Extreme climatic events are expected to become more frequent under current conditions of increasing global temperatures and climate variability. A key challenge of fisheries management is understanding and planning for the effect of anomalous oceanic conditions on the distributions of protected species and their interactions with fishing gear. Atypical marine states can cause non-target species to shift outside of their normal distribution patterns, leading to unwanted bycatch events that threaten fisheries sustainability. Environmental indicators can serve as early warning signals that allow for proactive management responses before significant bycatch occurs. Marine heatwaves in the Pacific have caused shifts in the distributions of endangered loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), increasing overlap with California’s Drift Gillnet fishery and thereby the risk of turtle bycatch events. To reduce bycatch, a fishery closure offshore of Southern California – The Loggerhead Conservation Area – Is enacted when an El Niño event has been declared and local sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are warmer than normal. However, this regulation was based on qualitative assessment of bycatch that occurred during past El Niño events, and no explicit threshold for SST anomalies was defined. Additionally, closures enacted under the current regulation rely on structured expert decision-making. Providing a quantitative indicator could help to refine future decisions. We developed and evaluated potential new indicators to guide the Loggerhead Conservation Area closure timing based on thermal indices in three different regions: the equatorial Pacific, regional areas offshore of Southern California, and temperate pelagic areas off the US west coast. Our objectives were to: 1) quantify thermal indicators and their respective thresholds to guide closure timing, and 2) hindcast closure scenarios based on these indicator thresholds to evaluate efficacy in terms of opportunity costs to fishers and ability to avoid turtle interactions. The best indicator in terms of avoiding historical turtle interactions while minimizing opportunity cost to fishers was a six-month average local SST anomaly indicator with closures enacted above a threshold of 0.77 °C. This result can improve upon the current closure guidelines by providing a quantified and spatially-explicit indicator and threshold to supplement the structured decision-making process. Our analysis demonstrates a novel approach to developing fisheries management strategies for species with a paucity of data. Issues with data comprehensiveness are frequently present in fisheries management exercises, and precautionary approaches are needed to allow adherence with legislation while considering the best available science.
In most coastal communities throughout the South Pacific customary rights to regulate access to vital and scarce resources evolved a long time ago. In many places, these systems have formed the basis of community-based marine management efforts. At the same time, national (fisheries and environmental) legislation regulates various aspects regarding the marine realm. The result is a legal pluralist situation – a circumstance that can affect the governability of coastal fisheries. This study draws on data from Fiji and Solomon Islands to examine how the national marine governance frameworks and customary/community-based marine resource management interact. Fiji has a centralized government and customary governance structures are fairly well defined. Various mechanisms exist that link the national and customary systems. In Solomon Islands customary systems and national governance authority are more dispersed and the latter is partly delegated to provincial governments. Here, partner organizations that engage in local marine management can play a vital role in bridging local and (sub-) national levels. The analysis of the two countries reveals that legal pluralist patterns can play out and be addressed differently. A deeper understanding of the interactions between national and customary marine governance systems can help to design procedures or legal mechanisms which optimize relations across levels and systems, and thus contribute to improving governance outcomes.
The 2014 EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) lays down obligations for the EU Member States to establish a maritime planning process, resulting in a maritime spatial plan by 2020. Consultation should be carried out with local, national and transnational stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement in MSP is complex because of the great number and diversity of maritime stakeholders and the unfamiliarity of some of these stakeholders with MSP and its potential impact. To facilitate stakeholder engagement in MSP, the ‘MSP Challenge’ table top strategy game was designed and played as part of several stakeholder events in different European countries. The authors study the efficacy of the game for stakeholder engagement. Background and evaluation data of nineteen game sessions with a total of 310 stakeholders with different backgrounds were collected through post-game surveys. Furthermore, the efficacy of the game for stakeholder engagement processes, organised by competent MSP authorities in Scotland and Belgium, is studied in more detail. The results show that the board game, overall, has been a very efficient and effective way of familiarising a great diversity of stakeholders with MSP and to create meaningful interaction and learning among stakeholders in formal planning processes. However, the case studies also show that contextual factors—the level of familiarity with MSP and participants’ perception to sustainability—influences the efficacy of the game.
The worlds’ oceans and seas have tremendous potential to contribute to the provision of food, feed, energy and natural resources. The emerging concepts of “Blue Growth” and “Blue Economy” have put the development of new marine industries on the political agenda. As marine industries expand, spatial interconnections and industry boundaries are being drawn and the potential for the combined use of marine space is being explored. The aim of this paper is to provide a single source document that summarizes the probable boundaries of marine growth industries, namely aquaculture; offshore wind energy with fixed foundations; floating offshore wind energy; tidal and wave energy; marine biotechnology, seabed mining; and tourism and recreation, based on depth and distance from the shore. This is an important first step in developing a single source document for marine industry boundaries that will help marine spatial planners and researchers develop innovative industry combinations to foster growth in the marine sector. This paper explores marine industry overlaps in four basins: European Atlantic, Baltic/North Sea, Mediterranean/Black Sea and the Caribbean/ Gulf of Mexico. By describing the geographical characteristics of different sea basins, this paper helps to focus marine governance strategies for stimulating combinations of marine industries towards the most promising areas. The methodology developed in this paper was also used to generate 72 country-specific maps and corresponding tables to support marine spatial planning processes at a national level.
Protected areas are increasingly expected to justify their existence in terms of their importance to society. However, this importance, and the complex ways in which people relate to protected areas, cannot be captured by instrumental and intrinsic value framings alone. Rather, our understanding of the role of protected areas in society needs to take account of people’s relational values about nature. Here we review the literature on values associated with human-nature connection and related concepts to highlight which approaches are currently being used to understand expressions of relational values in empirical protected area research. Our results highlights seven ‘application domains’ for relational values research, highlighting expressions of relational values, and the stakeholder focus of each. Place-focused and psychological theories were most common across these domains. This work represents a first step in developing the foundations of a relational value research agenda in protected areas.
The report summarises the current scientific, technical and legal challenges of deep sea mining debated by international and Portuguese experts and stakeholders at a conference held in Porto, Portugal, on 16th April 2018. The discussions focused on the different obstacles to deep sea mining and how to address them, including recommendations for future consideration. The prospect of deep sea mining in Portugal received particular attention.
The political boundaries used to territorialize ocean spaces are often negotiated as largely social relations, with little attention to material aspects. Material aspects of ocean spaces include physical forces, interacting life, and constant transformation. In this paper, we use Steinberg and Peters' (2015) “wet ontology” and concepts of the hydrosphere, liquidity, dynamism, and emergence to reflect on how the Sargasso Sea was located in geographic space through analysis of scientific data that revealed its complex materiality. Drawing from policy documents, white papers, presentations, and 14 semi-structured interviews with scientists, government officials, and NGO representatives, we then trace how the Sargasso Sea Alliance produced the linear boundaries that define the Sargasso Sea as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Area and, later, as an area for international collaboration on its conservation. Although the data used to locate the Sargasso Sea demonstrated its mobility and complexity, policymaking processes calling for legible boundaries produced a simplified and fixed Sargasso Sea that obscures its “wet” materiality. This ‘fixed’ Sargasso Sea was created, in part, to test the potential of existing high seas governing bodies in the lead-up to current negotiations for an international legally-binding instrument for high seas governance; this case thus demonstrates how the social relations that construct existing understandings of territory in oceans may continue to dictate policy options, even as new, more dynamic management techniques are developed. We conclude with a discussion of emerging governance possibilities that may better address and account for the entangled material and social realities of oceans.
Positive (synergistic) and negative (trade-off) relationships among ecosystem services are influenced by drivers of change, such as policy interventions and environmental variability, and the mechanisms that link these drivers to ecosystem service outcomes. Failure to account for these drivers and mechanisms can result in poorly informed management decisions and reduced ecosystem service provision. Here, we review the literature to determine the extent to which drivers and mechanisms are considered in assessments of ecosystem service relationships. We show that only 19% of assessments explicitly identify the drivers and mechanisms that lead to ecosystem service relationships. While the proportion of assessments considering drivers has increased over time, most of these studies only implicitly consider the drivers of ecosystem service relationships. We recommend more assessments explicitly identify drivers of trade-offs and synergies, which can be achieved through a greater uptake of causal inference and process-based models, to ensure effective management of ecosystem services.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) effectively improve the biomass and diversity in heavily exploited marine systems, but often fail to reach their full potential because they require more space, time, and consistency of regulation. Recently, shark-based tourism, which utilises some of the remaining shark strongholds as tourism hotspots, has brought about increased awareness to exploited reef systems. In Fiji, specifically, shark diving companies include local community members in their operations to promote better understanding of their reefs. We seek to investigate whether seemingly denser shark populations during feeding times influence community composition and structure. Visual census data were collected from 50-m belt transects at four different reefs in Fiji: two MPAs with shark-based ecotourism with food provisioning, one MPA without shark-based ecotourism, and one unprotected area without shark-based tourism. Paradoxically, indices of evenness and diversity were highest in the non-protected site. However, there was significantly higher fish abundance and species diversity within reserves than outside of reserves. Within reserves, sites with shark feeding had lower fish abundance and higher richness, diversity, and evenness. Mean trophic level was highest at sites with shark feeding. Use of chum increased average fish abundance and diversity within shark-dive sites. These results indicate that there are evident differences between MPAs that do and do not offer trophic supplementation for shark-based ecotourism. Thus, tourism may be facilitating a shift of ecosystem composition in such areas. Furthermore, the results suggest that feeding methods may augment the impacts of shark-based tourism on the reef at large.
As the Arctic continues to warm, summer sea ice will continue to recede and a greater expanse of Arctic waters will become navigable. These changes may result in an increase in vessel traffic to the region, including via the Transpolar Sea Route (TSR), through the high seas area of the central Arctic Ocean (CAO). This paper begins with a review of the literature on Arctic vessel traffic to assess the potential effects of various stressors related to vessel traffic in the Arctic Ocean. Available data concerning environmental and safety risks for the Arctic Ocean are used to propose vessel TSR vessel traffic routes that can reduce those risks. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of several examples of vulnerability assessments focused on impacts from vessel traffic in the Arctic as potential models for future work specific to the CAO. The results from this review indicate vessel oiling, air pollution, and noise from icebreakers are immediate concerns to the Arctic Ocean that will likely worsen as the region becomes more navigable and vessel traffic increases. The proposed vessel routes for the Arctic Ocean are meant to serve as a starting point for further discussions before the region becomes fully navigable. As additional data become available, these efforts can be refined further, and a rigorous vulnerability assessment may become possible. Designation as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area under international law could provide a useful mechanism for creating and updating precautionary shipping measures as more information becomes available.
Protected areas are a key component of any global conservation strategy. Tourism provides a crucial and unique way of fostering visitors’ connection with protected area values, making it a potentially positive force for conservation. Protected area tourism’s economic benefits—which depend on beautiful natural areas, healthy wildlife and nature, and authentic cultures—can also be a powerful argument for conservation. Tourism in protected areas is a major part of the global tourism industry—an industry whose scale and impacts are enormous. Such a high volume of visitors implies certain needs for fundamental infrastructure and requirements for employment and human services, all of which have ramifications for the economy, society, culture and the environment. These Guidelines provide guidance on key issues to help managers achieve sustainable tourism in protected areas.
Increased plastic consumption and poor waste management have resulted in litter representing an ever-increasing threat to the marine environment. To identify sources and evaluate mitigation measures, beach litter has been monitored. Using data from two citizen science protocols (CSPs) and OSPAR monitoring of Norwegian beaches, this study 1) identifies the most abundant litter types, 2) compares OSPAR to citizen science data, and 3) examines how to improve the management relevance of beach litter data. The dominant litter types were; food and drink- and fishery related items, and unidentifiable plastic pieces. Data from CSPs are consistent with OSPAR data in abundance and diversity, although few OSPAR beaches limit verification of CSP data. In contrast to OSPAR, the CSPs estimate the weight of the litter. CSPs lack important variables which could explain why some litter types are abundant in some particular areas. The latter could be improved by recording GPS positions.
Ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) are threatening coral reef ecosystems, with a bleak future forecast for reef‐building corals, which are already experiencing global declines in abundance. In contrast, many coral reef sponge species are able to tolerate climate change conditions projected for 2100. To increase our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning this tolerance, we explored the lipid and fatty acid (FA) composition of four sponge species with differing sensitivities to climate change, experimentally exposed to OW and OA levels predicted for 2100, under two CO2Representative Concentration Pathways. Sponges with greater concentrations of storage lipid, phospholipids, sterols and elevated concentrations of n‐3 and n‐6 long‐chain polyunsaturated FA (LC PUFA), were more resistant to OW. Such biochemical constituents likely contribute to the ability of these sponges to maintain membrane function and cell homeostasis in the face of environmental change. Our results suggest that n‐3 and n‐6 LC PUFA are important components of the sponge stress response potentially via chain elongation and the eicosanoid stress‐signalling pathways. The capacity for sponges to compositionally alter their membrane lipids in response to stress was also explored using a number of specific homeoviscous adaptation (HVA) indicators. This revealed a potential mechanism via which additional CO2 could facilitate the resistance of phototrophic sponges to thermal stress through an increased synthesis of membrane‐stabilizing sterols. Finally, OW induced an increase in FA unsaturation in phototrophic sponges but a decrease in heterotrophic species, providing support for a difference in the thermal response pathway between the sponge host and the associated photosymbionts. Here we have shown that sponge lipids and FA are likely to be an important component of the sponge stress response and may play a role in facilitating sponge survival under future climate conditions.
Digital imaging has become one of the most important techniques in environmental monitoring and exploration. In the case of the marine environment, mobile platforms such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are now equipped with high-resolution cameras to capture huge collections of images from the seabed. However, the timely evaluation of all these images presents a bottleneck problem as tens of thousands or more images can be collected during a single dive. This makes computational support for marine image analysis essential. Computer-aided analysis of environmental images (and marine images in particular) with machine learning algorithms is promising, but challenging and different to other imaging domains because training data and class labels cannot be collected as efficiently and comprehensively as in other areas. In this paper, we present Machine learning Assisted Image Annotation (MAIA), a new image annotation method for environmental monitoring and exploration that overcomes the obstacle of missing training data. The method uses a combination of autoencoder networks and Mask Region-based Convolutional Neural Network (Mask R-CNN), which allows human observers to annotate large image collections much faster than before. We evaluated the method with three marine image datasets featuring different types of background, imaging equipment and object classes. Using MAIA, we were able to annotate objects of interest with an average recall of 84.1% more than twice as fast as compared to “traditional” annotation methods, which are purely based on software-supported direct visual inspection and manual annotation. The speed gain increases proportionally with the size of a dataset. The MAIA approach represents a substantial improvement on the path to greater efficiency in the annotation of large benthic image collections.
We report an arrangement on the effect of anthropogenic litter on marine and estuarine reptiles, checking for evidence about different types of impact (ingestion vs. entanglement) and pressure (three size-based categories). From 1976 to 2018, we obtained a “blacklist” of 11 species impacted by marine litter (about 13% of 85 species of marine and estuarine reptiles), belonging to three orders (Testudines, Squamata, and Crocodilia). We obtained only occasional evidence of an impact for Squamata (Hidrophis elegans, Disteira major) and Crocodilia (Crocodylus porosus). Regarding the different types of pressure, the highest number of evidence has been obtained for macro-litter (10 species) and the lowest for micro-litter (4 species, all Chelonidae). Among Testudines, Lepidochelys kempii and Natator depressusevidenced a lack of data for micro-plastic. In Squamata, information is lacking for micro-plastic with only occasional references for meso-plastic (in Hydrophis elegans) and macro-plastic (Disteira major and Crocodylus porosus). We obtained a direct correlation between the research effort and the number of citations regarding different types of pressure and impact of marine litter: therefore, our blacklist of impacted species could be increased, carrying out further research focused on other poorly studied marine and estuarine reptiles. We suggest the use of a standardized nomenclature to reduce the amount of lost information.
Marine environments are complex and dynamic social-ecological systems, where social perceptions of ocean stewardship are diverse, resource use is potentially unsustainable, and conservation efforts rely strongly on public support or acceptance. Decreasing trust in science in recent years has led to weakened social acceptance and approval of marine conservation science. Social licence is a concept that reflects informal, unwritten public expectations about the impacts and benefits of industry and government practises, including research, on natural resources, including the ocean. Working toward improving social licence may provide opportunity to bolster support for marine conservation, by allowing communities to engage with marine issues and marine science, and voice their concerns and views. Here, we argue that marine conservation requires social licence and we highlight science advocacy, accomplished through outreach, as a means to achieve this. We identify a role for marine conservation science to engage with the public through advocacy to improve understanding and perceptions of conservation. Drawing from the literature, we describe how science advocacy can enhance social licence for marine conservation research and outline four steps that can advise marine conservation scientists to achieve and promote social licence for their research and the wider marine conservation community.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) constitute a worldwide problem, affecting aquatic ecosystems, public health and local economies. Supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency since 2009, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela, have integrated a regional network for early warning of HABs and biotoxins in seafood. Technical capacities have been developed at regional level to identify toxic species, evaluate biota toxicity, and to perform retrospective analysis of HAB occurrence. This network involves 58% of the coastal LAC countries, two regional reference centers (in El Salvador and Cuba), 14 well equipped institutions, and 177 professionals trained to contribute to the operation of HAB and biotoxin monitoring programs. All countries from the network have reported planktonic and benthic toxic species, and in selected cases, associated with toxin in biota. Dinocyst abundance analysis in 210Pb-dated sediment cores have shown that some harmful species have been present in the region for at least 100 years ago, and that both coastal water pollution and climate change are important drivers for HAB occurrence. Efforts must be made to enrich the data base records on HAB events occurred in LAC, better understand key environmental variables that control HABs and expand coverage of HAB monitoring to all coastal countries in LAC to promote sustainable development of the region.
Marine snakes represent the most speciose group of marine reptiles and are a significant component of reef and coastal ecosystems in tropical oceans. Research on this group has historically been challenging due to the difficulty in capturing, handling, and keeping these animals for field- and lab-based research. Inexplicable declines in marine snake populations across global hotspots have highlighted the lack of basic information on this group and elevated multiple species as conservation priorities. With the increased interest in research on marine snakes, we conducted a systematic survey of experts to identify twenty key questions that can direct future research. These questions are framed across a wide array of scientific fields to produce much-needed information relevant to the conservation and management of marine snakes.
Expanding urbanization in estuaries and the increase in pollutants from anthropogenic point sources can affect nearby benthic assemblages. Using a paired impact-control design, we assessed the effects of pollution from anthropogenic point sources (marinas, storm-water drains, sewage outfalls and fish farms) on algal and sessile invertebrate recruits to pavers placed in an industrialized Tasmanian estuary. Species number and cover of native recruits were lower after 12 months at sites outside marinas relative to paired control sites, whereas non-native and cryptogenic recruits were significantly higher outside marinas and near sewage outfalls. The cover of fast-growing, opportunistic species was significantly higher at sites near fish farms and sewage outfalls, and the cover of native species was also greater at sites near sewage outfalls relative to the paired control sites. Our results suggest an increased management focus on controlling pollution from marinas and sewage outfalls is warranted to limit the spread of non-native and cryptogenic species.
Underwater sound is directional and can convey important information about the surrounding environment or the animal emitting the sound. Therefore, sound is a major sensory channel for fishes and plays a key role in many life‐history strategies. The effect of anthropogenic noise on aquatic life, which may be causing homogenisation or fragmentation of biologically important signals underwater is of growing concern. In this review we discuss the role sound plays in the ecology of fishes, basic anatomical and physiological adaptations for sound reception and production, the effects of anthropogenic noise and how fishes may be coping to changes in their environment, to put the ecology of fish hearing into the context of the modern underwater soundscape.