Tuesday, 17 February 2015

5 Swims in Antartica for 1 Reason

Pioneer Swimmer Lewis Pugh is taking to the ice again, to do five swims further south than any human has swum before.

During the month of February 2015, the United Nations Patron of the Oceans will undertake five record-breaking swims in freezing Antarctic waters to help save the Ross Sea from irreversible damage.
The five swims will form the most challenging and dangerous swimming effort ever undertaken by man. With no insulation other than a Speedo swimming costume, Lewis will break the world record for the most southerly swim in three of his five swims. As well as the obvious dangers of subjecting his body to the stresses of sub-zero water, Lewis will be swimming in seas patrolled by killer whales and leopard seals.

Why these five swims, and why now?
For one urgent reason: To gain global support for the Ross

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


A coalition of leading conservation organisations are urging the British Government to protect over 1.8 million sq km of the world’s ocean by creating marine reserves in three of the UK’s overseas territories. 

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
The creation of marine reserves around the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island and the South Sandwich Islands would create three of the largest marine reserves in the world and provide support for rare and threatened species living on these islands, from whales and turtles to rare seabirds, penguins and corals. 
By working in partnership with the UK Overseas Territories (UKOT) and their local communities to establish these marine reserves, the UK Government has the opportunity take global leadership in marine conservation, increasing the amount of the world’s ocean under full protection by 50%.

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
The UK is responsible for the fifth largest area of ocean in the world, measuring 6.8 million square kilometres, over twice the size of India, and nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself. These waters are amongst the most diverse marine portfolio on earth, with the Overseas Territories housing 94% of the UK’s unique biodiversity. If left unprotected, these fragile ecosystems face huge threats from overfishing, illegal pirate fishing, pollution and climate change.  

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Greenpeace UK, IUCN, the Zoological Society of London, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Conservation Society, National Geographic Society and Mission Blue are among the 106 signatories to have signed a statement of support for the creation of these large-scale marine reserves. 
They are calling on the British government to protect over 1.75 million km2 of the world’s oceans by creating large‐scale and fully‐protected marine reserves in three of the UKOTs – the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island, and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley

Pitcairn Islands (834,000km2)
With unanimous support from the local community and Pitcairn Island Council, a marine reserve in Pitcairn would offer protection to some of the most pristine waters and coral reefs on earth, providing international recognition and connecting this Territory to global marine science and tourism.

Ascension Island (443,000km2)
A green turtle mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark. Ascension’s waters offer a rare opportunity for large‐scale marine protection in the tropical Atlantic.
Photo credit: Dan Laffoley

South Sandwich Islands (530,000 km2)
Uninhabited by humans, the volcanic South Sandwich Islands host huge concentrations of wildlife, including vast penguin colonies and significant whale populations.

The UK Government could fully protect these areas from all extractive and damaging activity by  providing a globally significant contribution to ocean conservation and  leaving a historic legacy for people and wildlife at very little cost. 

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
In fact, enforcing and monitoring these marine reserves would be cost-effective. Pioneering satellite technology designed and developed in the UK by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Satellite Applications Catapult, and the UK Government, would allow analysts to identify and monitor illegal fishing practices in marine reserves, as well as alert them to vessels acting suspiciously. 
The Pew Charitable Trusts has committed to support the monitoring of the Pitcairn marine reserve for the initial five years. 

Dr Sylvia Earle, whose Mission Blue foundation has identified Ascension and Pitcairn as two of the world’s 50 Hope Spots, places worthy and able to make a difference to global marine conservation, said: “We have a long way to go to reach our global pledge of protecting 10% of the world’s ocean by 2010 so action needs to be taken now to protect these precious ecosystems. By protecting its overseas territories, the UK has the potential to create the largest marine reserve in the world and make a significant contribution to this global target.” 

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
Increasing pressure is mounting on the British government to meet the globally agreed target of protecting 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. In September last year, U.S President Barack Obama significantly expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, a group of five highly protected reserves located thousands of miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands. By designating Ascension, Pitcairn, and the South Sandwich Islands as reserves, the coalition believes the UK has a unique chance to surpass this commitment and take its place as the world leader in marine protection. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Government of Madagascar Creates Country’s First Shark Sanctuary and Grants Local Communities Exclusive Use and Management Rights to Fishing Areas

The Government of Madagascar has created the country’s first marine sanctuary for sharks as part of a new law to safeguard the country’s marine resources and the communities that rely on them, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Photo credit: Jürg Brand   Photo credit: Ambroise Brenier / WCS  Photo credit: Jürg Brand
At a February 2nd press conference held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the Malagasy government announced the initiation of a new law that establishes a shark sanctuary in Antongil Bay while granting coastal communities exclusive use and management rights for local fishing areas. The new law also restricts international fishing trawlers from fishing in Antongil Bay, the largest bay in Madagascar.

“With the support from Wildlife Conservation Society, we chose a participatory and collaborative approach for the development of this law and management plan and we opted for the search for a balance between fishing activities and ecological integrity to ensure rational and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources” said Mr. Ahmad, Minister of Marine Resources and Fisheries at the press conference in Antananarivo.

“Long-term strategic alliances and partnerships forged with local communities, government agencies such as the Ministry of Marine Resources and Fisheries, and stakeholders during two decades of field presence of WCS investing in wildlife protection and sustainable natural resources management in Antongil Bay is key to this success,” said Alison Clausen, Country Director of WCS’s Madagascar Program. “WCS looks forward to working with the Government of Madagascar to implement this new pilot fisheries co-management initiative in Antongil Bay and promote its replication to other sites.”

The WCS Madagascar Program works throughout Madagascar to ensure the long-term conservation of the country’s unique biological diversity with a focus on activities in Antongil Bay and other priority landscape/seascapes such as Makira Natural Park, Masoala National Park, Antongil Bay, Nosy Be seascape and the Toliara seascape.

The new shark sanctuary is home to 19 species of shark, a third of which have become severely threatened by unregulated fishing. The new law legally empowers local communities to manage nearshore fishing grounds through a growing network of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), 25 of which have already been established with the support of WCS. The regulations of these areas—including no-take marine reserves and temporary closures—are locally designed and enforced. By securing management and use rights of LMMAs for local communities for the first time in Madagascar, the law aims to transform marine resources from open access areas that typically result in short-term exploitation at the expense of long-term sustainability to exclusive access for local fishers who can garner the benefits of managing their own marine resources.

The law also establishes collaborative arrangements between artisanal and industrial fishers, civil society, and government to work together on the sustainable management of fisheries in some 3,746 square kilometers, an area covering Antongil Bay and surrounding areas. At the same time, the law restricts industrial trawling boats from fishing in this area.

Madagascar’s local fisheries provide livelihoods and food security for hundreds of thousands of some of the poorest coastal communities in the world. The new law will facilitate a system of co-management between communities, fishers, and government to manage their local fish populations.

The regulatory changes build on previous initiatives to decentralize the management of marine resources and establish local fisheries management plans and collaborative management arrangements.  At the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress, his Excellency Hery Rajaonarimampianina, President of Madagascar, noted that Madagascar “already [has] positive models of locally managed marine areas, of which Madagascar is proud to be a pioneer in the Western Indian Ocean region.” He emphasized his commitment “to establish legal and regulatory frameworks for community management of marine and coastal resources.”

Venor Rason, a local fisher and President of the community association managing the LMMA of Analanjahana in the southern part of Antongil Bay said : “We are very pleased to hear that this new law that we helped develop has been released. It will help us manage sustainably our marine resources by limiting the number of small-scale and industrial fishers allowed to fish in the bay and by delivering fishing licenses to local professional fishers.”

Dr. Ambroise Brenier, Marine Technical Director of WCS’s Madagascar Program, said: “This pilot initiative will reduce coral reef degradation, improve abundance of endangered species of sharks, and sustain fisheries yields with long-term livelihoods and food security benefits thanks to restored fish stocks potentially reaching 100,000 coastal inhabitants living around Antongil Bay.” 

About the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org;http://www.facebook.com/TheWCShttp://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia  Follow: @thewcs.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

National Geographic Challenge for Big Thinkers.

Share your idea for a challenge that could help solve an issue that's important to the fields of science, exploration, or conservation. 

National Geographic is challenging “big thinkers” to propose a competition that will address a critical issue in the fields of science, exploration, or conservation and will inspire people to come forward with a breakthrough solution as part of the eventual prize application process.

In 2012-2013, National Geographic hosted a similar program. At the time, the idea selected focused on addressing energy poverty and came to be known as the Terra Watt Prize, which was completed in 2014.

National Geographic is now soliciting ideas for the next big challenge. If your idea is selected, you will be awarded $10,000 and your proposed idea could become a full competition. All submitted ideas will receive detailed feedback from five qualified judges.

Be sure to read through the application requirements at www.natgeochallenges.com, which will help you frame your idea. 

Timeline: Register and Apply

To compete, you need to register by March 31, 2015, and submit your completed application by April 14, 2015.You can see a more comprehensive timeline and learn about the judging process and credentials of the judges here.

Reviewing Submissions

Two categories of judges were carefully selected to ensure a rigorous review of your application. We encourage you to read their credentials.

Evaluation Panel
This first category of judges, the Evaluation Panel, will produce a rank order of applicants by using a common scoring process. Each applicant will be assigned five Evaluation Panel members, and their scores will be statistically normalised to ensure fairness. Their scores will determine the rank order of applications.

Selection Committee
The second and final category of judges, the Selection Committee, will determine the winner. Before the winner is announced, every registrant who completed the application will receive scores and comments designed to provide productive feedback and encourage discussion for those who may have interest in finding other means for launching their proposals. This process helps ensure a value-added experience for all participants.


The judges are impartial to the ideas you submit. They are scoring your idea based on the degree of impact and the structure of your proposed challenge. For a more detailed explanation of the scoring process, please see the trait scoring rubric.

For more information and to apply please visit the official National Geographic Challenge Website: www.natgeochallenges.com 

Good Luck!