Whether this finds you in an austral spring, a boreal autumn, or a tropical monsoon, we wish you a warm welcome to The Marine Biologist magazine.
There really is something for everyone in this edition. We track sharks in the North Atlantic, head south to ponder questions of gigantism in Antarctica and hear about projects to remove unwanted species and restore desirable ones. Furthermore, we are delighted to present an article from Mote Marine Lab in Florida, where a new citizen science project is using mobile phone technology to generate information about harmful algal blooms affecting Gulf Coast beaches.
At ‘the Ocean Conference’ in New York in June, the United Nations’ 193 member states met to discuss the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14), to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’. This really was a milestone for the seas: the Millenium Development Goals didn’t even mention the ocean but since then, ocean issues have risen up the international agenda and for the ocean to have its own SDG is remarkable. As well as calls for action and voluntary commitments, some of the planned outcomes will be delivered through existing mechanisms: the Paris agreement for climate change and ocean acidification, and World Trade Organization talks for agreements to reduce fisheries subsidies. However, as pointed out in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, one of the main achievements of the Ocean Conference might have been to raise awareness of the vital importance of the ocean amongst world leaders.
International meetings on ocean policy can seem remote but they influence how stakeholders from governments to individuals will approach marine issues. Taking marine plastic pollution, the Ocean Conference called for improved systems for manufacturing and recycling of single-use plastics, and for the need to see plastic waste as a resource. This led to a pledge from Adidas and Parley for the Oceans to significantly increase production of running shoes made from recycled ocean plastic. At the societal level, the tide of public opinion appears to have turned as shown by, for example, strong support for calls for plastic-free aisles in supermarkets.
There are serious and pressing problems facing the ocean but it is important to be like a proton (always positive) and spread some ocean optimism. This year, new species of sunfish, whale and worm came to light, showing that there is still so much to discover, learn and enjoy.
The Young Marine Biologists are growing in number (see page 31) and I would encourage all members, but our younger readers in particular, to send in your inspiring experiences, stories, book reviews and pictures.
Awareness of the state of the oceans and of the need for co-ordinated action is spreading: 2017 may be remembered as the year that the world sat up and noticed marine issues.
Guy Baker Editor