News Article | April 27, 2017
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 26, 2017
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 24, 2017
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 | April 17, 2017
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 18, 2017
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 | March 7, 2016
Urinary tract infections are a special kind of hell. The stinging. The burning. The constant urge to pee and then not being able to pee when you finally get so uncomfortable that you have to go sit on the toilet again. But the only thing worse than a UTI would be an untreatable UTI, which is a terrifying future we might actually see if we don't start looking for alternatives to antibiotics for treating these common infections. Luckily a new study published in Nature Monday taking a closer look at E. coli—the bug that causes about 80 percent of all UTIs—offers a potential new treatment method that wouldn’t require using antibiotics. That’s great news because antibiotics are overused in general, contributing to the growth of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Even UTIs are starting to fall victim, with treatments become less effective, particularly for people who are prone to the infections and are prescribed the same antibiotics over and over. “Whether you’re thinking about antibiotics on orchard trees or on livestock or on people, unless you use them only when it’s absolutely necessary, they’re just contributing to the overall problem of antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. David Wallinga, a Senior Health Officer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Even if you’re using it for valid reasons, like UTIs, it’s still exposing bacteria to the drugs and spurring them to take on resistance. So that’s why it’s important to only use them when you really have to.” In the paper, a group of researchers from Switzerland detail how E. coli is able to latch onto cells in the body and actually hold on more tightly when encountering tensile forces. In other words, when you pee, urine is supposed to flush out any bacteria in the urethra. The trouble with UTIs is that as you pee the force of the urine only causes the E. coli to grip more tightly and ride it out. Anyone who’s ever suffered through a urinary tract infection probably won’t be surprised to learn the bacteria that causes the burning, stinging discomfort has the ability to cling onto the inside of your body for dear life, but the study authors were able to pinpoint exactly how it work. Chains of FimH, a type of protein, attaching to human cells are the culprit behind E. coli’s vice grip. The researchers showed that, if you could knock out these proteins through targeted medicine, you could make it possible for the body to naturally flush out the bacteria without requiring antibiotics to attack and kill the E. coli. In fact, the same team is currently testing out an oral treatment that would specifically target FimH to treat UTIs. Antibiotics are really effective for treating UTIs, but they’re also overused throughout medicine and in agriculture. This abuse of antibiotics contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and E. coli is no exception. For years now, researchers have been documenting the reduced effectiveness of the antibiotics used to treat UTIs and the increased antibiotic resistance in E. coli. Even though antibiotics sometimes make sense for treating UTIs—unlike using antibiotics to treat viral infections, which is ineffective—if there are other potential options, we should definitely be pursuing them. For women with recurrent UTIs, which can become resistant to all the commonly-used antibiotics an effective, alternative treatment would be a Godsend. “We’ll always need antibiotics, but when you’re dealing with a multidrug-resistant infection, there’s a growing concern that our arsenal of new drugs is running dry,” said Carolyn Shore, a microbiologist who works on the Antibiotics Resistance Project for Pew Charitable Trusts. “There really are not a lot of new drugs coming through our antibiotic development pipeline, and so alternative approaches are getting more attention.” Targeting FimH might not be the only option out there, either. Last year, researchers in the US published a study that showed an immune-boosting agent could help the body naturally resist E. coli from taking hold in the urinary tract. Future treatments may even combine these different strategies to give us a powerful solution for fighting UTIs without adding to the overuse of antibiotics. Considering how common UTIs are—up to 8 million Americans are diagnosed with a UTI each year—if we could eliminate antibiotics for most treatment, it would make huge impact in reducing our overall antibiotic use.
News Article | November 12, 2016
While conservationists want stricter protection of these and other species, some member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) are seeking bigger fishing allowances. Representatives of the body's 51 parties—50 countries and the EU bloc—will meet in the coastal town of Vilamoura for a week starting Monday. "Additional actions are required if ICCAT is to achieve its mandate to sustainably manage the fish stocks and fisheries under its control," said the Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocates for nature conservation. The ICCAT is responsible for conservation of tunas and related species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas, as well as creatures which get tangled up as by-catch in tuna fishing. Two years ago, the commission's members decided on a 20 percent annual increase over three years in bluefin tuna quotas in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, despite objections that evidence of stock recovery was sketchy. The Atlantic bluefin, called Thunnus Thynnus by scientists, is the biggest tuna, growing up to four metres (13 feet) in length. It is a highly sought-after and expensive delicacy, especially as sushi and sashimi in Asia—a single specimen has sold for more than $1.75 million (1.6 million euros), according to the WWF. Europe does most of the fishing. Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks were decimated to a low of 150,000 tonnes in the mid-2000s after a decade of quotas as high as 50,000 tonnes per year. The fish spawn just once a year and do not reach reproductive maturity until they are eight to 12 years old, making their numbers vulnerable to overfishing. With the aid of lower quotas, the spawning stock rebounded to 585,000 tonnes by 2013, nearly double the levels of the 1950s, according to ICCAT figures. But conservationists point out the numbers are mere estimates, given that headcounts are very hard to do. And illegal fishing is a major problem, they say. The ICCAT has raised the 2014 quota of 13,500 tonnes to 16,142 tonnes in 2015 and 19,296 in 2016. The 2017 quota was provisionally set at 23,155 tonnes, but has to be reviewed after a new stock assessment due early next year. Some states, including Spain, have called for increases to be discussed already at this year's meeting, according to Paulus Tak, an international ocean policy expert at Pew. And Turkey has lodged a formal objection to the 2014 decision, which means it can set its own quotas. Not reviewing quotas ahead of the 2017 assessment was "critical", said Tak, "in order to avoid jeopardising the recovery of the stock". Conservation groups are also rallying for better protection of the Mediterranean swordfish. The species as a whole is not threatened, but its Mediterranean sub-group is "overfished", according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which keeps a "Red List" of species that are endangered or at risk of becoming so. "The Mediterranean swordfish stock is really in a bad condition," the WWF's Giuseppe Di Carlo told AFP ahead of the annual gathering. "It has been overfished for the last 30 years and it is now getting urgent to put in place an ambitious recovery plan." The Mediterranean stock has fallen an estimated two-thirds from 1985, and 70 percent of total catches were of immature fish—before they had a chance to reproduce. "But there is currently no plan for the sustainable management of this stock," said Di Carlo. Italy is the main taker of Mediterranean swordfish, followed by Morocco, Spain and Greece. The commission will also be asked to consider the status of other species at risk, including the bigeye tuna—another favourite in sashimi. "Although tuna do provide food and livelihoods for people, they are more than just seafood," said the WWF. "Tuna are a top predator in the marine food chain, maintaining a balance in the ocean environment."
News Article | December 12, 2016
:DentalPlans' Member Survey Provides Insight into Savings and Usage PLANTATION, FL--(Marketwired - December 12, 2016) - Lack of access to dental care has been identified as a growing public health care crisis, especially for those who are uninsured or under-insured. And those without dental benefits report higher incidences of illnesses that can severely impact their health and overall wellbeing. Dental savings plans provide an affordable option for the uninsured and under-insured. With a dental savings plan, members gain access to a network of dentists who have agreed to offer reduced rates to plan members -- typically 10%-60% off the cost of virtually all dental care needs and treatments. In a recent poll by :DentalPlans, the leading online marketplace for dental savings plans, approximately half (54.3%) of members surveyed saved $101-$500 on their dental care annually. Nearly a third (28.3%) saved more than $500 annually. With such savings and other plan benefits, 91% of members surveyed find their dental savings plan to be a good value. And, the majority (87.5%) of dental savings plan members visit the dentist at least twice per year. Doing so helps to decrease their risk for heart attack, stroke and other diseases that are linked to gum disease. According to a dental crisis report, lack of access to dental care has been identified as a growing public health care crisis. People without dental benefits report higher incidences of other illness: "Several surveys have shown that those with a dental savings plan visit the dentist more regularly than those without it, helping them to avoid an oral health crisis and save more money in the long-run," said Bill Chase, vice-president of marketing for :DentalPlans. "Not only will they save on their visits and procedures -- some have quoted thousands in savings -- with their plan, but they will also help to avoid more painful and larger procedures, which can be even more costly." The increased usage or dentist visits with a dental savings plan presents a striking contrast to the more than one-third of Americans who are unable to afford or access dental treatment, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. And people without dental benefits, many of which are among the 738,000 Americans that head to emergency rooms for dental treatment annually, delay prevention and early treatment. This results in oral diseases and for some, excruciating pain. Members indicated that the top reasons for not seeing a dentist regularly is the cost of care, with 37.6% saying they could not fit the expense into their budget. Lack of dental insurance was the other primary reason as 35.3% did not have coverage. Dental savings plan members said that they opted to join a savings plan because: Most of the members surveyed use their dental savings plan for the following: "The stories we hear from members about living with dental pain and embarrassment due to missing and decayed teeth are heartbreaking," said Chase. "Thankfully, we can help them reclaim their smiles and oral health." Unlike dental insurance, dental savings plans do not impose waiting periods before members can save on dental care. And there are no annual spending limits -- many dental insurance policies limit coverage to $1,000-$1,500 annually. In contrast, dental savings plan members can use their plans to save at the dentist as often as they need to do so. Find out more about dental savings plans on dentalplans.com. About :DentalPlans :DentalPlans, founded in 1999, is a leading dental and health savings marketplace in the U.S., helping more than a million people to affordably access quality healthcare services. Our mission is to empower consumers with the tools, information, and services that they need to live happier, healthier lives. For more information, visit us at www.dentalplans.com and find us on Facebook, Twitter, Twitter (PR), Pinterest and YouTube.
News Article | October 28, 2016
After years of stalemate, world leaders have finally agreed to protect a vast expanse of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. Covering an area of 600,000 square miles in the Ross Sea, it will be the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the world. And while the preserve is not permanent, it will remain in effect for the next 35 years before world leaders will discuss its renewal. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the international body responsible for the management of the Southern Ocean, announced the agreement Friday morning in Hobart, Australia, after two weeks of meetings and negotiations. The new protected area will bar fishing, with a few exceptions in designated areas for research purposes. It will help preserve one of the most pristine marine ecosystems left on Earth, environmentalists say, safeguarding the area against pollution and overfishing and helping protect species all the way up the food chain, from tiny krill to penguins, seals and whales. The area will also provide an important scientific service by allowing research and monitoring in one of the last areas on Earth that’s still relatively untouched by humans. “It’s a really exciting moment for us,” Evan Bloom, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs and head of the U.S. delegation to CCAMLR, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “You don’t often get a win for marine conservation that’s this big, so it’s kind of a nice moment for us.” The agreement comes after five years of strained negotiations. The Southern Ocean is home to important commercial fishing interests, mostly revolving around toothfish and krill, for certain CCAMLR members, and in previous years, some countries have expressed concern about how the MPA might affect the industry. According to CCAMLR rules, all 25 members — which include 24 nations and the European Union — must reach a consensus before an MPA can be established. As of the start of this year’s proceedings, Russia was the only member that had yet to agree with the proposal. “We did have to bring Russia on board to this proposal, and we did a lot of talking to Russia prior to the meeting and at the meeting,” Bloom said. The final agreement is notable in that it was reached during a time of otherwise strained political relationships between Russia and the United States. “Russia has a proud history of exploration and science in Antarctica,” Sergei Ivanov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for ecology, said in a statement. “In this time of political turbulence in so many parts of the world, we are pleased to be part of this collaborative international effort to safeguard the Ross Sea.” The Ross Sea is largely regarded as a biodiversity hot spot and one of the most pristine marine ecosystems left on the planet. It’s also adjacent to the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest one in Antarctica. The region is home to many charismatic species, including orcas, leopard seals and Adelie and emperor penguins, as well as the coveted toothfish and krill. But in recent years, environmentalists have become concerned about the combined effects of fishing and climate change on these populations. Protecting the region from commercial fishing will have positive effects that radiate throughout the food chain, according to Andrea Kavanagh, director of the global penguin conservation campaign for the Pew Charitable Trusts. The MPA will allow some fishing for research purposes in designated areas and in general will provide important scientific insights into the effects of future climate change, environmentalists say. “The type of research that we are really looking forward to coming out is looking at how a healthy ecosystem like the Ross Sea, one with all its top predators still intact, adapts to a changing climate — to see what happens and how some of those findings can help us develop mitigation measures for other parts of the planet,” Kavanagh told The Post. The 35-year time limit is “disappointing,” she said, but added that “we’re confident that in 35 years’ time, the conservation benefits will be well established. According to Bloom, many CCAMLR members, including the United States, would have preferred a permanent designation, but a compromise was necessary in reaching this year’s agreement. Kavanagh added that the new MPA sets a historic precedent for future protected areas on the high seas, which will also have to be established through international negotiations. “It’s the very first of this size to ever be negotiated by a multilateral body that had to agree by 100 percent consensus,” she said. “It now sets the precedent for all other organizations around the world to protect our global oceans.” The agreement represents “further proof that the world is finally beginning to understand the urgency of the threats facing our planet,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who was closely involved in the negotiations with Russia, said in a statement. “It happened thanks to many years of persistent scientific and policy review, intense negotiations and principled diplomacy,” he added. “It happened because our nations understood the responsibility we share to protect this unique place for future generations.”
News Article | September 15, 2016
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.