Herbivorous fishes play a critical role in maintaining or disrupting the ecological resilience of many kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass ecosystems, worldwide. The increasing rate and scale of benthic habitat loss under global change has magnified the importance of herbivores and highlights the need to study marine herbivory at ecologically relevant scales. Currently, underwater herbivore exclusions (or inclusions) have been restricted to small scale experimental plots, in large part due to the challenges of designing structures that can withstand the physical forces of waves and currents, without drastically altering the physical environment inside the exclusion area. We tested the ability of bubble curtains to deter herbivorous fishes from feeding on seaweeds as an alternative to the use of rigid exclusion cages. Kelps (Ecklonia radiata) were transplanted onto reefs with high browsing herbivore pressure into either unprotected plots, exclusion cages or plots protected by bubble curtains of 0.785 m2 and 3.14 m2. Remote underwater video was used to compare the behavioral response of fishes to kelps protected and unprotected by bubble curtains. Kelp biomass loss was significantly lower inside the bubble curtains compared to unprotected kelps and did not differ from kelp loss rates in traditional exclusion cages. Consistent with this finding, no herbivorous fishes were observed entering into the bubble curtain at any point during the experiment. In contrast, fish bite rates on unprotected kelps were 1,621 ± 702 bites h−1 (mean ± SE). Our study provides initial evidence that bubble curtains can exclude herbivorous fishes, paving the way for future studies to examine their application at larger spatial and temporal scales, beyond what has been previously feasible using traditional exclusion cages.
This report summarises the knowledge on plastics in Nordic marine species. Nordic biota interacts with plastic pollution, through entanglement and ingestion. Ingestion has been found in many seabirds and also in stranded mammals. Ingestion of plastics has been documented in 14 fish species, which many of them are of ecology and commercially importance. Microplastics have also been found in blue mussels and preliminary studies found synthetic fibres in marine worms. Comparability between and within studies of plastic ingestion by biota from the Nordic environment and other regions are difficult as there are: few studies and different methods are used. It is important that research is directed towards the knowledge gaps highlighted in this report, to get a better understanding on plastic ingestion and impact on biota from the Nordic marine environment.
The role of public aquariums in promoting conservation has changed substantially over the decades, evolving from entertainment attractions to educational and research centres. In many facilities, larger sharks are an essential part of the collection and represent one of the biggest draws for the public. Displaying healthy elasmobranchs comes with many challenges, but improvements in husbandry techniques have enabled aquariums to have success with a variety of species. The establishment of organisations such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the completion of texts like the Elasmobranch Husbandry Manual, has helped set high standards of care for sharks in captivity and promoted international conservation efforts. Aquariums keeping sharks are in a unique position to influence local, regional, and international attitudes and policies by acting as both educational and research facilities. Interactions with multiple stakeholders of diverse educational and demographic backgrounds through the use of in-house advocacy, public outreach, media interviews, and partnerships with academic and government institutions enable these facilities to engage and share information with a broad audience. Although the data collected on sharks in captivity often cannot be directly translated to animals in the wild, it offers better insight into a number of life history traits and poorly understood behaviours, and has been the foundation for many captive breeding programs. Several Northeast Pacific (NEP) shark species are commonly displayed for long durations or bred in aquariums, while other less studied species have been held for short periods to collect valuable data that can be applied towards ongoing studies and conservation measures. Here, we discuss past and current tangible benefits of holding NEP sharks in captivity, as well as noting several ways in which future research and education activities will continue to inform and shape public opinions on shark management and conservation.
This work carries out a landscape analysis for the last 60 years to compare the degree of preservation of two areas on the same Italian coastline characterized by different environmental protection levels: a National designated protected areas and a highly tourist coastal destination. The conversion of natural land-covers into human land uses were detected for protected and unprotected coastal stretches highlighting that the only establishment of a protected area is not enough to stem undesirable land-use outcomes. A survey analysis was also conducted to assess attitudes of beach users and to evaluate their perception of natural habitats, beach and coastal water quality, and coastal dynamic over time. The results of 2071 questionnaires showed that there is similarity between subjective and objective data. However, several beach users perceived a bad quality of coastal water in the legally unprotected coastal area. The implications from a planning and management perspective are discussed.
A detailed understanding of spatial genetic structure (SGS) and the factors driving contemporary patterns of gene flow and genetic diversity are fundamental for developing conservation and management plans for marine fisheries. We performed a detailed study of SGS and genetic diversity throughout the overharvested queen conch (Lobatus gigas) fishery. Caribbean countries were presented as major populations to examine transboundary patterns of population differentiation.
Nineteen locations in the greater Caribbean from Anguilla, the Bahamas, Belize, Caribbean Netherlands, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Turks and Caicos, and the USA.
We genotyped 643 individuals with nine microsatellites. Population genetic and multivariate analyses characterized SGS. We tested the alternate hypotheses: (1) SGS is randomly distributed in space or (2) pairwise genetic structure among sites is correlated with oceanic distance (IBOD).
Our study found that L. gigas does not form a single panmictic population in the greater Caribbean. Significant levels of genetic differentiation were identified between Caribbean countries (FCT = 0.011; p = .0001), within Caribbean countries (FSC = 0.003; p = .001), and among sites irrespective of geographic location (FST = 0.013; p = .0001). Gene flow across the greater Caribbean was constrained by oceanic distance (p = .0009; Mantel r = .40), which acted to isolate local populations.
Gene flow over the spatial scale of the entire Caribbean basin is constrained by oceanic distance, which may impede the natural recovery of overfished L. gigas populations. Our results suggest a careful blend of local and international management will be required to ensure long-term sustainability for the species.
Individuals relying on natural resource extraction for their livelihood face high income variability driven by a mix of environmental, biological, management, and economic factors. Key to managing these industries is identifying how regulatory actions and individual behavior affect income variability, financial risk, and, by extension, the economic stability and the sustainable use of natural resources. In commercial fisheries, communities and vessels fishing a greater diversity of species have less revenue variability than those fishing fewer species. However, it is unclear whether these benefits extend to the actions of individual fishers and how year-to-year changes in diversification affect revenue and revenue variability. Here, we evaluate two axes by which fishers in Alaska can diversify fishing activities. We show that, despite increasing specialization over the last 30 years, fishing a set of permits with higher species diversity reduces individual revenue variability, and fishing an additional permit is associated with higher revenue and lower variability. However, increasing species diversity within the constraints of existing permits has a fishery-dependent effect on revenue and is usually (87% probability) associated with increased revenue uncertainty the following year. Our results demonstrate that the most effective option for individuals to decrease revenue variability is to participate in additional or more diverse fisheries. However, this option is expensive, often limited by regulations such as catch share programs, and consequently unavailable to many individuals. With increasing climatic variability, it will be particularly important that individuals relying on natural resources for their livelihood have effective strategies to reduce financial risk.
Climate change is reshaping the way in which contaminants move through the global environment, in large part by changing the chemistry of the oceans and affecting the physiology, health, and feeding ecology of marine biota. Climate change-associated impacts on structure and function of marine food webs, with consequent changes in contaminant transport, fate, and effects, are likely to have significant repercussions to those human populations that rely on fisheries resources for food, recreation, or culture. Published studies on climate change–contaminant interactions with a focus on food web bioaccumulation were systematically reviewed to explore how climate change and ocean acidification may impact contaminant levels in marine food webs. We propose here a conceptual framework to illustrate the impacts of climate change on contaminant accumulation in marine food webs, as well as the downstream consequences for ecosystem goods and services. The potential impacts on social and economic security for coastal communities that depend on fisheries for food are discussed. Climate change–contaminant interactions may alter the bioaccumulation of two priority contaminant classes: the fat-soluble persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as well as the protein-binding methylmercury (MeHg). These interactions include phenomena deemed to be either climate change dominant (i.e., climate change leads to an increase in contaminant exposure) or contaminant dominant (i.e., contamination leads to an increase in climate change susceptibility). We illustrate the pathways of climate change–contaminant interactions using case studies in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean. The important role of ecological and food web modeling to inform decision-making in managing ecological and human health risks of chemical pollutants contamination under climate change is also highlighted. Finally, we identify the need to develop integrated policies that manage the ecological and socioeconomic risk of greenhouse gases and marine pollutants.
Bird scaring lines (BSLs) protect longline fishing gear from seabird attacks, save bait, reduce incidental seabird mortality and are the most commonly prescribed seabird bycatch mitigation measure worldwide. We collaborated with fishermen to assess the efficacy of applying BSL regulations from the demersal longline sablefish fishery in Alaska to a similar fishery along the U.S West Coast. In contrast to Alaska, some U.S. West Coast vessels use floats along the line to keep hooks off the seafloor, where scavengers degrade the bait and the target catch. Our results confirmed that BSL regulations from Alaska were sufficient to protect baits from bird attacks on longlines without floats, but not baits on longlines with floats. Longlines with floats sank below the reach of albatrosses (2 m depth) at a distance astern (157.7 m ± 44.8 95% CI) that was 2.3 times farther than longlines without floats (68.8 m ± 37.8 95% CI). The floated longline distance was well beyond the protection afforded by BSLs, which is approximately 40 m of aerial extent. Black-footed albatross attacked floated longlines at rates ten times more (2.7 attacks/1000 hooks, 0.48–4.45 95%CI) than longlines without floats (0.20 attacks/1000 hooks, 0.01–0.36 95% CI). Retrospective analysis of NOAA Fisheries Groundfish Observer Program data suggested that seabird bycatch occurs in a few sablefish longline fishing sectors and a minority of vessels, but is not confined to larger vessels. Analysis also confirmed fishermen testimonials that night setting reduced albatross bycatch by an order of magnitude compared to daytime setting, without reducing target catch. Night setting could be an effective albatross bycatch prevention practice if applied to the U.S. West Coast sablefish longline fishery and provide a practical alternative for vessels that elect to use floated longlines. These results highlight the importance of understanding region-specific longline gear modifications to identify effective bycatch reduction tools and the value of working collaboratively with fishermen to craft solutions.
The Southern Resident killer whale population (Orcinus orca) was listed as endangered in 2005 and shows little sign of recovery. These fish eating whales feed primarily on endangered Chinook salmon. Population growth is constrained by low offspring production for the number of reproductive females in the population. Lack of prey, increased toxins and vessel disturbance have been listed as potential causes of the whale’s decline, but partitioning these pressures has been difficult. We validated and applied temporal measures of progesterone and testosterone metabolites to assess occurrence, stage and health of pregnancy from genotyped killer whale feces collected using detection dogs. Thyroid and glucocorticoid hormone metabolites were measured from these same samples to assess physiological stress. These methods enabled us to assess pregnancy occurrence and failure as well as how pregnancy success was temporally impacted by nutritional and other stressors, between 2008 and 2014. Up to 69% of all detectable pregnancies were unsuccessful; of these, up to 33% failed relatively late in gestation or immediately post-partum, when the cost is especially high. Low availability of Chinook salmon appears to be an important stressor among these fish-eating whales as well as a significant cause of late pregnancy failure, including unobserved perinatal loss. However, release of lipophilic toxicants during fat metabolism in the nutritionally deprived animals may also provide a contributor to these cumulative effects. Results point to the importance of promoting Chinook salmon recovery to enhance population growth of Southern Resident killer whales. The physiological measures used in this study can also be used to monitor the success of actions aimed at promoting adaptive management of this important apex predator to the Pacific Northwest.
Mass changes of ice sheets, glaciers and ice caps, land water hydrology, atmosphere, and ocean cause a nonuniform sea level rise due to the self-attraction and loading effects called sea level fingerprints (SLF). SLF have been previously derived from a combination of modeled and observed mass fluxes from the continents into the ocean. Here we derive improved SLF from time series of time variable gravity data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission for April 2002 to October 2014. We evaluate the GRACE-derived SLF using ocean bottom pressure (OBP) data from stations in the tropics, where OBP errors are the lowest. We detect the annual phase of the SLF in the OBP signal and separate it unambiguously from the barystatic sea level (BSL) at two stations. At the basin scale, the SLF explain a larger fraction of the variance in steric-corrected altimetry than the BSL, which has implications for evaluating mass transport between ocean basins.