Dissolution of anthropogenic CO2 into the oceans results in ocean acidification (OA), altering marine chemistry with consequences for primary, secondary, and tertiary food web producers. Here we examine how OA could affect the food quality of primary producers and subsequent trophic transfer to second and tertiary producers. Changes in food quality induced by OA are often related to secondary metabolites in primary producers, such as enriched phenolics in microalgae and iodine in brown algae. These biomolecules can then be transferred to secondary producers, potentially affecting seafood quality and other marine ecosystem services. Furthermore, shifts in dominant functional groups of primary producers under the influence of OA would also impact higher trophic levels through food web interactions. It is challenging to understand how these complex food chain effects of OA may be expressed under the influence of fluctuating environments or multiple drivers, and how these effects can be scaled up through marine food webs to humans.
Like most ocean regions today, the European and contiguous seas experience cumulative impacts from local human activities and global pressures. They are largely in poor environmental condition with deteriorating trends. Despite several success stories, European policies for marine conservation fall short of being effective. Acknowledging the challenges for marine conservation, a 4-year multi-national network, MarCons, supported collaborative marine conservation efforts to bridge the gap between science, management and policy, aiming to contribute in reversing present negative trends. By consolidating a large network of more than 100 scientists from 26 countries, and conducting a series of workshops over 4 years (2016–2020), MarCons analyzed challenges, opportunities and obstacles for advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas. Here, we synthesize the major issues that emerged from this analysis and make 12 key recommendations for policy makers, marine managers, and researchers. To increase the effectiveness of marine conservation planning, we recommend (1) designing coherent networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the framework of marine spatial planning (MSP) and applying systematic conservation planning principles, including re-evaluation of existing management zones, (2) designing MPA networks within a broader transboundary planning framework, and (3) implementing integrated land-freshwater-sea approaches. To address inadequate or poorly informed management, we recommend (4) developing and implementing adaptive management plans in all sites of the Natura 2000 European conservation network and revising the Natura 2000 framework, (5) embedding and implementing cumulative effects assessments into a risk management process and making them operational, and (6) promoting actions to reach ‘good environmental status’ in all European waters. To account for global change in conservation planning and management, we further recommend (7) developing conservation strategies to address the impacts of global change, for example identifying climate-change refugia as high priority conservation areas, and (8) incorporating biological invasions in conservation plans and prioritizing management actions to control invasive species. Finally, to improve current practices that may compromise the effectiveness of conservation actions, we recommend (9) reinforcing the collection of high-quality open-access data, (10) improving mechanisms for public participation in MPA planning and management, (11) prioritizing conservation goals in full collaboration with stakeholders, and (12) addressing gender inequality in marine sciences and conservation.
Traditional marine governance can create inferior results. Management decisions customarily reflect fluctuating political priorities and formidable special-interest influence. Governments face distrust and conflicts of interest. Industries face fluctuating or confusing rules. Communities feel disenfranchised to affect change. The marine environment exhibits the impacts. While perceived harm to diverse values and priorities, disputed facts and legal questions create conflict, informed and empowered public engagement prepares governments to forge socially legitimate and environmentally acceptable decisions. Integrity, transparency and inclusiveness matter. This article examines positive contributions engaged communities can make to marine governance and relates it to social license. Social license suffers critique as vague and manufactured. Here its traditional understanding as extra-legal approval that communities give to resource choices is broadened to include a legally sanctioned power to deliberate—social license to engage. The starting hypothesis rests in the legal tradition designating oceans as public assets for which governments hold fiduciary duties of sustainable management benefiting current and future generations. The public trust doctrine houses this legal custom. A procedural due process right for engaged communities should stem from this public-asset classification and afford marine stakeholders standing to ensure management policy accords with doctrinal principles. The (free), prior, informed consent participation standard provides best practice for engaged decision-making. Building on theories from law, social, and political science, we suggest robust public deliberation provides marine use actors methods to earn and sustain their social license to operate, while governmental legitimacy is bolstered by assuring public engagement opportunities are available and protected with outcomes utilized.
Decision support tools (DSTs), like models, GIS-based planning tools and assessment tools, play an important role in incorporating scientific information into decision-making and facilitating policy implementation. In an interdisciplinary Baltic research group, we compiled 43 DSTs developed to support ecosystem-based management of the Baltic Sea and conducted a thorough review. Analyzed DSTs cover a wide variety of policy issues (e.g., eutrophication, biodiversity, human uses) and address environmental as well as socio-economic aspects. In this study, we aim to identify gaps between existing DSTs and end-user needs for DSTs for supporting coastal and marine policy implementation, and to provide recommendations for future DST development. In two online surveys, we assess the awareness and use of DSTs in general, as well as policy implementation challenges and DST needs of representatives of public authorities from all Baltic countries, in particular. Through a policy review we identify major policy issues, policies, and general implementation steps and requirements and develop the synthesis-matrix, which is used to compare DST demand and supply. Our results show that DSTs are predominantly used by researchers. End-users from public authorities use DSTs mostly as background information. Major obstacles for DST use are lacking awareness and experiences. DST demand is strongest for the policy issue eutrophication. Furthermore, DSTs that support the development of plans or programs of measures and assess their impacts and effectiveness are needed. DST supply is low for recently emerging topics, such as non-indigenous species, marine litter, and underwater noise. To overcome existing obstacles, a common database for DSTs available in the BSR is needed. Furthermore, end-users need guidance and training, and cooperation between DST developers and end-users needs to be enhanced to ensure the practical relevance of DSTs for supporting coastal and marine policy implementation. To fill existing gaps, DSTs that address impacts on human welfare and link environmental and socio-economic aspects should be developed. The Baltic Sea Region serves as a best practice case for studying DSTs and their practical use. Hence, our results can provide insights for DST development in other marine regions. Furthermore, our methodological approach is transferable to other areas.
Since half a century ago, the number and area of dead zones (dissolved oxygen (DO) < 2 mg L–1 or 30% saturation) in the coastal oceans has increased dramatically. As widely recognized, the increased terrestrial nutrient and organic matter inputs are the two main factors causing the eutrophication of many coastal oceans. Here we show with decadal observed time series data from stations off the Pearl River Estuary and in the northern South China Sea (nSCS) that a strong intrusion into the nSCS of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) seawater in the form of Kuroshio branch occurred during the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) around 2003–2004 and 2015–2016 (also a strong El Niño event). Consequently, the DO concentration increased but NO3– and PO43– concentrations decreased in the subsurface layers of the nSCS. The WPS seawater was observed to reach the hypoxic area off the Pearl River Estuary in 2003–2004. Likely, due to the oxygen supply carried by the Kuroshio, little hypoxia developed. Yet, anoxic condition developed in the cold phase of PDO or strong La Niña years with weak Kuroshio intrusions.
This study evaluated two approaches to the aquaculture of Limulus polyphemus with the ultimate goal of harvesting Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) at an industrial scale. To monitor Horseshoe crabs (HSCs), a combination of physical, biochemical and cellular components were examined for HSC cohorts in an indoor recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) and an outdoor on-bottom pen culture system (PCS) over a 6-month period. The metrics included body weight, hemocyanin (Hc) concentration, amebocyte density, and LAL reactivity. In addition, a simulated biomedical bleeding event (extracting 30% of the total hemolymph volume) was performed to assess the impact on physiochemical properties of the hemolymph and amebocytes. Overall, the HSCs fared better in the RAS compared to the PCS, with higher rebound kinetics with respect to Hc, amebocyte density, LAL reactivity, and with 100% survival in the RAS cohort. Further, hemolymph reinfusion (after amebocyte removal) was shown to improve HSC recovery time. In summary, outcomes of this research show that a RAS, coupled with adequate nutrition and monitoring can provide HSCs with a suitable environment for sustainable hemolymph extraction and year-round LAL production.
Considerable effort is being deployed to predict the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activities on the ocean's biophysical environment, biodiversity, and natural resources to better understand how marine ecosystems and provided services to humans are likely to change and explore alternative pathways and options. We present an updated version of EcoOcean (v2), a spatial-temporal ecosystem modeling complex of the global ocean that spans food-web dynamics from primary producers to top predators. Advancements include an enhanced ability to reproduce spatial-temporal ecosystem dynamics by linking species productivity, distributions, and trophic interactions to the impacts of climate change and worldwide fisheries. The updated modeling platform is used to simulate past and future scenarios of change, where we quantify the impacts of alternative configurations of the ecological model, responses to climate-change scenarios, and the additional impacts of fishing. Climate-change scenarios are obtained from two Earth-System Models (ESMs, GFDL-ESM2M, and IPSL-CMA5-LR) and two contrasting emission pathways (RCPs 2.6 and 8.5) for historical (1950–2005) and future (2006–2100) periods. Standardized ecological indicators and biomasses of selected species groups are used to compare simulations. Results show how future ecological trajectories are sensitive to alternative configurations of EcoOcean, and yield moderate differences when looking at ecological indicators and larger differences for biomasses of species groups. Ecological trajectories are also sensitive to environmental drivers from alternative ESM outputs and RCPs, and show spatial variability and more severe changes when IPSL and RCP 8.5 are used. Under a non-fishing configuration, larger organisms show decreasing trends, while smaller organisms show mixed or increasing results. Fishing intensifies the negative effects predicted by climate change, again stronger under IPSL and RCP 8.5, which results in stronger biomass declines for species already losing under climate change, or dampened positive impacts for those increasing. Several species groups that win under climate change become losers under combined impacts, while only a few (small benthopelagic fish and cephalopods) species are projected to show positive biomass changes under cumulative impacts. EcoOcean v2 can contribute to the quantification of cumulative impact assessments of multiple stressors and of plausible ocean-based solutions to prevent, mitigate and adapt to global change.
Norwegian salmon farming has grown tremendously over the last 50 years, and it now constitutes around 75% of the country's total seafood export value. The grow-out phase typically takes place in coastal waters. There are ambitions for continued strong growth. Five years ago, a survey revealed that the fish farmers saw the lack of available sea area as the industry's greatest challenge for continued growth. This paper examines the current and future situation for area use, needs and availability, for salmon farming in Norway. The paper considers several possible changes that can influence this, including the coastal zone planning system, new technologies for offshore, land-based and closed salmon farming, and new tax-schemes that affect the distribution of burdens and benefits from salmon farming. The main finding is that central government has several options available, if it would like to prioritise aquaculture in terms of access to coastal waters.
However, this would imply a full-scale overhaul of the present allocation system, as well as a dramatic change of the current planning system, which in turn means challenging local democracy – not a very likely development under the current political circumstances. This leaves the industry with two options; to reduce salmon lice, emissions and escapes and to increase legitimacy on all levels, and by granting the local municipalities a larger share of the enormous value creation seen in the salmon sector.
While the ambitious plans of doubling production by 2030 and increase it five times by 2050 certainly will require more and better coastal aquaculture localities, the actual extent of area shortage will to a large degree depend on the development of new production models; land-based, offshore, contained net pens and the production of large smolt. Success in these endeavours, could also have an impact on global production of salmon, by opening the market for new actors, thus reducing the Norwegian share and the profitability of the industry.
Distally deposited tephra from explosive volcanic eruptions can be a powerful tool for precise dating and correlation of sedimentary archives and landforms. However, the morphostratigraphic and chronological potential of ocean-rafted pumice has been under-utilized considering its long observational history and widespread distribution on modern and palaeo-shorelines around the world. Here we analyze the geochemical composition and elevation data of 60 samples of ocean-rafted pumice collected since 1958 from raised beaches on Svalbard. Comparison of pumice data with postglacial relative sea-level history suggests eight distinct pumice rafting events throughout the North Atlantic during the Middle and Late Holocene. Analyzed ocean-rafted pumice exhibit consistent silicic composition characteristic of deposits from Iceland’s volcanic system, Katla. Eruption-triggered jökulhlaups are key drivers of the transport of pumice from the Katla caldera to beyond the coast of Iceland and into the surface currents of the North Atlantic Ocean. Thus, the correlation of distinct, high-concentration pumice horizons from Katla deposited along raised Middle Holocene beach ridges in Svalbard further advocates for the persistence of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap through the Holocene thermal maximum.
Microplastic (MP) contamination has been well documented across a range of habitats and for a large number of organisms in the marine environment. Consequently, bioaccumulation, and in particular biomagnification of MPs and associated chemical additives, are often inferred to occur in marine food webs. Presented here are the results of a systematic literature review to examine whether current, published findings support the premise that MPs and associated chemical additives bioaccumulate and biomagnify across a general marine food web. First, field and laboratory-derived contamination data on marine species were standardised by sample size from a total of 116 publications. Second, following assignment of each species to one of five main trophic levels, the average uptake of MPs and of associated chemical additives was estimated across all species within each level. These uptake data within and across the five trophic levels were then critically examined for any evidence of bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Findings corroborate previous studies that MP bioaccumulation occurs within each trophic level, while current evidence around bioaccumulation of associated chemical additives is much more ambiguous. In contrast, MP biomagnification across a general marine food web is not supported by current field observations, while results from the few laboratory studies supporting trophic transfer are hampered by using unrealistic exposure conditions. Further, a lack of both field and laboratory data precludes an examination of potential trophic transfer and biomagnification of chemical additives associated with MPs. Combined, these findings indicate that, although bioaccumulation of MPs occurs within trophic levels, no clear sign of MP biomagnification in situ was observed at the higher trophic levels. Recommendations for future studies to focus on investigating ingestion, retention and depuration rates for MPs and chemical additives under environmentally realistic conditions, and on examining the potential of multi-level trophic transfer for MPs and chemical additives have been made.
Coral bleaching driven by ocean warming is one of the most visible ecological impacts of climate change and perhaps the greatest threat to the persistence of reefs in the coming decades. In the absence of returning atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to those compatible with ocean temperatures below the mass coral bleaching temperature thresholds, the most straightforward means to reduce thermal-stress induced bleaching is to cool water at the seabed. The feasibility of reducing the seabed temperature through cool-water injections is considered first by analysing the feasibility of doing so on 19 reefs with differing physical environments using a simple residence time metric in 200 m resolution hydrodynamic model configurations. We then concentrate on the reefs around Lizard Island, the most promising candidate of the 19 locations, and develop a 40 m hydrodynamic model to investigate the effect of the injection of cool water at differing volumetric rates. Injecting 27°C seawater at a rate of 5 m3 s−1 at 4 sites in early 2017 cooled 97 ha of the reef by 0.15°C or more. The power required to pump 5 m3 s−1 through a set of pipes over a distance of 3 km from a nearby channel is ∼466 kW. This power applied at 4 sites for 3 months achieves a 2 Degree Heating Weeks (DHWs) reduction on 97 ha of reef. A more precise energy costing will require further expert engineering design of the pumping equipment and energy sources. Even for the most physically favourable reefs, cool-water transported through pipes and injected at a reef site is energy expensive and cannot be scaled up to any meaningful fraction of the 3,100 reefs of the GBR. Should priority be given to reducing thermal stress on one or a few high value reefs, this paper provides a framework to identify the most promising sites.
The impact of a range of different threats has resulted in the listing of six out of seven sea turtle species on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Disease risk analysis (DRA) tools are designed to provide objective, repeatable and documented assessment of the disease risks for a population and measures to reduce these risks through management options. To the best of our knowledge, DRAs have not previously been published for sea turtles, although disease is reported to contribute to sea turtle population decline. Here, a comprehensive list of health hazards is provided for all seven species of sea turtles. The possible risk these hazards pose to the health of sea turtles were assessed and “One Health” aspects of interacting with sea turtles were also investigated. The risk assessment was undertaken in collaboration with more than 30 experts in the field including veterinarians, microbiologists, social scientists, epidemiologists and stakeholders, in the form of two international workshops and one local workshop. The general finding of the DRA was the distinct lack of knowledge regarding a link between the presence of pathogens and diseases manifestation in sea turtles. A higher rate of disease in immunocompromised individuals was repeatedly reported and a possible link between immunosuppression and environmental contaminants as a result of anthropogenic influences was suggested. Society based conservation initiatives and as a result the cultural and social aspect of interacting with sea turtles appeared to need more attention and research. A risk management workshop was carried out to acquire the insights of local policy makers about management options for the risks relevant to Queensland and the options were evaluated considering their feasibility and effectiveness. The sea turtle DRA presented here, is a structured guide for future risk assessments to be used in specific scenarios such as translocation and head-starting programs.
A regional frequency analysis (RFA) of tide gauge (TG) data fit with a Generalized Pareto Distribution (GPD) is used to estimate contemporary extreme sea level (ESL) probabilities and the risk of a damaging flood along Pacific Basin coastlines. Methods to localize and spatially granulate the regional ESL (sub-annual to 500-year) probabilities and their uncertainties are presented to help planners of often-remote Pacific Basin communities assess (ocean) flood risk of various threshold severities under current and future sea levels. Downscaling methods include use of local TG observations of various record lengths (e.g., 1–19+ years), and if no in situ data exist, tide range information. Low-probability RFA ESLs localized at TG locations are higher than other recent assessments and generally more precise (narrower confidence intervals). This is due to increased rare-event sampling as measured by numerous TGs regionally. For example, the 100-year ESLs (1% annual chance event) are 0.15 m and 0.25 higher (median at-site difference) than a single-TG based analysis that is closely aligned to those supporting recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments and a third-generation global tide and surge model, respectively. Height thresholds for damaging flood levels along Pacific Basin coastlines are proposed. These floods vary between about 0.6–1.2 m or more above the average highest tide and are associated with warning levels of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The risk of a damaging flood assessed by the RFA ESL probabilities under contemporary sea levels have about a (median) 20–25-year return interval (4–5% annual chance) for TG locations along Pacific coastlines. Considering localized sea level rise projections of the IPCC associated with a global rise of about 0.5 m by 2100 under a reduced emissions scenario, damaging floods are projected to occur annually by 2055 and >10 times/year by 2100 at the majority of TG locations.
Climate-change associated changes in oceanographic conditions, particularly sea surface temperatures (SSTs), have systematically affected many marine fisheries resources around Japan. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index is considered one of the most important climate indices for describing basin-scale SST variations in the North Pacific, which are closely related to decadal variations in fisheries resources. Time series of the PDO index has been used to conventionally classify decadal conditions of ocean and fisheries resources around Japan as either warming or cooling regimes. It is now clear that for the 2000s to the mid-2010s, mostly during the “global surface warming slowdown,” the SST regime around Japan was unconventional; despite the PDO index being in a negative phase, which normally corresponds to a warming regime around Japan, SSTs exhibited decadal cooling in some waters and seasons. SSTs in the western part of the North Pacific subtropical gyre gradually decreased, particularly in autumn–spring, whereas SSTs in the western subarctic gyre and the Sea of Okhotsk increased. Moreover, SSTs between the subtropical and subarctic waters around northern Japan exhibited seasonal contrasts that were decadally intensified through the combined effects of cooling in winter–spring and warming in summer–autumn. Some major marine fisheries resources around Japan showed decadal increases or decreases beginning in the mid-2000s, and appeared to respond to the unconventional SST changes in their early life stages. In this paper, we review atmosphere and ocean conditions around Japan in the 2000s–2010s in terms of global climate, present an overview of potential impacts of decadal SST trends on five major commercial fisheries resources (walleye pollock, chum salmon, Japanese sardine, Japanese anchovy, and Japanese flying squid), and raise awareness that an unconventional regime can appear transiently during a state of global warming.
The American lobster (Homarus americanus) fishery is an economically important commercial activity in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. This fishery requires substantial amounts of bait, resulting in an emerging conservation challenge. To address this issue, an alternative lobster bait, manufactured using fresh and process pelagic fish, and dehydrated fish, corresponding to 75% less fresh pelagic fish than traditional bait has been developed by Bait Masters Inc. The performance of the alternative bait compared to that of the traditional bait was evaluated in a field study. This field trial was conducted in eight lobster fishing bays around PEI, during the 2019 lobster fishing seasons. Bait effectiveness was assessed based on catch-per-unit-effort (total lobsters and number of legal-sized lobsters caught per trap), and the ability to produce a catch. An average of five lobsters per trap were caught for both alternative and traditional baits. The results showed that both lobster bait types performed equally well in all PEI lobster fishing areas studied. This indicates that the alternative bait is a viable replacement for traditional bait, allowing the lobster fishery industry to address the bait-species shortage and ongoing conservation challenge.
Urban sources, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), untreated wastewater (not connected to WWTPs), and especially combined sewer overflow systems (CSS) including stormwater are major pathways for microplastics in the aquatic environment. We compile microplastics emission data for the Baltic Sea region, calculate emissions for each pathway and develop emission scenarios for selected polymer types, namely polyethylene (PE)/polypropylene (PP) and the polyester polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PE/PP and PET differ with respect to their density and can be regarded as representative for large groups of polymers. We consider particles between 20–500 μm with varying shapes. The emission scenarios serve as input for 3D-model simulations, which allow us to estimate transport, behavior, and deposition in the Baltic Sea environment. According to our model results, the average residence time of PET and PE/PP in the Baltic Sea water body is about 14 days. Microplastics from urban sources cause average concentrations of 1.4 PE/PP (0.7 PET) particles/m2 sea surface (20–500 μm size range) in the Baltic Sea during summer. Average concentrations of PET, resulting from urban sources, at the sea floor are 4 particles/m2 sediment surface during summer. Our model approach suggests that accumulation at the shoreline is the major sink for microplastic with annual coastal PE/PP and PET accumulation rates of up to 108 particles/m each near emission hot-spots and in enclosed and semi-closed systems. All concentrations show strong spatial and temporal variability and are linked to high uncertainties. The seasonality of CSS (including stormwater) emissions is assessed in detail. In the south-eastern Baltic, emissions during July and August can be up to 50% of the annual CSS and above 1/3 of the total annual microplastic emissions. The practical consequences especially for monitoring, which should focus on beaches, are discussed. Further, it seems that PET, PE/PP can serve as indicators to assess the state of pollution.
Caribbean coral reefs provide essential ecosystem services to society, including fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection from coastal erosion. However, these reefs are also exhibiting major declining trends, leading to the evolution of novel ecosystems dominated by non-reef building taxa, with potentially altered ecological functions. In the search for effective management strategies, this study characterized coral reefs in front of a touristic beach which provides economic benefits to the surrounding coastal communities yet faces increasing anthropogenic pressures and conservation challenges. Haphazard photo-transects were used to address spatial variation patterns in the reef’s benthic community structure in eight locations. Statistically significant differences were found with increasing distance from the shoreline, reef rugosity, Diadema antillarum density, among reef locations, and as a function of recreational use. Nearshore reefs reflected higher percent macroalgal cover, likely due to increased exposure from both recreational activities and nearby unsustainable land-use practices. However, nearshore reefs still support a high abundance of the endangered reef-building coral Orbicella annularis, highlighting the need to conserve these natural shoreline protectors. There is an opportunity for local stakeholders and regulatory institutions to collaboratively implement sea-urchin propagation, restoration of endangered Acroporid coral populations, and zoning of recreational densities across reefs. Our results illustrate vulnerable reef hotspots where these management interventions are needed and recommend guidelines to address them.
Coastal seas and oceans receive engineered nanoparticles that are released from nano-enabled consumer and industrial products and incidental nanoparticles that are formed as byproducts of combustion and friction. The marine environment is often perceived as a rapid sink for particles, because of the high salinity promoting the attachment between particles producing heavy agglomerates that sediment on the seafloor. In this work the effect of seasonal production of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) on particle stability is tested using seawater collected from the Gullmarn fjord in the winter, spring, and summer. A novel approach is used that is based on light scattering of the bulk particle population for tracking agglomerates and of single particles for tracking particles smaller than approximately 300 nm. Results show that organic particles formed from EPS during algal blooms are capable of stabilizing nanoparticles in marine waters for at least 48 h. In contrast, particles agglomerate rapidly in the same seawater that has previously been filtered through 0.02 μm pore size membranes. Furthermore, particles with fibrillar shape have been detected using atomic force microscopy, supporting the argument that organic particles from EPS are responsible for the stabilization effect. These results suggest that seasonal biological activity can act as an intermittent stabilization factor for nanoparticles in marine waters.
Photo-identification (photo-id) is a method used in field studies by biologists to monitor animals according to their density, movement patterns and behavior, with the aim of predicting and preventing ecological risks. However, these methods can introduce subjectivity when manually classifying an individual animal, creating uncertainty or inaccuracy in the data as a result of the human criteria involved. One of the main objectives in photo-id is to implement an automated mechanism that is free of biases, portable, and easy to use. The main aim of this work is to develop an autonomous and portable photo-id system through the optimization of image classification algorithms that have high statistical dependence, with the goal of classifying dorsal fin images of the blue whale through offline information processing on a mobile platform. The new proposed methodology is based on the Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) that, in conjunction with statistical discriminators such as the variance and the standard deviation, fits the extracted data and selects the closest pixels that comprise the edges of the dorsal fin of the blue whale. In this way, we ensure the elimination of the most common external factors that could affect the quality of the image, thus avoiding the elimination of relevant sections of the dorsal fin. The photo-id method presented in this work has been developed using blue whale images collected off the coast of Baja California Sur. The results shown have qualitatively and quantitatively validated the method in terms of its sensitivity, specificity and accuracy on the Jetson Tegra TK1 mobile platform. The solution optimizes classic SIFT, balancing the results obtained with the computational cost, provides a more economical form of processing and obtains a portable system that could be beneficial for field studies through mobile platforms, making it available to scientists, government and the general public.
Coastally distributed dolphin species are vulnerable to a variety of anthropogenic pressures, yet a lack of abundance data often prevents data-driven conservation management strategies from being implemented. We investigated the abundance of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) along the south coast of South Africa, from the Goukamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) to the Tsitsikamma MPA, between 2014 and 2016. During this period, 662.3h of boat-based photo-identification survey effort was carried out during 189 surveys. The sighting histories of 817 identified individuals were used to estimate abundance using capture-recapture modelling. Using open population (POPAN) models, we estimated that 2,155 individuals (95% CI: 1,873–2,479) occurred in the study area, although many individuals appeared to be transients. We recorded smaller group sizes and an apparent decline in abundance in a subset of the study area (Plettenberg Bay) compared to estimates obtained in 2002–2003 at this location. We recorded declines of more than 70% in both abundance and group size for a subset of the study area (Plettenberg Bay), in relation to estimates obtained in 2002–2003 at this location. We discuss plausible hypotheses for causes of the declines, including anthropogenic pressure, ecosystem change, and methodological inconsistencies. Our study highlights the importance of assessing trends in abundance at other locations to inform data-driven conservation management strategies of T. aduncus in South Africa.