Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a well-established conservation strategy, employed around the world to protect important marine species and ecosystems and support the recovery of declining populations. The continental waters of North America contain remarkable biodiversity, but many species face increasing pressure from overexploitation, climate change, and other anthropogenic impacts. Canada, Mexico, and the USA have pledged to protect at least 10% of their marine and coastal waters by 2020 as signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and have made efforts to establish MPAs. These MPAs vary widely in terms of levels of protection and designation processes; information that is not reflected in official statistics. To this end, we critically examined progress toward the CBD target for marine protection in continental North American waters to determine how well ocean ecosystems are protected by MPAs. We reviewed government data to determine whether MPAs met four criteria: legal designation, permanence, presence of an administrative structure, and a completed management plan. Sites that met all four criteria were categorized as “implemented.” Any sites that failed to meet one or more criterion were considered “incompletely implemented” and excluded from the analysis. We also calculated the amount of “fully-protected” MPAs in which all extractive uses are prohibited. We found that <1% of North America's continental ocean is protected, and only 0.04% is fully-protected. Canada has the least area protected with just 0.11% in implemented MPAs, and 0.01% in fully-protected MPAs. Mexico and the USA have 1.62 and 1.29% in implemented MPAs, and 0.11 and 0.03% in fully-protected MPAs, respectively. Results show that many North American MPAs are incompletely implemented and therefore currently fail to provide adequate protection. The inclusion of such sites in official government statistics can inflate the perception of how much, and how well, the ocean is protected. We outline some of the major challenges to MPA establishment in each country and offer recommendations to increase the number and effectiveness of MPAs in North America.
The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) can often lead to environmental differences between MPAs and fishing zones. To determine the effects on marine dispersal of environmental dissimilarity between an MPA and fishing zone, we examined the abundance and recruitment patterns of two anemonefishes (Amphiprion frenatus and A. perideraion) that inhabit sea anemones in different management zones (i.e., an MPA and two fishing zones) by performing a field survey and a genetic parentage analysis. We found lower levels of abundance per anemone in the MPA compared to the fishing zones for both species (n = 1,525 anemones, p = .032). The parentage analysis also showed that lower numbers of fishes were recruited from the fishing zones and outside of the study area into each anemone in the MPA than into each anemone in the fishing zones (n = 1,525 anemones, p < .017). However, the number of self-recruit production per female did not differ between the MPA and fishing zones (n = 384 females, p = .516). Because the ocean currents around the study site were unlikely to cause a lower settlement intensity of larvae in the MPA, the ocean circulation was not considered crucial to the observed abundance and recruitment patterns. Instead, stronger top-down control and/or a lower density of host anemones in the MPA were potential factors for such patterns. Our results highlight the importance of dissimilarity in a marine environment as a factor that affects connectivity.
Large-scale marine protected areas (LSMPAs) are rapidly increasing. Due to their sheer size, complex socio-political realities, and distinct local cultural perspectives and economic needs, implementing and managing LSMPAs successfully creates a number of human dimensions challenges. It is timely and important to explore the human dimensions of LSMPAs. This paper draws on the results of a global “Think Tank on the Human Dimensions of Large Scale Marine Protected Areas” involving 125 people from 17 countries, including representatives from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, professionals, industry, cultural/indigenous leaders and LSMPA site managers. The overarching goal of this effort was to be proactive in understanding the issues and developing best management practices and a research agenda that address the human dimensions of LSMPAs. Identified best management practices for the human dimensions of LSMPAs included: integration of culture and traditions, effective public and stakeholder engagement, maintenance of livelihoods and wellbeing, promotion of economic sustainability, conflict management and resolution, transparency and matching institutions, legitimate and appropriate governance, and social justice and empowerment. A shared human dimensions research agenda was developed that included priority topics under the themes of scoping human dimensions, governance, politics, social and economic outcomes, and culture and tradition. The authors discuss future directions in researching and incorporating human dimensions into LSMPAs design and management, reflect on this global effort to co-produce knowledge and re-orient practice on the human dimensions of LSMPAs, and invite others to join a nascent community of practice on the human dimensions of large-scale marine conservation.
The European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to adopt integrated ecosystem management approaches to achieve or maintain “Good Environmental Status” for marine waters, habitats and resources, including mitigation of the negative effects of non-indigenous species (NIS). The Directive further seeks to promote broadly standardized monitoring efforts and assessment of temporal trends in marine ecosystem condition, incorporating metrics describing the distribution and impacts of NIS. Accomplishing these goals will require application of advanced tools for NIS surveillance and risk assessment, particularly given known challenges associated with surveying and monitoring with traditional methods. In the past decade, a host of methods based on nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) analysis have been developed or advanced that promise to dramatically enhance capacity in assessing and managing NIS. However, ensuring that these rapidly evolving approaches remain accessible and responsive to the needs of resource managers remains a challenge. This paper provides recommendations for future development of these genetic tools for assessment and management of NIS in marine systems, within the context of the explicit requirements of the MSFD. Issues considered include technological innovation, methodological standardization, data sharing and collaboration, and the critical importance of shared foundational resources, particularly integrated taxonomic expertise. Though the recommendations offered here are not exhaustive, they provide a basis for future intentional (and international) collaborative development of a genetic toolkit for NIS research, capable of fulfilling the immediate and long term goals of marine ecosystem and resource conservation.
The warming global climate is reducing sea-ice coverage in the central Arctic, transforming a mostly inaccessible marine region into a 'new' and relatively poorly studied ocean. History shows that exploitation of newly accessible natural resources tends to precede effective research and management measures. But in response to increasing access to the central Arctic, a precautionary approach has been taking hold, with broad political and scientific support culminating in the Oslo Declaration of 2015, which aims to prevent unregulated high seas fishing in the central Arctic. Negotiations toward a full binding agreement are continuing. Formal efforts toward assessing knowledge of the Arctic marine ecosystems and coordinating research are underway, and practitioner-based research coordination and collaboration in the region is also ongoing. Yet broad gaps in our current marine research and coordination exist, and this paper draws attention to the spatial middle, middle trophics, and the middle scale — an Arctic 'missing middle'. Scientific activity in the central Arctic Ocean region is burgeoning in recent years, and a large number of initiatives, projects, and arrangements are meeting some of the need for coordination. But full pan-Arctic scientific coordination does not yet exist. In support of ecosystem-based and precautionary management of the central Arctic Ocean, this paper considers a fully Arctic-focused organization that can both orchestrate and prioritize marine research in the Arctic in view of policy imperatives, and bring emerging scientific understanding of the region directly into the discussion and formation of new policy.
Continuously increasing demand for plant and animal products causes unsustainable depletion of biological resources. It is estimated that one-quarter of sharks and rays are threatened worldwide and although the global fin trade is widely recognized as a major driver, demand for meat, liver oil, and gill plates also represents a significant threat. This study used DNA barcoding and 16 S rRNA sequencing as a method to identify shark and ray species from dried fins and gill plates, obtained in Canada, China, and Sri Lanka. 129 fins and gill plates were analysed and searches on BOLD produced matches to 20 species of sharks and five species of rays or - in two cases - to a species pair. Twelve of the species found are listed or have been approved for listing in 2017 in the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), including the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which was surprisingly found among both shark fin and gill plate samples. More than half of identified species fall under the IUCN Red List categories 'Endangered' and 'Vulnerable', raising further concerns about the impacts of this trade on the sustainability of these low productivity species.
Building on the inputs by a range of experts who participated in the February 2017 international symposium on “Designing the Future for Fisheries Certification Schemes” at the University of Tokyo, this manuscript traces the origins of fisheries certification schemes, relevant developments, and remaining challenges from an Asian perspective. Over the past 20 years, seafood certification has emerged as a powerful tool for meeting growing demands for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture products. Despite broad consensus among countries regarding what constitute responsible fishing practices, the fisheries certification landscape remains uneven. A plethora of certification schemes has generated confusion among consumers and retailers, and capital-intensive certification schemes may be out-of-reach or impractical for some small-scale fisheries, particularly within the developing world. A recent initiative by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) is aiming to address the diversity within the certification landscape by creating a tool to benchmark certification schemes that are in line with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other relevant agreed FAO guidelines on fisheries, ecolabelling and aquaculture. Countries in Asia are among the world's top consumers and exporters of seafood, yet have faced some particular challenges with regard to seafood certification, underscoring the need for certification schemes that account for regional and local conditions and management practices, particularly with regard to small-scale fisheries.
This article explores how conceptualizing fish as food, rather than primarily as a resource or commodity supports a shift towards more systems-based approaches to engaging with fisheries (i.e. considering the relationships between ecosystems, people, management and policy). A “fish as food” lens is operationalized by drawing on the theory and practice of food sovereignty. While fishing people and communities have always been a core part of the food sovereignty movement, there have been limited efforts in the academic literature to explore these connections directly. Drawing on examples primarily from a Canadian context, it is argued that a deeper engagement between fisheries and food sovereignty is long overdue, particularly as a growing body of research on small-scale fisheries seeks to address social-ecological relationships and issues of power that are also at the core of a food sovereignty approach. This article identifies the opportunities and limitations of engaging with food sovereignty in the context of small-scale fisheries and suggests a series of key questions for future fish as food research and policy.
Coral reef restoration initiatives are burgeoning in response to the need for novel management strategies to address dramatic global declines in coral cover. However, coral restoration programs typically lack rigor and critical evaluation of their effectiveness. A review of 83 peer-reviewed papers that used coral transplantation for reef restoration reveals that growth and survival of coral fragments were the most widely used indicators of restoration success, with 88% of studies using these two indicators either solely (55%) or in combination with a limited number of other ecological factors (33%). In 53% of studies, reef condition was monitored for 1 year or less, while only 5% of reefs were monitored for more than 5 years post-transplantation. These results highlight that coral reef restoration science has focused primarily on short-term experiments to evaluate the feasibility of techniques for ecological restoration and the initial establishment phase post-transplantation, rather than on longer-term outcomes for coral reef communities. Here, we outline 10 socioecological indicators that comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of coral reef restoration across the four pillars of sustainability (i.e. environmental, sociocultural, governance, and economic contributions to sustainable communities). We recommend that evaluations of the effectiveness of coral restoration programs integrate ecological indicators with sociocultural, economic, and governance considerations. Assessing the efficacy of coral restoration as a tool to support reef resilience will help to guide future efforts and ensure the sustainable maintenance of reef ecosystem goods and services.
Forecasting assemblage-level responses to climate change remains one of the greatest challenges in global ecology [1, 2]. Data from the marine realm are limited because they largely come from experiments using limited numbers of species , mesocosms whose interior conditions are unnatural , and long-term correlation studies based on historical collections . We describe the first ever experiment to warm benthic assemblages to ecologically relevant levels in situ. Heated settlement panels were used to create three test conditions: ambient and 1°C and 2°C above ambient (predicted in the next 50 and 100 years, respectively ). We observed massive impacts on a marine assemblage, with near doubling of growth rates of Antarctic seabed life. Growth increases far exceed those expected from biological temperature relationships established more than 100 years ago by Arrhenius. These increases in growth resulted in a single “r-strategist” pioneer species (the bryozoan Fenestrulina rugula) dominating seabed spatial cover and drove a reduction in overall diversity and evenness. In contrast, a 2°C rise produced divergent responses across species growth, resulting in higher variability in the assemblage. These data extend our ability to expand, integrate, and apply our knowledge of the impact of temperature on biological processes to predict organism, species, and ecosystem level ecological responses to regional warming.