IT wasn’t just the weird fish with see-through heads, or the joyously surfing dolphins, or the clownfish collaborating to shift a coconut shell. It was those spectacular, fragile, endless vistas of sea, ice and land.

The BBC’s Blue Planet II was one of the most-watched TV programmes of 2017 and produced many of the most memorable environmental moments. And its much-loved narrator, David Attenborough, did not pull his punches.

Fish were being over-hunted, marine life was choking on plastic and corals were being bleached by climate pollution, he said. “It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans,” he told millions of viewers.

“Many people believe the oceans have reached a crisis point. Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us.”

Perhaps the biggest threat is the climate chaos that scientists say is being triggered by carbon dioxide pollution from burning oil, coal and gas. Expert assessments for the Scottish Government in 2017 warned that coastal erosion and flooding caused by climate change threatened major parts of the country’s vital infrastructure.

Thousands of homes and businesses and long stretches of roads and railways were found to be at risk. So were power stations, wind farms, sewers, bridges, farmland, golf courses and many other crucial facilities.

Seabirds, fish and plants were endangered, as well as butterflies, food crops and peat bogs. Scotland could expect more rain, more droughts, more storms, more wild fires, more landslides, more pests and more diseases, experts warned.

Detailed maps produced by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency showed that cities and towns across the country were at risk should reservoirs flood. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick airports are all in high flood-risk areas, as are the M8, M9, M74, A9 and major railway lines.

In December two US scientific studies highlighted the potentially disastrous impacts of Arctic and Antarctic icecaps melting, raising sea levels and flooding the homes of as many as 150 million people around the globe.

The air and water are getting warmer, the ice is getting thinner and the permafrost is thawing, scientists said. They warned that a “catastrophic runaway effect” could take hold, ice shelves could fracture and ice cliffs collapse.

Despite such dire warnings, many environmentalists take comfort in the Scottish Government’s apparent determination to cut climate pollution. It is currently committed to reducing carbon emissions 90 per cent by 2050, and is under pressure to go further.

2017 saw Scottish ministers make some clear moves to tackle the problem. In October, as predicted by the Sunday Herald, they announced an “immediate, effective ban” on fracking, a technology for fracturing underground rocks to extract shale gas.

This prompted howls from the fracking industry, led by Grangemouth petrochemical giant Ineos, but was widely welcomed by community groups, environmental campaigners and politicians. The decision was endorsed and strengthened by the Scottish Parliament and became a central part of the Scottish energy strategy published last week.

Friends of the Earth Scotland claimed the fracking ban as its “biggest single achievement” of the year. Six years of campaigning alongside community groups “had built a genuine consensus across Scottish society and politics that the country should remain frack-free”, said the group’s director, Dr Richard Dixon.

Other moves to combat climate change were a commitment to meet half of Scotland’s total energy demand from renewables by 2030. This would be “a massive step change from where we are today”, according to WWF Scotland.

The programme for government announced by Scottish ministers in September also promised to phase out the need for fossil fuel vehicles by 2032. This was described as a “major milestone” by WWF Scotland’s acting director, Dr Sam Gardner.

“This marked an overdue, but nonetheless very welcome commitment to tackle the transport sector, Scotland's largest source of climate emissions,” he said.

Making more cars electric and reducing the number of traffic movements would also help alleviate another major environmental problem highlighted in 2017 – air pollution. The Sunday Herald reported on the many streets in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and elsewhere that continue to be contaminated by gases and tiny particles from vehicle exhausts in breach of safety limits.

In response, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon promised to introduce low emission zones to ban the most polluting vehicles. “Air pollution is damaging the health of our most vulnerable citizens in cities and towns right now,” said Dixon.

“Low emission zones in all our big cities will make a real difference, drastically reducing the 2,500 annual death toll from air pollution and improving the health of children growing up in polluted areas.”

Water pollution also sparked a major controversy last year. In February the Sunday Herald revealed that 45 sea lochs had been contaminated with a toxic pesticide used by fish farmers to kill the lice that plague caged salmon.

It then emerged that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had dropped a plan to ban the pesticide, marketed as Slice, after pressure from the fish farming industry. The industry had also put pressure on the Scottish Government, which also urged Sepa to abandon the planned ban.

Perhaps most shockingly, extensive documentation released under freedom of information law revealed that Slice’s manufacturer, the US multinational Merck, had been allowed to hire reviewers to rubbish a key scientific study warning that that the pesticide was harming marine wildlife.

Campaigners from across the spectrum kicked up a fuss and dubbed the affair Slicegate. They succeeded in persuading two Holyrood parliamentary committees to launch an investigation into the fish farming industry in the New Year.

Birds of prey may have also got a break in 2017. The long and troubled arguments over the illegal persecution of eagles, falcons, hawks and other raptors by landowners anxious to protect their grouse stocks changed significantly in May.

The environment minister, Roseanna Cunningham, announced that she was setting up an expert group to review what was happening. She asked them to look specifically at the option of licensing game bird shooting, which could lead to bans on rogue estates.

This is fiercely opposed by the grouse shooting lobby, but has been increasingly advocated by wildlife conservation groups. It was deemed “major progress” by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland.

Another angrily fought environmental battle has been over plans to build a new golf course at Coul Links near Embo on the Sutherland coast. Proposed by a US developer, Todd Warnock, it has been compared to the row over US President Donald Trump’s golf resort at Menie in Aberdeenshire.

Warnock insisted that there is no comparison and that he “abhors” everything about Trump. But conservation groups pointed that the rare sand dune system under threat at Coul was similar to the one damaged by Trump at Menie.

Jonathan Hughes, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, used to be a ranger at Coul Links so feels strongly about it. “We believe that allowing a proposed 18-hole golf course to be built on this protected site would be devastating,” he said.

“Allowing this development to take place would undermine decades of national and international progress on the designation and protection of protected areas and go against Scotland’s obligations to global agreements, including the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.”

All of these issues – climate change, air pollution, fish farming, raptor persecution, Coul Links along with many others – are bound to keep resonating in 2018. The impassioned arguments over how best to protect our blue planet will keep raging.