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November 2022 Research Summaries and Sustainability Tips

You really autumn read this month's research and sustainability tips!


Microplastics are fairly easy to study in shallow waters; it’s deeper in the ocean where scientists have trouble determining the depth of plastic pollution. This research study looks into the dispersal patterns of microplastics in the deep sea by studying contamination found in vampire squid. Scientists found that even these deep dwellers had significant amounts of plastic in their systems from feeding on detritus that drifts down from shallow waters to the deep.


Every Halloween, people carve thousands of pumpkins to put outside for the spookiest of days, and luckily we can compost used pumpkins! However, a new pumpkin-decorating trend is to paint a pumpkin, or even cover it in glitter! As fun as these decorations can be, try to be mindful of what kind of paint and glitter you use- are they safe for the environment? Most glitters and cheap paints are plastic-based, and cause further pollution. Try carving your pumpkin the old-fashioned way, or painting it with eco-friendly supplies! And if you’re looking to compost your pumpkin post-holiday, make sure there is no plastic on it, otherwise, you will pollute your compost!


A study published last month measured for potential spillover around the largest fully protected area in the world, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument surrounding the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Spillover describes the phenomenon that occurs when fish populations within a protected area increase in size and spill over the boundaries of the protected area to replenish fish stocks adjacent to the area.

The paper defined a benefit from spillover as the recovery of a previously fished species within a protected area resulting in a higher catch rate near the protected area than would’ve been expected without the protection.

The study measured the rate of catch from fishing boats near and far from the protected area before and after creation of the protected boundary. They found evidence of spillover effects for both yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which are two very commercially important species for fisheries in Hawai’i.

A school of tuna swims through the ocean.
The Pew Charitable Trusts (@pewtrusts)


One of the best ways we can keep our oceans healthy and our fisheries abundant is by putting effective marine management in place. However, many marine management practices involve regulating fishing activity. This kind of management allows fish stocks space to grow and replenish the fishery in the long term, but in the short term, it can be frustrating to fishers whose livelihoods depend on being able to catch fish.

So, how can we advocate for effective AND equitable marine management? One way is to continue to support your local fishers by buying fish directly from the fishers. If you live coastally, research in your area places like Local I'a that have programs similar to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) practices that allow you to subscribe to receive fresh fish straight from local fishers each week. You can also check out resources like the Local Catch Network and Dock to Dish whose mission it is to connect consumers to seafood straight from the source. Removing the middle man of a grocery store or seafood processing facility allows more autonomy and profit for fishers, and lets you know that your fish was caught locally and sustainably!

By supporting local fishers while we advocate for proper marine management, we can ensure that we are keeping our oceans healthy while also uplifting for our communities.


Scientists recently developed a continuous Red List Index (RLI) for several ocean fish species: the tunas, billfishes (sailfish, marlin, and swordfish), and sharks. After analyzing yearly RLI changes for these species over a 70 year period, they found that effective fisheries management not only stopped the 60 year decline of tuna and billfishes, these species have begun to recover! The extinction risk for sharks that are caught as bycatch by tuna and billfish fisheries, however, continues to increase. Overfishing and the lack of effective fisheries management for sharks also adds to their increasing extinction risk.

There’s still hope - if tuna and billfishes can recover with proper fisheries management, so can sharks!


One way we can turn the tide and lower the extinction risk for sharks is to regulate international trade. This year, the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) met in Panama! There are over 100 member countries who voted on four proposals to list several species of sharks and rays on Appendix II that were finalized.

When a species is listed on Appendix II, countries need to demonstrate that species were harvested legally and sustainably in order to get an export permit. Countries also have to demonstrate that trade is not detrimental to species survival.

In the future, it’s likely that more proposals to list shark species will be presented. When they do, you can voice your support by signing letters urging countries to vote yes on these proposals. You can also reach out to your countries Management and Scientific Authorities! In the US, US Fish and Wildlife serves as both authorities.

You can find your countries authorities on the CITES website.

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