A diverse assemblage of adult reef fishes and invertebrates occurs at offshore oil production platforms in the Southern California Bight (SCB). Coincident with the initiation of the decommissioning of six platforms in the SCB, the goal of this study was to examine how a platform's geographical location plays a role in its potential contribution of larval recruits to natural areas. Using a three-dimensional biophysical model, we quantified the potential connectivity of larvae, particularly relevant to reef fishes, from three offshore platforms to four coastal shelf regions where the majority of rocky settlement habitat occurs in the SCB. The regions cover the shelves of the mainland coast and islands and offshore banks in the southern SCB. The main findings indicate that (1) the potential for larval subsidies from platforms in the southern SCB to populations in the northern SCB are greater than the potential for larval subsidies from platforms in the northern SCB to the southern SCB; (2) there is greater seasonal variability of potential connectivity from platforms to the mainland shelf region of the northern SCB than to the mainland shelf region of the southern SCB or shelves around islands and banks; and (3) there is consistency across years in the relative magnitude of potential connectivity from the platforms to the four shelf regions. We conclude that a platform's function as a larval source should be considered an ecological criterion when evaluating whether a platform is to be converted to an artificial reef and implementing marine spatial planning.
An increasing number of visitors to Juneau, AK, alongside a predictable population of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), has supported the substantial growth of its whale-watching industry. The industry provides benefits to the community through economic gains, while the experience can foster environmental awareness and support for protection of whales and the environment. However, the sustainability of the industry could be jeopardized if increasing whale-watching vessel pressure affects the health of its resource, the whales. This study investigates whether participation in whale-watching tours in Juneau, AK can support conservation of whales and the environment. Participant knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors were obtained from 2331 in surveys before, after, and six months after a whale-watching tour during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Following a whale watch, the percentage of participants that indicated whale watching as a knowledge source increased (p = 0.022), awareness of guidelines and regulations doubled (p < 0.001), and strong support for regulations increased (p = 0.016). Six months later, these responses remained significantly higher than before the whale watch. Despite knowledge of distance threshold increasing after a whale watch (p = 0.003) and six months after (p = 0.021), getting close to whales remained an important factor in a participant’s whale watch. Participants had a higher likelihood of strongly supporting guidelines and regulations if they indicated that boats can have a negative impact on whales or were aware of guidelines and regulations. Lastly, participants that acknowledged negative effects on whales from boats had higher overall pro-environmental attitudes. This study indicates that incorporating messages that facilitate participant awareness of guidelines/regulations and the purpose of those measures can support conservation and protection of local whale populations through managing participant expectations and ultimately encouraging operator compliance.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a critical tool for the economic, social and environmental sustainability of coastal and marine areas. MSP seeks to identify the various human economic activities in these zones and in various depths. In compliance with Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and Council of the 23rd of July 2014, which aims to establish a common framework where each member state identify the maritime space under its control. This was accomplished in Cyprus through the project “Cross-Border Cooperation for the Development of Maritime Spatial Planning (Thal-Chor)”, in short “Thal-Chor”, which was co-funded under the Interreg “Greece–Cyprus 2007–2013” framework. The methodology of the project used government data and bathymetry maps to create a GIS database which produced density maps. The Density maps identified a high concentration of activities near the Limassol district and around the ports of Cyprus and over 60 sea and land activities were analysed for conflicts and compatibilities. The further implementation of MPS will take place through the “Cross-Border Cooperation for Implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning (“Thal-Chor 2)”. During the project, satellite remote sensing and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles will be used to survey the coastal and marine areas that were identified on the density maps from the Thal-Chor project. SAR data from the Sentinel 1 satellite will provide the necessary data to verify the MSP activities in the first phase of the project. Such data will provide valuable information for the existing geo-spatial database for MSP for the implementation of integrated plans. This research is supported by the project entitled: “Cross-Border Cooperation for Implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning” referred as “THAL-CHOR 2” and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and by national funds of Greece and Cyprus, under the Cooperation Programme “INTERREG V-A Greece-Cyprus 2014-2020”.
Pervasive and sustained coral diseases contribute to the systemic degradation of reef ecosystems, however, to date an understanding of the physicochemical controls on a coral disease event is still largely lacking. Water circulation and residence times and submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) all determine the degree to which reef organisms are exposed to the variable chemistry of overlying waters; understanding these physical controls is thus necessary to interpret spatial patterns in coral health. The recent discovery of coral Black Band Disease at Mākua Reef on Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i prompted an investigation into the physicochemical drivers and geomorphic controls of reef water circulation, and the temporally variable nutrient fluxes derived from SGD. Results reveal localized stagnant water parcels at Mākua Reef where groundwater-derived high nutrient loading and low salinities act in concert as stressors to coralline health – and where Black Band Disease was uniquely identified. The observed high nutrient levels during low tide conditions are likely associated with nearby upstream cesspools and drain fields. Information obtained using such a multidisciplinary approach has direct value for successful management of coastal aquifers and the health and sustainability of adjacent nearshore coral reef ecosystems.
Harmful algae blooms (HABs) in coastal marine environments are increasing in number and duration, pressuring local resource managers to implement mitigation solutions to protect human and ecosystem health. However, insufficient spatial and temporal observations create uninformed management decisions. In order to better detect and map blooms, as well as the environmental conditions responsible for their formation, long-term, unattended observation platforms are desired. In this article, we describe a new cost-efficient, autonomous, mobile platform capable of accepting several sensors that can be used to monitor HABs in near real time. The Navocean autonomous sail-powered surface vehicle is deployable by a single person from shore, capable of waypoint navigation in shallow and deep waters, and powered completely by renewable energy. We present results from three surveys of the Florida Red Tide HAB (Karenia brevis) of 2017–2018. The vessel made significant progress toward waypoints regardless of wind conditions while underway measurements revealed patches of elevated chl. a likely attributable to the K. brevis blooms as based on ancillary measurements. Measurements of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and turbidity provided an environmental context for the blooms. While the autonomous sailboat directly adds to our phytoplankton/HAB monitoring capabilities, the package may also help to ground-truth satellite measurements of HABs if careful validation measurements are performed. Finally, several other pending and future use cases for coastal and inland monitoring are discussed. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a sail-driven vessel used for coastal HAB monitoring.
Age constitutes a critical parameter for the study of animal populations, providing information about development, environmental effects, survival, and reproduction. Unfortunately, age estimation is not only challenging in large, mobile and legally protected species, but often involves invasive sampling methods. The present work investigates the association between epigenetic modifications and chronological age in small cetaceans. For that purpose, DNA methylation at age-linked genes was characterized in an extensively studied, long-term resident common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) community from Sarasota Bay (FL, United States) for which sampled individuals have a known age. Results led to the identification of several CpG sites that are significantly correlated to chronological age in this species with the potential for sex to play a role in the modulation of this correlation. These findings have allowed for the development and validation of the “Bottlenose dolphin Epigenetic Age estimation Tool” (BEAT), improving minimally-invasive age estimation in free-ranging small cetaceans. Overall, the BEAT proved to be accurate in estimating age in these organisms. Given its minimally-invasive nature and potential large-scale implementation using skin biopsy samples, this tool can be used to generate age data from free-ranging small cetacean populations.
Coral reefs are exceptionally biodiverse and human dependence on their ecosystem services is high. Reefs experience significant direct and indirect anthropogenic pressures, and provide a sensitive indicator of coastal ocean health, climate change, and ocean acidification, with associated implications for society. Monitoring coral reef status and trends is essential to better inform science, management and policy, but the projected collapse of reef systems within a few decades makes the provision of accurate and actionable monitoring data urgent. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network has been the foundation for global reporting on coral reefs for two decades, and is entering into a new phase with improved operational and data standards incorporating the Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) (www.goosocean.org/eov) and Framework for Ocean Observing developed by the Global Ocean Observing System. Three EOVs provide a robust description of reef health: hard coral cover and composition, macro-algal canopy cover, and fish diversity and abundance. A data quality model based on comprehensive metadata has been designed to facilitate maximum global coverage of coral reef data, and tangible steps to track capacity building. Improved monitoring of events such as mass bleaching and disease outbreaks, citizen science, and socio-economic monitoring have the potential to greatly improve the relevance of monitoring to managers and stakeholders, and to address the complex and multi- dimensional interactions between reefs and people. A new generation of autonomous vehicles (underwater, surface, and aerial) and satellites are set to revolutionize and vastly expand our understanding of coral reefs. Promising approaches include Structure from Motion image processing, and acoustic techniques. Across all systems, curation of data in linked and open online databases, with an open data culture to maximize benefits from data integration, and empowering users to take action, are priorities. Action in the next decade will be essential to mitigate the impacts on coral reefs from warming temperatures, through local management and informing national and international obligations, particularly in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action, and the role of coral reefs as a global indicator. Mobilizing data to help drive the needed behavior change is a top priority for coral reef observing systems.
The coastal area is the most productive and dynamic environment of the world ocean, offering significant resources and services for mankind. As exemplified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it has a tremendous potential for innovation and growth in blue economy sectors. Due to the inherent complexity of the natural system, the answers to many scientific and societal questions are unknown, and the impacts of the cumulative stresses imposed by anthropogenic pressures (such as pollution) and climate change are difficult to assess and forecast. A major challenge for the scientific community making observations of the coastal marine environment is to integrate observations of Essential Ocean Variables for physical, biogeochemical, and biological processes on appropriate spatial and temporal scales, and in a sustained and scientifically based manner. Coastal observations are important for improving our understanding of the complex biotic and abiotic processes in many fields of research such as ecosystem science, habitat protection, and climate change impacts. They are also important for improving our understanding of the impacts of human activities such as fishing and aquaculture, and underpin risk monitoring and assessment. The observations enable us to better understand ecosystems and the societal consequences of overfishing, disease (particularly shellfish), loss of biodiversity, coastline withdrawal, and ocean acidification, amongst others. The European coastal observing infrastructure JERICO-RI, has gathered and organized key communities embracing new technologies and providing a future strategy, with recommendations on the way forward and on governance. Particularly, the JERICO community acknowledges that the main providers of coastal observations are: (1) research infrastructures, (2) national monitoring programs, and (3) monitoring activities performed by marine industries. The scope of this paper is to present some key elements of our coastal science strategy to build it on long term. It describes how the pan-European JERICO community is building an integrated and innovation-driven coastal research infrastructure for Europe. The RI embraces emerging technologies which will revolutionize the way the ocean is observed. Developments in biotechnology (molecular and optical sensors, omics-based biology) will soon provide direct and online access to chemical and biological variables including in situ quantification of harmful algae and contaminants. Using artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things will soon provide operational platforms and autonomous and remotely operated smart sensors. Embracing key technologies, high quality open access data, modeling and satellite observations, it will support sustainable blue growth, warning and forecasting coastal services and healthy marine ecosystem. JERICO-FP7 is the European 7th framework project named JERICO under Grant Agreement No. 262584. JERICO-NEXT is the European Horizon-2020 project under Grant Agreement No. 654410. JERICO-RI is the European coastal observing research infrastructure established and structured through JERICO-FP7 and JERICO-NEXT, and beyond.
This work analyzes the coastal impacts of the combined effect of extreme waves and sea level extremes, including surges and projected mean sea level rise in Bocagrande, Cartagena (Colombia). Extreme waves are assessed from a wave reanalysis that are propagated from deep waters to the beach considering the hydrodynamic processes and taking into account the interaction between waves and the coastal elevation within the study area. First, we consider present sea level, storm surges and waves affecting the area. Next, we analyze the effect of sea level rise according to a moderate (RCP4.5) climate change scenario for the 21st century (years 2025, 2050, 2075, and 2100). The most pessimistic scenario (year 2100) yields a percentage of flooded area of 97.2%, thus revealing the major threat that represents sea level rise for coastal areas in the Caribbean Sea.
The recurrence of lethal ship-whale collisions (‘ship strikes’) has prompted management entities across the globe to seek effective ways for reducing collision risk. Here we describe ‘active whale avoidance’ defined as a mariner making operational decisions to reduce the chance of a collision with a sighted whale. We generated a conceptual model of active whale avoidance and, as a proof of concept, apply data to the model based on observations of humpback whales surfacing in the proximity of large cruise ships, and simulations run in a full-mission bridge simulator and commonly used pilotage software. Application of the model demonstrated that (1) the opportunities for detecting a surfacing whale are often limited and temporary, (2) the cumulative probability of detecting one of the available ‘cues’ of whale’s presence (and direction of travel) decreases with increased ship-to-whale distances, and (3) following detection time delays occur related to avoidance operations. These delays were attributed to the mariner evaluating competing risks (e.g., risk of whale collision vs. risk to human life, the ship, or other aspects of the marine environment), deciding upon an appropriate avoidance action, and achieving a new operational state by the ship once a maneuver is commanded. We thus identify several options for enhancing whale avoidance including training Lookouts to focus search efforts on a ‘Cone of Concern,’ defined here as the area forward of the ship where whales are at risk of collision based on the whale and ship’s transit/swimming speed and direction of travel. Standardizing protocols for rapid communication of relevant sighting information among bridge team members can also increase avoidance by sharing information on the whale that is of sufficient quality to be actionable. We also found that, for marine pilots in Alaska, a slight change in course tends to be preferable to slowing the ship in response to a single sighted whale, owing, in part, to the substantial distance required to achieve an effective speed reduction in a safe manner. However, planned, temporary speed reductions in known areas of whale aggregations, particularly in navigationally constrained areas, provide a greater range of options for avoidance, highlighting the value of real-time sharing of whale sighting data by mariners. Development and application of these concepts in modules in full mission ship simulators can be of significant value in training inexperienced mariners by replicating situations and effective avoidance maneuvers (reducing the need to ‘learn on the water’), helping regulators understand the feasibility of avoidance options, and, identifying priority research threads. We conclude that application of active whale avoidance techniques by large ships is a feasible yet underdeveloped tool for reducing collision risk globally, and highlight the value of local collaboration and integration of ideas across disciplines to finding solutions to mutually desired conservation outcomes.
In the last decades, the Mediterranean Sea experienced an increasing trend of fish stocks in overfishing status. Therefore, management actions to achieve a more sustainable exploitation of fishery resources are required and compelling. In this study, a spatially explicit multi-species bio-economic modeling approach, namely, SMART, was applied to the case study of central Mediterranean Sea to assess the potential effects of different trawl fisheries management scenarios on the demersal resources. The approach combines multiple modeling components, integrating the best available sets of spatial data about catches and stocks, fishing footprint from vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and economic parameters in order to describe the relationships between fishing effort pattern and impacts on resources and socio-economic consequences. Moreover, SMART takes into account the bi-directional connectivity between spawning and nurseries areas of target species, embedding the outcomes of a larvae transport Lagrangian model and of an empirical model of fish migration. Finally, population dynamics and trophic relationships are considered using a MICE (Models of Intermediate Complexity) approach. SMART simulates the fishing effort reallocation resulting from the introduction of different management scenarios. Specifically, SMART was applied to evaluate the potential benefits of different management approaches of the trawl fisheries targeting demersal stocks (deepwater rose shrimp Parapenaeus longirostris, the giant red shrimp Aristaeomorpha foliacea, the European hake Merluccius merluccius, and the red mullet Mullus barbatus) in the Strait of Sicily. The simulated management scenarios included a reduction of both fishing capacity and effort, two different sets of temporal fishing closures, and two sets of spatial fishing closures, defined involving fishers. Results showed that both temporal and spatial closures are expected to determine a significant improvement in the exploitation pattern for all the species, ultimately leading to the substantial recovery of spawning stock biomass for the stocks. Overall, one of the management scenarios suggested by fishers scored better and confirms the usefulness of participatory approaches, suggesting the need for more public consultation when dealing with resource management at sea.
Over 60% of the world’s reefs experience damage from local activities such as overfishing, coastal development, and watershed pollution. Land-based sources of pollution are a critical threat to coral reefs, and understanding “ridge-to-reef” changes is urgently needed to improve management and coral survival in the Anthropocene. We review existing literature on spatial-ecological connections between land use and coral health, specifically examining vegetative, agricultural, urban, and other land-use types. In general, forested land use is positively related to metrics of coral condition, while anthropogenic land uses like urban development and agriculture drive a decline in coral cover, diversity, colony size, and structural complexity. However, land-use and land-cover impacts vary across time and space, and small portions of the landscape (e.g., discrete segments of unpaved roads, grazed and scalded hillsides) may have an outsized effect on reef pollution, presenting opportunities for targeted conservation. Some coral species show resilience under land-use and land-cover change, and the impact of land use on coral recovery from bleaching remains an active area of research. Finally, a spatial bibliography of existing literature reveals that most ridge-to-reef studies focus on a handful of regional hotspots, surface water, and watershed-scale dynamics; more research is needed to address groundwater connectivity and to compare land-use impacts across multiple regions and scales. Approaches from landscape ecology that assess spatial patterns of, and synergies between, interlocking land cover may assist conservation managers in designing more resilient reefscapes.
Climate change and population growth are degrading coastal ecosystems and increasing risks to communities and infrastructure. Reliance on seawalls and other types of hardened shorelines is unsustainable in an era of rising seas, given the costs to build and maintain these structures and their unintended consequences on ecosystems. This is especially true for communities that depend on coastal and marine ecosystems for livelihoods and sustenance. Protecting and restoring coral reefs and coastal forests can be lower cost, sustainable alternatives for shoreline protection. However, decision-makers often lack basic information about where and under what conditions ecosystems reduce risk to coastal hazards and who would benefit. To better understand where to prioritize ecosystems for coastal protection, we assessed risk reduction provided by coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass along the entire coast of The Bahamas, under current and future climate scenarios. Modeled results show that the population most exposed to coastal hazards would more than double with future sea-level rise and more than triple if ecosystems were lost or degraded. We also found that ecosystem-based risk reduction differs across islands due to variation in a suite of ecological, physical, and social variables. On some populated islands, like Grand Bahama and Abaco, habitats provide protection to disproportionately large numbers of people compared to the rest of the country. Risk reduction provided by ecosystems is also evident for several sparsely populated, remote coastal communities, which in some cases, have large elderly populations. The results from our analyses were critical for engaging policy-makers in discussions about employing natural and nature-based features for coastal resilience. After hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew hit The Bahamas in 2016 and 2017, our assessment of coastal risk reduction and the multiple benefits provided by coastal ecosystems helped pave the way for an innovative loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to the Government of The Bahamas to invest in mangrove restoration for coastal resilience. This work serves as an example for other regions and investors aiming to use assessments of ecosystem services to inform financing of natural and nature-based approaches for coastal resilience and climate adaptation.
The United States Pacific whiting fishery uses mid-water trawl gear to target Pacific whiting off the United States West Coast. The fishery is subject to sector-specific bycatch caps for Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and several rockfish species (widow rockfish–Sebastes entomelas, canary rockfish-Sebastes pinniger, darkblotched rockfish–Sebastes crameri, Pacific Ocean Perch (POP)-Sebastes alutus, and yelloweye rockfish-Sebastes ruberrimus). Chinook bycatch can include fish from endangered populations and rockfish stocks were recovering from severe depletion though most are now rebuilt. Catch of these species is rare and uncertain, making it difficult for vessels to meet strict individual performance standards. Consequently the industry has developed risk pools in which bycatch quota for a group of vessels is pooled, but vessels are required to follow practices that minimize bycatch risk including temporal and spatial fishing restrictions. The risk pools also require vessels to share information about bycatch hotspots enabling a cooperative approach to avoid bycatch based on real-time information. In this article we discuss the formation and structure of these risk pools, the bycatch reduction strategies they apply, and outcomes in the fishery in terms of observed bycatch avoidance behavior and utilization of target species. The analysis demonstrates the ability of these fishers to keep bycatch within aggregate limits and keep individual vessels from being tied up due to quota overages.
Ecological and socio-economic indicators are used as proxies for attributes of ecosystems and human communities, respectively. End-to-end models are used to predict how ecosystems will respond to alternative management actions and changing environmental conditions. Despite the importance of these two tools for Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), there has been limited integration of ecological indicators directly into end-to-end models; the former are typically calculated post hoc with output from the latter. Here we explore how ecological indicators can be better incorporated into end-to-end models and examine the importance of this union with regards to cumulative impacts and indirect effects, setting management objectives, practical indicator selection, and applications to management. We conclude that the inclusion of ecological indicators in end-to-end models is not only feasible, but provides needed guidance on describing ecosystem status relative to strategic as well as tactical ecosystem-level management goals, and will escalate the implementation of EBM.
With the anticipated boom in the ‘blue economy’ and associated increases in industrialization across the world’s oceans, new and complex risks are being introduced to ocean ecosystems. As a result, conservation and resource management increasingly look to factor in potential interactions among the social, ecological and economic components of these systems. Investigation of these interactions requires interdisciplinary frameworks that incorporate methods and insights from across the social and biophysical sciences. Risk assessment methods, which have been developed across numerous disciplines and applied to various real-world settings and problems, provide a unique connection point for cross-disciplinary engagement. However, research on risk is often conducted in distinct spheres by experts whose focus is on narrow sources or outcomes of risk. Movement toward a more integrated treatment of risk to ensure a balanced approach to developing and managing ocean resources requires cross-disciplinary engagement and understanding. Here, we provide a primer on risk assessment intended to encourage the development and implementation of integrated risk assessment processes in the emerging blue economy. First, we summarize the dominant framework for risk in the ecological/biophysical sciences. Then, we discuss six key insights from the long history of risk research in the social sciences that can inform integrated assessments of risk: (1) consider the subjective nature of risk, (2) understand individual social and cultural influences on risk perceptions, (3) include diverse expertise, (4) consider the social scales of analysis, (5) incorporate quantitative and qualitative approaches, and (6) understand interactions and feedbacks within systems. Finally, we show how these insights can be incorporated into risk assessment and management, and apply them to a case study of whale entanglements in fishing gear off the United States west coast.
Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi biodiversity targets, nations have committed to conserving 10% of the oceans within their territories by 2020. Over the past decade, this goal has driven the establishment of many large marine protected areas (MPAs), several of which surround overseas island territories with current or historical military involvement, ranging from World War 2 battle sites to testing areas for the “ABCs” of atomic, biological, and chemical weapons during the cold war. For countries with significant overseas territories, such as the USA, France, and the UK, these remote possessions provide an opportunity to achieve biodiversity conservation objectives over large spatial scales. They also provide a strategic footprint for regional maritime spheres of influence, as well as possible future energy and mineral resources. Building on insights from terrestrial “militarized” protected areas, and drawing on archival and contemporary sources, this paper examines the multiple motivations behind designating very large MPAs in overseas territories, from protecting biodiversity to more long-term geopolitical, security, and resource-oriented motivations.
Entry fees are often promoted as mechanisms to finance conservation in marine protected areas (MPAs). This case study examined stakeholder perspectives on how a federal government decree to remove protected area entry fees in the Republic of Panama impacted governance quality in the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP), in Bocas del Toro. Through interviews and surveys, we found that local stakeholders view poorly monitored and distributed fees as ineffective and contentious. This manuscript demonstrates how fees are perhaps one of the most tangible elements of protected area governance and that quality can be greatly improved through efforts to ensure that local stakeholders have a say in whether or not there is a fee, as well as, how fees are collected and dispersed.
- The global environmental crisis (characterized by declines in biodiversity, transboundary pollution, habitat degradation, and climate change) has inspired international environmental regimes, such as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), to establish large‐scale networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica comprises roughly 10% of the global ocean and plays a crucial role in regulating global climate and marine ecosystems. Although the Antarctic marine environment currently remains one of the most intact on Earth, it is threatened by fishery expansion and a rapidly changing climate. In response, CCAMLR has been developing a representative network of MPAs to sustain ecosystem structure and function, protect areas vulnerable to human activities, and conserve biodiversity.
- Whereas significant research has focused on the role of formal mechanisms and state power in international environmental regimes, very little is known about the role of non‐state actors and informal approaches, particularly in the negotiation of agreements to establish large‐scale networks of MPAs.
- Case analysis of the 2016 Ross Sea Region MPA agreement reveals that CCAMLR is undergoing a significant period of learning and institutional evolution, as actors seek novel ways to negotiate a network of Southern Ocean MPAs. Key drivers of consensus include external political dynamics, internal leadership and group dynamics, and shared concern for the future of CCAMLR and Antarctic MPAs.
- Actors also rely on informal principles of negotiation (such as increasing transparency, developing trust, and engaging in dialogue) to fill institutional gaps in both CCAMLR's formal structure and the current process for developing and negotiating MPAs.
- As environmental threats grow in complexity and scale, non‐state actors and informal negotiations will become increasingly critical to support the ongoing success of formal international institutions dedicated to protecting the ecological integrity and function of the global environment.