastic. To prevent an even more plastic-filled future for our oceans, he offers five tips to help you save our seas.

Read more here.

In January, a group of researchers found that walking sharks are collectively the “youngest” — as in, the most recently evolved — sharks to ever walk (or swim) the planet. We spoke to Mark Erdmann, a Conservation International shark expert and co-author on the study, about how his team uncovered the evolutionary origin of this unique shark species — and why they could help us adapt to climate change. 

Grim reports and unsettling headlines paint a bleak future for Earth’s coral reefs, which are projected to be wiped out by the end of the century due to climate change and pollution. But a recent study found that this future can be prevented — and outlined the relatively small steps humanity can take to ensure coral reefs’ long-term protection and productivity. 

Read more here.

 

Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A scuba diver in Fiji (© Conservation International/Mark Erdmann)

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