The conservation website Mongabay.com offered its top 10 stories for year about the oceans.
Writers Emma Critchley and Douglas McCauley listed 1) Climate change, including acidification, which scares me more than warming itself; 2) Youth leadership (not merely by Ms. Thunberg, but globally) 3) Progress toward a global ocean biodiversity protection treaty, with the U.N. hosting promising negotiations), 4) Progress in establishing marine protected areas, 5) A serious oil spill off Brazil that, for all our improved monitoring technology, has yet to be traced to a particular ship), 6) Increasing plastic pollution. with some progress here and there on regulation, 7) Arguments over seabed mining, 8) Progress on ending subsidies for fisheries, 9) Whale news - 10 more washed-up North Atlantic right whales, some glimmers of hope for vaquitas, and a great success story, restoration of the Atlantic humpback - and 10) "Marine Weirdness," a catchall for new discoveries, out of place animals, and so on.
I don't have any disagreements here, although a couple of things merit a bit of amplification. The amazing comeback of the Atlantic humpback - arguably the most impressive comeback for a protected marine species ever - came despite an Unusual Mortality Event along the U.S. coast that saw 110 whales die of a variety of causes.
Humpback celebrates comeback (photo NOAA)
The vaquita still lives on the thinnest of razor edges. A handful of 2019 sightings and photographs have indeed given it some hope, but only some. The most endangered of the large whales, the North Atlantic right, continued to take a beating from ship collisions and ghost gear despite increasingly tight regulations.
N. Atlantic right (NOAA)
Seabed mining has long been a bone of contention. It's not certain which types of mining for which resources could be made to pay commercially, but countries in need of particular resources (for domestic use or for strategic advantage) may not care about that. The U.S. in particular, through five Administrations, has never found a treaty the President and Congress would both buy into. The Pew Environmental Trust has a good overview of the topic here.
So there's a lot of work to do, but as 2019 closes, we can at least say there's no one who doesn't KNOW there's a lot of work to do.