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

Shark swims amongst coral in French Polynesia/

A shark swims amongt the coral in Tuamotus, French Polynesia. (© Rodolphe Holler)

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.

  1. Could a ban on fishing in international waters become a reality?

Members of the United Nations could agree to ban fishing in international waters to protect high-seas biodiversity.

The story: Marine reserves — protected marine areas that do not allow fishing or development — have been proven to restore fish populations, and now scientists and conservationists are pushing for one that would cover international waters, Alastair Bland with NPR reported. Despite the enormous scope of the proposed ban, a recent study showed that seafood from international waters only accounts for 4.2 percent of the global fish catch, meaning the ban would have little effect on food security.

The big picture: Fishers in international waters primarily use trawl nets and other industrial gear that can be harmful to marine life, including coral. While the proposed international fishing ban would allow fish populations to grow, ultimately leading to more fish in coastal waters that can be caught and harvested, the logistics of the ban could be challenging. According to Laurenne Schiller, a Ph.D. student and researcher at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, “If you want to turn the high seas into one marine reserve, you would basically need every single country in the United Nations to say yes to that.”

Read the story here:

  1. California prohibits restaurants from automatically giving out plastic straws

Governor Jerry Brown has made California the first state with a law banning plastic straws from being offered at dine-in restaurants.

The story: The ban means that customers will have to ask for a straw at restaurants, rather than being automatically offered one, Antonia Blumberg with Huffington Post reported Friday. Gov. Brown cited the negative effects of plastic on the environment — such as killing marine life and contaminating drinking water — in his announcement about the ban.

The big picture: Seattle recently banned plastic straws from food service establishments and many other cities, states and even countries are following suit. Plastic makes up as much as 80 percent of the litter in our oceans, and the reduction of single-use plastics such as straws can help to reduce this number.

Read the story here:


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  1. Trump administration formally rolls back rule aimed at limiting methane pollution

 On Tuesday, the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era regulation that would have reduced the release of methane into the atmosphere.

The story: The new regulation, put in place by the current administration, reinstates 30-year old guidelines that allow methane leaks from the oil and gas industries, Lisa Friedman with the New York Times wrote Tuesday. Methane is about 86 times as powerful as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere for the first 20 years, making it a formidable contributor to climate change

The big picture: Methane makes up 9 percent of the domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and one third of that comes from the oil and gas industry. The reversed rule — originally proposed by Obama — would have required the industry to capture leaked methane, repair leak-detection equipment and would have cut methane from these industries by up to 35 percent. According to the Environmental Protection Agency,  the organization in charge of implementing the new guidelines, the rule put in place by the Trump administration could have negative health effects, such as premature deaths, strokes and low birth weights due to increased emissions of pollutants.

Read the story here:

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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