Points of Progress: Blue crab populations rebound, and more

Blue crabs, seen here in June 2016, are rebounding in Chesapeake Bay.

Juvenile crab populations in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay have doubled over the past year. Scientists have found that crab populations are the highest they have been in seven years, and with 600 million crabs, the species has nearly reached its benchmark of sustainability. Officials say that strict limits placed on crab fishing and overall improvements to the bay’s health helped boost the population. Despite the increase in crab numbers, however, the bay’s rockfish species is still in severe decline and may face further fishing restrictions. (The Baltimore Sun)


Global mortality rates for children and adolescents decreased by more than 50% from 1990 to 2017, with Central, Eastern, and sub-Saharan Africa reporting the greatest decline. Researchers attribute this to improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and disease control, and cleaner water. The majority of mortalities still occur in countries that have lower socioeconomic ratings, however, and that trend increased over the 27-year period. Although children are more likely than ever to reach their 20th birthday, there has been an increase in the number of children with nonfatal illnesses and disabilities of almost 5%. (Jama Network)

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it’s where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

South Africa

The Department of Basic Education has created a support system to promote women in leadership roles. The latest payroll data from the department found that although 73% of teachers are women, only 37% are principals. Since its beginning in 2013, the Support Networks for Female Principals has had six out of nine South African provinces launch support systems, and have reached more than 3,000 women. In just five years, one district has added nearly 25% more women principals. The networks serve as a space for individuals to discuss challenges they face and to explore ways to promote peers to lead the educational sector. (OZY)

A woman prepares a meal for her family in South Africa in April.


A mobile app is saving whale sharks and local fishers’ nets in the western state of Gujarat. Since 2007, fishers have been compensated by the government whenever a whale shark is caught as bycatch and damages their nets. The initiative was meant to prevent the protected whale sharks from being killed and sold illegally. But the process of getting paid in the beginning stages of the initiative was cumbersome, and led to whale shark injuries and fatalities because fishers were required to show proof of their catch. Launched this spring, the app streamlines the payment process, and also enables fishers to log other basic data on the whale sharks that is then shared with the Wildlife Trust of India. In the past 15 years, WTI efforts have saved more than 700 whale sharks and not a single hunt has been documented. (Mongabay)

Sub-Saharan Africa

Millions of people in rural and urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa have gained access to improved housing. A study released this year shows that from 2000 to 2015, housing with improved water supply, sanitation, living space, and construction durability has doubled. Under international human rights law, access to adequate housing is considered a fundamental right. Economic growth, as well as higher levels of wealth and education, has led to improved sub-Saharan housing. Almost 50% of Africans living in urban areas and 80% in rural areas, however, still live in what researchers have deemed unacceptable housing conditions. (Nature)

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