Remote Operated Vehicles are routinely used to undertake inspection and maintenance activities of underwater pipelines in north-west Australia. In doing so, many terabytes of geo-referenced underwater video are collected at depths, and on a scale usually unobtainable for ecological research. We assessed fish diversity and abundance from existing ROV videos collected along 2–3 km sections of two pipelines in north-west Australia, one at 60–80 m water depth and the other at 120–130 m. A total of 5962 individual fish from 92 species and 42 families were observed. Both pipelines were characterised by a high abundance of commercially important fishes including: snappers (Lutjanidae) and groupers (Epinephelidae). The presence of thousands of unidentifiable larval fish, in addition to juveniles, sub-adults and adults suggests that the pipelines may be enhancing, rather than simply attracting, fish stocks. The prevalence and high complexity of sponges on the shallower pipeline and of deepwater corals on the deeper pipeline had a strong positive correlation with the fish abundance. These habitats likely offer a significant food source and refuge for fish, but also for invertebrates upon which fish feed. A greater diversity on the shallower pipeline, and a higher abundance of fishes on both pipelines, were associated with unsupported pipeline sections (spans) and many species appeared to be utilising pipeline spans as refuges. This study is a first look at the potential value of subsea pipelines for fishes on the north-west shelf. While the results suggest that these sections of pipeline appear to offer significant habitat that supports diverse and important commercially fished species, further work, including off-pipeline surveys on the natural seafloor, are required to determine conclusively the ecological value of pipelines and thereby inform discussions regarding the ecological implications of pipeline decommissioning.
Juvenile oceanic-stage sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to the increasing quantity of plastic coming into the oceans. In this study, we analysed the gastrointestinal tracts of 24 juvenile oceanic-stage loggerheads (Caretta caretta) collected off the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, in the Azores region, a key feeding ground for juvenile loggerheads. Twenty individuals were found to have ingested marine debris (83%), composed exclusively of plastic items (primarily polyethylene and polypropylene) identified by μ-Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Large microplastics (1–5 mm) represented 25% of the total number of debris and were found in 58% of the individuals sampled. Average number of items was 15.83 ± 6.09 (± SE) per individual, corresponding to a mean dry mass of 1.07 ± 0.41 g. The results of this study demonstrate that plastic pollution acts as another stressor for this critical life stage of loggerhead turtles in the North Atlantic.
The United States Microbead-Free Waters Act was signed into law in December 2015. It is a bipartisan agreement that will eliminate one preventable source of microplastic pollution in the United States. Still, the bill is criticized for being too limited in scope, and also for discouraging the development of biodegradable alternatives that ultimately are needed to solve the bigger issue of plastics in the environment. Due to a lack of an acknowledged, appropriate standard for environmentally safe microplastics, the bill banned all plastic microbeads in selected cosmetic products. Here, we review the history of the legislation and how it relates to the issue of microplastic pollution in general, and we suggest a framework for a standard (which we call “Ecocyclable”) that includes relative requirements related to toxicity, bioaccumulation, and degradation/assimilation into the natural carbon cycle. We suggest that such a standard will facilitate future regulation and legislation to reduce pollution while also encouraging innovation of sustainable technologies.
Unintentional mortality of higher trophic-level species in commercial fisheries (bycatch) represents a major conservation concern as it may influence the long-term persistence of populations. An increasingly common strategy to mitigate bycatch of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), a small and protected marine top predator, involves the use of pingers (acoustic alarms that emit underwater noise) and time-area fishing closures. Although these mitigation measures can reduce harbor porpoise bycatch in gillnet fisheries considerably, inference about the long-term population-level consequences is currently lacking. We developed a spatially explicit individual-based simulation model (IBM) with the aim to evaluate the effectiveness of these two bycatch mitigation measures. We quantified both the direct positive effects (i.e., reduced bycatch) and any indirect negative effects (i.e., reduced foraging efficiency) on the population size using the inner Danish waters as a biological system. The model incorporated empirical data on gillnet fishing effort and noise avoidance behavior by free-ranging harbor porpoises exposed to randomized high-frequency (20- to 160-kHz) pinger signals. The IBM simulations revealed a synergistic relationship between the implementation of time-area fishing closures and pinger deployment. Time-area fishing closures reduced bycatch rates substantially but not completely. In contrast, widespread pinger deployment resulted in total mitigation of bycatch but frequent and recurrent noise avoidance behavior in high-quality foraging habitat negatively affected individual survival and the total population size. When both bycatch mitigation measures were implemented simultaneously, the negative impact of pinger noise-induced sub-lethal behavioral effects on the population was largely eliminated with a positive effect on the population size that was larger than when the mitigation measures were used independently. Our study highlights that conservationists and policy makers need to consider and balance both the direct and indirect effects of harbor porpoise bycatch mitigation measures before enforcing their widespread implementation. Individual-based simulation models, such as the one presented here, offer an efficient and dynamic framework to evaluate the impact of human activities on the long-term survival of marine populations and can serve as a basis to design adaptive management strategies that satisfy both ecological and socioeconomic demands on marine ecosystems.
The ecosystems of the Israeli Mediterranean coast have undergone significant changes in recent decades mainly due to species invasions and fishing. In order to characterize the structure and functioning of the marine continental shelf of the Israeli Mediterranean coast and assess temporal changes, we developed a food web model representing two time periods: 1990–1994 and 2008–2012.
The 1990–1994 and 2008–2012 food web models were composed of 39 and 41 functional groups, respectively. Functional groups ranged from primary producers to top predators, and included six and eight alien functional groups, respectively, encompassing several crustacean and fish species. Input data included local surveys and fishery statistics, published data on stomach content analyses, and the application of empirical equations to estimate consumption and production rates.
Results of the competitive interactions between alien and native species and changes in trophic flows between food web components highlight the increasing impact of alien species over time. Fishing had noticeable impacts in both time periods and played an important role in the ecosystem. Despite different productivity rates and other environmental differences, the Israeli marine ecosystem shared common structural and functional traits with other Mediterranean marine ecosystems. This is the first attempt to study the ecosystem of the Levant region using mass-balance models and to integrate such a large amount of alien species into food web analyses.
The growing literature on individual transferable quotas (ITQs) and on intensive salmon aquaculture and its negative impacts on the environment and other users of related marine space has been little connected to the developing literature on financialization and to the literature on ocean grabbing within fisheries. This paper seeks to address this gap through a case study of the recent history of herring fisheries and intensive aquaculture in New Brunswick, Canada, exploring how specific neoliberal processes – including privatization and marketization (in herring fleet ITQs and aquaculture lease systems), (re)regulation, financialization and globalization – have interacted to support the reshaping of regional fisheries from mixed small-scale, family-based, petty commodity fisheries towards vertically-integrated, corporate, financialized fisheries characterized by ocean grabbing.
This study analyzes the “quantity” and “speed” decoupling relationship between marine pollution and economic growth in China from 2002 to 2013. The results show that, when the red-tide disaster areas by coastal region is used as marine pollution indicator, an inverted N-shaped relationship is observed between pollution and growth. However, this curve fluctuates slightly, and its shape is more similar to monotonic decreasing. There are three states of “speed” decoupling between each marine pollution and economic growth indicator. The decoupling state between pollution and the economy changes rapidly, the deterioration of marine pollution being rather frequent. In some years, the pressure on the marine environment aggravated dramatically. Having combined both analyses, the study determines that marine economic growth and pollution in China have not been entirely decoupled in recent years, and that environmental pressure on marine economic growth remains obvious.
Plastics, despite their great benefits, have become a ubiquitous environmental pollutant, with microplastic particles having come into focus most recently. Microplastic effects have been intensely studied in aquatic, especially marine systems; however, there is lack of studies focusing on effects on soil and its biota. A basic question is if and how surface-deposited microplastic particles are transported into the soil. We here wished to test if soil microarthropods, using Collembola, can transport these particles over distances of centimeters within days in a highly controlled experimental set-up. We conducted a fully factorial experiment with two collembolan species of differing body size, Folsomia candida and Proisotoma minuta, in combination with urea-formaldehyde particles of two different particle sizes. We observed significant differences between the species concerning the distance the particles were transported. F. candida was able to transport larger particles further and faster than P. minuta. Using video, we observed F. candida interacting with urea-formaldehyde particles and polyethylene terephthalate fibers, showing translocation of both material types. Our data clearly show that microplastic particles can be moved and distributed by soil microarthropods. Although we did not observe feeding, it is possible that microarthropods contribute to the accumulation of microplastics in the soil food web.
Livelihood diversification can increase the number of activities generating income and is often adopted as a means to reduce vulnerability to risk and provide a pathway out of poverty. Previous empirical studies, however, have found that this diversification carries no guarantee of success. This study examines the impacts of investments in conservation-based enterprises and micro-credit interventions implemented in coastal Tanzania. Project beneficiaries (n = 178) and non-beneficiaries (n = 117) from seventeen communities surrounding Saadani National Park and the Menai Bay Conservation area were surveyed in 2013, to gather quantitative and qualitative data on a suite of parameters including the number of livelihood activities, total annual income, and engagement in extractive activities. We found that the beneficiaries reported an average of 2.15 livelihoods, which was significantly higher than the 1.44 average reported by the non-beneficiaries. The beneficiaries also had significantly higher mean annual incomes than the non-beneficiaries as the former reported an annual mean income of US $2,076 while the latter reported US $646. The research found a complex relationship between occupational diversity and people's interactions with the environment and it is clear that livelihood diversification is not a blanket solution to reducing pressure on coastal resources. Another important finding from the research is that there are distinct differences between types of livelihood interventions and it is crucial to be clear about the goal of a livelihoods intervention. If the goal is diversifying livelihoods and strengthening resilience, then livelihoods that provide a small and steady income for many entrepreneurs may be enough. However, if the goal is to bring people out of a poverty trap, then it makes more sense to invest in livelihoods that bring in a higher income, even if that means reaching fewer beneficiaries.
At all levels of governance from international convention to local policy, the regulation of pollution from boats and ships has been steeped in conflict and subject to resistance. Recreational boaters, in particular, are often highly resistant to attempts to regulate their boating activity, particularly on environmental grounds. Such ongoing resistance poses a significant policy compliance challenge. This paper seeks to shed light on this complex, ongoing and broader field of opposition to environmental management by way of a case study analysis of resistance to on-board sewage regulations on the part of recreational boaters in Queensland, Australia. This resistance on the part of ‘everyday’ citizens is examined through the lens of heterotopia. In consequence, the paper can contribute to understandings more broadly of problems beleaguering environmental policy while also attending to the deeply implicated social roles of recreational boating spaces; namely as heterotopias of compensation and/or illusion. It also highlights how these heterotopic positionings are intensified by the scatological orientation of the policy under study.