Ecological degradation on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) still occur as a result of anthropogenic pressure and environmental variation. Considering that protected areas can be restrictive to human activities, it is essential to assess their effectiveness. In this study, we evaluated the spatial and temporal effects of management on the seascape of the Cozumel Reefs National Park (CRNP) in the Mexican Caribbean. Quantitative estimates of the percentage of coverage of benthic substrates, and the location of coral reefs, were used to construct benthic habitat maps based on the supervised classifications of high resolution satellite images. Using spatially explicit analyses, the variation of seascape metrics for the period 2004–2015, was compared between two adjacent areas (inside and outside the protected area). Habitat β-diversity and connectivity between the Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the adjacent uncontrolled area, suggest that the CRNP is having an effect over time on the coral reef seascape (p < 0.05). These metrics decreased over time, but change was reduced inside the protected area. The shape complexity of patches and benthic habitat coverage also changed over time, but with no relation to the MPA. In general, with the exception of the habitats dominated by sand over rock, sandy beds with minimum or no vegetation, and dominated by macroalgae, patches became less compact. Management in the CRNP limits the physical damage to benthic habitats and the protected area has characteristics that have been recognised as important on effective MPAs. However, our results indicate that the ability of this MPA to counteract change at a seascape scale is limited. Furthermore, funding on MPAs in the country has been consistently reduced over the last decade. Considering the importance of sufficient funding on effectiveness and the necessity to maintain ecological services provided by coral reef systems in the region, this needs to be re-considered.
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) necessarily requires a degree of coordination across countries that share ocean ecosystems, and among national agencies and departments that have responsibilities relating to ocean health and marine resource utilization. This requires political direction, legal input, stakeholder consultation and engagement, and complex negotiations. Currently there is a common perception that within and across national jurisdictions there is excessive legislative complexity, a relatively low level of policy coherence or alignment with regards to ocean and coastal EBM, and that more aligned legislation is needed to accelerate EBM adoption. Our Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) task group was comprised of a small, focused and interdisciplinary mix of lawyers, social scientists, and natural scientists from Canada, the USA, and the EU. We characterized, compared, and synthesized the mandates that govern marine activities and ocean stressors relative to facilitating EBM in national and international waters of the North Atlantic, and identified formal mandates across jurisdictions and, where possible, policy and other non-regulatory mandates. We found that irrespective of the detailed requirements of legislation or policy across AORA jurisdictions, or the efficacy of their actual implementation, most of the major ocean pressures and uses posing threats to ocean sustainability have some form of coverage by national or regional legislation. The coverage is, in fact, rather comprehensive. Still, numerous impediments to effective EBM implementation arise, potentially relating to the lack of integration between agencies and departments, a lack of adequate policy alignment, and a variety of other socio-political factors. We note with concern that if challenges regarding EBM implementation exist in the North Atlantic, we can expect that in less developed regions where financial and governance capacity may be lower, that implementation of EBM could be even more challenging.
As a response to increasing human pressures on marine ecosystems, the legislation aimed at improving the conservation and management of marine coastal areas in European and Contiguous Seas (ECS) underwent crucial advances. ECS, however, still remain largely affected by increasing threats leading to biodiversity loss. Here, by using emblematic case studies and expert knowledge, we review current conservation tools, comparing their application in different areas to assess their effectiveness, potential for synergies, and contradictions. Despite regional differences in their application, the existing legislative frameworks have the potential to regulate human activities and to protect marine biodiversity. However, four challenges remain to be addressed to fully achieve environmental policy goals: (1) Lack of shared vision representing a limitation in transboundary collaboration. Although all EU countries are committed to fulfil EU Directives and other binding international legislative acts, a remarkable heterogeneity exists among countries in the compliance with the common legislation on conservation and in their degree of implementation. (2) Lack of systematic procedures for the selection of protected marine sites. Regional and national approaches in designating Natura 2000 sites and nationally designated marine protected areas (MPAs) reflect varying conservation targets and importance of conservation issues in political agendas. (3) Lack of coherent ecological networks. Natura 2000 sites and other MPAs are still far from reaching the status of effective networks in all considered case studies. (4) Hotspot of conflicts with private economic interests prevailing over conservation aims. Recommendations are given to overcome the fragmented approach still characterizing the conservation and management of coastal marine environments. Holistic, integrated, ecosystem-based, cross-cutting approaches can avoid conflicts among institutions so as to provide effective and timely solutions to current and future challenges concerning the conservation and management of marine ecosystems and associated goods and services.
Marine benthic habitats are modified by a number of human-related disturbances. When these disturbances occur at large scales over areas of high environmental variability, it is difficult to assess impacts using metrics such as species richness or individual species distributions because of varying species-specific responses to environmental drivers (e.g., exposure, sediment, temperature). Impact assessment can also be problematic when assessed at broad spatial scales because of regional heterogeneity of species pools. Even when effects on individual species can be detected, it is difficult to upscale from individual species to ecosystem scale effects. Here, we use a functional group approach to assess broad scale patterns in ecological processes with respect to fishing and environmental drivers. We used data from field surveys of benthic communities from two large, widely separated areas in New Zealand’s EEZ (Chatham Rise and Challenger Plateau). We assigned 828 taxonomic units (most identified to species) into functional groups related to important ecosystem processes and likely sensitivity to, and recovery from, fishing disturbance to the seafloor. These included: opportunistic early colonists; substrate stabilisers (e.g., tube mat formers); substrate destabilisers; shell hash-creating species; emergent epifauna; burrowers; and predators and scavengers. Effects of fishing disturbance on benthic functional composition were observed, even at this broad spatial scale. Responses varied between functional groups, with some being tolerant of fishing impacts and others showing rapid declines with minimal fishing effort. The use of a functional group approach facilitates assessment of impacts across regions and species, allowing for improved generalisations of impacts to inform management and decision making.
Offshore wind is gaining momentum in the United States as a viable source for meeting domestic energy needs. Although offshore wind farms have been developed in Europe and Asia, the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) is the first offshore wind farm built in North America. To improve marine resource management, it is critical to understand the impacts of the wind farm on marine resource users in context. Little is known about the impacts of offshore wind farms on marine resource users in the United States. This study investigates recreational and commercial fishers' perceptions of the impacts of the BIWF on the local marine ecosystem. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 fishers, mostly based out of Block Island or Point Judith, Rhode Island (US), in the summer and fall of 2017. During the interviews, fishers were asked about their perceptions of changes in the marine ecology of the wind farm area during and after the offshore wind turbines were constructed, and how their activities in the area have changed since the wind farm was installed. Results indicate that there were perceived impacts of the BIWF on the local ecosystem and the behavior of the marine resource users. For some recreational fishers, the wind farm functioned as a destination or target and served as an artificial reef for spearfishing. For some commercial fishers, the increase in recreational fishing due to the establishment of the BIWF crowded out commercial fishers in these areas. As the offshore wind farm industry expands within US waters, findings from this study and others like it can provide valuable insights on the potential impacts of these wind farms on marine resource users.
Sexually produced larvae are used in various fields of coral research. Because the vast majority of scleractinians reproduces only on one or few occasions per year through simultaneous release of gametes, and because an ex situspawning induction is still very hard to achieve, great efforts are required to obtain planula larvae. Brooding corals have been used to harvest planulae although their larvae often differ in various traits from most spawning corals, e.g., in settlement behavior. Other cnidarians, such as Aiptasia spp., have been substituting for scleractinians in many aspects of coral research. However, organisms such as Aiptasia differ strongly from scleractinians, thus limiting the transferability of obtained results. This study examines the potential of Leptastrea purpurea as a reliable source of larvae for coral research. Larval output as well as settlement behavior of planulae was investigated. Our results show that colonies of L. purpurea released a daily average of 3.7 (±0.2) larvae during a period of 65 days, thus allowing continual access to planula larvae. We collected a total of 58127 larvae from our broodstock of 243 colonies. Larval settlement is induced by the same and/or similar cues as in many spawning species which increases the transferability of conclusions. We discuss the utility of L. purpurea for research on scleractinian physiology, ecology and larval settlement and conclude that L. purpurea is a well-suited organism to accelerate progress in many fields of coral research.
Citizen science is an innovative approach that relies on non-specialists to monitor species and ecosystems over long time periods and vast geographical areas. Citizen science has been used extensively in marine science to monitor endangered species such as sharks and marine turtles, coral reefs and their associated fish species, marine mammals, invasive species and, more recently, coral bleaching and marine litter. Engaging people over the long term can be challenging but using social media, gamification, and emphasizing the value of volunteer contributions through data sharing, can help to keep communities motivated. In the Red Sea, there is enormous potential for using citizen science in monitoring endangered species and ecosystems due to the presence of a fleet of safari boats and dive centres going to sea daily. Engaging with this sector and creating long lasting partnerships for data collection through simple protocols could be a winning approach to obtain important information from remote areas and/or on rare species. In this chapter, we present the preliminary results of a citizen science program targeting marine turtles in their feeding grounds in the Egyptian Red Sea waters that was conducted from 2011 to 2013. During the study period 2,448 surveys were completed at 157 sites and included a total of 1,038 sightings of turtles. The most commonly observed species were hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtles; however, rarer species, such as loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles were also recorded. Among the sites that were monitored, some were considered as important for turtles (i.e., had a high probability of observing a turtle), while in others, turtles were not observed despite carrying out multiple surveys. Participants reported turtles of various sizes and ages with adults and sub-adults being the predominant observed age class. The presence of adults seemed to be related to the nesting season (May–September), which was also when the survey effort was higher. Adult male turtles were observed on various occasions, providing important input on their whereabouts during nesting and non-nesting seasons. Finally, participants detected behaviour that had not been previously described in the region, such as courting and mating. Results from TurtleWatch Egypt provided new insight in our knowledge of marine turtles in the Red Sea, especially from the largely under-studied feeding grounds.
Fisheries transform marine ecosystems and compete with predators, but temporal trends in seabird-fishery competition had never been assessed on a worldwide scale. Using catch reconstructions for all fisheries targeting taxa that are also seabird prey, we demonstrated that average annual fishery catch increased from 59 to 65 million metric tons between 1970–1989 and 1990–2010. For the same periods, we estimated that global annual seabird food consumption decreased from 70 to 57 million metric tons. Despite this decrease, we found sustained global seabird-fishery food competition between 1970–1989 and 1990–2010. Enhanced competition was identified in 48% of all areas, notably the Southern Ocean, Asian shelves, Mediterranean Sea, Norwegian Sea, and Californian coast. Fisheries generate severe constraints for seabird populations on a worldwide scale, and those need to be addressed urgently. Indeed, seabirds are the most threatened bird group, with a 70% community-level population decline across 1950–2010.
Governments are facing mounting pressure to ‘do something on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14’. The SDG 14 comprises targets and indicators for countries to show progress in achieving conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. One novel approach experiencing traction in improving growth performance of marine resource sectors — particularly marine biotechnology and fisheries — is open innovation. This review assesses the potential impacts of using open innovation approaches more widely with good governance principles to promote sustainable management of marine resource use.
Recent research filled the gap in creating a quantitative marine open innovation measure to monitor and manage marine sector innovation process. Prior 2018, formulation of marine policies — aimed at building economic prosperity from sustainable use of marine environments — were constrained by the absence of a tool to provide an index to compare marine sectors’ innovation performance. This review highlights a need to broaden the measures used to determine marine management effectiveness especially in the context of achieving the SDGs. Governments are urged to pay more attention to new governance tools including open innovation when formulating new policy aimed at building future scenarios of economic resilience involving marine resource use.
In the Philippines, partially protected marine areas known as marine reserves are promoted extensively as conservation strategies for reef fishery resources. This type of marine protected area (MPA) allows traditional fishing to a certain extent. At present, 90% of the total area of the MPAs in the Philippines is considered partially protected, but their effectiveness in terms of conservation has received little attention. Thus, we evaluated the potential effectiveness of conservation in partially protected areas by comparing the species richness and abundance of commercially important fishes with those in fully protected and adjacent open fishing areas using underwater visual belt transect survey in four MPAs with diverse features (age, size, design, and fishing activity) in the Bicol region, northeastern Philippines. Fishing activities in partially protected and open fishing areas were also investigated in the four MPA sites through interviews of local fishermen. The species richness and abundance of fishery target sized fishes were significantly higher in fully protected areas compared with those in partially protected and open fishing areas in the four MPA sites. Similarly, species richness and abundance in partially protected areas were significantly higher than open fishing areas in large and conventionally designed MPAs, but there were no differences in small and non-conventional MPAs. The species richness and abundance of fishery non-target sized fish did not differ significantly among the three zones in each MPA. There were also no significant differences in the fishing indices (e.g., fishing time and gears) for partially protected and open fishing areas in each MPA site, thereby suggesting that large MPAs with conventionally designed partially protected areas could reduce the fishing pressure and/or increase fish movements from fully protected area.