Marine management has typically prioritised natural science methodological traditions as an evidence base for decision-making; yet better integration of social science methods are increasingly shown to provide a more comprehensive picture to base management decisions. Specifically, perceptions-based assessments are gaining support, as they can provide efficient and holistic evaluation regarding management issues. This study focuses on coral reefs because they are particularly threatened ecosystems, due to their ecological complexity, socio-economic importance, and the range of environmental drivers that impact them. Research has largely concentrated on assessing proximate threats to coral reefs. Less attention has been given to distal drivers, such as socio-economic and governance factors. A common understanding of threats related to coral reef degradation is critical for integrated management that takes account of peoples’ concerns. This study compares perceptions of drivers of reef health among stakeholders (n = 110) across different sectors and governance levels, in four Caribbean countries. Interview data identified 37 proximate and 136 distal drivers, categorised into 27 themes. Five sub-groups of themes connecting proximate and distal drivers were identified. Perceptions of two of these narratives, relating to ‘fishing and socioeconomic issues’ and ‘reef management and coastal development’, differed among respondents from different countries and sectors respectively. However, the findings highlight a shared perception of many themes, with 18 of the 27 (67%) mentioned by > 25% of respondents. This paper highlights the application of perceptions data for marine management, demonstrating how knowledge of proximate and distal drivers can be applied to identify important issues at different context-specific scales.
In this work, an extended overview of the marine renewable energy in the Mediterranean Sea is provided as regards current status, potential problems, challenges, and perspectives of development. An integrated and holistic approach is necessary for the economic viability and sustainability of marine renewable energy projects; this approach comprises three different frameworks, not always aligned, i.e., geotechnical/engineering, socio-economic, and environmental/ecological frameworks. In this context, the geomorphological, climatological, socio-economic, and environmental/ecological particularities of the Mediterranean basin are discussed, as they constitute key issues of the spatial context in which marine renewable energy projects are to be implemented. General guidelines for the sustainable development of marine renewable energy in the Mediterranean are also provided.
A new methodology based in the use of fishers’ knowledge and cost-effective tools to obtain information about marine recreational fisheries (MRF) is presented. The squid and cuttlefish fishery of the Ría of Vigo (NW Spain) was selected because it is managed in a data-poor environment. In-depth interviews (57) were conducted with fishers, collecting ecological and socio-economic information. A cartography of fishing grounds based on their knowledge was obtained, while the intensity of effort and catches was mapped by the monitoring of two vessels with low-cost GPS data loggers. The 102 shore anglers and 248 recreational boats catch 8 t/year of European squid Loligo vulgaris and 11 t/year of common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis (11% of total catches on these species in the area). Shore anglers fish from 11 ports, while boat fishers use 14 fishing grounds (covering 30 km2). Most of the catches (86%) are landed by boats, and their CPUE is higher in the outer part of the Ría of Vigo. The use of fishers’ knowledge and cost-effective monitoring is encouraged to obtain information for the management of MRF. Given the economic contribution of MRF (260,000 €/year in direct expenses), this activity should be considered in the regulations.
Trade regulations may be useful for conserving marine species that are suffering from overexploitation. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has emerged as an instrument to help tighten fisheries management. However, the impacts of CITES regulations have not been examined for the trade in fully marine fishes. This study used seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), the first fully marine fishes listed in CITES Appendix II since treaty inception, as a case study. Drawing on Customs data from Taiwan and Hong Kong SAR (which cover pre-CITES periods), iterative-segmented regressions were applied to investigate changes in seahorse trade corresponding to CITES interventions. Principal component analyses were conducted to understand characteristics of seahorse source countries, and a gravity model of trade was applied to identify predictors of seahorse trade volumes. This study found that the total weight of seahorses in documented trade decreased significantly after CITES implementation, recorded trade became concentrated in fewer countries, and prices increased. Seahorse source countries were found having more fishers, demersal fish catch and general trade with China, compared to other range states. However, countries that reported no exports, unchanged export volumes or declining volumes after CITES were similar. In addition, volumes traded between two countries were found significantly higher when the two countries were closer together or when the source country had a lower per capita GDP or higher demersal catch. This study can help guide targeted actions to maximize CITES effectiveness for marine species.
The ocean is increasingly facing direct and indirect threats from multiple human activities that alter marine ecosystems worldwide. Mitigating these threats requires a global shift in the way people perceive and interact with the marine environment. Marine public perceptions research has emerged as a useful tool to understand public awareness and attitudes towards the sea. This study compares available surveys of public perceptions of marine threats and protection involving >32,000 respondents across 21 countries. Results indicate that 70% of respondents believe the marine environment is under threat from human activities, and 45% believe the threat is high or very high. Yet when asked about the ocean's health, only 15% thought it was poor or threatened. Respondents consistently ranked pollution issues as the highest threat, followed by fishing, habitat alteration and climate change. With respect to ocean protection, 73% of respondents support marine protected areas in their region. Most respondents overestimated the area of ocean currently protected, and would like to see much larger areas protected in the future. Overall, a clear picture emerged of the perceived threats and support for protection which can inform marine managers, policy makers, conservation practitioners and educators to improve marine management and conservation programs.
Previous research on offshore wind farm (OWF) siting has been dominated by studies centred on energy resources and profitability, human activities and acceptance. Recently, studies on environmental impacts of OWFs have emerged. Few studies have been carried out to discuss the issues comprehensively. This study develops a set of comprehensive OWF siting criteria; including the profitability, social, security and environmental considerations. It solicits expert opinions from academia and industry through an international Delphi method. Contrary to the typical consensus seeking in Delphi studies, it focuses on understanding the dissensus through a comprehensive discussion. We find that profitability and social considerations are the most commonly agreed siting criteria among the experts whereas environmental and security criteria receive less agreement. As OWFs move further offshore, we are concerned about the understanding of the associated environmental impacts, and how energy and marine policy affect the marine spatial planning and consenting process. Research must get ahead of the developments to provide a better understanding of the potential impacts and to guide the consenting and monitoring processes.
Structural and functional changes in a sandy beach ecosystem in the southwestern Atlantic (Barra del Chuy, Uruguay) were assessed by contrasting four Ecopath trophic models and performing temporal dynamic simulations using Ecosim. Each model (1982, 1989, 1996 and 2012) represents a historical period of a clam fishery in which regulatory structure, management tools and resource status varied substantially. The results showed that this land-ocean interface experienced significant changes reflected at the population and ecosystem levels, owing to a combined effect of fishing and climate variability. Most system biomass (excluding phytoplankton and detritus) consisted of benthic invertebrates. Phytoplankton increased significantly over time, whereas the biomass of benthic macrofaunal components varied among the periods due to bottom-up processes, mass mortalities of the harvested clams and fishing intensity. Major fishing impacts on the targeted clam and mass mortalities occurred concurrently with low phytoplankton biomass, and clam recovery occurred in the absence of harvesting and increasing primary production. Ecosystem-level attributes (e.g., Total System Throughput, Ascendency) showed considerable temporal fluctuations, which were primarily related to changes in system productivity associated with a climatic shift from a cold phase to a warm phase and increasing onshore winds. An analysis of robustness and order showed an ecosystem state lacking the flexibility to adapt to new perturbations. Dynamic simulations showed the prominent bottom-up role of environmental variability on ecosystem function and structure. Temporal dynamics is conducted by changes in primary production forced mainly by temperature patterns. The concurrent role of climate variations and fishing explained the long-term dynamics of this ecosystem, suggesting that sandy beaches are fragile social-ecological systems whose services are increasingly threatened by long-lasting stressors.
In this perspective article, B. C. Howard delves into the role that stakeholders play in the development of blue growth. Sustainable development is often looked at as a scientific or a political problem, but stakeholders also have a huge role to play. The actions of stakeholders have the possibility to make or break the goals set out by the UN and other international bodies when it comes to sustainability. Here Howard interviews a number of important actors about how they think we can work together to achieve a blue economy.
The Mediterranean Sea has been described as one of the most affected areas by marine litter in the world. Although effects on organisms from marine plastic litter ingestion have been investigated in several oceanic areas, there is still a lack of information from the Mediterranean Sea. The main objectives of this paper are to review current knowledge on the impact of marine litter on Mediterranean biodiversity, to define selection criteria for choosing marine organisms suitable for use as bioindicator species, and to propose a methodological approach to assessing the harm related to marine litter ingestion in several Mediterranean habitats and sub-regions. A new integrated monitoring tool that would provide the information necessary to design and implement future mitigation actions in the Mediterranean basin is proposed.
According to bibliographic research and statistical analysis on current knowledge of marine litter ingestion, the area of the Mediterranean most studied, in terms of number of species and papers in the Mediterranean Sea is the western sub-area as well as demersal (32.9%) and pelagic (27.7%) amongst habitats.
Applying ecological and biological criteria to the most threatened species obtained by statistical analysis, bioindicator species for different habitats and monitoring scale were selected. A threefold approach, simultaneously measuring the presence and effects of plastic, can provide the actual harm and sub-lethal effects to organisms caused by marine litter ingestion. The research revealed gaps in knowledge, and this paper suggests measures to close the gap. This and the selection of appropriate bioindicator species would represent a step forward for marine litter risk assessment, and the implementation of future actions and mitigation measures for specific Mediterranean areas, habitats and species affected by marine litter ingestion.
This paper focuses on how a community of researchers under the COMET (CO-ordination and iMplementation of a pan European projecT for radioecology) project has improved the capacity of marine radioecology to understand at the process level the behaviour of radionuclides in the marine environment, uptake by organisms and the resulting doses after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident occurred in 2011. We present new radioecological understanding of the processes involved, such as the interaction of waterborne radionuclides with suspended particles and sediments or the biological uptake and turnover of radionuclides, which have been better quantified and mathematically described.
We demonstrate that biokinetic models can better represent radionuclide transfer to biota in non-equilibrium situations, bringing more realism to predictions, especially when combining physical, chemical and biological interactions that occur in such an open and dynamic environment as the ocean. As a result, we are readier now than we were before the FDNPP accident in terms of having models that can be applied to dynamic situations.
The paper concludes with our vision for marine radioecology as a fundamental research discipline and we present a strategy for our discipline at the European and international levels. The lessons learned are presented along with their possible applicability to assess/reduce the environmental consequences of future accidents to the marine environment and guidance for future research, as well as to assure the sustainability of marine radioecology. This guidance necessarily reflects on why and where further research funding is needed, signalling the way for future investigations.
Environmental and anthropogenic factors often drive population declines in top predators, but how their influences may combine remains unclear. Albatrosses are particularly threatened. They breed in fast-changing environments, and their extensive foraging ranges expose them to incidental mortality (bycatch) in multiple fisheries. The albatross community at South Georgia includes globally important populations of three species that have declined by 40–60% over the last 35 years. We used three steps to deeply understand the drivers of such dramatic changes: (i) describe fundamental demographic rates using multievent models, (ii) determine demographic drivers of population growth using matrix models, and (iii) identify environmental and anthropogenic drivers using ANOVAs. Each species was affected by different processes and threats in their foraging areas during the breeding and nonbreeding seasons. There was evidence for two kinds of combined environmental and anthropogenic effects. The first was sequential; in wandering and black-browed albatrosses, high levels of bycatch have reduced juvenile and adult survival, then increased temperature, reduced sea-ice cover, and stronger winds are affecting the population recovery potential. The second was additive; in gray-headed albatrosses, not only did bycatch impact adult survival but also this impact was exacerbated by lower food availability in years following El Niño events. This emphasizes the need for much improved implementation of mitigation measures in fisheries and better enforcement of compliance. We hope our results not only help focus future management actions for these populations but also demonstrate the power of the modelling approach for assessing impacts of environmental and anthropogenic drivers in wild animal populations.
The degree to which ecosystems are regulated through bottom-up, top-down or direct physical processes represents a long-standing issue in ecology, with important consequences for resource management and conservation. In marine ecosystems, the role of bottom-up and top-down forcing has been shown to vary over spatio-temporal scales, often linked to highly variable and heterogeneously distributed environmental conditions. Ecosystem dynamics in the Northeast Pacific have been suggested to be predominately bottom-up regulated. However, it remains unknown to what extent top-down regulation occurs, or whether the relative importance of bottom-up and top-down forcing may shift in response to climate change. In this study, we investigate the effects and relative importance of bottom-up, top-down and physical forcing during changing climate conditions on ecosystem regulation in the Southern California Current System (SCCS) using a generalized food web model. This statistical approach is based on non-linear threshold models and a long-term data set (~60 year) covering multiple trophic levels from phytoplankton to predatory fish. We found bottom-up control to be the primary mode of ecosystem regulation. However, our results also demonstrate an alternative mode of regulation represented by interacting bottom-up and top-down forcing, analogous to wasp-waist dynamics, but occurring across multiple trophic levels and only during periods of reduced bottom-up forcing (i.e., weak upwelling, low nutrient concentrations and primary production). The shifts in ecosystem regulation are caused by changes in ocean-atmosphere forcing and triggered by highly variable climate conditions associated with El Niño. Furthermore, we show that biota respond differently to major El Niño events during positive or negative phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), as well as highlight potential concerns for marine and fisheries management by demonstrating increased sensitivity of pelagic fish to exploitation during El Niño.
Aquaculture accounts for almost one-half of global fish consumption. Understanding the regional impact of climate fluctuations on aquaculture production thus is critical for the sustainability of this crucial food resource. The objective of this work was to understand the role of climate fluctuations and climate change in subtropical coastal estuarine environments within the context of aquaculture practices in Heʻeia Fishpond, Oʻahu Island, Hawaiʻi. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first study of climate effects on traditional aquaculture systems in the Hawaiian Islands. Data from adjacent weather stations were analyzed together with in situwater quality instrument deployments spanning a 12-year period (November 2004 –November 2016). We found correlations between two periods with extremely high fish mortality at Heʻeia Fishpond (May and October 2009) and slackening trade winds in the week preceding each mortality event, as well as surface water temperatures elevated 2–3°C higher than the background periods (March-December 2009). We posit that the lack of trade wind-driven surface water mixing enhanced surface heating and stratification of the water column, leading to hypoxic conditions and stress on fish populations, which had limited ability to move within net pen enclosures. Elevated water temperature and interruption of trade winds previously have been linked to the onset of El Niño in Hawaiʻi. Our results provide empirical evidence regarding El Niño effects on the coastal ocean, which can inform resource management efforts about potential impact of climate variation on aquaculture production. Finally, we provide recommendations for reducing the impact of warming events on fishponds, as these events are predicted to increase in magnitude and frequency as a consequence of global warming.
During summer 2012 Shell performed exploratory drilling at Sivulliq, a lease holding located in the autumn migration corridor of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), northwest of Camden Bay in the Beaufort Sea. The drilling operation involved a number of vessels performing various activities, such as towing the drill rig, anchor handling, and drilling. Acoustic data were collected with six arrays of directional recorders (DASARs) deployed on the seafloor over ~7 weeks in Aug–Oct. Whale calls produced within 2 km of each DASAR were identified and localized using triangulation. A “tone index” was defined to quantify the presence and amplitude of tonal sounds from industrial machinery. The presence of airgun pulses originating from distant seismic operations was also quantified. For each 10-min period at each of the 40 recorders, the number of whale calls localized was matched with the “dose” of industrial sound received, and the relationship between calling rates and industrial sound was modeled using negative binomial regression. The analysis showed that with increasing tone levels, bowhead whale calling rates initially increased, peaked, and then decreased. This dual behavioral response is similar to that described for bowhead whales and airgun pulses in earlier work. Increasing call repetition rates can be a viable strategy for combating decreased detectability of signals arising from moderate increases in background noise. Meanwhile, as noise increases, the benefits of calling may decrease because information transfer becomes increasingly error-prone, and at some point calling may no longer be worth the effort.
Protected Areas are a key component of nature conservation. They can play an important role in counterbalancing the impacts of ecosystem degradation. For an optimal protection of a Protected Area it is essential to account for the variables underlying the major Ecosystem Services an area delivers, and the threats upon them. Here we show that the perception of these important variables differs markedly between scientists and managers of Protected Areas in mountains and transitional waters. Scientists emphasise variables of abiotic and biotic nature, whereas managers highlight socio-economic, cultural and anthropogenic variables. This indicates fundamental differences in perception. To be able to better protect an area it would be advisable to bring the perception of scientists and managers closer together. Intensified and harmonised communication across disciplinary and professional boundaries will be needed to implement and improve Ecosystem Service oriented management strategies in current and future Protected Areas.
Due to large-scale habitat losses and increasing pressures, benthic habitats in general, and perhaps oyster beds in particular, are commonly in decline and severely threatened on regional and global scales. Appropriate and cost-efficient methods for mapping and monitoring of the distribution, abundance and quality of remaining oyster populations are fundamental for sustainable management and conservation of these habitats and their associated values. Towed video has emerged as a promising method for surveying benthic communities in a both non-destructive and cost-efficient way. Here we examine its use as a tool for quantification and monitoring of oyster populations by (i) analysing how well abundances can be estimated and how living Ostrea edulis individuals can be distinguished from dead ones, (ii) estimating the variability within and among observers as well as the spatial variability at a number of scales, and finally (iii) evaluating the precision of estimated abundances under different scenarios for monitoring. Overall, the results show that the can be used to quantify abundance and occurrence of Ostrea edulis in heterogeneous environments. There was a strong correlation between abundances determined in the field and abundances estimated by video-analyses (r2= 0.93), even though video analyses underestimated the total abundance of living oysters by 20%. Additionally, the method was largely repeatable within and among observers and revealed no evident bias in identification of living and dead oysters. We also concluded that the spatial variability was an order of magnitude larger than that due to observer errors. Subsequent modelling of precision showed that the total area sampled was the main determinant of precision and provided general method for determining precision. This study provides a thorough validation of the application of towed video on quantitative estimations of live oysters. The results suggest that the method can indeed be very useful for this purpose and we therefor recommend it for future monitoring of oysters and other threatened habitats and species.
From 8-10 November 2006 the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held the first international workshop on Marine Spatial Planning. The meeting was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.
We prepared this technical report from expert presentations made at the workshop and subsequent discussions during and following the workshop, supplemented and updated with new information where appropriate. Marine spatial planning is a rapidly developing field, and we wanted to keep this report up to date. We take responsibility for any misinterpretation or misrepresentation of ideas in the original presentations or factual errors in the report.
Seagrass meadows support fisheries through provision of nursery areas and trophic subsidies to adjacent habitats. As shallow coastal habitats, they also provide key fishing grounds; however, the nature and extent of such exploitation are poorly understood. These productive meadows are being degraded globally at rapid rates. For degradation to cease, there needs to be better appreciation for the value of these habitats in supporting global fisheries. Here, we provide the first global scale study demonstrating the extent, importance and nature of fisheries exploitation of seagrass meadows. Due to a paucity of available data, the study used a global expert survey to demonstrate the widespread significance of seagrass-based fishing activity. Our study finds that seagrass-based fisheries are globally important and present virtually wherever seagrass exists, supporting subsistence, commercial and recreational activity. A wide range of fishing methods and gear is used reflecting the spatial distribution patterns of seagrass meadows, and their depth ranges from intertidal (accessible by foot) to relatively deep water (where commercial trawls can operate). Seagrass meadows are multispecies fishing grounds targeted by fishers for any fish or invertebrate species that can be eaten, sold or used as bait. In the coastal communities of developing countries, the importance of the nearshore seagrass fishery for livelihoods and well-being is irrefutable. In developed countries, the seagrass fishery is often recreational and/or more target species specific. Regardless of location, this study is the first to highlight collectively the indiscriminate nature and global scale of seagrass fisheries and the diversity of exploitative methods employed to extract seagrass-associated resources. Evidence presented emphasizes the need for targeted management to support continued viability of seagrass meadows as a global ecosystem service provider.
Land-based activities, including deforestation, agriculture, and urbanisation, cause increased erosion, reduced inland and coastal water quality, and subsequent loss or degradation of downstream coastal marine ecosystems. Quantitative approaches to link sediment loads from catchments to metrics of downstream marine ecosystem state are required to calculate the cost effectiveness of taking conservation actions on land to benefits accrued in the ocean. Here we quantify the relationship between sediment loads derived from landscapes to habitat suitability of seagrass meadows in Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. We use the following approach: (1) a catchment hydrological model generates sediment loads; (2) a statistical model links sediment loads to water clarity at monthly time-steps; (3) a species distribution model (SDM) factors in water clarity, bathymetry, wave height, and substrate suitability to predict seagrass habitat suitability at monthly time-steps; and (4) a statistical model quantifies the effect of sediment loads on area of seagrass suitable habitat in a given year. The relationship between sediment loads and seagrass suitable habitat is non-linear: large increases in sediment have a disproportionately large negative impact on availability of seagrass suitable habitat. Varying the temporal scale of analysis (monthly vs. yearly), or varying the threshold value used to delineate predicted seagrass presence vs. absence, both affect the magnitude, but not the overall shape, of the relationship between sediment loads and seagrass suitable habitat area. Quantifying the link between sediment produced from catchments and extent of downstream marine ecosystems allows assessment of the relative costs and benefits of taking conservation actions on land or in the ocean, respectively, to marine ecosystems.
Ship noise pollution has raised considerable concerns among regulatory agencies and cetacean researchers worldwide. There is an urgent need to quantify ship noise in coastal areas and assess its potential biological impacts. In this study, underwater broadband noise from commercial ships in a critical habitat of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins was recorded and analyzed. Data analysis indicated that the ship noise caused by the investigated commercial ships with an average length of 134 ± 81 m, traveling at 18.8 ± 2.5 km/h [mean ± standard deviation (SD), n = 21] comprises mid-to-high components with frequencies approaching and exceeding 100 kHz, and the ship noise could be sensed auditorily by Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins within most of their sensitive frequency range. The contributions of ship noise to ambient noise were highest in two third-octave bands with center frequencies of 8 and 50 kHz, which are within the sensitive hearing range of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and overlap the frequency of sounds that are biologically significant to the dolphins. It is estimated that ship noise in these third-octave bands can be auditorily sensed by and potentially affect the dolphins within 2290 ± 1172 m and 848 ± 358 m (mean ± SD, n = 21), respectively.