Cephalopods' visually driven, dynamic, and diverse skin display makes them a key animal model in sensory ethology and camouflage research. Development of novel methods is critically important in order to monitor and objectively quantify cephalopod behavior. In this work, the development of Cephalopod Experimental Projected Habitat (CEPH) is described. This newly developed experimental design bridges computational and ethological sciences, providing a visually controlled arena which requires limited physical space and minimal previous technical background. Created from relatively inexpensive and readily available materials, the experimental apparatus utilizes reflected light which closely resembles natural settings. Preliminary results suggest the experimental design reproducibly challenges marine organisms with visually dynamic surroundings, including videos of prey and predator. This new approach should offer new avenues for marine organism sensory research and may serve researchers from various fields.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch (CRW) operates a global 4-Month Coral Bleaching Outlook system for shallow-water coral reefs in collaboration with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The Outlooks are generated by applying the algorithm used in CRW's operational satellite coral bleaching heat stress monitoring, with slight modifications, to the sea surface temperature (SST) predictions from NCEP's operational Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2). Once a week, the probability of heat stress capable of causing mass coral bleaching is predicted for 4-months in advance. Each day, CFSv2 generates an ensemble of 16 forecasts, with nine runs out to 45-days, three runs out to 3-months, and four runs out to 9-months. This results in 28–112 ensemble members produced each week. A composite for each predicted week is derived from daily predictions within each ensemble member. The probability of each of four heat stress ranges (Watch and higher, Warning and higher, Alert Level 1 and higher, and Alert Level 2) is determined from all the available ensemble members for the week to form the weekly probabilistic Outlook. The probabilistic 4-Month Outlook is the highest weekly probability predicted among all the weekly Outlooks during a 4-month period for each of the stress ranges. An initial qualitative skill analysis of the Outlooks for 2011–2015, compared with CRW's satellite-based coral bleaching heat stress products, indicated the Outlook has performed well with high hit rates and low miss rates for most coral reef areas. Regions identified with high false alarm rates will guide future improvements. This Outlook system, as the first and only freely available global coral bleaching prediction system, has been providing critical early warning to marine resource managers, scientists, and decision makers around the world to guide management, protection, and monitoring of coral reefs since 2012. This has been especially valuable during the third global coral bleaching event that started in mid-2014 and extended into mid-2017. The Outlook system is an integrated component of CRW's global decision support system for coral bleaching. Recent management actions taken in light of this system are discussed.
By-catch is considered a significant problem in large-scale fisheries yet in small-scale fisheries (SSF), employing >99% of the world's fishers, there is limited quantitative understanding of by-catch, and catches in general. We provide an assessment of by-catch from fishing gears (fyke, trawl, set trammel, and drift trammel nets) commonly used in small-scale fisheries across the globe, using a representative Sri Lankan case study and placing this in the context of local resource use patterns. We reveal evidence of how SSF generate significant finfish by-catch with potentially significant ecological impacts. Fishers targeting shrimp (fyke, trawl, and drift trammel nets) caught more non-target species than global averages (44, 44, and 67% by weight, respectively). Fishers targeting finfish (set trammel nets) caught fewer non-target species. We found that by-catch depends more on target species and gear type, supporting suggestions that SSF are not “inherently more sustainable” than their large-scale counterparts and a collective effort is required for an improved understanding of the impacts of SSF. This study highlights an additional issue of valuable food fish discards, raising questions about fisheries exploitation in the context of food security in areas where poverty and food insecurity are prevalent.
A loss of memory of past environmental degradation has resulted in shifted baselines, which may result in conservation and restoration goals that are less ambitious than if stakeholders had a full knowledge of ecosystem potential. However, the link between perception of baseline states and support for conservation planning has not been tested empirically. Here, we investigate how perceptions of change in coral reef ecosystems affect stakeholders' willingness to pay (WTP) for the establishment of protected areas. Coral reefs are experiencing rapid, global change that is observable by the public, and therefore provide an ideal ecosystem to test links between beliefs about baseline states and willingness to support conservation. Our survey respondents perceived change to coral reef communities across six variables: coral abundance, fish abundance, fish diversity, fish size, sedimentation, and water pollution. Respondants who accurately perceived declines in reef health had significantly higher WTP for protected areas (US $256.80 vs. $102.50 per year), suggesting that shifted baselines may reduce engagement with conservation efforts. If WTP translates to engagement, this suggests that goals for restoration and recovery are likely to be more ambitious if the public is aware of long term change. Therefore, communicating the scope and depth of environmental problems is essential in engaging the public in conservation.
Amidst overexploited fisheries and further climate related declines projected in tropical fisheries, marine dependent small-scale fishers in Southeast Asia face an uncertain future. Yet, small-scale fishers are seldom explicitly considered in regional fisheries management and their contribution to national fish supply tends to be greatly under-estimated compared to industrial fisheries. Lack of knowledge about the small-scale sector jeopardizes informed decision-making for sustainable ecosystem based fisheries planning and social development. We fill this knowledge gap by applying reconstructed marine fish catch statistics from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam—countries of the Gulf of Thailand—from 1950 to 2013 to assess the relative contribution of small-scale and industrial fisheries to national food security. Reconstructed catches quantify reported and unreported fish catch from industrial, small-scale, and recreational fishing. We then conduct a comparative analysis of the degree to which the industrial and small-scale sectors support food security, by converting total catch to the portion that is kept for human consumption and that which is diverted to fishmeal for animal feed or other purposes. Total reconstructed marine fish catch from the four Southeast Asian countries totalled 282 million t from 1950 to 2013, with small-scale sector catches being underestimated by an average of around two times. When the amount of fish that is diverted to fishmeal is omitted, small-scale fishers contribute more food fish for humans than do industrial fisheries for much of the period until 2000. These results encourage regional fisheries management to be cognisant of small-scale fisheries as a pillar of socio-economic well-being for coastal communities.
Death or injury to whales from vessel strike is one of the primary threats to whale populations worldwide. However, quantifying the rate of occurrence of these collisions is difficult because many incidents are not detected (particularly from large vessels) and therefore go unreported. Furthermore, varying reporting biases occur related to species identification, spatial coverage of reports and type of vessels involved. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has compiled a database of the worldwide occurrence of vessel strikes to cetaceans, within which Australia constitutes ~7% (35 reports) of the reported worldwide (~471 reports) vessel strike records involving large whales. Worldwide records consist largely of modern reports within the last two decades and historical evaluation of ship strike reports has mainly focused on the Northern Hemisphere. To address this we conducted a search of historical national and international print media archive databases to discover reports of vessel strikes globally, although with a focus on Australian waters. A significant number of previously unrecorded reports of vessel strikes were found for both Australia (76) and worldwide (140), resulting in a revised estimate of ~15% of global vessel strikes occurring in Australian waters. This detailed collation and analysis of vessel strike data in an Australian context has contributed to our knowledge of the worldwide occurrence of vessel strikes and challenges the notion that vessel strikes were historically rare in Australia relative to the rest of the world. The work highlights the need to examine historical records to provide context around current anthropogenic threats to marine fauna and demonstrates the importance of formalized reporting structures for effective collation of vessel strike reports. This paper examines the issues and biases in analysis of vessel strike data in general that would apply to any jurisdiction. Using the Australian data as an example we look at what information can be inferred from historical data and the dangers of inference without consideration of the reporting biases.
Deep-sea mining is likely to result in biodiversity loss, and the significance of this to ecosystem function is not known. “Out of kind” biodiversity offsets substituting one ecosystem type (e.g., coral reefs) for another (e.g., abyssal nodule fields) have been proposed to compensate for such loss. Here we consider a goal of no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity and explore the challenges of applying this aim to deep seabed mining, based on the associated mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, remediate). We conclude that the industry cannot at present deliver an outcome of NNL. This results from the vulnerable nature of deep-sea environments to mining impacts, currently limited technological capacity to minimize harm, significant gaps in ecological knowledge, and uncertainties of recovery potential of deep-sea ecosystems. Avoidance and minimization of impacts are therefore the only presently viable means of reducing biodiversity losses from seabed mining. Because of these constraints, when and if deep-sea mining proceeds, it must be approached in a precautionary and step-wise manner to integrate new and developing knowledge. Each step should be subject to explicit environmental management goals, monitoring protocols, and binding standards to avoid serious environmental harm and minimize loss of biodiversity. “Out of kind” measures, an option for compensation currently proposed, cannot replicate biodiversity and ecosystem services lost through mining of the deep seabed and thus cannot be considered true offsets. The ecosystem functions provided by deep-sea biodiversity contribute to a wide range of provisioning services (e.g., the exploitation of fish, energy, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics), play an essential role in regulatory services (e.g., carbon sequestration) and are important culturally. The level of “acceptable” biodiversity loss in the deep sea requires public, transparent, and well-informed consideration, as well as wide agreement. If accepted, further agreement on how to assess residual losses remaining after the robust implementation of the mitigation hierarchy is also imperative. To ameliorate some of the inter-generational inequity caused by mining-associated biodiversity losses, and only after all NNL measures have been used to the fullest extent, potential compensatory actions would need to be focused on measures to improve the knowledge and protection of the deep sea and to demonstrate benefits that will endure for future generations.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being recognized as potentially useful for detection of marine mammals in their natural habitats, but an important consideration is the associated uncertainties in animal detection. We present a study based on field trials using UAVs to carry out image-based monitoring of cetaceans in two fjords in northern Norway. We conducted 12 missions to assess the effects of both environmental- and aircraft-related variables on detection certainty. Images were inspected for animal presence and its associated detection certainty. Images were also assessed for potentially important covariates such as wave turbulence (sea state), luminance, and glare. Aircraft variables such as altitude, pitch, and roll were combined into a single variable—pixel size. We recorded a total of 50 humpback whales, 63 killer whales (KW), and 118 unidentified sightings. We also recorded 57 harbor porpoise sightings. None of the environmental conditions (sea state, glare, and luminance) affected the detection certainty of harbor porpoises. In contrast, increasing sea state and luminance had negative and positive effects, respectively, on the detection certainty of humpback and KW. The detection certainty was not significantly affected by pixel size for both harbor porpoises, and humpback and KW. Our results indicate that at lower altitudes, variations in aircraft position (pitch and roll) do not have a variable effect on detection certainty. Overall, this study shows the importance of measuring variability in both environmental and flight-related variables, in order to attain unbiased estimates of detectability for UAV-based marine mammal surveys, particularly in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
How important are coral reefs for food security and to what extent does coral reef conservation contribute to the food security of the coastal communities in the Coral Triangle? Based on the national fish production and consumption data from the Philippines and some data from Indonesia, Clifton and Foale (2017)  argued that the pelagic fisheries are far more important than coral reef fisheries for the food security of the Philippines and Indonesia. While it is true that, in totality, populations in both the Philippines and Indonesia rely heavily on pelagic fisheries for animal protein, this commentary demonstrates that coral reef fisheries contribute substantially to the food and livelihood security of coastal communities, which make up the poorest and most food insecure sector of the economy. There is also significant growth potential in nearshore fisheries that can be captured by working to recover currently degraded coral reef ecosystems. Nonetheless, research and institutional reforms in all sources of fish protein (pelagic, demersal, and aquaculture) are urgently needed to improve not only food security but also the lives and livelihoods of coastal fishing households in the Coral Triangle.
Conservation of marine fauna is a great concern in the present days for a number of reasons. Implementation of marine protected area is considered to be a common practice for the conservation of marine fauna at a specific area. However, in many cases, the present management system of the marine protected areas fails to protect marine fauna. This paper proposes a marine protected area surveillance system that uses airborne image sensing and digital image processing to monitor the marine protected area against illegal vessels efficiently. The system architecture, including the system structure, execution planning, and algorithm, has been described for the proposed surveillance system. It is apparent from this study that the currently proposed marine protected area surveillance system is better than the previously proposed ones.