Trying to Keep the Ocean Clean
Many parents can relate to the experience of taking a young child to the toy store with their pocket full of allowance money: the unbridled excitement, the utter joy of possibility, and the inability to make a decision because they just … want … everything! One way those trips differ today from when my parents took me is the 21st-century parental guilt about all … that … plastic. The toys themselves are often plastic, and now overpackaging has actually become a selling point of some of the most popular brands on the market. Each tiny component is wrapped in opaque packaging to create a series of surprises more enticing than the toy itself. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you where much of that plastic ends up.
A couple of weeks ago, not far from the Hakai Magazine office, a ship pulled into dock with 8.2 tonnes of plastic retrieved from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It was part of a test run for the Ocean Cleanup Project, an ambitious effort to remove 90 percent of floating plastic from the ocean by 2040. The complexity and risks involved in the wholesale removal of marine plastic may already have your spidey sense tingling. For this week’s feature story, Ryan Stuart ripped open layers of metaphorical packaging to explore the challenges this project faces, its likelihood of success, and what might be more effective.
Mark Garrison
Art director
This Week’s Stories
Scooping Plastic Out of the Ocean Is a Losing Game
Open ocean cleanups won’t solve the marine plastics crisis. To really make a difference, here’s what we should do instead.
by Ryan Stuart • 2,900 words / 15 mins
Shopping for New Species
Scientists are still landing new discoveries at fish markets.
by Riley Black • 550 words / 2 mins
The Ever-Shifting—Not Necessarily Shrinking—Pacific Island Nations
Analyses of satellite imagery show many Pacific Islands are actually growing, but that doesn’t mean all is well for the people who live there.
by J. Besl • 700 words / 3 mins
Iceland’s Confusing Inter-cetacean Conflict
It’s pilot whales versus killer whales in the waters off southern Iceland—though researchers can’t really explain why.
by Marina Wang • 750 words / 3 mins
What We’re Reading
A Norwegian start-up is working on stopping hurricanes by blowing bubbles into the ocean. Submerged pipes will blow compressed air beneath the sea, the bubbles will draw cooler water up to the surface, and cooler water means fewer hurricanes. Rolling out such a proposal may prove unfeasible, but the concept is pretty cool. (Science Focus)
Back in 2006, a group of fossil-hunting students in New Zealand discovered the remains of a giant penguin. Now, scientists have described the 1.4-meter-tall bird as a new species, Kairuku waewaeroa. (Live Science)
Also in New Zealand, a research vessel plunged into the deep and came up with six new species of glass sponge and one new genus. (Science Alert)
If you’re off the coast of Miami, you might be interested in a weekend of shark tagging with a dash of drag. Field School, an educational center promoting inclusivity, is offering hands-on field research excursions hosted by Miss Toto, a budding scientist and drag performer. Funds from these events will go toward supporting LGBTQ+ youth. (Miami New Times)
A rare humpback megapod of over 100 whales has been spotted off the coast of Australia. The humpbacks were in a feeding frenzy, and scientists think climate change and overfishing have a role to play in why the whales are turning up in such huge numbers. (CNN)
The Narwhal has done a deep dive on the restoration of the Bedwell River in British Columbia. Drought, exacerbated by decades of forestry, has pummeled the river, and now Central Westcoast Forest Society is partnering with the Ahousaht First Nation to bring the watershed back to life. (The Narwhal)
Today, in science and science writing, the phrase “shifting baselines”—in which knowledge of environmental degradation is lost over generations thus repeatedly giving us new baselines—is well known. Fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly coined the phrase in 1995 when he “blew the whistle” on the global fisheries industry, and now a new biography, aptly titled The Ocean’s Whistleblower, brings us this ocean advocate’s story.

The book recounts his life—from Paris, where he was born just after the Second World War, to Germany, the Philippines, the United States, and Canada where he has been a professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) since the 1990s—and his scientific contributions. Pauly has been instrumental in providing a detailed picture of how fisheries are affecting our oceans and helped develop tools such as Ecopath and FishBase. He is currently principal investigator at the Sea Around Us project at UBC.
Here’s an interview with Pauly in Scientific American and an excerpt of the book from The Tyee, which is also sponsoring a free live YouTube conversation between Pauly and Ian Gill on September 28. 
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