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Top 8 eco stories you need to know about from 2016


Plans unveiled for SeaWorld in Abu Dhabi


In December 2016, plans for a new and more eco-friendly SeaWorld were unveiled, the first park not to feature orca whales.

Set to open in 2022, the park will be located on Yas Island and will have a marine life research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre that will open ahead of the theme park, which will focus on ocean conservation education.

The project sees a partnership between SeaWorld and Miral, together offering visitors up-close animal experiences, a world-class aquarium and mega attractions yet to be announced.

“Abu Dhabi is becoming a first choice destination for regional and global travellers by combining culture, heritage and unique leisure experiences into one compelling proposition," said His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Miral. "SeaWorld Abu Dhabi further strengthens Yas Island’s position as the global tourism destination.”

Though details of the park's size and design haven't been released, it will reportedly use 3D mapping and virtual reality technology to immerse guests in virtual subsea expeditions and diving adventures.

The move comes just months after SeaWorld announced that it would be ending its orca-breeding program due to high pressure from animal rights activists.

"This project presents an opportunity for collaboration and greater understanding of how species have adapted to the region’s unique marine environment, and to inspire the next generation of visitors, conservationists and animal care experts,” said Joel Manby, president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld.

Yas Island is currently home to the Ferrari World theme park and Emirate's Formula 1 track and SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will be an interesting addition. The centre will be the first of it's kind in the country, providing a state-of-the-art environment for conservationists, researchers and scientists to study the local marine life alongside visitors.

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Philip Lang

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Coral continues to die on the Great Barrier Reef after bleaching

Great- Barrier-Reef-experiences-terrible-bleaching

Coral in parts of the Great Barrier Reef is continuing to die due to coral predators and disease more than six months after rising water temperatures caused extreme bleaching earlier this year.

Scientists from the Coral Reef Studies in Australia have found that the proportion of live coral has fallen in some areas from 40% in March to a mere 5%.

The mass bleaching during the start of the year was the third occurrence of it's kind in the last 18 years, with previous events taking place in 2002 and 1998.

Bleaching is caused by abnormal environmental conditions, such as a rise in sea temperatures, which leads to coral expelling living algae causing it to calcify. In March this year it was revealed that parts of the reef had suffered the worst bleaching on record and experts from James Cook University have expanded on the devastating aftermath.

“Millions of corals in the north of the Great Barrier Reef died quickly from heat stress in March and since then, many more have died more slowly,” said Dr. Greg Torda, whose team recently returned from re-surveying reefs near Lizard Island.

Last year UNESCO voted not to put the Great Barrier Reef on the world danger list but there is now serious concern about its future.

“In March, we measured a lot of heavily bleached branching corals that were still alive," said Dr Andrew Hoey, who is currently working from the Lizard Island research station. He added that after further monitoring in October, there were even fewer surviving corals.

With the Great Barrier Reef under such significant threat, don't miss our guide to the most incredible places to see before they disappear.

Picture courtesy of Krofoto /Shutterstock.com

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Obama created the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean


In September 2016 President Barack Obama announced the creation of the first U.S. marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

Located just off the coast of New England, the area will cover 12,724 kilometres of underwater canyons (some as deep as the Grand Canyon), mountains and wildlife.

Speaking at the Our Ocean conference in Washington, D.C., Obama said: "The notion that the ocean I grew up with is not something that I can pass on to my kids and my grandkids is unacceptable, it's unimaginable."

The previous month he expanded a vast marine reserve off the coast of Hawaii called Papahānaumokuākea in a continuing attempt to preserve beaches, canyons and marine ecosystems.

Objections came from many, who said it would negatively impact the area's fishing industry due to the permanent closure of more than a million square kilometres of ocean to commercial fishing.

The new reserve is to be named the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and during the announcement, Obama added:

"The investment that all of us together make here today is vital for our economy, it's vital for our foreign policy, it's vital for our security, but it's also vital for our spirit. It's vital to who we are."

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