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Ancestors of Whale Sharks in Panama May Come from Distant Waters

Genetic population connectivity study of the endangered whale shark in Pacific Panama provides important data for conservation efforts.
By Leila Nilipour, photos by Candy K. Real
Spanish translation below.

The world’s largest fish, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), is a plankton-loving giant that can be found alone or in groups in all tropical oceans. However, despite being a highly migratory species, little is known about how the different populations worldwide interact with each other. This lack of knowledge hinders conservation efforts aimed at protecting this endangered animal. Héctor Guzmán, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, alongside Caitlin Beaver of the US Geological Survey and Edgardo Díaz-Ferguson of Coiba Scientific Station, set out to start bridging this knowledge gap.…

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Announcing the 2022 Ocean Lovers Festival at the Sydney Coast Hope Spot

By Noah Ritchie
2019 marked the congruent launch of the Sydney Coast Hope Spot and Ocean Lovers Festival in New South Wales, Australia. The festival is a 4-day event that includes live entertainment, art, technology, science, and other avenues to show the myriad ways ocean lovers can make a difference. Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restricted the festival in 2020 and postponed their expected return this fall, the festival is looking to make an exuberant comeback this coming March of 2022!
What is Ocean Lovers Festival and how did it start?
Festival founder Anita Kolni says this idea started with her considering “how to come up with a way to share hope and solutions for the ocean in a time where people feel a lot of despair.”…

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Whale Week, Building a Corridor of Consciousness for Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales in Savannah, GA

By: CJ O’Brien, Whale Week Program Manager, 317-220-9302, cobrienwps@gmail.com

The coastal town of Savannah, Georgia is preparing for the most wonderful time of the year and that’s North Atlantic right whale calving season! Every late November through April, North Atlantic right whales travel nearly 1,000 miles to warmer waters where they give birth just fifteen miles off the Georgia coast. 
 
 
This Georgia coast, including the Georgia Continental Shelf and Blake Plateau was named a Mission Blue Hope Spot in 2019, advocating for increased protections of these whales who have been heavily hunted for more than 900 years and have yet to recover from the pressures of historic whaling. There are now only about 340 right whales in the current population, with as few as 100 reproductive females.…

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Laamu Atoll Hope Spot in Maldives Highlights Harmony Between Marine Conservation and Economic Development

Photo: Joel Penner
LAAMU ATOLL, MALDIVES (OCTOBER 28TH,  2021)

Marked by a continuous 130km reef, the Laamu Atoll is found in southern-central Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Laamu’s striking marine habitats have been a focal point for conservation and research within the atoll’s biologically unique and valuable seagrass meadows, isolated inner reef formations and mangroves since the opening Six Senses Laamu resort in 2011.
 
 
Laamu Atoll has been declared a Hope Spot by international marine conservation nonprofit Mission Blue in recognition of Six Senses Laamu’s work in demonstrating sustainable ecotourism practices and creating the framework for scalable marine conservation methods to help shape a healthy future for generations to come in the Maldives.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, says, “To look back to 2011 when Six Senses began collecting information, to now as we’re celebrating the designation of the atoll as a Hope Spot – it’s truly a reason for hope.…

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Newly Declared Wotho Atoll Hope Spot in Marshall Islands Championed by Minister of Education and High School Biology Teacher

Header image: Kudo Kabua
WOTHO ATOLL, MARSHALL ISLANDS (September 14th, 2021)

In the middle of the central Pacific Ocean lies the Wotho Atoll, a string of 13 islands in the Republic of Marshall Islands. Beyond its idyllic coastal breeze, Wotho is known locally for its beautiful beaches, turtle nesting sites, extensive bird populations and colorful corals. The atoll is also very remote – as one of the least inhabited of the Marshall Islands, Wotho is home to just 90 Marshallese.
 
 
Wotho Atoll has been declared a Hope Spot by international marine conservation nonprofit Mission Blue. Kitlang Kabua, Minister of Education of the Marshall Islands and Matthew Gerber, local high school biology teacher, are the Hope Spot Champions and have received approval from the King and Land Owner to dedicate the entire atoll for protection and conservation. …

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A Win for the Ocean! Timber Port Plans Rejected at Kangaroo Island North Coast Hope Spot

Photo: Smith Bay (c) Phyll Bartram, Hope Spot Champion
Kangaroo Island, Australia (August 2021)

The application submitted to build a deep-water port facility at Smith Bay, Australia by Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers (KIPT) has been rejected by Vickie Chapman, Minister for Planning and Local Government. Chapman quoted  potential long-term and irreversible impacts on the environment, local business and character of Kangaroo Island in her decision.
“I am aware my decision will have an impact on the local timber industry, and I can assure South Australians that I will continue to search for a sustainable solution for this industry on Kangaroo Island,” Chapman said.
Tony Bartram, Champion of Kangaroo Island North Coast Hope Spot, shares his support of the decision. “Through a multi-year campaign we sought to educate at multiple levels about the beautiful blue space we have – the oceans – in the hope of informing decision-making processes.…

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Young Marine Conservationist Champions the Fish Rock Hope Spot in New South Wales to Protect Critically Endangered Grey Nurse Sharks

Header image: Justin Gilligan
SOUTH WEST ROCKS, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA (AUGUST 24TH,  2021)

A five hour drive north of Sydney, New South Wales, is South West Rocks, a coastal town that just 5,000 people call home. Below the surface of its sandy beaches and picturesque pine trees is a 125-meter long underwater tunnel with its own unique ecosystem that supports a habitat for the critically endangered grey nurse shark. Local SCUBA diver and ocean conservationist Shalise Leesfield has a goal to establish a 1500m radius marine protected area at Fish Rock to protect these sharks and hundreds of other marine species that call the underwater tunnel home. Leesfield hopes that the recognition of the Fish Rock Hope Spot will bring to light the condition of Australia’s Grey Nurse shark population and the lack of support awarded to their recovery.…

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Behind the Scenes: The Azores Hope Spot Summit

Header image by Nuno Sá
By: Shannon Rake, Hope Spots Program Manager

My name is Shannon Rake and I am the Hope Spots Program Manager for Mission Blue. As many readers of this blog will already know, Hope Spots are special places in the ocean where Mission Blue works with local champions to promote the creation and enforcement of marine protected areas. The Azores is one such Hope Spot and that’s where this story starts, as we arrived there to meet the local champions and get an update on their conservation efforts. The trip would turn out to be unforgettable with the President of the Azores announcing an expansion of the Azorean marine protected area, as well as the opportunity to witness first-hand the cutting edge of local marine science efforts.…

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Mission Blue Join Forces with ECO Magazine to Publish Special Issue on Marine Pollution

ECO Magazine and Mission Blue will publish a special digital issue that features the most recent scientific knowledge and solutions to address one of the biggest threats to our ocean: human-made pollution.
The growing problem of marine pollution touches all corners of the planet. While plastic dominates the media, human activities result in a complex mixture of substances and materials entering the ocean, including oil spills, chemicals, nutrients, pesticides and marine litter.
Laura Cassiani, Executive Director of Mission Blue says, “We are delighted to partner with ECO Magazine on this special issue focusing on marine pollution. Pollution in the ocean is a pervasive problem, especially plastics that have flooded the world’s shorelines and marine ecosystems. We’re looking forward to joining ECO Magazine to promote practical solutions and highlight efforts to reduce plastics in the ocean.” …

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New Champions of the Quirimbas Archipelago Hope Spot Celebrate with Plans to Expand Local Marine Protected Area

QUIRIMBAS ISLANDS, MOZAMBIQUE, JULY 22nd, 2021

The 34 islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago span nearly 300 kilometers of coastline from the Tanzania-Mozambique border in the north to Pemba Bay in the south. Among the archipelagos’ greatest treasures are the deep submarine canyons that run between many of its islands where cool water upwellings support the highest coral species diversity documented outside of the Coral Triangle. The islands’ unique blend of environmental and social drivers establishes it as one of the most diverse, productive, and intact marine ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean, which has led to its recent recognition as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Key Biodiversity Area.
 
 
Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue, considers the Quirimbas Islands as a “shining beacon of hope on the African Coastline” and designated the archipelago as one of the first Mission Blue Hope Spots in 2013.…

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