We developed a rockfish habitat model to evaluate a network of Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) implemented by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to reverse population declines of inshore Pacific rockfishes (Sebastes spp.). We modeled rocky reef habitat in all nearshore waters of southern British Columbia (BC) using a supervised classification of variables derived from a bathymetry model with 20 m2 resolution. We compared the results from models at intermediate (20 m2) and fine (5 m2) resolutions in five test areas where acoustic multibeam echosounder and backscatter data were available. The inclusion of backscatter variables did not substantially improve model accuracy. The intermediate-resolution model performed well with an accuracy of 75%, except in very steep habitats such as coastal inlets; it was used to estimate the total habitat area and the percent of rocky habitat in 144 RCAs in southern BC. We also compared the amount of habitat estimated by our 20 m2 model to the 100 m2 management model used to designate the RCAs and found that a slightly lower proportion of habitat (18% vs 20%) but a considerably smaller area (400 km2 vs 1370 km2) is protected in the RCAs, likely as a result of the poor resolution of the original model. Empirically derived maps of important habitats, such as rocky reefs, are necessary to support effective marine spatial planning and to design and evaluate the efficacy of management and conservation actions.
Soft robotics is an emerging technology that has shown considerable promise in deep-sea marine biological applications. It is particularly useful in facilitating delicate interactions with fragile marine organisms. This study describes the shipboard design, 3D printing and integration of custom soft robotic manipulators for investigating and interacting with deep-sea organisms. Soft robotics manipulators were tested down to 2224m via a Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV) in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) and facilitated the study of a diverse suite of soft-bodied and fragile marine life. Instantaneous feedback from the ROV pilots and biologists allowed for rapid re-design, such as adding “fingernails”, and re-fabrication of soft manipulators at sea. These were then used to successfully grasp fragile deep-sea animals, such as goniasterids and holothurians, which have historically been difficult to collect undamaged via rigid mechanical arms and suction samplers. As scientific expeditions to remote parts of the world are costly and lengthy to plan, on-the-fly soft robot actuator printing offers a real-time solution to better understand and interact with delicate deep-sea environments, soft-bodied, brittle, and otherwise fragile organisms. This also offers a less invasive means of interacting with slow-growing deep marine organisms, some of which can be up to 18,000 years old.
Between the 8th January and the 25th February 2016, the largest sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus mortality event ever recorded in the North Sea occurred with 30 sperm whales stranding in five countries within six weeks. All sperm whales were immature males. Groups were stratified by size, with the smaller animals stranding in the Netherlands, and the largest in England. The majority (n = 27) of the stranded animals were necropsied and/or sampled, allowing for an international and comprehensive investigation into this mortality event. The animals were in fair to good nutritional condition and, aside from the pathologies caused by stranding, did not exhibit significant evidence of disease or trauma. Infectious agents were found, including various parasite species, several bacterial and fungal pathogens and a novel alphaherpesvirus. In nine of the sperm whales a variety of marine litter was found. However, none of these findings were considered to have been the primary cause of the stranding event. Potential anthropogenic and environmental factors that may have caused the sperm whales to enter the North Sea were assessed. Once sperm whales enter the North Sea and head south, the water becomes progressively shallower (<40 m), making this region a global hotspot for sperm whale strandings. We conclude that the reasons for sperm whales to enter the southern North Sea are the result of complex interactions of extrinsic environmental factors. As such, these large mortality events seldom have a single ultimate cause and it is only through multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches that potentially multifactorial large-scale stranding events can be effectively investigated.
The Norwegian government has decided that the aquaculture industry shall grow, provided that the growth is environmentally sustainable. Sustainability is scored based on the mortality of wild salmonids caused by the parasitic salmon lice. Salmon lice infestation pressure has traditionally been monitored through catching wild sea trout and Arctic char using nets or traps or by trawling after Atlantic salmon postsmolts. However, due to that the Norwegian mainland coastline is nearly 25 000 km, complementary methods that may be used in order to give complete results are needed. We have therefore developed an operational salmon lice model, which calculates the infestation pressure all along the coast in near real-time based on a hydrodynamical ocean model and a salmon lice particle tracking model. The hydrodynamic model generally shows a negative temperature bias and a positive salinity bias compared to observations. The modeled salmon lice dispersion correlates with measured lice on wild salmonids caught using traps or nets. This allows for using two complementary data sources in order to determine the infestation pressure of lice originating from fish farms on wild salmonids, and thereby provide an improved monitoring system for assessing risk and sustainability which forms the basis for knowledge-based advice to management authorities.
Recreational fishing is often perceived as harmless when it comes to fisheries management, and its impact often estimated to surpass the economic outcomes of e.g. large-scale fisheries. Recreational fisheries are often an indication of political stability and sound ecosystem management. However, despite a high economic impact, the economic costs on traditional and small-scale commercial fishers is yet to be known. This paper answers the question of how unregulated recreational fisheries could rather generate a loss to an economy, and cause unfair competition with existing commercial sectors using the example of Algeria. This paper assesses catches and economic value of recreational fisheries in Algeria, and finds that over 6,000 tonnes reach commercial markets annually, competing directly with the small-scale artisanal sector, while selling recreationally caught fish is still illegal. The paper further finds that the public is thereby deprived—through lost tax, licence income and landed value of $45 million US annually.
Diversity patterns of the deep-sea megafauna in the Caribbean Basin and the Guiana ecoregion were analyzed in order to test the hypothesis of species richness variation as a function of depth and the hypothesis of non-differences between ecoregions by analyzing spatial patterns of five taxa and a merged assemblage. Collections of five taxa (corals, sea stars, sea urchins, sea lilies and gastropods) were obtained from seven oceanographic expeditions aboard the R/V Pillsbury at 310 stations between 60 and 7500 m depth. Data were sorted according to depth zones and ecoregions and were analyzed in order to estimate species richness, changes in species composition and distinction of β-diversity by species turnover or by nestedness. The observed patterns of diversity were consistent between taxa and their assemblage: Species richness increased from the continental shelf (60–200 m deep) to the slope (200–2000 m deep), followed by a decrease at the continental rise-abyssal zone. We detected marked changes in species composition according to depth ranges. Changes in species composition in relation to ecoregions were also detected. In general, the Caribbean Basin lacks important physical barriers, causing high deep-sea ecosystem connectivity; however, variation in composition could be related to changes in environmental conditions associated with productivity and/or continental influences.
Wildlife-focused tourism is often considered as having the potential to play an integral part of threatened species conservation efforts, particularly through financial support. We focused on the direct financing of conservation by investigating tourists’ willingness to pay to snorkel with reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) at Barefoot Manta, an ecotourism resort in the Yasawa group of islands in Fiji. Our results indicate that 82.4% of people surveyed would be willing to pay a mean value of ~ USD $9.2 (SE 0.9) more than the current cost, a 28% increase. Also, 89% of people surveyed would be willing to pay a mean value of ~ USD $10.2 (SE 0.9) more for a hypothetical scenario where they would snorkel with 50% fewer people, a 31% increase. We also investigated tourists’ willingness to make voluntary donations to the local community above an existing payment of ~ USD $10 that is built into the current snorkel payment of ~ USD $32.5. On average, 91.3% of the tourists interviewed were willing to donate additional funds with an average additional donation of ~ USD $8.6 (SE 0.5) to the community to pay for educational and environmental support, an 86% increase. There were few significant relationships between willingness to pay and demographic factors (including age, income, nationality, education, and others), suggesting that willingness to pay was widely held by the tourist population staying at Barefoot Manta Resort. Together, these results indicate that wildlife-based nature tourism could represent a potential, but not unlimited, income source to fund conservation in the Yasawa group, Fiji islands, and that conservation can arise from partnerships between local communities and the tourism sector
Area management in the form of no-take marine protected areas (MPAs) has been criticised as a fisheries management tool because of its limited capacity to provide short-term benefits to local fisheries. This study used data from a long-term fish monitoring and tagging project to assess whether catch-and-release (C&R) shore angling could be compatible with the management objectives of a large, multiple-use, zoned MPA in South Africa. Tag-recapture rates, trends in relative abundance and mean size of target species, sub-lethal effects and other potential environmental impacts suggested that C&R research angling, using best practise fish handling techniques, did not have an overall negative impact on protected fish populations. While positive from a scientific monitoring perspective, more sensitive species did show evidence of increased post-release mortality that would be exacerbated by higher intensity C&R angling conducted by members of the angling public. It is thus concluded that C&R shore angling by members of the angling public is not compatible with MPAs zoned for no-take. However, because C&R angling does have substantially lower negative impacts compared to recreational harvest fisheries, areas zoned for C&R offer good potential as buffer areas adjacent to no-take areas or as stand-alone areas where fish conservation can be improved. This concept is proposed for the improved conservation of surf-zone angling fish species within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and further afield.
Climate change, in combination with population growth, is placing increasing pressure on the world’s oceans and their resources. This is threatening sustainability and societal wellbeing. Responding to these complex and synergistic challenges requires holistic management arrangements. To this end, ecosystem-based management (EBM) promises much by recognising the need to manage the ecosystem in its entirety, including the human dimensions. However, operationalisation of EBM in the marine environment has been slow. One reason may be a lack of the inter-disciplinary science required to address complex social–ecological marine systems. In the present paper, we synthesise the collective experience of the authors to explore progress in integrating natural and social sciences in marine EBM research, illustrating actual and potential contributions. We identify informal barriers to and incentives for this type of research. We find that the integration of natural and social science has progressed at most stages of the marine EBM cycle; however, practitioners do not yet have the capacity to address all of the problems that have led to the call for inter-disciplinary research. In addition, we assess how we can support the next generation of researchers to undertake the effective inter-disciplinary research required to assist with operationalising marine EBM, particularly in a changing climate.
An effective and efficient stewardship of natural resources requires consistency across all decision-informing approaches and components involved, i.e., managerial, governmental, political, and legal. To achieve this consistency, these elements must be aligned under an overarching management goal that is consistent with current and well-accepted knowledge. In this article, we investigate the adoption by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management of an environmental resilience-centered system that manages for resilience of marine ecological resources and its associated social elements. Although the framework is generally tailored for this Bureau, it could also be adapted to other federal or non-federal organizations. This paper presents a dynamic framework that regards change as an inherent element of the socio-ecological system in which management structures, e.g., federal agencies, are embedded. The overall functioning of the management framework being considered seeks to mimic and anticipate environmental change in line with well-accepted elements of resilience-thinking. We also investigate the goal of using management for resilience as a platform to enhance socio-ecological sustainability by setting specific performance metrics embedded in pre-defined and desired social and/or ecological scenarios. Dynamic management frameworks that couple social and ecological systems as described in this paper can facilitate the efficient and effective utilization of resources, reduce uncertainty for decision and policy makers, and lead to more defensible decisions on resources.