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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.futurity.org

New research identifies ways to prompt low- and moderate-income households to save more of their tax refund. Motivational prompts to save tax refunds and suggested savings amounts for the tax refund can increase saving among low- and moderate-income households, finds a new experimental study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. The study was part of the Refund to Savings Initiative, which uses behavioral economics to encourage tax filers to save their tax refund. The collaboration is based on the idea that tax time is an opportune moment to encourage low- and moderate-income households to save, as the tax refund is often the largest single payment these households receive all year. The experiment involved households that filed income tax returns with an online preparer and chose to receive their refund electronically. These filers were randomized into eight treatment groups, which received different combinations of motivational savings prompts and suggested shares of the refund to save—either 25 percent or 75 percent—and a control group, which received neither prompts nor suggested savings amounts. The study shows that treatment group members were more likely to contribute at least some of their refund to a savings account and more likely to split their tax refund. The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. “Our study adds to the growing body of research on interventions that center on tax filing as a potential way to increase saving among low- and moderate-income households,” says lead author Michal Grinstein-Weiss, professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, associate director of the Center for Social Development, and founding director of the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change. “These interventions are promising since they have relatively low costs and are scalable to a broad population,” she says. Additionally, the study suggests that the presentation of choices—which behavioral scientists call “choice architecture”—can significantly influence outcomes. The study found that savings anchors, which are suggestions that filers save a certain percentage of their refund, made a difference in savings behavior, unlike messages prompting filers to think about emergencies, retirement, or special purchases. The anchors partly aimed to encourage tax filers to split their refund between a savings account and other accounts, and the size of the anchor was strongly associated with the amount placed into savings for those who split the refund. For example, the 50 percentage-point difference in the two suggested savings anchors—25 percent and 75 percent—is associated with a 30 percentage-point difference in the actual amount of the refund contributed to a savings account, says Grinstein-Weiss. The anchors also increased savings rates and savings amounts across the tax-filing population in general. In contrast, specific savings prompts for general, emergency, and retirement savings did not raise contributions to savings, and in some cases actually reduced contributions. Co-authors on the study are from the Brown School; the Brookings Institution; the Pew Charitable Trusts; and Duke University. The Refund to Savings Initiative comes from the Center for Social Development at the Brown School, Duke University, and Intuit Inc., the maker of TurboTax tax preparation software.


News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Ten years ago, the bones currently in your body did not actually exist. Like skin, bone is constantly renewing itself, shedding old tissue and growing it anew from stem cells in the bone marrow. Now, a new technique developed at Caltech can render intact bones transparent, allowing researchers to observe these stem cells within their environment. The method is a breakthrough for testing new drugs to combat diseases like osteoporosis. The research was done in the laboratory of Viviana Gradinaru (BS '05), assistant professor of biology and biological engineering and a Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator. It appears in a paper in the April 26 issue of Science Translational Medicine. In healthy bone, a delicate balance exists between the cells that build bone mass and the cells that break down old bone in a continual remodeling cycle. This process is partially controlled by stem cells in bone marrow, called osteoprogenitors, that develop into osteoblasts or osteocytes, which regulate and maintain the skeleton. To better understand diseases like osteoporosis, which occurs when loss of bone mass leads to a high risk of fractures, it is crucial to study the behavior of stem cells in bone marrow. However, this population is rare and not distributed uniformly throughout the bone. "Because of the sparsity of the stem cell population in the bone, it is challenging to extrapolate their numbers and positions from just a few slices of bone," says Alon Greenbaum, postdoctoral scholar in biology and biological engineering and co-first author on the paper. "Additionally, slicing into bone causes deterioration and loses the complex and three-dimensional environment of the stem cell inside the bone. So there is a need to see inside intact tissue." To do this, the team built upon a technique called CLARITY, originally developed for clearing brain tissue during Gradinaru's postgraduate work at Stanford University. CLARITY renders soft tissues, such as brain, transparent by removing opaque molecules called lipids from cells while also providing structural support by an infusion of a clear hydrogel mesh. Gradinaru's group at Caltech later expanded the method to make all of the soft tissue in a mouse's body transparent. The team next set out to develop a way to clear hard tissues, like the bone that makes up our skeleton. In the work described in the new paper, the team began with bones taken from postmortem transgenic mice. These mice were genetically engineered to have their stem cells fluoresce red so that they could be easily imaged. The team examined the femur and tibia, as well as the bones of the vertebral column; each of the samples was about a few centimeters long. First, the researchers removed calcium from the bones: calcium contributes to opacity, and bone tissue has a much higher amount of calcium than soft tissues. Next, because lipids also provide tissues with structure, the team infused the bone with a hydrogel that locked cellular components like proteins and nucleic acids into place and preserved the architecture of the samples. Finally, a gentle detergent was flowed throughout the bone to wash away the lipids, leaving the bone transparent to the eye. For imaging the cleared bones, the team built a custom light- sheet microscope for fast and high-resolution visualization that would not damage the fluorescent signal. The cleared bones revealed a constellation of red fluorescing stem cells inside. The group collaborated with researchers at the biotechnology company Amgen to use the method, named Bone CLARITY, to test a new drug developed for treating osteoporosis, which affects millions of Americans per year. "Our collaborators at Amgen sent us a new therapeutic that increases bone mass," says Ken Chan, graduate student and co-first author of the paper. "However, the effect of these therapeutics on the stem cell population was unclear. We reasoned that they might be increasing the proliferation of stem cells." To test this, the researchers gave one group of mice the treatment and, using Bone CLARITY, compared their vertebral columns with bones from a control group of animals that did not get the drug. "We saw that indeed there was an increase in stem cells with this drug," he says. "Monitoring stem cell responses to these kinds of drugs is crucial because early increases in proliferation are expected while new bone is being built, but long-term proliferation can lead to cancer." The technique has promising applications for understanding how bones interact with the rest of the body. "Biologists are beginning to discover that bones are not just structural supports," says Gradinaru, who also serves as the director of the Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech. "For example, hormones from bone send the brain signals to regulate appetite, and studying the interface between the skull and the brain is a vital part of neuroscience. It is our hope that Bone CLARITY will help break new ground in understanding the inner workings of these important organs." The paper is titled "Bone CLARITY: Clearing, imaging, and computational analysis of osteoprogenitors within intact bone marrow." Other Caltech coauthors include incoming graduate students Tatyana Dobreva and David Brown. Helen J. McBride and Rogely Boyce of Amgen also coauthored the paper. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Heritage Medical Research Institute, the Shurl & Kay Curci Foundation, the Amgen Chem-Bio-Engineering Awards, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Kimmel Foundation, and the Caltech-City of Hope Biomedical Research Initiative. Alon Greenbaum is a Good Ventures Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation.


News Article | April 27, 2017
Site: www.futurity.org

Ten years ago, the bones currently in your body didn’t exist. Like skin, bone is constantly renewing itself, shedding old tissue, and growing it anew from stem cells in the bone marrow. A new technique renders intact bones transparent, allowing a look at those stem cells within their environment. The method is a breakthrough for testing new drugs to combat diseases like osteoporosis. In healthy bone, a delicate balance exists between the cells that build bone mass and the cells that break down old bone in a continual remodeling cycle. The process is partially controlled by stem cells in bone marrow, called osteoprogenitors, that develop into osteoblasts or osteocytes, which regulate and maintain the skeleton. To better understand diseases like osteoporosis, which occurs when loss of bone mass leads to a high risk of fractures, it is crucial to study the behavior of stem cells in bone marrow. However, this population is rare and not distributed uniformly throughout the bone. “Because of the sparsity of the stem cell population in the bone, it is challenging to extrapolate their numbers and positions from just a few slices of bone,” says Alon Greenbaum, postdoctoral scholar in biology and biological engineering at California Institute of Technology and co-first author of the paper in Science Translational Medicine. “Additionally, slicing into bone causes deterioration and loses the complex and three-dimensional environment of the stem cell inside the bone. So there is a need to see inside intact tissue.” To do this, researchers built on a technique called CLARITY originally developed by Viviana Gradinaru, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering at Caltech while she was doing postgraduate work at Stanford University. The technique renders soft tissues, such as the brain, transparent by removing opaque molecules called lipids from cells while also providing structural support by an infusion of a clear hydrogel mesh. The researchers expanded the method to make all of the soft tissue in a mouse’s body transparent. The team next set out to develop a way to clear hard tissues, like the bone that makes up our skeleton. In the work described in the new paper, researchers began with bones from postmortem transgenic mice that were genetically engineered to have their stem cells fluoresce red for easy imaging. The team examined the femur and tibia, as well as the bones of the vertebral column. Each of the samples was about a few centimeters long. First, the researchers removed calcium from the bones: calcium contributes to opacity, and bone tissue has a much higher amount of calcium than soft tissues. Next, because lipids also provide tissues with structure, the team infused the bone with a hydrogel that locked cellular components like proteins and nucleic acids into place and preserved the architecture of the samples. Finally, a gentle detergent flowed throughout the bone to wash away the lipids, leaving the bone transparent to the eye. For imaging the cleared bones, the team built a custom light- sheet microscope for fast and high-resolution visualization that would not damage the fluorescent signal. The cleared bones revealed a constellation of red fluorescing stem cells inside. The group collaborated with researchers at the biotechnology company Amgen to use the method, named Bone CLARITY, to test a new drug developed for treating osteoporosis, which affects millions of Americans per year. “Our collaborators at Amgen sent us a new therapeutic that increases bone mass,” says Ken Chan, graduate student and co-first author of the paper. “However, the effect of these therapeutics on the stem cell population was unclear. We reasoned that they might be increasing the proliferation of stem cells.” To test this, the researchers gave one group of mice the treatment and, using Bone CLARITY, compared their vertebral columns with bones from a control group of animals that did not get the drug. “We saw that indeed there was an increase in stem cells with this drug,” he says. “Monitoring stem cell responses to these kinds of drugs is crucial because early increases in proliferation are expected while new bone is being built, but long-term proliferation can lead to cancer.” The technique has promising applications for understanding how bones interact with the rest of the body. “Biologists are beginning to discover that bones are not just structural supports,” says Gradinaru, who also serves as the director of the Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech. “For example, hormones from bone send the brain signals to regulate appetite, and studying the interface between the skull and the brain is a vital part of neuroscience. It is our hope that Bone CLARITY will help break new ground in understanding the inner workings of these important organs.” The National Institutes of Health, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Heritage Medical Research Institute, the Shurl & Kay Curci Foundation, the Amgen Chem-Bio-Engineering Awards, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Kimmel Foundation, and the Caltech-City of Hope Biomedical Research Initiative funded the work.


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Banning transshipment at-sea -- the transfer of fish and supplies from one vessel to another in open waters--is necessary to diminish illegal fishing, a team of researchers has concluded after an analysis of existing maritime regulations. "This practice often occurs on the high seas and beyond the reach of any nation's jurisdiction, allowing ships fishing illegally to evade most monitoring and enforcement measures, offload their cargo, and resume fishing without returning to port," explains Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Environmental Studies and one of the paper's co-authors. "It's one way that illegal fish are laundered into the seafood market." "More significantly, transshipment at-sea can facilitate trafficking and exploitation of workers who are trapped and abused on fishing vessels because there is simply no authority present to protect those being exploited," adds Chris Ewell, an NYU undergraduate at the time of the study and the paper's lead author. The paper, which appears in the journal Marine Policy, may be downloaded here: http://bit. . In their study, the researchers focused on the regulation of transshipment, which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines as the "act of transferring the catch from one fishing vessel to either another fishing vessel or to a vessel used solely for the carriage of cargo." Specifically, they examined transshipment at-sea regulations across 17 Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs)--multi-national entities responsible for regulating fisheries on the high seas--to create a "scorecard" on the permissibility of this practice around the globe. The researchers note that transshipment at-sea regulations have become increasingly strict in most RFMOs since the late 1990s. However, in 2015, the year of study, only five RFMOs had mandated even a partial ban and only one RFMO, the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO), has mandated a total ban on transshipment at-sea. "A total ban on transshipment at-sea on the high seas would support the ability of oversight and enforcement agencies to detect and prevent illegal fishing and also likely reduce human trafficking and forced labor on the high seas," the study's authors recommend. The study's other authors included Mikaela Ediger, a fellow at NYU School of Law's Institute for International Justice and Law, Dana Miller, currently a marine scientist at Oceana and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia at the time of the study, and John Hocevar, oceans campaign director at Greenpeace USA. The research was supported, in part, by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, as well as by an undergraduate research grant from NYU.


News Article | April 24, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Conservationists call on Japan to abide by fishing agreements after reports annual quota will be exceeded two months earlyConservation groups have called on Japan to abide by international agreements to curb catches of Pacific bluefin tuna after reports said the country was poised to exceed an annual quota two months early – adding to pressure on stocks that have already reached dangerously low levels.Japan, by far the world’s biggest consumer of Pacific bluefin, has caused “great frustration” with its failure to abide by catch quotas intended to save the species from commercial extinction, said Amanda Nickson, the director of global tuna conservation at Pew Charitable Trusts. Continue reading...


News Article | May 23, 2017
Site: www.fooddive.com

It seems a bit risky for the FDA to rely on food companies to police themselves in regards to ingredients' safety, but that’s how it’s been done for years. The lawsuit is looking out for the interests of the consumer, and it’s one that seems to have a lot of merit on its surface. The FDA’s final rule, enacted last year, has drawn criticism since it was first proposed in 1997. Opponents argue that allowing companies to select scientists who can decide on the safety of the additive ingredients in the processed food they manufacture gives those companies too much power. The rule was proposed nearly 20 years before it was finalized. The 1997 proposal was similar to the final rule put in place last year. In those 19 years, consumer groups have not been quiet about their disapproval. A lawsuit filed in 2014 argued against the proposed rule, claiming that some ingredients that received a GRAS designation—including volatile oil of mustard, Olestra and mycoprotein (also known by the brand name Quorn), were known to be potentially hazardous. The lawsuit had no bearing on the final rule. A 2013 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed many conflicts of interest in the scientists that did research leading to GRAS designations. Of 451 GRAS notifications between 1997 and 2012, 22.4% of assessments came from employees of additive manufacturers, 13.3% from employees of consulting firms chosen by the manufacturers, and 64.3% by expert panels chosen by either consulting firms or manufacturers. Once the final rule was published last year, consumer and science groups vowed to continue the fight. The lawsuit filed on Monday asks a federal court to find the current GRAS rule unlawful and direct a procedure that involves more direct FDA regulation to determine the safety of ingredients and additives. The 2014 lawsuit was similar, but argued reasons why a final rule — which ensured more direct FDA oversight of the process — should be promulgated. Given the long history of opposition from consumer and science groups, as well as a 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office report that said, "FDA's oversight process does not help ensure the safety of all new GRAS determinations," the courts certainly have a lot of evidence to consider in this case. It will be interesting to see who joins in the fight against this lawsuit, and the arguments and decisions have the potential to make landmark changes to the food system.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: www.fooddive.com

It seems a bit risky for the FDA to rely on food companies to police themselves in regards to ingredients' safety, but that’s how it’s been done for years. The lawsuit is looking out for the interests of the consumer, and it’s one that seems to have a lot of merit on its surface. The FDA’s final rule, enacted last year, has drawn criticism since it was first proposed in 1997. Opponents argue that allowing companies to select scientists who can decide on the safety of the additive ingredients in the processed food they manufacture gives those companies too much power. The rule was proposed nearly 20 years before it was finalized. The 1997 proposal was similar to the final rule put in place last year. In those 19 years, consumer groups have not been quiet about their disapproval. A lawsuit filed in 2014 argued against the proposed rule, claiming that some ingredients that received a GRAS designation—including volatile oil of mustard, Olestra and mycoprotein (also known by the brand name Quorn), were known to be potentially hazardous. The lawsuit had no bearing on the final rule. A 2013 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed many conflicts of interest in the scientists that did research leading to GRAS designations. Of 451 GRAS notifications between 1997 and 2012, 22.4% of assessments came from employees of additive manufacturers, 13.3% from employees of consulting firms chosen by the manufacturers, and 64.3% by expert panels chosen by either consulting firms or manufacturers. Once the final rule was published last year, consumer and science groups vowed to continue the fight. The lawsuit filed on Monday asks a federal court to find the current GRAS rule unlawful and direct a procedure that involves more direct FDA regulation to determine the safety of ingredients and additives. The 2014 lawsuit was similar, but argued reasons why a final rule — which ensured more direct FDA oversight of the process — should be promulgated. Given the long history of opposition from consumer and science groups, as well as a 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office report that said, "FDA's oversight process does not help ensure the safety of all new GRAS determinations," the courts certainly have a lot of evidence to consider in this case. It will be interesting to see who joins in the fight against this lawsuit, and the arguments and decisions have the potential to make landmark changes to the food system.


News Article | June 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

LA JOLLA--(June 15, 2017) The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today that Eiman Azim, an assistant professor in Salk's Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, is one of 22 researchers to be named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. Each scholar receives $240,000 over four years. Additionally, Azim is one of a subset of five Pew Scholars selected for support by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund, which focuses on investigating health challenges in the brain as it ages. Azim, who in April 2017 was also named a Searle Scholar, explores the neural pathways that orchestrate skilled movements, using modern genetic tools in mice to identify how neural circuits in the brain and spinal cord control a diverse set of dexterous behaviors like reaching, grasping, climbing and eating. By using an array of cutting-edge techniques in neurobiology, genetics and computer vision, Azim records from and selectively manipulates discrete classes of genetically accessible motor circuits, monitoring how these pathways are involved in different aspects of motor control. By using novel behavioral tools to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the neural basis of skilled motor output, Azim hopes to deepen understanding of how the nervous system controls movement, progress that could lead to approaches to restore function in motor circuits affected by injury or disease. Pew's 2017 scholars--all of whom hold assistant professor positions--join a thriving community of more than 900 biomedical scientists who have received awards from Pew since 1985. The scholars are chosen from nominations made by approximately 180 leading academic and research institutions. Each year, current scholars come together to discuss their research and learn from peers in fields outside of their own. About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies: Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk's mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer's, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at: salk.edu. The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. We are an independent nonprofit organization--the sole beneficiary of seven individual trusts established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew.


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Childhood bullying may lead to long-lasting health consequences, impacting psychosocial risk factors for cardiovascular health well into adulthood, according to a study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The unique study tracked a diverse group of over 300 American men from first grade through their early thirties and the findings indicate that being a victim of bullying and being a bully were both linked to negative outcomes in adulthood. The study, led by psychology researcher Karen A. Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh, showed that men who were bullies during childhood were more likely to smoke cigarettes and use marijuana, to experience stressful circumstances, and to be aggressive and hostile at follow-up more than 20 years later. Men who were bullied as children, on the other hand, tended to have more financial difficulties, felt more unfairly treated by others, and were less optimistic about their future two decades later. These outcomes are especially critical, the researchers note, because they put the men at higher risk for poor health, including serious cardiovascular issues, later in life. "The long term effects of bullying involvement are important to establish," says Matthews. "Most research on bullying is based on addressing mental health outcomes, but we wished to examine the potential impact of involvement in bullying on physical health and psychosocial risk factors for poor physical health." Previous research has linked psychosocial risk factors like stress, anger, and hostility to increased risk of health problems such as heart attacks, stroke, and high blood pressure. Because bullying leads to stressful interpersonal interactions for both the perpetrators and targets, Matthews and colleagues hypothesized that both bullies and bullying victims might be at higher risk of negative health outcomes related to stress. The research team recruited participants from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal study of 500 boys enrolled in Pittsburgh public schools in 1987 and 1988, when the boys were in the first grade. More than half of the boys in the original study were Black and nearly 60% of the boys' families received public financial assistance such as food stamps. Along with regular assessments on psychosocial, behavioral, and biological risk factors for poor health, researchers collected data from children, parents, and teachers on bullying behavior when the participants were 10 to 12 years old. Matthews and colleagues successfully recruited over 300 of the original study participants to complete questionnaires on psychosocial health factors such as stress levels, health history, diet and exercise, and socioeconomic status. Around 260 of the men came into the lab for blood draws, cardiovascular and inflammation assessments, and height and weight measurements. Unexpectedly, neither bullying nor being bullied in childhood was related to inflammation or metabolic syndrome in adulthood. However, both childhood bullies and bullying victims had increased psychosocial risk factors for poor physical health. The boys who engaged in more bullying in childhood tended to be more aggressive and were more likely to smoke in adulthood, risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening diseases. The boys with higher scores for being bullied tended to have lower incomes, more financial difficulties, and more stressful life experiences. They also perceived more unfair treatment relative to their peers. These outcomes are also related to risk for cardiovascular disease. "The childhood bullies were still aggressive as adults and victims of bullies were still feeling like they were treated unfairly as adults," Matthews explained. "Both groups had a lot of stress in their adult lives - so the impact of childhood bullying lasts a long time!" The effects of bullying were fairly similar for both Black and White men, as well as those participants who came from low socioeconomic status families. Matthews and colleagues anticipate that both bullies and their victims may be at greater risk for poor physical health, including cardiovascular-disease events, over the long term. But they caution that many participants in the original study could not participate in this follow-up study because they were either deceased or incarcerated, which may have affected the results in unknown ways. The findings suggest that identifying children who are at risk for involvement in bullying and intervening early on may yield long-term psychosocial and even physical health benefits that last into adulthood. Co-authors on the research include J. Richard Jennings and Laisze Lee of the University of Pittsburgh and Dustin A. Pardini of Arizona State University. This research was supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Grant R01-HL111802. Data collection for the Pittsburgh Youth Study was funded by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant DA411018, National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH48890 and MH50778, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Grant 96-MU-FX-0012. For more information about this study, please contact: Karen A. Matthews at matthewska@upmc.edu. The article abstract is available online: http://journals. The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Bullying and Being Bullied in Childhood Are Associated With Different Psychosocial Risk Factors for Poor Physical Health in Men" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.


News Article | September 15, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories, the government said on Thursday. In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands. A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area. The foreign office said it would designate two further marine protection zones, one each around two south Altantic islands – Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020. Sir Alan Duncan, minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said: “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.” Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone – excepting ‘sustainable’ local fishing – and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited. Conservationists welcomed the new protections. “By protecting the vast array of marine life within these rich waters, the United Kingdom has solidified its position as a leader in ocean conservation,” said Joshua S Reichert, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the UK on technology to monitor the Pitcairn area. Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision.” The UK announcement, at the Our Oceans summit in Washington, came as the White House said the US would ban fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Altantic, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. That followed Barack Obama’s expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea monument off Hawaii. In his speech at the Washington conference, Duncan quipped: “this was going to have been my big moment, because until last week the Pitcairn MPA would have been the largest in the world. But President Obama sort of rather blew that out of the water by announcing an even bigger MPA in Hawaii – trust the Yanks to indulge in a bit of one-upmanship over us poor Brits. “But we’re happy as our loss is the world’s gain and we congratulate the United States.” This week, scientists warned that humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of the largest marine creatures that could affect ocean ecology for millions of years. Experts said the large range required for such creatures meant large-scale marine protected areas would be a key part of addressing the problem.

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