2016 was a big year for oceans. Here are some of the biggest ocean wins of 2016, and here's to an even better 2017!
1) Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Expansion
The importance of marine protected areas (MPAs) was highlighted in 2016.
Thanks to U.S President Barack Obama, the existing Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was expanded expanded from 140,000 square miles (360,000 km2), to 583,000 square miles (1,510,000 km2). The expansion makes this reserve the second largest protected area on the planet.
2) Largest Protected Area on Earth is Established
Delegates from 25 countries, including the UK and Russia, agreed to make the Ross Sea, located in Antarctica, the largest protected area on earth at a staggering 1.5 million square kilometres of sea. That's about the size of Mongolia.
The Ross Sea is an incredibly important area for the world, as the nutrient rich waters of the deep are spread by currents across the globe.
The Ross Sea remains one of the most isolated and untouched areas of our planet with incredible biodiversity, including 26% of the world's Emperor penguin population.
3) World's Largest Beach Cleanup
Many hands make light work.
Afroz Shah, a 33-year-old lawyer from Mumbai, decided to do something about the state of Versova Beach, a one-and-a-half-mile strip of coastline in western Mumbai facing the Arabian Sea.
What began as a simple, one-man mission became a movement.
Hundreds of volunteers cleaned up 4 million pounds of trash over the course of 45 weeks.
And they say one person can't change the world...
4) Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban
California, with a population of over 39 million, became the first U.S State to ban the use of plastic grocery bags.
Though the ban only applies to certain types of bags, it is a step in the right direction.
Plastic bags aren't just bad news for wildlife and ocean environments, they are also bad news for our local infrastructure and cause millions of dollars in damage by clogging up municipal drainage systems, thereby exacerbating flooding events.
5) Ocean Environmental Awareness
2016 could be called the year of the ocean.
Global awareness of the challenges faced by oceans and the creatures that call them home was heightened in 2016 thanks to the positive action taken by the international community and by individuals and groups from all over.
Let's keep the momentum going in 2017!