Increasing the size and number of marine protected areas (MPAs) is widely seen as a way to meet ambitious biodiversity and sustainable development goals. Yet, debate still exists on the effectiveness of MPAs in achieving ecological and societal objectives. Although the literature provides significant evidence of the ecological effects of MPAs within their boundaries, much remains to be learned about the ecological and social effects of MPAs on regional and seascape scales. Key to improving the effectiveness of MPAs, and ensuring that they achieve desired outcomes, will be better monitoring that includes ecological and social data collected inside and outside of MPAs. This can lead to more conclusive evidence about what is working, what is not, and why. Eight authors were asked to write about their experiences with MPA effectiveness. The authors were instructed to clearly define “effectiveness” and discuss the degree to which they felt MPAs had achieved or failed to be effective. Essays were exchanged among authors and each was invited to write a shorter “counterpoint.” The exercise shows that, while experiences are diverse, many authors found common ground regarding the role of MPAs in achieving conservation targets. This exchange of perspectives is intended to promote reflection, analysis, and dialogue as a means for improving MPA design, assessment, and integration with other conservation tools.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been shown to increase long-term temporal stability of fish communities and enhance ecosystem resilience to anthropogenic disturbance. Yet, the potential ability of MPAs to buffer effects of environmental variability at shorter time scales remains widely unknown. In the tropics, the yearly monsoon cycle is a major natural force affecting marine organisms in tropical regions, and its timing and severity are predicted to change over the coming century, with potentially severe effects on marine organisms, ecosystems and ecosystem services. Here, we assessed the ability of MPAs to buffer effects of monsoon seasonality on seagrass-associated fish communities, using a field survey in two MPAs (no-take zones) and two unprotected (open-access) sites around Zanzibar (Tanzania). We assessed the temporal stability of fish density and community structure within and outside MPAs during three monsoon seasons in 2014–2015, and investigated several possible mechanisms that could regulate temporal stability. Our results show that MPAs did not affect fish density and diversity, but that juvenile fish densities were temporally more stable within MPAs. Second, fish community structure was more stable within MPAs for juvenile and adult fish, but not for subadult fish or the total fish community. Third, the observed effects may be due to a combination of direct and indirect (seagrass-mediated) effects of seasonality and, potentially, fluctuating fishing pressure outside MPAs. In summary, these MPAs may not have the ability to enhance fish density and diversity and to buffer effects of monsoon seasonality on the whole fish community. However, they may increase the temporal stability of certain groups, such as juvenile fish. Consequently, our results question whether MPAs play a general role in the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under changing environmental conditions in tropical seagrass fish communities.
Inshore artisanal fishing in Malta is under intense spatial competition as the coastal zone is fragmented by multiple uses and designations including maritime transport, infrastructure, industrial fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and recreation. This research, adopting a grounded visualization methodology, explains how the artisanal fishing sector has undergone and been affected by ‘spatial squeezing’. Our results show that artisanal fishermen have been forced to give up fishing grounds or co-exist with other uses to the point where the ability to fish is becoming increasingly challenging. These difficulties might escalate with the advent of the marine protected areas (MPAs) which encompass nearly half of the inshore fishing zones. Since there does not seem to be effective MPA consultation mechanisms that elicit the real social, cultural and economic value of artisanal fishing grounds, fishermen feel threatened, alienated and disempowered. This study urges for a more holistic approach to spatial marine planning and accentuates the need of realizing the dependency of the artisanal sector on the inshore zones in the implementation of conservation measures, such that the prolonged existence of the coastal fishing communities is not jeopardized.
The conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is one of the most controversial issues facing the law of the sea, and one that will probably be the scope of a new implementing agreement of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC). The agreement will address a set of challenges not on the agenda at the time LOSC was drafted, constituting an opportunity for addressing innovative notions, but also to question established ones as States attempt to ensure the compatibility between the former and the latter. One of the many challenges and a key aspect is the adoption of area-based management tools such as marine spatial planning. This article examines the existing legal gap regarding the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and the use of marine spatial planning as an essential area-based management tool.
Spatially explicit risk assessment is an essential component of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), which provides a comprehensive framework for managing multiple uses of the marine environment, minimizing environmental impacts and conflicts among users. In this study, we assessed the risk of the exposure to high intensity vessel traffic areas for the three most abundant cetacean species (Stenella coeruleoalba, Tursiops truncatus and Balaenoptera physalus) in the southern area of the Pelagos Sanctuary, which is the only pelagic Marine Protected Area (MPA) for marine mammals in the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, we modeled the occurrence of the three cetacean species as a function of habitat variables in June by using hierarchical Bayesian spatial-temporal models. Similarly, we modelled the marine traffic intensity in order to find high risk areas and estimated the potential conflict due to the overlap with the cetacean home ranges. Results identified two main hot-spots of high intensity marine traffic in the area, which partially overlap with the area of presence of the studied species. Our findings emphasize the need for nationally relevant and transboundary planning and management measures for these marine species.
Understanding the spatial and temporal variation in the distribution of migratory species is critical for management and conservation efforts. However, challenges in observing mobile marine species throughout their migratory pathways can impede the identification of critical habitat, linkages between these habitats and threat-mitigation strategies. This study aimed to gain insight into the long-term residency and movement patterns of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and to reveal important habitat in the context of R. typus usage of existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
South-eastern Indian Ocean.
Satellite telemetry was used to remotely track the long-term movements of 29 R. typus, and to quantify shark usage of the existing MPA network. From the tracking data and environmental predictors, nonlinear models were developed to predict suitable R. typus habitat throughout the south-eastern Indian Ocean.
This study includes the first documented complete return migrations by R. typus to Ningaloo Marine Park, which was found to be an important area for R. typus all year-round. We found that while existing MPAs along Australia's west coast do afford some protection to R. typus, telemetry-based habitat models revealed large areas of suitable habitat not currently protected, particularly along the Western Australian coast, in the Timor Sea, and in Indonesian and international waters.
Animal-borne telemetric devices allowed the gathering of long-term spatial information from the elusive and highly mobile R. typus, revealing the spatial scale of their migration in the south-eastern Indian Ocean. Suitable habitat was predicted to occur inside conservation areas, but our findings indicate that the current MPA network may not sufficiently protect R. typus throughout the year. We suggest that telemetry-based habitat models can be an important tool to inform conservation planning and spatial management efforts for migratory species.
The concept of community is often used in environmental policy to foster environmental stewardship and public participation, crucial prerequisites of effective management. However, prevailing conceptualizations of community based on residential location or resource use are limited with respect to their utility as surrogates for communities of shared environment-related interests, and because of the localist perspective they entail. Thus, addressing contemporary sustainability challenges, which tend to involve transnational social and environmental interactions, urgently requires additional approaches to conceptualizing community that are compatible with current globalization. We propose a framing for redefining community based on place attachment (i.e., the bonds people form with places) in the context of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Area threatened by drivers requiring management and political action at scales beyond the local. Using data on place attachment from 5,403 respondents residing locally, nationally, and internationally, we identified four communities that each shared a type of attachment to the reef and that spanned conventional location and use communities. We suggest that as human–environment interactions change with increasing mobility (both corporeal and that mediated by communication and information technology), new types of people–place relations that transcend geographic and social boundaries and do not require ongoing direct experience to form are emerging. We propose that adopting a place attachment framing to community provides a means to capture the neglected nonmaterial bonds people form with the environment, and could be leveraged to foster transnational environmental stewardship, critical to advancing global sustainability in our increasingly connected world.
Areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) lie outside the 200 nautical mile limits of national sovereignty and cover 58% of the ocean surface. Global conservation agreements recognize biodiversity loss in ABNJ and aim to protect ≥10% of oceans in marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020. However, limited mechanisms to create MPAs in ABNJ currently exist, and existing management is widely regarded as inadequate to safeguard biodiversity. Negotiations are therefore underway for an “internationally legally binding instrument” (ILBI) to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to enable biodiversity conservation beyond national jurisdiction. While this agreement will, hopefully, establish a mechanism to create MPAs in ABNJ, discussions to date highlight a further problem: namely, defining what to protect. We have a good framework for terrestrial and coastal habitats, however habitats in ABNJ, particularly the open ocean, are less understood and poorly defined. Often, predictable broad oceanographic features are used to define open ocean habitats. But what exactly, constitutes the habitat—the water, or the species that live there? Complicating matters, species in the open sea are often highly mobile. Here, we argue that mobile marine organisms provide the structure-forming biomass and constitute “habitat” in the open ocean. For an ABNJ ILBI to offer effective protection to marine biodiversity it must consider habitats a function of their inhabitants and represent all marine life within its scope. Only by enabling strong protection for every element of biodiversity can we hope to be fully successful in conserving it.
The waters of the Southern Ocean are projected to warm over the coming century, with potential adverse consequences for native cold-adapted organisms. Warming waters have caused temperate marine species to shift their ranges poleward. The seafloor animals of the Southern Ocean shelf have long been isolated by the deep ocean surrounding Antarctica and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, with little scope for southward migration. How these largely endemic species will react to future projected warming is unknown. By considering 963 invertebrate species, we show that within the current century, warming temperatures alone are unlikely to result in wholesale extinction or invasion affecting Antarctic seafloor life. However, 79% of Antarctica’s endemic species do face a significant reduction in suitable temperature habitat (an average 12% reduction). Our findings highlight the species and regions most likely to respond significantly (negatively and positively) to warming and have important implications for future management of the region.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a well-established conservation strategy, employed around the world to protect important marine species and ecosystems and support the recovery of declining populations. The continental waters of North America contain remarkable biodiversity, but many species face increasing pressure from overexploitation, climate change, and other anthropogenic impacts. Canada, Mexico, and the USA have pledged to protect at least 10% of their marine and coastal waters by 2020 as signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and have made efforts to establish MPAs. These MPAs vary widely in terms of levels of protection and designation processes; information that is not reflected in official statistics. To this end, we critically examined progress toward the CBD target for marine protection in continental North American waters to determine how well ocean ecosystems are protected by MPAs. We reviewed government data to determine whether MPAs met four criteria: legal designation, permanence, presence of an administrative structure, and a completed management plan. Sites that met all four criteria were categorized as “implemented.” Any sites that failed to meet one or more criterion were considered “incompletely implemented” and excluded from the analysis. We also calculated the amount of “fully-protected” MPAs in which all extractive uses are prohibited. We found that <1% of North America's continental ocean is protected, and only 0.04% is fully-protected. Canada has the least area protected with just 0.11% in implemented MPAs, and 0.01% in fully-protected MPAs. Mexico and the USA have 1.62 and 1.29% in implemented MPAs, and 0.11 and 0.03% in fully-protected MPAs, respectively. Results show that many North American MPAs are incompletely implemented and therefore currently fail to provide adequate protection. The inclusion of such sites in official government statistics can inflate the perception of how much, and how well, the ocean is protected. We outline some of the major challenges to MPA establishment in each country and offer recommendations to increase the number and effectiveness of MPAs in North America.
The establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) can often lead to environmental differences between MPAs and fishing zones. To determine the effects on marine dispersal of environmental dissimilarity between an MPA and fishing zone, we examined the abundance and recruitment patterns of two anemonefishes (Amphiprion frenatus and A. perideraion) that inhabit sea anemones in different management zones (i.e., an MPA and two fishing zones) by performing a field survey and a genetic parentage analysis. We found lower levels of abundance per anemone in the MPA compared to the fishing zones for both species (n = 1,525 anemones, p = .032). The parentage analysis also showed that lower numbers of fishes were recruited from the fishing zones and outside of the study area into each anemone in the MPA than into each anemone in the fishing zones (n = 1,525 anemones, p < .017). However, the number of self-recruit production per female did not differ between the MPA and fishing zones (n = 384 females, p = .516). Because the ocean currents around the study site were unlikely to cause a lower settlement intensity of larvae in the MPA, the ocean circulation was not considered crucial to the observed abundance and recruitment patterns. Instead, stronger top-down control and/or a lower density of host anemones in the MPA were potential factors for such patterns. Our results highlight the importance of dissimilarity in a marine environment as a factor that affects connectivity.
Large-scale marine protected areas (LSMPAs) are rapidly increasing. Due to their sheer size, complex socio-political realities, and distinct local cultural perspectives and economic needs, implementing and managing LSMPAs successfully creates a number of human dimensions challenges. It is timely and important to explore the human dimensions of LSMPAs. This paper draws on the results of a global “Think Tank on the Human Dimensions of Large Scale Marine Protected Areas” involving 125 people from 17 countries, including representatives from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, professionals, industry, cultural/indigenous leaders and LSMPA site managers. The overarching goal of this effort was to be proactive in understanding the issues and developing best management practices and a research agenda that address the human dimensions of LSMPAs. Identified best management practices for the human dimensions of LSMPAs included: integration of culture and traditions, effective public and stakeholder engagement, maintenance of livelihoods and wellbeing, promotion of economic sustainability, conflict management and resolution, transparency and matching institutions, legitimate and appropriate governance, and social justice and empowerment. A shared human dimensions research agenda was developed that included priority topics under the themes of scoping human dimensions, governance, politics, social and economic outcomes, and culture and tradition. The authors discuss future directions in researching and incorporating human dimensions into LSMPAs design and management, reflect on this global effort to co-produce knowledge and re-orient practice on the human dimensions of LSMPAs, and invite others to join a nascent community of practice on the human dimensions of large-scale marine conservation.
The European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to adopt integrated ecosystem management approaches to achieve or maintain “Good Environmental Status” for marine waters, habitats and resources, including mitigation of the negative effects of non-indigenous species (NIS). The Directive further seeks to promote broadly standardized monitoring efforts and assessment of temporal trends in marine ecosystem condition, incorporating metrics describing the distribution and impacts of NIS. Accomplishing these goals will require application of advanced tools for NIS surveillance and risk assessment, particularly given known challenges associated with surveying and monitoring with traditional methods. In the past decade, a host of methods based on nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) analysis have been developed or advanced that promise to dramatically enhance capacity in assessing and managing NIS. However, ensuring that these rapidly evolving approaches remain accessible and responsive to the needs of resource managers remains a challenge. This paper provides recommendations for future development of these genetic tools for assessment and management of NIS in marine systems, within the context of the explicit requirements of the MSFD. Issues considered include technological innovation, methodological standardization, data sharing and collaboration, and the critical importance of shared foundational resources, particularly integrated taxonomic expertise. Though the recommendations offered here are not exhaustive, they provide a basis for future intentional (and international) collaborative development of a genetic toolkit for NIS research, capable of fulfilling the immediate and long term goals of marine ecosystem and resource conservation.
The warming global climate is reducing sea-ice coverage in the central Arctic, transforming a mostly inaccessible marine region into a 'new' and relatively poorly studied ocean. History shows that exploitation of newly accessible natural resources tends to precede effective research and management measures. But in response to increasing access to the central Arctic, a precautionary approach has been taking hold, with broad political and scientific support culminating in the Oslo Declaration of 2015, which aims to prevent unregulated high seas fishing in the central Arctic. Negotiations toward a full binding agreement are continuing. Formal efforts toward assessing knowledge of the Arctic marine ecosystems and coordinating research are underway, and practitioner-based research coordination and collaboration in the region is also ongoing. Yet broad gaps in our current marine research and coordination exist, and this paper draws attention to the spatial middle, middle trophics, and the middle scale — an Arctic 'missing middle'. Scientific activity in the central Arctic Ocean region is burgeoning in recent years, and a large number of initiatives, projects, and arrangements are meeting some of the need for coordination. But full pan-Arctic scientific coordination does not yet exist. In support of ecosystem-based and precautionary management of the central Arctic Ocean, this paper considers a fully Arctic-focused organization that can both orchestrate and prioritize marine research in the Arctic in view of policy imperatives, and bring emerging scientific understanding of the region directly into the discussion and formation of new policy.
Continuously increasing demand for plant and animal products causes unsustainable depletion of biological resources. It is estimated that one-quarter of sharks and rays are threatened worldwide and although the global fin trade is widely recognized as a major driver, demand for meat, liver oil, and gill plates also represents a significant threat. This study used DNA barcoding and 16 S rRNA sequencing as a method to identify shark and ray species from dried fins and gill plates, obtained in Canada, China, and Sri Lanka. 129 fins and gill plates were analysed and searches on BOLD produced matches to 20 species of sharks and five species of rays or - in two cases - to a species pair. Twelve of the species found are listed or have been approved for listing in 2017 in the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), including the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which was surprisingly found among both shark fin and gill plate samples. More than half of identified species fall under the IUCN Red List categories 'Endangered' and 'Vulnerable', raising further concerns about the impacts of this trade on the sustainability of these low productivity species.
Building on the inputs by a range of experts who participated in the February 2017 international symposium on “Designing the Future for Fisheries Certification Schemes” at the University of Tokyo, this manuscript traces the origins of fisheries certification schemes, relevant developments, and remaining challenges from an Asian perspective. Over the past 20 years, seafood certification has emerged as a powerful tool for meeting growing demands for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture products. Despite broad consensus among countries regarding what constitute responsible fishing practices, the fisheries certification landscape remains uneven. A plethora of certification schemes has generated confusion among consumers and retailers, and capital-intensive certification schemes may be out-of-reach or impractical for some small-scale fisheries, particularly within the developing world. A recent initiative by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) is aiming to address the diversity within the certification landscape by creating a tool to benchmark certification schemes that are in line with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other relevant agreed FAO guidelines on fisheries, ecolabelling and aquaculture. Countries in Asia are among the world's top consumers and exporters of seafood, yet have faced some particular challenges with regard to seafood certification, underscoring the need for certification schemes that account for regional and local conditions and management practices, particularly with regard to small-scale fisheries.
This article explores how conceptualizing fish as food, rather than primarily as a resource or commodity supports a shift towards more systems-based approaches to engaging with fisheries (i.e. considering the relationships between ecosystems, people, management and policy). A “fish as food” lens is operationalized by drawing on the theory and practice of food sovereignty. While fishing people and communities have always been a core part of the food sovereignty movement, there have been limited efforts in the academic literature to explore these connections directly. Drawing on examples primarily from a Canadian context, it is argued that a deeper engagement between fisheries and food sovereignty is long overdue, particularly as a growing body of research on small-scale fisheries seeks to address social-ecological relationships and issues of power that are also at the core of a food sovereignty approach. This article identifies the opportunities and limitations of engaging with food sovereignty in the context of small-scale fisheries and suggests a series of key questions for future fish as food research and policy.
Coral reef restoration initiatives are burgeoning in response to the need for novel management strategies to address dramatic global declines in coral cover. However, coral restoration programs typically lack rigor and critical evaluation of their effectiveness. A review of 83 peer-reviewed papers that used coral transplantation for reef restoration reveals that growth and survival of coral fragments were the most widely used indicators of restoration success, with 88% of studies using these two indicators either solely (55%) or in combination with a limited number of other ecological factors (33%). In 53% of studies, reef condition was monitored for 1 year or less, while only 5% of reefs were monitored for more than 5 years post-transplantation. These results highlight that coral reef restoration science has focused primarily on short-term experiments to evaluate the feasibility of techniques for ecological restoration and the initial establishment phase post-transplantation, rather than on longer-term outcomes for coral reef communities. Here, we outline 10 socioecological indicators that comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of coral reef restoration across the four pillars of sustainability (i.e. environmental, sociocultural, governance, and economic contributions to sustainable communities). We recommend that evaluations of the effectiveness of coral restoration programs integrate ecological indicators with sociocultural, economic, and governance considerations. Assessing the efficacy of coral restoration as a tool to support reef resilience will help to guide future efforts and ensure the sustainable maintenance of reef ecosystem goods and services.
Forecasting assemblage-level responses to climate change remains one of the greatest challenges in global ecology [1, 2]. Data from the marine realm are limited because they largely come from experiments using limited numbers of species , mesocosms whose interior conditions are unnatural , and long-term correlation studies based on historical collections . We describe the first ever experiment to warm benthic assemblages to ecologically relevant levels in situ. Heated settlement panels were used to create three test conditions: ambient and 1°C and 2°C above ambient (predicted in the next 50 and 100 years, respectively ). We observed massive impacts on a marine assemblage, with near doubling of growth rates of Antarctic seabed life. Growth increases far exceed those expected from biological temperature relationships established more than 100 years ago by Arrhenius. These increases in growth resulted in a single “r-strategist” pioneer species (the bryozoan Fenestrulina rugula) dominating seabed spatial cover and drove a reduction in overall diversity and evenness. In contrast, a 2°C rise produced divergent responses across species growth, resulting in higher variability in the assemblage. These data extend our ability to expand, integrate, and apply our knowledge of the impact of temperature on biological processes to predict organism, species, and ecosystem level ecological responses to regional warming.
If saltwater regularly soaked your basement or first floor, kept you from getting to work, or damaged your car, how often would it have to happen before you began looking for a new place to call home?
This national analysis identifies when US coastal communities will face a level of disruptive flooding that affects people's homes, daily routines, and livelihoods. It identifies hundreds of communities that will face chronic inundation and possible retreat over the coming decades as sea levels rise.
The findings highlight what’s at stake in our fight to address sea level rise and global warming. They also provide affected communities a measure of how much time they have to prepare.