Recent advances in the application of stock identification methods have revealed inconsistencies between the spatial structure of biological populations and the definition of stock units used in assessment and management. From a fisheries management perspective, stocks are typically assumed to be discrete units with homogeneous vital rates that can be exploited independently of each other. However, the unit stock assumption is often violated leading to spatial mismatches that can bias stock assessment and impede sustainable fisheries management. The primary ecological concern is the potential for overexploitation of unique spawning components, which can lead to loss of productivity and reduced biodiversity along with destabilization of local and regional stock dynamics. Furthermore, ignoring complex population structure and stock connectivity can lead to misperception of the magnitude of fish productivity, which can translate to suboptimal utilization of the resource. We describe approaches that are currently being applied to improve the assessment and management process for marine fish in situations where complex spatial structure has led to an observed mismatch between the scale of biological populations and spatially-defined stock units. The approaches include: (i) status quo management, (ii) “weakest link” management, (iii) spatial and temporal closures, (iv) stock composition analysis, and (v) alteration of stock boundaries. We highlight case studies in the North Atlantic that illustrate each approach and synthesize the lessons learned from these real-world applications. Alignment of biological and management units requires continual monitoring through the application of stock identification methods in conjunction with responsive management to preserve biocomplexity and the natural stability and resilience of fish species.
Despite major advances in our capacity to measure marine larval connectivity (i.e. the pattern of transport of marine larvae from spawning to settlement sites) and the importance of these measurements for ecological and management questions, uncertainty in experimental estimates of marine larval connectivity has been given little attention. We review potential uncertainty sources in empirical larval connectivity studies and develop Bayesian statistical methods for estimating these uncertainties based on standard techniques in the mark-recapture and genetics literature. These methods are implemented in an existing R package for working with connectivity data, ConnMatTools, and applied to a number of published connectivity estimates. We find that the small sample size of collected settlers at destination sites is a dominant source of uncertainty in connectivity estimates in many published results. For example, widths of 95% CIs for relative connectivity, the value of which is necessarily between 0 and 1, exceeded 0.5 for many published connectivity results, complicating using individual results to conclude that marine populations are relatively closed or open. This “small sample size” uncertainty is significant even for studies with near-exhaustive sampling of spawners and settlers. Though largely ignored in the literature, the magnitude of this uncertainty is straightforward to assess. Better accountability of this and other uncertainties is needed in the future so that marine larval connectivity studies can fulfill their promises of providing important ecological insights and informing management questions (e.g. related to marine protected area network design, and stock structure of exploited organisms). In addition to using the statistical methods developed here, future studies should consistently evaluate and report a small number of critical factors, such as the exhaustivity of spawner and settler sampling, and the mating structure of target species in genetic studies.
Underwater stereo–video systems are widely used for counting and measuring fish in aquaculture, fisheries, and conservation management. Length measurements are generated from stereo–video recordings by a software operator using a mouse to locate the head and tail of a fish in synchronized pairs of images. This data can be used to compare spatial and temporal changes in the mean length and biomass or frequency distributions of populations of fishes. Since the early 1990s stereo–video has also been used for measuring the lengths of fish in aquaculture for quota and farm management. However, the costs of the equipment, software, the time, and salary costs involved in post processing imagery manually and the subsequent delays in the availability of length information inhibit the adoption of this technology.
We present a semi-automatic method for capturing stereo–video measurements to estimate the lengths of fish. We compare the time taken to make measurements of the same fish measured manually from stereo–video imagery to that measured semi-automatically. Using imagery recorded during transfers of Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) from tow cages to grow out cages, we demonstrate that the semi-automatic algorithm developed can obtain fork length measurements with an error of less than 1% of the true length and with at least a sixfold reduction in operator time in comparison to manual measurements. Of the 22 138 SBT recorded we were able to measure 52.6% (11 647) manually and 11.8% (2614) semi-automatically. For seven of the eight cage transfers recorded, there were no statistical differences in the mean length, weight, or length frequency between manual and semi-automatic measurements. When the data were pooled across the eight cage transfers, there was no statistical difference in mean length or weight between the stereo–video-based manual and semi-automated measurements. Hence, the presented semi-automatic system can be deployed to significantly reduce the cost involved in adoption of stereo–video technology.
Fuel consumption is a leading cost to fishers and the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions from the global fishing industry. Fuel performance varies substantially between and within fisheries, but the drivers behind this variation are unclear and inconsistent across studies. We surveyed rock lobster fishers in Australia and New Zealand to measure rates of fuel use and assess the influence of technological (e.g. vessel size, engine power), behavioural (e.g. distance travelled, speed), and managerial (e.g. catch per unit effort, fishery capacity) factors. Weighted fuel use intensity across the region was 1,890 l/t. Managerial factors were the most influential drivers of fuel use in single day trips while technological factors heavily influenced multi-day trips. Catch per unit effort was the only significant driver present across both types of fishing trips. The vast majority of surveyed fishers identified fuel use as an important aspect of fishing operations, and nearly half had already implemented changes to try to reduce consumption. Our results suggest that efforts to reduce fuel consumption, costs, and emissions in fisheries need to be tailored to the nature of individual fisheries, as the relative roles of technology, behaviour, and management vary.
The spawning dynamics of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) on Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals are not well understood. To address this uncertainty, we combined Fishermen’s Ecological Knowledge (FEK) with traditional scientific data to develop a more holistic understanding of cod spawning on Georges Bank. Data from historical reports, trawl surveys, fisheries observers, and ichthyoplankton surveys were used to describe the spatial and temporal distribution of cod spawning activity. We also collected FEK regarding cod spawning dynamics through semi-structured interviews (n = 40). The fishermen had detailed knowledge of the spatial and temporal distribution of cod spawning, and identified persistent fine-scale (i.e. <50 km2) spawning grounds that were often associated with specific habitat features, including spawning grounds that were previously unreported in the scientific literature. The spawning seasons and locations identified by fishermen generally agreed with information from traditional scientific data, but it was evident that seasonal scientific surveys lack the spatial and temporal resolution needed to fully characterize the distribution of cod spawning activity. Our results will help inform management measures designed to promote the rebuilding of Georges Bank cod, and also provide a basis for further investigations of cod spawning dynamics and stock structure.
Warming temperatures caused by climate change have the potential to impact spawning phenology of temperate marine fish as some species have temperature-dependent gonadal development. Inter-annual variation in the timing of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) spawning in the northern North Sea, central North Sea and Irish Sea was estimated by calculating an annual peak roe month (PRM) from records of roe landings spanning the last three decades. A trend towards earlier PRM was found in all three regions, with estimates of shifts in PRM ranging from 0.9 to 2.4 weeks per decade. Temperatures experienced by cod during early vitellogenesis correlated negatively with PRM, suggesting that rising sea temperatures have contributed to a shift in spawning phenology. A concurrent reduction in the mean size of spawning females excluded the possibility that earlier spawning was due to a shift in size structure towards larger individuals, as large cod spawn earlier than smaller-sized individuals in the North Sea. Further research into the effects of climate change on the phenology of different trophic levels within the North Sea ecosystem should be undertaken to determine whether climate change-induced shifts in spawning phenology will result in a temporal mismatch between cod larvae and their planktonic prey.
This work focuses on the selection of new areas for shellfish farming along the coast of the Northern Adriatic Sea (Italy). Shellfish site suitability was assessed by means of a methodology based on Spatial Multi-Criteria Evaluation (SMCE), which provided the framework to combine mathematical models and operational oceanography products. Intermediate level criteria considered in the analysis included optimal growth conditions, environmental interactions, and socio-economic evaluation (e.g. organic carbon deposition; distance to harbour). Results showed that the whole coastal area comprised within 0 and 3 nm is highly suitable for farming of mussel, while the area comprised between 3 and 12 nm is divided between a highly suitable northern part, and a less suitable southern one. Seven different scenarios of development of shellfish aquaculture industry were explored. The introduction of a new species, and the assessment of the exposure to storm events are specific aspects taken into account in development scenarios. Results show that the degree of suitability for shellfish aquaculture in this area would not change dramatically with the introduction of oyster farming. Furthermore, results highlight that: (i) the growth potential in this area is high; (ii) the space with suitability index >0.5 increases when prioritizing the optimal growth condition criteria, and (iii) the socio-economic is the most restrictive Intermediate Level Criteria. Results were discussed by deriving general lessons concerning the use of SMCE in aquaculture space allocation, from the specific application in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Challenges and opportunities related to the proposed methodological framework, with particular reference to the use of resources provided by remote sensing and operational oceanography by means of mathematical models, were also discussed. Results can support a science-based identification of allocated zones for aquaculture in order to avoid conflicts, and promote sustainable aquaculture in the Mediterranean Sea, where the space for these activities is becoming increasingly limited.
Local, regional, and global policies to manage protect and restore our oceans and coasts call for the inclusion of ecosystem services (ES) in policy-relevant research. Marine and coastal ES and the associated benefits to humans are usually assessed, quantified, and mapped at the ecosystem level to inform policy and decision-making. Yet those benefits may reach humans beyond the provisioning ecosystem, at the regional or even global level. Current efforts to map ES generated by a single ecosystem rarely consider the distribution of benefits beyond the ecosystem itself, especially at the regional or global level. In this article, we elaborate on the concept of “extra-local” ES to refer to those ES generating benefits that are enjoyed far from the providing ecosystem, focusing on the marine environment. We emphasize the spatial dimension of the different components of the ES provision framework and apply the proposed conceptual framework to food provision and climate regulation ES provided by marine and coastal ecosystems. We present the different extents of the mapping outputs generated by the ecosystem-based vs. the extra-local mapping approach and discuss practical and conceptual challenges of the approach. Lack of relevant ES mapping methodologies and lack of data appeared to be the most crucial bottlenecks in applying the extra-local approach for marine and coastal ES. We urge for more applications of the proposed framework that can improve marine and coastal ES assessments help fill in data gaps and generate more robust data. Such assessments could better inform marine and coastal policies, especially those linked to equal attribution of benefits, compensation schemes and poverty alleviation.
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is an economically and culturally important species. Norway has more than 400 watercourses with Atlantic salmon and supports a large proportion of the world’s wild Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon are structured into numerous genetically differentiated populations, and are therefore managed at the population level. Long-distance migrations between freshwater and ocean habitats expose Atlantic salmon to multiple threats, and a number of anthropogenic factors have contributed to the decline of Atlantic salmon during the last decades. Knowledge on the relative importance of the different anthropogenic factors is vital for prioritizing management measures. We developed a semi-quantitative 2D classification system to rank the different anthropogenic factors and used this to assess the major threats to Norwegian Atlantic salmon. Escaped farmed salmon and salmon lice from fish farms were identified as expanding population threats, with escaped farmed salmon being the largest current threat. These two factors affect populations to the extent that they may be critically endangered or lost, with a large likelihood of causing further reductions and losses in the future. The introduced parasite Gyrodactylus salaris, freshwater acidification, hydropower regulation and other habitat alterations were identified as stabilized population threats, which have contributed to populations becoming critically endangered or lost, but with a low likelihood of causing further loss. Other impacts were identified as less influential, either as stabilized or expanding factors that cause loss in terms of number of returning adults, but not to the extent that populations become threatened. Management based on population specific reference points (conservation limits) has reduced exploitation in Norway, and overexploitation was therefore no longer regarded an important impact factor. The classification system may be used as a template for ranking of anthropogenic impact factors in other countries and as a support for national and international conservation efforts.
Data required from fisheries monitoring programmes substantially expand as management authorities transition to implement elements of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). EBFM extends conventional approaches of managing single fishery effects on individual stocks of target species by taking into account the effects, within a defined ecosystem, of local to regional fisheries on biodiversity, from genotypes to ecological communities. This includes accounting for fishery effects on evolutionary processes, associated and dependent species, habitats, trophic food web processes, and functionally linked systems. Despite seemingly insurmountable constraints, through examples, we demonstrate how data routinely collected in most observer programmes and how minor and inexpensive expansions of observer data fields and collection protocols supply ecological data underpinning EBFM. Observer data enable monitoring bycatch, including catch and mortality of endangered, threatened and protected species, and assessing the performance of bycatch management measures. They provide a subset of inputs for ecological risk assessments, including productivity–susceptibility analyses and multispecies and ecosystem models. Observer data are used to monitor fishery effects on habitat and to identify and protect benthic vulnerable marine ecosystems. They enable estimating collateral sources of fishing mortality. Data from observer programmes facilitate monitoring ecosystem pressure and state indicators. The examples demonstrate how even rudimentary fisheries management systems can meet the ecological data requirements of elements of EBFM.
Marine reserves are viewed as flagship tools to protect exploited species and to contribute to the effective management of coastal fisheries. Yet, the extent to which marine reserves are globally interconnected and able to effectively seed areas, where fisheries are most critical for food and livelihood security is largely unknown. Using a hydrodynamic model of larval dispersal, we predict that most marine reserves are not interconnected by currents and that their potential benefits to fishing areas are presently limited, since countries with high dependency on coastal fisheries receive very little larval supply from marine reserves. This global mismatch could be reversed, however, by placing new marine reserves in areas sufficiently remote to minimize social and economic costs but sufficiently connected through sea currents to seed the most exploited fisheries and endangered ecosystems.
Imposex is the superimposition of non-functional male sex organs in gastropod females. This syndrome is a hormonal imbalance induced by tributyltin (TBT) which have been used in antifouling paints formulation. The present study aimed to perform an integrated environmental assessment of imposex and butyltin (BT) contamination using surface sediments and tissues of Thaisella chocolata (an edible gastropod) from northern Chile. The results showed imposex incidence in 11 out of 12 sites. In the most contaminated sites, which are areas under the influence of maritime activities, and also used for fishing and aquaculture, RPLI were over 60 and VDSI over 4 (high incidence of sterile females). Exceptionally high contamination levels and evidences of fresh inputs of tributyltin (TBT) were detected along the studied area. TBT levels above 300 and 90 ng Sn g− 1, respectively, were recorded in sediments and edible gastropod tissues of 6 sites. Thus, a daily ingestion of 90 to 173 g of T. chocolata foot (4 to 8 organisms) from the most contaminated sites will certainly lead to the consumption of BT exceeding the tolerable daily intake recommended by European Food Safety Authority. It is reasonable to consider that human risk is even higher if daily consumption of additional seafood is considered. Moreover, some contaminated sites were located within the marine reserve “Isla Grande Atacama”, indicating that even marine protected areas are under the influence of TBT contamination. These findings suggest that current levels of TBT in the studied area are sufficient to induce harmful effects on the environment and constitutes a potential threat to seafood consumers. Thus, national regulatory actions toward environmental protection and food safety of local populations are still mandatory, even after 8 years of the TBT global ban by IMO.
Environmental conservation initiatives, including marine protected areas (MPAs), have proliferated in recent decades. Designed to conserve marine biodiversity, many MPAs also seek to foster sustainable development. As is the case for many other environmental policies and programs, the impacts of MPAs are poorly understood. Social–ecological systems, impact evaluation, and common-pool resource governance are three complementary scientific frameworks for documenting and explaining the ecological and social impacts of conservation interventions. We review key components of these three frameworks and their implications for the study of conservation policy, program, and project outcomes. Using MPAs as an illustrative example, we then draw upon these three frameworks to describe an integrated approach for rigorous empirical documentation and causal explanation of conservation impacts. This integrated three-framework approach for impact evaluation of governance in social–ecological systems (3FIGS) accounts for alternative explanations, builds upon and advances social theory, and provides novel policy insights in ways that no single approach affords. Despite the inherent complexity of social–ecological systems and the difficulty of causal inference, the 3FIGS approach can dramatically advance our understanding of, and the evidentiary basis for, effective MPAs and other conservation initiatives.
Valuable ecosystems are today undergoing rapid degradation and depletion in many parts of the world. Natural capital and the services that ecosystems provide are still poorly understood and rarely monitored. Unlike in the case of traditional commodities, the value of these natural resources is not recognized by today’s markets. It is, however, crucial that we understand the interrelationship between environmental quality and economic profitability. This information needs to be integrated into macroeconomic analysis and included in decision-making processes in the areas of financing and investment.
To preserve the health of natural ecosystems, a significantly larger amount of capital investment is required than the sums currently being allocated to conservation. Private sector investment is needed, not to replace but to supplement traditional sources of conservation capital such as public funding or philanthropy, which have been impacted by the global economic downturn. Against this backdrop, WWF and Credit Suisse have joined forces in the area of conservation finance to identify the conditions needed to attract and redirect private capital toward conservation.
This report shows that there are many unexploited private sector investment opportunities to increase conservation finance and deliver maximum conservation impacts while, at the same time, generating returns for investors. In order to develop appropriate financing structures and ensure that private sector conservation finance results in measurable conservation outcomes, financial institutions and non-governmental organizations must experiment and define their respective roles and approaches. If both sides concentrate on their main areas of expertise – with banks focusing on the alignment of capital resources, risks, and maturities, while NGOs identify measures to protect the natural environment – we can create a new opportunity for collaboration that will help to preserve natural capital for future generations. Provided it delivers measurable results, investor-driven conservation finance can create powerful incentives for truly sustainable development.
While examining innovation in the ocean conservation space, we asked ourselves a difficult question: why hasn’t the circle hook—a novel, conservation-friendly improvement on fishing gear—achieved scale? This is an important and relevant question in the development field, where we constantly seek to improve the livelihoods of more individuals within a greater geographic range, using our funding as efficiently as possible. Scaling innovations is a critical piece of improving reach and impact, yet it is a notion that hasn’t been examined much in the conservation field. As we investigated the circle hook case and its scaling problem, we learned, as we frequently do, that it’s complicated.
Coastal communities depend on the marine environment for their livelihoods, but the common property nature of marine resources poses major challenges for the governance of such resources. Through detailed cases and consideration of broader global trends, this volume examines how coastal communities are adapting to environmental change, and the attributes of governance that foster deliberate transformations and help to build resilience of social and ecological systems.
The design of efficient monitoring programmes required for the assurance of offshore geological storage requires an understanding of the variability and heterogeneity of marine carbonate chemistry. In the absence of sufficient observational data and for extrapolation both spatially and seasonally, models have a significant role to play. In this study a previously evaluated hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model is used to characterise carbonate chemistry, in particular pH heterogeneity in the vicinity of the sea floor. Using three contrasting regions, the seasonal and short term variability are analysed and criteria that could be considered as indicators of anomalous carbonate chemistry identified. These criteria are then tested by imposing a number of randomised DIC perturbations on the model data, representing a comprehensive range of leakage scenarios. In conclusion optimal criteria and general rules for developing monitoring strategies are identified. Detection criteria will be site specific and vary seasonally and monitoring may be more efficient at periods of low dynamics. Analysis suggests that by using high frequency, sub-hourly monitoring anomalies as small as 0.01 of a pH unit or less may be successfully discriminated from natural variability – thereby allowing detection of small leaks or at distance from a leakage source. Conversely assurance of no leakage would be profound. Detection at deeper sites is likely to be more efficient than at shallow sites where the near bed system is closely coupled to surface processes. Although this study is based on North Sea target sites for geological storage, the model and the general conclusions are relevant to the majority of offshore storage sites lying on the continental shelf.
Climate change in the Norwegian and Barents (NorBar) Seas is expected to generate major alterations to the marine food-web and its associated uses. However, our current capacity to quantify the potential ecological impact of physical change is hindered by a lack of fundamental knowledge regarding the forces and trophic interactions which have driven historic ecosystem dynamics. Here we used a historic (1950) food web model (Ecopath with Ecosim, EwE) of the NorBar Seas fitted to time series between 1950 and 2014 to simulate ecosystem response to changes in ocean temperature over the next 85 years to 2100 under a range of temperature scenarios including a large scale climate variability indices (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, AMO). Fishing, top-down/bottom-up trophic interactions, a primary production anomaly and annual ocean temperature were all found to be important drivers of modelled ecosystem dynamics in the NorBar Seas from 1950 to 2014. Under projected temperature scenarios, the biomass of pelagic species, such as mackerel and blue whiting, increased with rising ocean temperature, whereas the biomass of boreal species, such as redfish, prawns and capelin, decreased. Whilst within favourable temperature conditions, cod biomass is predicted to decrease under the warmest scenarios due to the reduced availability of preferred prey and the increased pressure of pelagic predation upon juvenile cod. The model produced by this study provides a useful baseline approximation of the 1950–2014 NorBar ecosystem, from which future research can propagate, and offers valuable insight into the systems potential response to changing ocean temperature. Such quantitative advancements are fundamental to achieve sustainable development in rapidly changing marine ecosystems.
Adaptive management is essential to the practical application of the Ecosystem-Based Approach (EBA). Despite there are frequent assertions that adaptive management is being used, evidence on its success is still limited. Indeed, it is difficult to bring the different elements of adaptive management together in a robust way and to choose the appropriate tools to do it. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a practical framework for adaptive policy action, consistent with the EBA. Accordingly, to operationalize the design and implementation of adaptive policies on the basis of the EBA, the Adaptive Marine Policy toolbox has been developed. The objective of the toolbox is to provide policy-makers a practical framework to design and implement adaptive policies. To show the functionality of the toolbox, the guidelines and resources provided within the toolbox have been applied to the marine litter issue in the Mediterranean and Black Sea as an example. The example application has shown that the toolbox is a useful and operational framework to build a science-policy interface according to the EBA. Despite some resources could be missing from the toolbox, they provide a practical and useful starting point to support the application of the different steps and key activities.
In Bangladesh, export-oriented shrimp farming is one of the most important sectors of the national economy. However, shrimp farming in coastal Bangladesh has devastating effects on mangrove forests. Mangroves are the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics, and blue carbon (i.e., carbon in coastal and marine ecosystems) emissions from mangrove deforestation due to shrimp cultivation are accumulating. These anthropogenic carbon emissions are the dominant cause of climate change, which in turn affect shrimp cultivation. Some adaptation strategies including Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), mangrove restoration, and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) could help to reduce blue carbon emissions. Translocation of shrimp culture from mangroves to open-water IMTA and restoration of habitats could reduce blue carbon emissions, which in turn would increase blue carbon sequestration. Mangrove restoration by the REDD+ program also has the potential to conserve mangroves for resilience to climate change. However, institutional support is needed to implement the proposed adaptation strategies.