The eastern North Pacific gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) population is considered “recovered” since the days of commercial whaling, with a population of over 25,000 animals. However, gray whale habitat is changing rapidly due to urbanization of the migratory coastal corridor, increases in shipping, and climate change altering water conditions and prey distribution. Increased single strandings and intermittent large-scale mortality events have occurred over the past 20 years, raising questions about how gray whale health is affected by whale population size (density dependence), climate change, and coastal development. To understand the impacts of these factors on health and the role of health changes in whale population dynamics, increased understanding of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of diseases in gray whales is needed. To date, most information on gray whale health and disease is in single case reports, in sections of larger papers on whale ecology, or in technical memoranda and conference proceedings. Here we review existing data on gray whale health and disease to provide a synthesis of available information and a baseline for future studies, and suggest priorities for future study of gray whale health. The latter include nutritional studies to distinguish annual physiological fasting from starvation leading to mortality, identification of endemic and novel viruses through increased use of molecular techniques, quantifying parasitic infections to explore interactions among prey shifts and parasite infection and body condition, as well as enhancing necropsy efforts to identify stochastic causes of mortality such as vessel strikes, entanglements, and predation. Integration of health and disease studies on individual animals with population monitoring and models of whale/prey dynamics will require interdisciplinary approaches to understand the role of health changes in population dynamics of this coastal whale.
World tuna catches reached 5.2 million metric tons in 2018, more than doubling since the early 1990s, primarily due to the introduction of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). The widespread use of drifting FADs has increased the economic efficiency of the fleet by making it easier to aggregate and locate tuna schools, but at a high ecological cost, including: significant catches of juvenile tunas; bycatch of endangered, threatened and protected species; and “ghost fishing,” marine pollution, and sensitive habitat destruction by abandoned FADs. Recent analysis indicates that most deployed FADs are eventually lost, stolen, beached, or abandoned, continuing their destructive impacts. This paper examines the legal regime, market forces, and other factors that frame FAD use. We demonstrate that, because deployed FADs are legally considered to be fishing, when they drift into closed areas or otherwise contravene national or international agreements or regulations, they are Illegal, Unreported, and/or Unregulated (IUU); vessels using such FADs are therefore IUU. We suggest that introducing a transparent FAD ownership tracking system and requiring FAD owners to mitigate their impacts could substantially improve the effectiveness of tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and redirect market incentives to properly support tuna management.
Peru is experiencing a “gastronomic boom” that is increasing the demand for seafood. We investigated two implicit assumptions of two popular sustainable seafood consumer-based initiatives: (1) seafood is labelled correctly, and (2) the recommended species are healthy for consumers. We used DNA barcoding to determine the taxonomic identity of 449 seafood samples from markets and restaurants and analysed the concentration of total mercury (THg) in a sub-sample (271 samples) of these. We found that a third of seafood is mislabelled and that over a quarter of all samples had mercury levels above the upper limit recommended by the US EPA (300 ng/g ww). Additionally, 30% of samples were threatened and protected species. Mislabelling often occurred for economic reasons and the lack of unique common names. Mislabelled samples also had significantly higher mercury concentrations than correctly labelled samples. The “best choice” species compiled from two sustainable seafood guides had less mislabelling, and when identified correctly through DNA barcoding, had on average lower mercury than the other species. Nevertheless, some high mercury species are included in these lists. Mislabelling makes the efforts of seafood campaigns less effective as does the inclusion of threatened species and species high in mercury.
The ocean plays a crucial role in the functioning of the Earth System and in the provision of vital goods and services. The United Nations (UN) declared 2021–2030 as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Roadmap for the Ocean Decade aims to achieve six critical societal outcomes (SOs) by 2030, through the pursuit of four objectives (Os). It specifically recognizes the scarcity of biological data for deep-sea biomes, and challenges the global scientific community to conduct research to advance understanding of deep-sea ecosystems to inform sustainable management. In this paper, we map four key scientific questions identified by the academic community to the Ocean Decade SOs: (i) What is the diversity of life in the deep ocean? (ii) How are populations and habitats connected? (iii) What is the role of living organisms in ecosystem function and service provision? and (iv) How do species, communities, and ecosystems respond to disturbance? We then consider the design of a global-scale program to address these questions by reviewing key drivers of ecological pattern and process. We recommend using the following criteria to stratify a global survey design: biogeographic region, depth, horizontal distance, substrate type, high and low climate hazard, fished/unfished, near/far from sources of pollution, licensed/protected from industry activities. We consider both spatial and temporal surveys, and emphasize new biological data collection that prioritizes southern and polar latitudes, deeper (> 2000 m) depths, and midwater environments. We provide guidance on observational, experimental, and monitoring needs for different benthic and pelagic ecosystems. We then review recent efforts to standardize biological data and specimen collection and archiving, making “sampling design to knowledge application” recommendations in the context of a new global program. We also review and comment on needs, and recommend actions, to develop capacity in deep-sea research; and the role of inclusivity - from accessing indigenous and local knowledge to the sharing of technologies - as part of such a global program. We discuss the concept of a new global deep-sea biological research program ‘Challenger 150,’ highlighting what it could deliver for the Ocean Decade and UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.
To successfully operate in a harsh environment like the Arctic Ocean, one must be able to understand and predict how that environment will evolve over different spatial and temporal scales. This is particularly challenging given the on-going and significant environmental changes that are occurring in the region. Access to the most recent environmental information provides timely knowledge that enables ship-based operations to proceed efficiently, effectively and safely in this difficult arena. Knowledge of the evolving environmental conditions during a field campaign is critical for effective planning, optimal execution of sampling strategies, and to provide a broader context to data collected at specific times and places. We describe the collaborations and processes that enabled an operational system to be developed to provide a remote field-team, located on USCGC Healy in the Beaufort Sea, with near real-time situational awareness information regarding the weather, sea ice conditions, and oceanographic processes. The developed system included the punctual throughput of near real-time products such as satellite imagery, meteorological forecasts, ice charts, model outputs, and up to date locations of key sea ice and ocean-based assets. Science and operational users, as well as onshore personnel, used this system for real-time practical considerations such as ship navigation, and to time scientific operations to ensure the appropriate sea ice and weather conditions prevailed. By presenting the outputs of the system within the context of case studies our results clearly demonstrate the benefits that improved situational awareness brings to ship-based operations in the Arctic Ocean, both today and in the future.
The frequency of coral bleaching events has been increasing in recent decades due to the temperature rise registered in most regions near the ocean. Their occurrence in the Maldivian Archipelago has been observed in the months following the peak of strong El Niño events. Bleaching has not been uniform, and some reefs have been only marginally impacted. Here, we use satellite observations and a regional ocean model to explore the spatial and temporal variability of sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and quantify the relative magnitude of ENSO-related episodes with respect to the recent warming. In line with other studies, it is confirmed that the long-term trend in SST significantly increases the frequency of stress conditions for the Maldivian corals. It is also found that the interaction between currents and the steep bathymetry is responsible for a local cooling of about 0.2°C in the Archipelago during the warmest season, with respect to the surrounding waters. This cooling largely reduces the frequency of mortality conditions.
In the past decades, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) has been employed in numerous research fields as a valuable tool for, among other things, Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Spatial Planning. In contrast, its use in fisheries management is hampered by coverage and transmission gaps. Transmission gaps may be due to technical limitations (e.g., weak signal or interference with other signals) or to deliberate switching off of the system, to conceal fishing activities. In either case such gaps may result in underestimating fishing effort and pressure. This study was undertaken to map and analyze bottom trawler transmission gaps in terms of duration and distance from the harbor with a view to quantifying unobserved fishing and its effects on overall trawling pressure. Here we present the first map of bottom trawler AIS transmission gaps in the Mediterranean Sea and a revised estimate of fishing effort if some gaps are considered as actual fishing.
The implementation of the European integrated marine policy poses many scientific challenges. Among them, the knowledge and understanding of interactions between anthropogenic pressures and ecological components is an important issue, particularly to help define Good Environmental Status, environmental targets and monitoring programs of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008, MSFD). Assessment of cumulative effects of different pressures is a particularly complex issue requiring modeling tools and methods, as well as accurate data sets on human activities, anthropogenic pressures and ecological components. The results of these assessments are also uncertain and highly dependent on the calculation methods and assumptions, as well as on the data sets used. Within this context, we developed a technical and methodological approach to map the risk of cumulative effects of different pressures on benthic habitats. These developments were initiated as part of the implementation of the MSFD in France to contribute to the diagnosis of the marine environment. Here we provide a demonstrator to illustrate the feasibility for mapping the risk of cumulative effects of different pressures on benthic habitats, as well as the confidence index and the variability associated with this analysis. The method is based on a spatial analysis using a mapping of benthic habitats and their sensitivity to pressures, as well as the distribution and intensity of human activities and associated pressures. We collected and prepared relatively accurate and consistent data sets to describe human activities and benthic habitats. Data sets are embedded into a grid that facilitates the management and analysis of the data and exploitation of the results. The demonstrator consists of a relational database using the Spatial Query Language (SQL) language as well as data analysis scripts using the R language. The first demonstrator operations validated the main methodological and technical choices and helped to identify future developments needed to facilitate the appropriation and integration of these approaches in the implementation of public policies for the management of the marine environment.
A multitude of anthropogenic pressures deteriorate the Baltic Sea, resulting in the need to protect and restore its marine ecosystem. For an efficient conservation, comprehensive monitoring and assessment of all ecosystem elements is of fundamental importance. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission HELCOM coordinates conservation measures regulated by several European directives. However, this holistic assessment is hindered by gaps within the current monitoring schemes. Here, twenty-two novel methods with the potential to fill some of these gaps and improve the monitoring of the Baltic marine environment are examined. We asked key stakeholders to point out methods likely to improve current Baltic Sea monitoring. We then described these methods in a comparable way and evaluated them based on their costs and applicability potential (i.e., possibility to make them operational). Twelve methods require low to very low costs, while five require moderate and two high costs. Seventeen methods were rated with a high to very high applicability, whereas four methods had moderate and one low applicability for Baltic Sea monitoring. Methods with both low costs and a high applicability include the Manta Trawl, Rocket Sediment Corer, Argo Float, Artificial Substrates, Citizen Observation, Earth Observation, the HydroFIA®pH system, DNA Metabarcoding and Stable Isotope Analysis.
Fishes are known to use deep-sea coral and sponge (DSCS) species as habitat, but it is uncertain whether this relationship is facultative (circumstantial and not restricted to a particular function) or obligate (necessary to sustain fish populations). To explore whether DSCS provide essential habitats for demersal fishes, we analyzed 10 years of submersible survey video transect data, documenting the locations and abundance of DSCS and demersal fishes in the Southern California Bight (SCB). We first classified the different habitats in which fishes and DSCS taxa occurred using cluster analysis, which revealed four distinct DSCS assemblages based on depth and substratum. We then used logistic regression and gradient forest analysis to identify the ecological correlates most associated with the presence of rockfish taxa (Sebastes spp.) and biodiversity. After accounting for spatial autocorrelation, the factors most related to the presence of rockfishes were depth, coral height, and the abundance of a few key DSCS taxa. Of particular interest, we found that young-of-the-year rockfishes were more likely to be present in locations with taller coral and increased densities of Plumarella longispina, Lophelia pertusa, and two sponge taxa. This suggests these DSCS taxa may serve as important rearing habitat for rockfishes. Similarly, the gradient forest analysis found the most important ecological correlates for fish biodiversity were depth, coral cover, coral height, and a subset of DSCS taxa. Of the 10 top-ranked DSCS taxa in the gradient forest (out of 39 potential DSCS taxa), 6 also were associated with increased probability of fish presence in the logistic regression. The weight of evidence from these multiple analytical methods suggests that this subset of DSCS taxa are important fish habitats. In this paper we describe methods to characterize demersal communities and highlight which DSCS taxa provide habitat to demersal fishes, which is valuable information to fisheries agencies tasked to manage these fishes and their essential habitats.
Bottom-contact fisheries are unquestionably one of the main threats to the ecological integrity and functioning of deep-sea and circalittoral ecosystems, notably cold-water corals (CWC) and coral gardens. Lessons from the destructive impact of bottom trawling highlight the urgent need to understand how fisheries affect these vulnerable marine ecosystems. At the same time, the impact of other fishing gear and small-scale fisheries remains sparsely known despite anecdotal evidence suggesting their impact may be significant. This study aims to provide baseline information on coral bycatch by bottom-set gillnets used by artisanal fisheries in Sagres (Algarve, southwestern Portugal), thereby contributing to understand the impact of the activity but also the diversity and abundance of corals in this region. Coral bycatch frequency and species composition were quantified over two fishing seasons (summer-autumn and spring) for 42 days. The relationship with fishing effort was characterized according to métiers (n = 6). The results showed that 85% of the gillnet deployments caught corals. The maximum number of coral specimens per net was observed in a deployment targeting Lophius budegassa (n = 144). In total, 4,326 coral fragments and colonies of 22 different species were captured (fishing depth range of 57–510 m, mean 139 ± 8 m). The most affected species were Eunicella verrucosa (32%), Paramuricea grayi (29%), Dendrophyllia cornigera (12%), and Dendrophyllia ramea (6%). The variables found to significantly influence the amount of corals caught were the target species, net length, depth, and mesh size. The 22 species of corals caught as bycatch belong to Orders Alcyonacea (80%), Scleractinia (18%), Zoantharia (1%), and Antipatharia (1%), corresponding to around 13% of the coral species known for the Portuguese mainland coast. These results show that the impact of artisanal fisheries on circalittoral coral gardens and CWC is potentially greater than previously appreciated, which underscores the need for new conservation measures and alternative fishing practices. Measures such as closure of fishing areas, frequent monitoring onboard of fishing vessels, or the development of encounter protocols in national waters are a good course of action. This study highlights the rich coral gardens of Sagres and how artisanal fisheries can pose significant threat to corals habitats in certain areas.
Species composition plays a key role in ecosystem functioning. Theoretical, experimental and field studies show positive effects of biodiversity on ecosystem processes. However, this link can differ between taxonomic and functional diversity components and also across trophic levels. These relationships have been hardly studied in planktonic communities of coastal upwelling systems. Using a 28-year time series of phytoplankton and zooplankton assemblages, we examined the effects of phytoplankton diversity on resource use efficiency (RUE, ratio of biomass to limiting resource) at the two trophic levels in the Galician upwelling system (NW Iberian peninsula). By fitting generalized least square models, we show that phytoplankton diversity was the best predictor for RUE across planktonic trophic levels. This link varied depending on the biodiversity component considered: while the effect of phytoplankton richness on RUE was positive for phytoplankton RUE and negative for zooplankton RUE, phytoplankton evenness effect was negative for phytoplankton RUE and positive for zooplankton RUE. Overall, taxonomic diversity had higher explanatory power than functional diversity, and variability in phytoplankton and zooplankton RUE decreased with increasing phytoplankton taxonomic diversity. Phytoplankton used resources more efficiently in warmer waters and at greater upwelling intensity, although these effects were not as strong as those for biodiversity. These results suggest that phytoplankton species numbers in highly dynamic upwelling systems are important for maintaining the planktonic biomass production leading us to hypothesize the relevance of complementarity effects. However, we further postulate that a selection effect may operate also because assemblages with low evenness were dominated by diatoms with specific functional traits increasing their ability to exploit resources more efficiently.
The design and development of an offshore port terminal is a complex task that involves distinctive design and decision challenges. In this paper, we propose the implementation of a floating, modular, platform that can act as an additional terminal of a port, with the aim of expanding its current container handling capacity. To this end, we introduce a generic methodology to tackle three aspects of an offshore terminal: terminal layout design, strategic logistics optimization, and operational process coordination. The terminal layout design includes the modular arrangements, handling on and between platform modules by the associated equipment. To select the final layout design concept, we evaluate different alternatives on criteria such as layout complexity, scalability, and the number of moves associated with the modular nature of the platform. Subsequently, the selected concept is given as input to a strategic logistics optimization approach that introduces a mixed-integer linear programming model. The proposed model minimizes the capital, operational, and maintenance costs of the floating modular terminal, i.e., number and size of modules, number and type of equipment, as well as capacities. In parallel, we develop a simulation of the floating terminal’s hinterland connections, where the number and type of required vessels are specified for relevant destinations and transport configurations. At the operational level, we focus on the coordination of handling equipment on the offshore platform by employing a tailored simulation/optimization approach. Our methodology is demonstrated on a case study that considers accommodating the growth of a port in the Hamburg-Le Havre range via the use of a modular, floating, transport, and logistics hub.
In the Gulf of Mexico, the bulk of published studies for sea turtles have focused on northern (United States) waters where economic resources are centered, with fewer studies in the southern portion of the basin, resulting in significant knowledge gaps in these underrepresented areas. Similarly, publications on adult sea turtles are dominated by research on females that come ashore to nest and can be readily studied (e.g., through the collection of biological samples and the application of satellite-telemetry devices), whereas information on adult male sea turtles is scarce. The goal of this paper is to begin filling these knowledge gaps by synthesizing available data on adult male sea turtles in the southern Gulf of Mexico. We used satellite-telemetry, boat- and drone-based surveys, and stranding records combined with ocean circulation modeling to better understand the spatial distribution of male loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) sea turtles in the southern Gulf of Mexico. These spatially explicit analyses will provide context for opportunistically collected data on male sea turtles and better contribute to the management and restoration of sea turtle populations that use the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, this synthesis can serve as a launching point for directed studies on male sea turtles in this region.
Chemical changes in the diffusive boundary layer (DBL) generated by photosynthesising macroalgae are expected to play an important role in modulating the effects of ocean acidification (OA), but little is known about the effects on early life stages of marine invertebrates in modified DBLs. Larvae that settle to macroalgal surfaces and remain within the DBL will experience pH conditions markedly different from the bulk seawater. We investigated the interactive effects of seawater pH and DBL thickness on settlement and early post-settlement growth of the sea urchin Pseudechinus huttoni, testing whether coralline-algal DBLs act as an environmental buffer to OA. DBL thickness and pH levels (estimated from well-established relationships with oxygen concentration) above the crustose coralline algal surfaces varied with light availability (with photosynthesis increasing pH to as high as pH 9.0 and respiration reducing pH to as low as pH 7.4 under light and dark conditions, respectively), independent of bulk seawater pH (7.5, 7.7, and 8.1). Settlement success of P. huttoni increased over time for all treatments, irrespective of estimated pH in the DBL. Juvenile test growth was similar in all DBL manipulations, showing resilience to variable and low seawater pH. Spine development, however, displayed greater variance with spine growth being negatively affected by reduced seawater pH in the DBL only in the dark treatments. Scanning electron microscopy revealed no observable differences in structural integrity or morphology of the sea urchin spines among pH treatments. Our results suggest that early juvenile stages of P. huttoni are well adapted to variable pH regimes in the DBL of macroalgae across a range of bulk seawater pH treatments.
Biological fitness relies on processes acting at various levels of organization, all of which can be modified by environmental change. Application of synthesis frameworks, such as the Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP), can enhance our understanding of the responses to stressors identified in studies at each level, as well as the links among them. However, the use of such frameworks is often limited by a lack of data. In order to identify contexts with sufficient understanding to apply the AOP framework, we conducted a meta-analysis of studies considering ocean acidification effects on calcifying mollusks. Our meta-analysis identified that most studies considered the adult life history stage, bivalve taxonomic group, individual-level changes, and growth- and metabolism-related responses. Given the characteristics of the published literature, we constructed an AOP for the effects of ocean acidification on calcification in an adult bivalve, specifically the Pacific oyster (Magallana gigas). By structuring results within the AOP framework, we identify that, at present, the supported pathways by which ocean acidification affects oyster calcification are via the downregulation of cavortin and arginine kinase transcription. Such changes at the molecular level can prompt changes in cellular and organ responses, including altered enzyme activities, lipid peroxidation, and regulation of acid–base status, which have impacts on organism level metabolic rate and, therefore, calcification. Altered calcification may then impact organism mortality and population sizes. We propose that when developed and incorporated in future studies, the AOP framework could be used to investigate sources of complexity including varying susceptibility within and among species, feedback mechanisms, exposure duration and magnitude, and species interactions. Such applications of the AOP framework will allow more effective reflections of the consequences of environmental change, such as ocean acidification, on all levels of biological organization.
The growth of phytoplankton at high latitudes was generally thought to begin in open waters of the marginal ice zone once the highly reflective sea ice retreats in spring, solar elevation increases, and surface waters become stratified by the addition of sea-ice melt water. In fact, virtually all recent large-scale estimates of primary production in the Arctic Ocean (AO) assume that phytoplankton production in the water column under sea ice is negligible. However, over the past two decades, an emerging literature showing significant under-ice phytoplankton production on a pan-Arctic scale has challenged our paradigms of Arctic phytoplankton ecology and phenology. This evidence, which builds on previous, but scarce reports, requires the Arctic scientific community to change its perception of traditional AO phenology and urgently revise it. In particular, it is essential to better comprehend, on small and large scales, the changing and variable icescapes, the under-ice light field and biogeochemical cycles during the transition from sea-ice covered to ice-free Arctic waters. Here, we provide a baseline of our current knowledge of under-ice blooms (UIBs), by defining their ecology and their environmental setting, but also their regional peculiarities (in terms of occurrence, magnitude, and assemblages), which is shaped by a complex AO. To this end, a multidisciplinary approach, i.e., combining expeditions and modern autonomous technologies, satellite, and modeling analyses, has been used to provide an overview of this pan-Arctic phenological feature, which will become increasingly important in future marine Arctic biogeochemical cycles.
Shipping is the most pervasive source of anthropogenic underwater continuous noise and local intermittent noise. This study focused on the separation of anthropogenic intermittent noise from dynamic background noise in the Gulf of Finland using an adaptive threshold level (ATL) technique. The intermittent noise was validated with Automatic Identification System (AIS) data and the background noise with selected environmental factors. Separated components were characterized and compared with a sound exposure level (SEL) in three 1/3 octave bands. Intermittent noise can be separated with ATL in the Baltic Sea, and vessel traffic identified as the primary source. Background noise varies spatially and is partially explained by environmental factors. Intermittent noise has strong persisting influence on the acoustic environment near shipping lanes, elevating the SEL in each of the 1/3 octave bands: by 20–30 dB in the 63 Hz band, by 13–22 dB in the 125 Hz band and by 5–8 dB in the 2000 Hz band. We conclude that strong intermittent noise is characteristic to the underwater acoustic environment in the study area with heavy shipping traffic. By combining ATL with data from AIS, intermittent noise peaks in underwater hydrophone recordings can be associated with passages of individual vessels.
Developing a typology of heterogeneous fishing practices through the use of métier analysis is a useful step in understanding the dynamics of fishing fleets and enabling effective implementation of management outcomes. We develop a non-hierarchical clustering framework to quantitatively categorize individual fishing events to a particular métier based on corresponding catch composition, gear configuration, and spatial and temporal references. Our clustering framework has several innovations over predecessors including: (i) introducing alternative methods for encoding and transforming fisheries data; (ii) variable (feature) selection methods; (iii) complementary metrics and methods for internal métier validation; and (iv) use of a network science method to model and analyze fishing practices. To demonstrate applicability, we apply this framework to the Australian Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF), a multispecies pelagic longline fishery with a diversity of fishing practices. We identified a total of seven stable métiers within the ETBF. While each métier was characterized by a predominant target species, they were differentiated more by seasonal and temporal references (e.g., time of set, month, latitude) than gear configuration (e.g., hooks per basket) or target species. By collapsing a large amount of high-dimensional operational data into a relatively uniform and limited number of components, decision-makers can more easily evaluate the likely consequences of management and design policies that target a particular métier.
Relating the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 for Ocean and Life Below Water to the 16 remaining SDGs in the UN 2030 sustainable development agenda. A holistic approach that embraces sustainable Ocean stewardship informed by best available science, data and services to support society and the economy is required to create the ‘Future We Want’. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is an essential foundation to achieve this objective.