In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Rapa Nui off of Easter Island, pictured above, is the largest new marine protected area in Chile. (© ONF International/photo by Anthony Dubois)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

Chile announces protections for massive swath of ocean with three new marine parks

The story: Chile passed a law Tuesday protecting nearly 450,000 square miles of water — an area roughly the size of Texas, California and West Virginia combined, Maya Wei-Haas reported for Smithsonian. The areas were designed to protect the spawning grounds of fish, the migratory paths of humpback whales and the nesting grounds of seabirds. The largest of the three new protected regions is the Rapa Nui Marine Protected Area, where industrial fishing and mining will be prohibited but traditional fishing remains permissible.

The big picture: Chile provided US$ 5.7 billion worth of seafood to countries around the world in 2016 alone. But its fisheries have suffered in recent years from overfishing and illegal operations. “Chile has demonstrated that being a fishing country doesn’t mean that you cannot also be a leader in marine conservation,” said Alex Muñoz, director of Latin America for Pristine Seas. “It is true that Chile degraded its marine resources in the past, but now it has completely changed its vision and … found the value [of] protecting its oceans.”

Read more here.


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Taiwan announces ban on all plastic bags, straws, and utensils

The story: Taiwan plans to impose a complete ban on plastic utensils, straws and bags by 2030, Joe McCarthy reported Feb. 22 for Global Citizen. The first phase of the new rule includes banning chain restaurants from providing straws in 2019, and then an overall ban on straws in restaurants by 2020.

The big picture: The regulation will be one of the farthest-reaching bans on plastic in the world, and it demonstrates the momentum of the anti-plastic movement as countries continue to make new laws regarding the use of plastic. In January, McDonald’s committed to making 100 percent of packaging from renewable, recycled or certified materials by 2025.  In February, Scotland announced that it planned to ban plastic straws by 2019 and California lawmakers proposed a rule that would make plastic straws illegal with penalties that could include a US$ 1,000 fine or jail time.

Read more here.

North Pole surges above freezing in the dead of winter, stunning scientists

The story: Temperatures on Feb. 26 clocked in around 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) at the pole, according to the U.S. Global Forecast System model, which is over 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) above normal for this time of year, Jason Samenow reported for the Washington Post. This type of warming event contributes to the decline of sea ice in the Arctic, which causes oceans to rise.

The big picture: These patterns of warm weather in the Arctic, once rare, are becoming more commonplace. A study published last July found that since 1980, these events are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting and more intense. “Previously this was not common,” said Robert Graham, lead author of the study from the Norwegian Polar Institute. “It happened in four years between 1980-2010, but has now occurred in four out of the last five winters.”

Read more here.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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