Forecasts of marine environmental and ecosystem conditions are now possible at a range of time scales, from nowcasts to forecasts over seasonal and longer time frames. Delivery of these products offers resource managers and users relevant insight into ecosystem patterns and future conditions to support decisions these stakeholders face associated with a range of objectives. The pace of progress in forecast development is so rapid that the scientific community may not be considering fully the impacts on stakeholders and their incentives. Delivery of information, particularly about future conditions and the uncertainties associated with it, involves a range of judgements, or “ethical” considerations, including treatment of forecast failure, inequity in stakeholder response options, and winners and losers in commercial markets. Here, we explore these often unanticipated considerations via a set of case studies spanning commercial fishing, recreational fishing, aquaculture, and conservation applications. We suggest that consideration of ethical issues by scientists and their research partners is needed to maintain scientific integrity and fairness to end users. Based on these case studies and our experience, we suggest a set of ten principles that might be considered by developers and users of ecological forecasts to avoid these ethical pitfalls. Overall, an interdisciplinary approach, and co-production with end users will provide insurance against many unanticipated consequences.
Social perception is key to the success of biodiversity conservation policies. A range of socioeconomic guilds can be affected by marine conservation. Among them, fishers are the ones most likely affected and affecting marine protected areas (MPAs). Here, we assessed the perceptions on the sustainability of a type of multiple-use MPA, Fishing Reserves (FRs), by a broad spectrum of national (n = 16) and local (n = 14) stakeholder organisations pertaining to six socioeconomic sectors via two online surveys in Spain. We compared organisational perception by stakeholder organisations, and specifically by the fishing guild, with official fishing statistics for six FRs between 1998 and 2016 using a Before-After-Impact (BAI) research design. Spanish FRs were regarded as sustainable marine management tools by most marine and coastal stakeholders, with environmental effects perceived to be more positive than social and economic ones, respectively. However, primary sector organisations stated null or negative effect of FR designation on their activities, although official statistics showed a moderate to large increase in a number of professional fishing-related variables, including number of boats and crews, after designation of most FRs. Spatial scale did not affect stakeholder perception of local socioeconomic effects of FRs, although some relevant local socioeconomic variables that were thought to vary most after FR designation differed across scales. Some suggested managerial improvements for increased socioeconomic sustainability of Spanish FRs by the professional fishing guild included: greater stakeholder engagement in FR designation and operation, more flexible fishing regulations and stricter control of recreational fishing.
The dramatic decline of European eel (Anguilla anguilla) populations over recent decades has attracted considerable attention and concern. Furthermore, little is known about the sensitivity of the early stages of eels to projected future environmental change. Here, we investigated, for the first time, the potential combined effects of ocean warming (OW; Δ + 4°C; 18°C) and acidification (OA; Δ − 0.4 pH units) on the survival and migratory behaviour of A. anguilla glass eels, namely their preference towards riverine cues (freshwater and geosmin). Recently arrived individuals were exposed to isolated and combined OW and OA conditions for 100 days, adjusting for the salinity gradients associated with upstream migration. A two-choice test was used to investigate migratory activity and shifts in preference towards freshwater environments. While OW decreased survival and increased migratory activity, OA appears to hinder migratory response, reducing the preference for riverine cues. Our results suggest that future conditions could potentially favour an early settlement of glass eels, reducing the proportion of fully migratory individuals. Further research into the effects of climate change on eel migration and habitat selection is needed to implement efficient conservation plans for this critically endangered species.
Understanding the social dimensions of marine and coastal conservation is considered integral to better inform governance and management actions. Perceptions are recognized as a way to understand these dimensions, which can evidence limitations of current efforts, while facilitating more informed policy-making and provide a basis for more robust management actions. Following a qualitative and case study approach, this paper utilizes stakeholder interviews to explore the perceptions on marine ecosystems and current management actions that include marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Central American country of Guatemala. Results identify similarities and contrasts in the perception of marine conservation and MPAs, where weak local governments and limited community participation in the decision-making process can be considered the underlying problems. Recommendations are made which can capitalize upon multi-level improvements that need to integrate all stakeholder groups. Improvements should also consider the regional setting and must reflect Guatemala’s historical and social context. This paper highlights that stakeholder perceptions need a central role to further improve the quality of governance in coastal Guatemala. Recommendations can further assist other developing countries facing similar challenges.
Central to appropriate wildlife management is an effective monitoring program. Monitoring wildlife in urban environments offers unique challenges in the form of barriers, prohibited access and crime. It also, however, provides a unique opportunity to enlist residential communities in collecting data on distribution of a number of species. Opportunistic sightings data has its flaws, including the lack of data on species absences, and unequal sampling effort. Yet these data may still provide reliable information on the distribution of species and complement localized, hypothesis driven research. Where possible opportunistic sightings data should be validated against traditional methods to determine their value for long term monitoring programmes. We use Maxent to model citizen-reported sightings to determine whether sightings of Cape clawless otters (Aonyx capensis) can complement standardized river occupancy surveys to monitor an elusive, widely distributed species living within a fragmented urban/natural matrix. The drivers of otter presence and the predicted distribution of otters modelled from citizen sightings mirrored that provided by previously published results based on occupancy models in the same system, and highlighted further areas of suitable otter habitat and routes for dispersal. Involving citizens in the monitoring of the urban otter population complemented standardized occupancy surveys and provided additional benefits. In addition to alleviating the pressure on local authorities to allocate resources to routine monitoring, citizen involvement provides an opportunity to gather supplementary data on behaviour and/or threats to the species; shed light on the potential dispersal routes, and promote awareness and encourage coexistence with urban adapted wildlife.
Conflicts among and between local, national, regional and international stakeholders involved in marine turtle conservation are increasing. Often, they arise because of different socio-economic backgrounds of the people or groups involved. Here, we identified and assessed the conservation-based conflicts occurring in 24 of the 39 Caribbean countries, including their frequency, level of severity, number of stakeholders' groups involved, the degree to which they hinder conservation goals, and potential solutions. Using a cross-sectional social survey, we evaluated the presence and details of conservation conflicts provided by 72 respondents. The respondents included conservation-based project leaders, researchers, people involved in policy-based decision-making, conservation volunteers (community-based conservation groups), and species experts with experience working on marine turtle conservation programs in the Caribbean. The respondents identified 136 conflicts, and we grouped them into 16 different categories. The most commonly mentioned causes of conflicts were: 1) the ‘lack of enforcement by local authorities to support conservation-based legislation or programs’ (18%); 2) ‘legal consumption of turtles by one sector of community clashing the conservation aspirations of other sectors of community (14%); and 3) ’variable enforcement of legislation to limit/prohibit use across range states of the species (10%). From our data it is also apparent that illicit activities in the region are also likely to impact the future success of conservation or monitoring based projects and programs. Overall, an exhaustive review was carried out, and the potential solutions were gathered. Due to the level of severity (physical violence) that some conflicts have reached, achieving solutions will be challenging without mediation, mutual cooperation around shared values, and adaptive management arrangements. Achieving this will require combinations of bottom up and top down collaborative governance approaches.
Procellariiform seabirds are both the most threatened bird group globally, and the group with the highest incidence of marine debris ingestion. We examined the incidence and ecological factors associated with marine debris ingestion in Procellariiformes by examining seabirds collected at a global seabird hotspot, the Australasian - Southern Ocean boundary. We examined marine debris ingestion trends in 1734 individuals of 51 Procellariform species, finding significant variation in the incidence of marine debris abundance among species. Variation in the incidence of marine debris ingestion between species was influenced by the taxonomy, foraging ecology, diet, and foraging range overlaps with oceanic regions polluted with marine debris. Among the ecological drivers of marine debris ingestion variability in Procellariiformes, we demonstrate that the combination of taxonomy, foraging method, diet, and exposure to marine debris are the most important determinants of incidence of ingestion. We use these results to develop a global forecast for Procellariiform taxa at the risk of highest incidence of marine debris ingestion. We find seabirds that forage at the surface; especially by surface seizing, diving and filtering, those with a crustacean dominant diet, and those that forage in or near marine debris hotspots are at highest risk of debris ingestion. We predict that family with the highest risk are the storm petrels (Hydrobatidae and Oceanitidae). We demonstrate that the greater the exposure of high-risk groups to marine debris while foraging, the greater the incidence and number of marine debris items will be ingested.
The conceptual framework of evolutionary governance theory (EGT) is deployed and extended to rethink the idea of coastal governance and the possibilities of a coastal governance better adapted to challenges of climate change and intensified use of both land and sea. ‘The coastal condition’ is analyzed as a situation where particular modes of observation and coordination were possible and necessary, and those observations (and derived calculations of risk and opportunity) are valuable for the governance of both land and an argument is constructed for a separate arena for coastal governance, without erasing the internal logic of pre-existing governance for land and sea. This entails that coastal governance is destined to be a place of (productive) conflict, as much as of policy integration. Policy integration will be more difficult and more important in coastal governance, as this is an arena where the effects of many land based activities and activities at sea become visible and entangled. Policy integration in coastal governance does however require deep knowledge of the governance path and existing forms of integration there (e.g. in planning), and it exists in an uneasy tension with the requirements of adaptive governance. This tension further contributes to the complexity and complex-prone character of coastal governance. Neither complexity nor conflict can be avoided, and coastal governance as an image of balanced decision-making is (positively) presented as a productive fiction.
Multihost infectious disease outbreaks have endangered wildlife, causing extinction of frogs and endemic birds, and widespread declines of bats, corals, and abalone. Since 2013, a sea star wasting disease has affected >20 sea star species from Mexico to Alaska. The common, predatory sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), shown to be highly susceptible to sea star wasting disease, has been extirpated across most of its range. Diver surveys conducted in shallow nearshore waters (n = 10,956; 2006–2017) from California to Alaska and deep offshore (55 to 1280 m) trawl surveys from California to Washington (n = 8968; 2004–2016) reveal 80 to 100% declines across a ~3000-km range. Furthermore, timing of peak declines in nearshore waters coincided with anomalously warm sea surface temperatures. The rapid, widespread decline of this pivotal subtidal predator threatens its persistence and may have large ecosystem-level consequences.
Plastics in the ocean are of great concern nowadays, and are often referred to as the apocalyptic twin of climate change in terms of public fear and the problems they pose to the aquatic and terrestrial environment. The number of studies focusing on the ecological effects and toxicity of plastics has substantially increased in the last few years. Considering the current trends in the anthropogenic activities, the amount of plastics entering the world oceans is increasing exponentially, but the oceans have a low assimilative capacity for plastics and the near-surface layer of it is a finite space. If loading of the oceans with plastics continues at the current rate, the thin sea surface microlayer can have a substantial amount of plastics comparable to the distribution of phytoplankton, at least in the major oceanic gyres and coastal waters in the future. Also, processes like biofouling can cluster microplastics in dense fields in the near-surface layer. Plastics can contribute to the warming or cooling of the water column by scattering and attenuating incoming solar radiation, leading to a potential change in the optical and other physico-chemical properties of the water column. We propose a new notion that changes in solar radiation in the water column due to the plastics have the potential to affect the physical processes in the ocean surface and near-surface layers, and can induce climate feedback cycles. The future can be very different, if plastics evolve as one of the key players affecting the ocean physical processes and hence this is the time to tackle this puzzle with appropriate strategies or let the genie out of the bottle.