Modern zoos and aquariums aspire to contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation and research. For example, conservation research is a key accreditation criterion of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). However, no studies to date have quantified this contribution. We assessed the research productivity of 228 AZA members using scientific publications indexed in the ISI Web of Science (WoS) database between 1993 and 2013 (inclusive). AZA members published 5175 peer-reviewed manuscripts over this period, with publication output increasing over time. Most publications were in the zoology and veterinary science subject areas, and articles classified as “biodiversity conservation” by WoS averaged 7% of total publications annually. From regression analyses, AZA organizations with larger financial assets generally published more, but research-affiliated mission statements were also associated with increased publication output. A strong publication record indicates expertise and expands scientific knowledge, enhancing organizational credibility. Institutions aspiring for higher research productivity likely require a dedicated research focus and adequate institutional support through research funding and staffing. We recommend future work build on our results by exploring links between zoo and aquarium research productivity and conservation outcomes or uptake.
Excessive use of plastics in daily life and the inappropriate disposal of plastic products are severely affecting wildlife species in both coastal and aquatic environments. Birds are top-predators, exposed to all threats affecting their environments, making them ideal sentinel organisms for monitoring ecosystems change. We set a baseline assessment of the prevalence of marine plastic litter affecting multi-species populations of aquatic birds in southern Portugal. By examining 160 stomach contents from 8 species of aquatic birds, we show that 22.5% were affected by plastic debris. Plastic was found in Ciconia ciconia, Larus fuscus and L. michahellis. Ciconia ciconia ingested the highest amount (number of items and total mass) of plastic debris. Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS, silicones) was the most abundant polymer and was recorded only in C. ciconia. Plastic ingestion baseline data are of crucial importance to evaluate changes through time and among regions and to define management and conservation strategies.
A principal role of marine protected areas (MPAs) is to mitigate the decline of biodiversity. A key part of this role is to reduce the effects of fisheries on bycatch of vulnerable species. Bycatch can have an impact on species by reducing population sizes, and an ecosystem-level impact through the significant removal of biomass and subsequent trophic changes. In this regard, it is crucial to refine methods for quantifying interactions between fisheries and bycatch species, and to manage these interactions spatially. A new method is presented for quantifying interactions between fisheries and bycatch species at high spatial and temporal resolutions. Temporally explicit species distribution models are used to examine temporal dynamics of fisheries and bycatch. This method is applied to Australia’s Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery to estimate interactions with seven principal bycatch species. The ability of MPAs to reduce bycatch is evaluated, and considerations are outlined for the spatial management of fishery-bycatch species interactions. Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network had a minimal impact on bycatch reduction under both the 2012 proclaimed and the 2015 panel-recommended zonings. These results highlight the need for threats to marine biodiversity to be incorporated directly into design of MPAs, and for close scrutiny of assumptions that threats will be incidentally abated after MPAs have been proclaimed, or that off-reserve mechanisms will compensate for inadequacies of MPAs.
We present a framework for results-based management (RBM) of commercial fisheries. The core idea of RBM is to reduce micromanagement by delegating management responsibility to resource users. The RBM framework represents an industrial organization approach to co-management and comprises three defining processes, conducted by three independent “agents”: (i) an “authority” defines specific and measurable and achievable objectives (outcome targets, OTs) for the utilization of fisheries resources, (ii) resource user organizations (termed “operators”) take responsibility for achieving these OTs and provide documentation that (iii) allows independent “auditors” to evaluate the achievement of OTs. Using incentive mechanisms, notably deregulation, RBM grants operators the flexibility to develop and implement innovative and cost-effective ways to achieve OTs. The feasibility of implementing RBM in five European fisheries was investigated in cooperation with relevant stakeholders through artificial planning processes and computer simulations. The operators involved were enthusiastic, and new management plans were drafted based on the framework. These included socioeconomic OTs in addition to traditional stock objectives, encompassing an ecosystem approach. Several issues are in need of further research to consolidate the approach and prepare the ground for practical implementation, including: the specification of the legal and regulatory framework required to underpin RBM, details of transitional arrangements when shifting towards RBM (including cost-sharing) and the development of necessary organizational capacity for operators. Initially, we therefore envisage the framework being applied to high-value single-species fisheries, with a limited number of participants, which are adequately represented by a competent organization.
In this paper, I argue that we have at hand what is needed to provide scientific advice for ecosystem-based management of small pelagics and other species groups now. The ingredients for this advice are (i) large marine ecosystems as spatial management units; (ii) maintaining ecosystem productivity and exploiting at multispecies maximum yield as overarching management objectives; (iii) assessment of ecosystems by evaluating changes in primary productivity; (iv) an operational management procedure in which single-species catch proposals are adjusted to ecosystem productivity using a set of control rules. Inspection of historic landings for small pelagics and other small species in the Northeast Atlantic (ICES area) reveals that most likely fisheries exploitation does not, and never did, exceed system productivity in most LMEs and is therefore overall sustainable, although not necessarily for individual stocks.
Anthropogenic noise across the world's oceans threatens the ability of vocalizing marine species to communicate. Some species vocalize at key life stages or whilst foraging, and disruption to the acoustic habitat at these times could lead to adverse consequences at the population level. To investigate the risk of these impacts, we investigated the effect of vessel noise on the communication space of the Bryde's whale Balaenoptera edeni, an endangered species which vocalizes at low frequencies, and bigeye Pempheris adspersa, a nocturnal fish species which uses contact calls to maintain group cohesion while foraging. By combining long-term acoustic monitoring data with AIS vessel-tracking data and acoustic propagation modelling, the impact of vessel noise on their communication space was determined. Routine vessel passages cut down communication space by up to 61.5% for bigeyes and 87.4% for Bryde's whales. This influence of vessel noise on communication space exceeded natural variability for between 3.9 and 18.9% of the monitoring period. Additionally, during the closest point of approach of a large commercial vessel, <10 km from the listening station, the communication space of both species was reduced by a maximum of 99% compared to the ambient soundscape. These results suggest that vessel noise reduces communication space beyond the evolutionary context of these species and may have chronic effects on these populations. To combat this risk, we propose the application or extension of ship speed restrictions in ecologically significant areas, since our results indicate a reduction in sound source levels for vessels transiting at lower speeds.
Governability is an important concept in the political and environmental social sciences with increasing application to socio-ecological systems such as fisheries. Indeed, governability analyses of fisheries and related systems such as marine-protected areas have generated innovative ways to implement sustainability ideals. Yet, despite progress made, we argue that there remain limitations in current conceptions of governability that hinder further analytical development and use. By drawing on general systems theory—specifically cybernetics, control and feedback—we interrogate the conceptual foundations that underpin two key limitations: the need to incorporate the numerous variables that comprise a complex, holistic system into a singular assessment of governability, and the a priori separation of the governor and the governed that precludes analysis of a self-governing situation. We argue that by highlighting the reciprocal nature of a governor–governed relationship and the co-produced understanding of governing capacity and objects, a relational approach to governability is possible. This offers a clearer and more pragmatic understanding of how governors and fishers can make fisheries governable.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are widely used as tools to maintain biodiversity, protect habitats and ensure that development is sustainable. If MPAs are to maintain their role into the future it is important for managers to understand how conditions at these sites may change as a result of climate change and other drivers, and this understanding needs to extend beyond temperature to a range of key ecosystem indicators. This case study demonstrates how spatially-aggregated model results for multiple variables can provide useful projections for MPA planners and managers. Conditions in European MPAs have been projected for the 2040s using unmitigated and globally managed scenarios of climate change and river management, and hence high and low emissions of greenhouse gases and riverborne nutrients. The results highlight the vulnerability of potential refuge sites in the north-west Mediterranean and the need for careful monitoring at MPAs to the north and west of the British Isles, which may be affected by changes in Atlantic circulation patterns. The projections also support the need for more MPAs in the eastern Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea, and can inform the selection of sites.
Marine Protected Areas are considered key tools for conservation of coastal ecosystems. However, many reserves are characterized by several problems mainly related to inadequate zonings that often do not protect high biodiversity and propagule supply areas precluding, at the same time, economic important zones for local interests. The Gulf of Naples is here employed as a study area to assess the effects of inclusion of different conservation features and costs in reserve design process. In particular eight scenarios are developed using graph theory to identify propagule source patches and fishing and exploitation activities as costs-in-use for local population. Scenarios elaborated by MARXAN, software commonly used for marine conservation planning, are compared using multivariate analyses (MDS, PERMANOVA and PERMDISP) in order to assess input data having greatest effects on protected areas selection.
MARXAN is heuristic software able to give a number of different correct results, all of them near to the best solution. Its outputs show that the most important areas to be protected, in order to ensure long-term habitat life and adequate propagule supply, are mainly located around the Gulf islands. In addition through statistical analyses it allowed us to prove that different choices on conservation features lead to statistically different scenarios. The presence of propagule supply patches forces MARXAN to select almost the same areas to protect decreasingly different MARXAN results and, thus, choices for reserves area selection.
The multivariate analyses applied here to marine spatial planning proved to be very helpful allowing to identify i) how different scenario input data affect MARXAN and ii) what features have to be taken into account in study areas characterized by peculiar biological and economic interests.
This paper assesses the value and environmental feasibility of Arctic shipping by reviewing the relevant scientific and economic peer-reviewed literature. From the physical perspective, this paper examines the impact of climate change on sea ice and marine weather and considers the resultant consequences for Arctic shipping accessibility. From an economic perspective, it reviews the major research investigating the economic feasibility of diverting ships from conventional shipping routes to Arctic routes, the attitudes of shipping stakeholders, and other major factors affecting the prospect of Arctic shipping. This review also identifies important research gaps. Ultimately, we find that the complex environmental and economic dynamics of the Arctic suggest that an appropriate understanding of Arctic shipping will require close collaboration between natural and social scientists.
Cephalopods' visually driven, dynamic, and diverse skin display makes them a key animal model in sensory ethology and camouflage research. Development of novel methods is critically important in order to monitor and objectively quantify cephalopod behavior. In this work, the development of Cephalopod Experimental Projected Habitat (CEPH) is described. This newly developed experimental design bridges computational and ethological sciences, providing a visually controlled arena which requires limited physical space and minimal previous technical background. Created from relatively inexpensive and readily available materials, the experimental apparatus utilizes reflected light which closely resembles natural settings. Preliminary results suggest the experimental design reproducibly challenges marine organisms with visually dynamic surroundings, including videos of prey and predator. This new approach should offer new avenues for marine organism sensory research and may serve researchers from various fields.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch (CRW) operates a global 4-Month Coral Bleaching Outlook system for shallow-water coral reefs in collaboration with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The Outlooks are generated by applying the algorithm used in CRW's operational satellite coral bleaching heat stress monitoring, with slight modifications, to the sea surface temperature (SST) predictions from NCEP's operational Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2). Once a week, the probability of heat stress capable of causing mass coral bleaching is predicted for 4-months in advance. Each day, CFSv2 generates an ensemble of 16 forecasts, with nine runs out to 45-days, three runs out to 3-months, and four runs out to 9-months. This results in 28–112 ensemble members produced each week. A composite for each predicted week is derived from daily predictions within each ensemble member. The probability of each of four heat stress ranges (Watch and higher, Warning and higher, Alert Level 1 and higher, and Alert Level 2) is determined from all the available ensemble members for the week to form the weekly probabilistic Outlook. The probabilistic 4-Month Outlook is the highest weekly probability predicted among all the weekly Outlooks during a 4-month period for each of the stress ranges. An initial qualitative skill analysis of the Outlooks for 2011–2015, compared with CRW's satellite-based coral bleaching heat stress products, indicated the Outlook has performed well with high hit rates and low miss rates for most coral reef areas. Regions identified with high false alarm rates will guide future improvements. This Outlook system, as the first and only freely available global coral bleaching prediction system, has been providing critical early warning to marine resource managers, scientists, and decision makers around the world to guide management, protection, and monitoring of coral reefs since 2012. This has been especially valuable during the third global coral bleaching event that started in mid-2014 and extended into mid-2017. The Outlook system is an integrated component of CRW's global decision support system for coral bleaching. Recent management actions taken in light of this system are discussed.
By-catch is considered a significant problem in large-scale fisheries yet in small-scale fisheries (SSF), employing >99% of the world's fishers, there is limited quantitative understanding of by-catch, and catches in general. We provide an assessment of by-catch from fishing gears (fyke, trawl, set trammel, and drift trammel nets) commonly used in small-scale fisheries across the globe, using a representative Sri Lankan case study and placing this in the context of local resource use patterns. We reveal evidence of how SSF generate significant finfish by-catch with potentially significant ecological impacts. Fishers targeting shrimp (fyke, trawl, and drift trammel nets) caught more non-target species than global averages (44, 44, and 67% by weight, respectively). Fishers targeting finfish (set trammel nets) caught fewer non-target species. We found that by-catch depends more on target species and gear type, supporting suggestions that SSF are not “inherently more sustainable” than their large-scale counterparts and a collective effort is required for an improved understanding of the impacts of SSF. This study highlights an additional issue of valuable food fish discards, raising questions about fisheries exploitation in the context of food security in areas where poverty and food insecurity are prevalent.
A loss of memory of past environmental degradation has resulted in shifted baselines, which may result in conservation and restoration goals that are less ambitious than if stakeholders had a full knowledge of ecosystem potential. However, the link between perception of baseline states and support for conservation planning has not been tested empirically. Here, we investigate how perceptions of change in coral reef ecosystems affect stakeholders' willingness to pay (WTP) for the establishment of protected areas. Coral reefs are experiencing rapid, global change that is observable by the public, and therefore provide an ideal ecosystem to test links between beliefs about baseline states and willingness to support conservation. Our survey respondents perceived change to coral reef communities across six variables: coral abundance, fish abundance, fish diversity, fish size, sedimentation, and water pollution. Respondants who accurately perceived declines in reef health had significantly higher WTP for protected areas (US $256.80 vs. $102.50 per year), suggesting that shifted baselines may reduce engagement with conservation efforts. If WTP translates to engagement, this suggests that goals for restoration and recovery are likely to be more ambitious if the public is aware of long term change. Therefore, communicating the scope and depth of environmental problems is essential in engaging the public in conservation.
Amidst overexploited fisheries and further climate related declines projected in tropical fisheries, marine dependent small-scale fishers in Southeast Asia face an uncertain future. Yet, small-scale fishers are seldom explicitly considered in regional fisheries management and their contribution to national fish supply tends to be greatly under-estimated compared to industrial fisheries. Lack of knowledge about the small-scale sector jeopardizes informed decision-making for sustainable ecosystem based fisheries planning and social development. We fill this knowledge gap by applying reconstructed marine fish catch statistics from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam—countries of the Gulf of Thailand—from 1950 to 2013 to assess the relative contribution of small-scale and industrial fisheries to national food security. Reconstructed catches quantify reported and unreported fish catch from industrial, small-scale, and recreational fishing. We then conduct a comparative analysis of the degree to which the industrial and small-scale sectors support food security, by converting total catch to the portion that is kept for human consumption and that which is diverted to fishmeal for animal feed or other purposes. Total reconstructed marine fish catch from the four Southeast Asian countries totalled 282 million t from 1950 to 2013, with small-scale sector catches being underestimated by an average of around two times. When the amount of fish that is diverted to fishmeal is omitted, small-scale fishers contribute more food fish for humans than do industrial fisheries for much of the period until 2000. These results encourage regional fisheries management to be cognisant of small-scale fisheries as a pillar of socio-economic well-being for coastal communities.
Death or injury to whales from vessel strike is one of the primary threats to whale populations worldwide. However, quantifying the rate of occurrence of these collisions is difficult because many incidents are not detected (particularly from large vessels) and therefore go unreported. Furthermore, varying reporting biases occur related to species identification, spatial coverage of reports and type of vessels involved. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has compiled a database of the worldwide occurrence of vessel strikes to cetaceans, within which Australia constitutes ~7% (35 reports) of the reported worldwide (~471 reports) vessel strike records involving large whales. Worldwide records consist largely of modern reports within the last two decades and historical evaluation of ship strike reports has mainly focused on the Northern Hemisphere. To address this we conducted a search of historical national and international print media archive databases to discover reports of vessel strikes globally, although with a focus on Australian waters. A significant number of previously unrecorded reports of vessel strikes were found for both Australia (76) and worldwide (140), resulting in a revised estimate of ~15% of global vessel strikes occurring in Australian waters. This detailed collation and analysis of vessel strike data in an Australian context has contributed to our knowledge of the worldwide occurrence of vessel strikes and challenges the notion that vessel strikes were historically rare in Australia relative to the rest of the world. The work highlights the need to examine historical records to provide context around current anthropogenic threats to marine fauna and demonstrates the importance of formalized reporting structures for effective collation of vessel strike reports. This paper examines the issues and biases in analysis of vessel strike data in general that would apply to any jurisdiction. Using the Australian data as an example we look at what information can be inferred from historical data and the dangers of inference without consideration of the reporting biases.
Deep-sea mining is likely to result in biodiversity loss, and the significance of this to ecosystem function is not known. “Out of kind” biodiversity offsets substituting one ecosystem type (e.g., coral reefs) for another (e.g., abyssal nodule fields) have been proposed to compensate for such loss. Here we consider a goal of no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity and explore the challenges of applying this aim to deep seabed mining, based on the associated mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, remediate). We conclude that the industry cannot at present deliver an outcome of NNL. This results from the vulnerable nature of deep-sea environments to mining impacts, currently limited technological capacity to minimize harm, significant gaps in ecological knowledge, and uncertainties of recovery potential of deep-sea ecosystems. Avoidance and minimization of impacts are therefore the only presently viable means of reducing biodiversity losses from seabed mining. Because of these constraints, when and if deep-sea mining proceeds, it must be approached in a precautionary and step-wise manner to integrate new and developing knowledge. Each step should be subject to explicit environmental management goals, monitoring protocols, and binding standards to avoid serious environmental harm and minimize loss of biodiversity. “Out of kind” measures, an option for compensation currently proposed, cannot replicate biodiversity and ecosystem services lost through mining of the deep seabed and thus cannot be considered true offsets. The ecosystem functions provided by deep-sea biodiversity contribute to a wide range of provisioning services (e.g., the exploitation of fish, energy, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics), play an essential role in regulatory services (e.g., carbon sequestration) and are important culturally. The level of “acceptable” biodiversity loss in the deep sea requires public, transparent, and well-informed consideration, as well as wide agreement. If accepted, further agreement on how to assess residual losses remaining after the robust implementation of the mitigation hierarchy is also imperative. To ameliorate some of the inter-generational inequity caused by mining-associated biodiversity losses, and only after all NNL measures have been used to the fullest extent, potential compensatory actions would need to be focused on measures to improve the knowledge and protection of the deep sea and to demonstrate benefits that will endure for future generations.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being recognized as potentially useful for detection of marine mammals in their natural habitats, but an important consideration is the associated uncertainties in animal detection. We present a study based on field trials using UAVs to carry out image-based monitoring of cetaceans in two fjords in northern Norway. We conducted 12 missions to assess the effects of both environmental- and aircraft-related variables on detection certainty. Images were inspected for animal presence and its associated detection certainty. Images were also assessed for potentially important covariates such as wave turbulence (sea state), luminance, and glare. Aircraft variables such as altitude, pitch, and roll were combined into a single variable—pixel size. We recorded a total of 50 humpback whales, 63 killer whales (KW), and 118 unidentified sightings. We also recorded 57 harbor porpoise sightings. None of the environmental conditions (sea state, glare, and luminance) affected the detection certainty of harbor porpoises. In contrast, increasing sea state and luminance had negative and positive effects, respectively, on the detection certainty of humpback and KW. The detection certainty was not significantly affected by pixel size for both harbor porpoises, and humpback and KW. Our results indicate that at lower altitudes, variations in aircraft position (pitch and roll) do not have a variable effect on detection certainty. Overall, this study shows the importance of measuring variability in both environmental and flight-related variables, in order to attain unbiased estimates of detectability for UAV-based marine mammal surveys, particularly in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
How important are coral reefs for food security and to what extent does coral reef conservation contribute to the food security of the coastal communities in the Coral Triangle? Based on the national fish production and consumption data from the Philippines and some data from Indonesia, Clifton and Foale (2017)  argued that the pelagic fisheries are far more important than coral reef fisheries for the food security of the Philippines and Indonesia. While it is true that, in totality, populations in both the Philippines and Indonesia rely heavily on pelagic fisheries for animal protein, this commentary demonstrates that coral reef fisheries contribute substantially to the food and livelihood security of coastal communities, which make up the poorest and most food insecure sector of the economy. There is also significant growth potential in nearshore fisheries that can be captured by working to recover currently degraded coral reef ecosystems. Nonetheless, research and institutional reforms in all sources of fish protein (pelagic, demersal, and aquaculture) are urgently needed to improve not only food security but also the lives and livelihoods of coastal fishing households in the Coral Triangle.
Conservation of marine fauna is a great concern in the present days for a number of reasons. Implementation of marine protected area is considered to be a common practice for the conservation of marine fauna at a specific area. However, in many cases, the present management system of the marine protected areas fails to protect marine fauna. This paper proposes a marine protected area surveillance system that uses airborne image sensing and digital image processing to monitor the marine protected area against illegal vessels efficiently. The system architecture, including the system structure, execution planning, and algorithm, has been described for the proposed surveillance system. It is apparent from this study that the currently proposed marine protected area surveillance system is better than the previously proposed ones.