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20 Memorable Marine Stories, Videos, and Photos of 2020

December 11, 2020

As we wrap up 2020, check out the most memorable marine features, videos, and photos of the year.

4994x3329 Oasis at the barren bottom.jpg Pocillopora grandis coral colonies serve as a welcome shelter for these butterflyfish and damselfish. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Ari Halperin.

Sharks, whales, turtles, and much more! Revisit our top features of the year below.

Top 5 Feature Stories

1. 12 Shark Facts That May Surprise You

Do sharks have bones or good eyesight? During Shark Week 2020, we explored shark facts that you may not know. This story on one of the ocean's top predators is our most popular three years in a row!

Learn more about sharks

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Aerial view of a blue shark circling a young dogfish. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

2. 10 Wonderful Whale Facts

Whale Week is one of our favorite times of year at NOAA Fisheries. To celebrate, we shared some interesting tidbits about these majestic creatures—including the largest animal that ever lived on Earth.

Learn more about whales

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Humpback breaching

3. What Can You Do to Save Sea Turtles?

Learning what actions you can take to help save sea turtles was a top story for many of our readers in 2020. If you missed it, check out how you can help protect sea turtle habitat and brush up on sea turtle-friendly fishing and boating tips.

Learn more about how you can help save sea turtles 

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Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

4. Commerce Secretary Announces Allocation of $300 Million in CARES Act Funding

Interstate marine fisheries commissions, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands disbursed funds to address coronavirus-related losses.

Learn more about CARES Act Funding

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Large Fishing Boat Westport Grays Harbor Washington State
Large Fishing Boat Westport Grays Harbor Puget Sound Washington State Pacific Northwest

5. NOAA Scientists Virtually Discover New Comb Jelly Species Near Puerto Rico

Last but certainly not least, a NOAA Fisheries research team discovered Duobrachium sparksae, a new species of ctenophore, or comb jelly, made the cut. The discovery was made during an underwater expedition led by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. The new species and a new virtual method of describing and documenting the discovery are both explained in Plankton and Benthos Research.

Learn more about the new species of comb jelly

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An image of the newly discovered ctenophore taken by the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle.
The comb jelly, or ctenophore, was first seen during a 2015 dive with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research team.

Top 5 Videos

From whales to a new species of comb jelly, we've got a lot of cool marine life to see. Discover or rewatch our top five videos of 2020. 

1. Searching for Type D: A New Species of Killer Whale?

2. Combing the Deep: NOAA's Discovery of a New Ctenophore

3. Reporting Entangled Whales in Hawaii

4. False Killer Whales in the Hawaiian Islands

5. Orphan Orca: Saving Springer

Top 5 Photos

A sleek sawfish lurking just below the surface, a pair of spiny lumpsuckers, and a collection of fur seal expressions made the cut for our five most popular pictures. 

1. Sawfish Day

We celebrated International Sawfish Day on October 17 by sharing information and our conservation for sawfish. Sawfish are elasmobranchs (skeleton made of cartilage) like sharks and rays, but they are batoids (rays), not sharks. Their gills are on the underside of their body! There are five species of sawfishes around the world but only one is still found within the United States. All sawfishes are endangered.

Learn more about sawfish

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Sawfish
Sawfish. Credit: Dana Bethea/NOAA Fisheries

2. Dolly Parton Challenge

We had some fun with the Dolly Parton Challenge on Instagram this year. Protecting marine life—from fish to seals, from coast to coast, from dawn to dusk … NOAA Fisheries does it all.

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Dolly Parton Challenge Instagram
Dolly Parton Challenge Instagram

3. Comb Jelly Discovery

The photos and illustration of the new species of comb jelly topped the list of our most popular photos, and this photo has been online for less than a month! 

Read the story and watch the video of the comb jelly discovery

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A photorealistic depiction of the newly discovered comb jelly species.
The comb jelly species resembles a hot air balloon or an inflated tooth.

4. Fridays are for Fur Seals

These fur seal photos helped put a smile on our faces! Looking ahead to summer 2021, scientists plan to further test drones to help conduct their research more efficiently. Learn how we're studying Northern fur seals in remote Alaska

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Fur seal

5. Spiny Lumpsuckers 

A pair of spiny lumpsuckers snagged the fifth spot of our top five photos of the year. For two decades, scientists have been studying salmon in the Gulf of Alaska. Surveys are important for forecasting river returns and monitoring bycatch in other commercial fisheries. During the July survey, our scientists caught a total of 3,532 fish consisting of 17 different species, including these spiny lumpsuckers, which were sent to the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute aquarium.

Learn more about the survey

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Spiny lumpsuckers saved for the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute aquarium. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

Top 5 Social Media Posts

Whale calves for the win! Take a peek at our five most popular social media posts here.

1. North Atlantic Right Whale Mother and Calf Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

2. Fourth Right Whale Calf of the 2019-2020 Season Injured

3. New Ctenophore Discovered by NOAA Scientists Near Puerto Rico

4. Team Administers Antibiotics to Injured North Atlantic Right Whale Calf

5. Celebrating Three New North Atlantic Right Whale Birthdays