Recent international negotiations have highlighted the need to protect marine diversity on the high seas—the ocean area beyond national jurisdiction. However, restricting fishing access on the high seas raises many concerns, including how such restrictions would affect food security. We analyze high seas catches and trade data to determine the contribution of the high seas catch to global seafood production, the main species caught on the high seas, and the primary markets where these species are sold. By volume, the total catch from the high seas accounts for 4.2% of annual marine capture fisheries production and 2.4% of total seafood production, including freshwater fisheries and aquaculture. Thirty-nine fish and invertebrate species account for 99.5% of the high seas targeted catch, but only one species, Antarctic toothfish, is caught exclusively on the high seas. The remaining catch, which is caught both on the high seas and in national jurisdictions, is made up primarily of tunas, billfishes, small pelagic fishes, pelagic squids, toothfish, and krill. Most high seas species are destined for upscale food and supplement markets in developed, food-secure countries, such as Japan, the European Union, and the United States, suggesting that, in aggregate, high seas fisheries play a negligible role in ensuring global food security.
The sustainable seafood movement is at a crossroads. Its core strategy, also known as a theory of change, is based on market-oriented initiatives such as third-party certification but does not motivate adequate levels of improved governance and environmental improvements needed in many fisheries, especially in developing countries. Price premiums for certified products are elusive, multiple forms of certification compete in a crowded marketplace and certifiers are increasingly asked to address social as well as ecological goals. This paper traces how the sustainable seafood movement has evolved over time to address new challenges while success remains limited. We conclude by exploring four alternative potential outcomes for the future theory of change, each with different contributions to creating a more sustainable global seafood supply.
Resource users’ perceptions are crucial for successful marine governance because they affect community support, participation and legitimacy. Efforts have been made to understand how fishers’ attitudes, understandings and interpretations of the environment and its governance emerge in small-scale fisheries. However, many quantitative studies have focussed on how individual-level attributes like socio-demographics are associated with perceptions, ignoring a fundamental scale at which humans arrive at their views about the world – the social group. In multi-gear fisheries, fishers typically cluster in two overlapping types of group: occupational groups (defined by fishing gear) and village communities. Taking into account also individual-level variables, which group type is more associated with particular environmental and governance perceptions, e.g. about change in fish stocks, collective action or appropriate management actions? Through questionnaires in combination with multivariate and multi-model inference, this study reveals that, among fishers in two villages in Zanzibar (n = 172), village is more associated with perceptions than occupational group or any other factor. Further, individual attributes like education and age influence perceptions. The main finding implies that the role of social-cultural processes might have been underestimated in quantitative research on research users’ perceptions. This has consequences for policy and research and shows that both can be informed by statistical analyses that disentangles effects of different levels of group belonging.
Increasing Arctic marine use is driven primarily by natural resource development and greater marine access throughout the Arctic Ocean created by profound sea ice retreat. Significant management measures to enhance protection of Arctic people and the marine environment are emerging, including the development of marine protected areas (MPAs) which may be effective and valuable tools. MPAs have been established by individual Arctic coastal states within their respective national jurisdictions; however, a pan-Arctic network of MPAs has yet to be established despite Arctic Council deliberations. This overview focuses on those MPAs that can be designated by the International Maritime Organization and by international instrument or treaty to respond to increasing Arctic marine operations and shipping. Key challenges remain in the Arctic to the introduction of select MPAs and development of a circumpolar network of MPAs in response to greater marine use: the variability of sea ice; the rights and concerns of indigenous people; a lack of marine infrastructure; application to the Central Arctic Ocean; establishing effective monitoring; and, compliance and enforcement in remote polar seas. Robust bilateral and multilateral cooperation will be necessary not only to establish effective MPAs but also to sustain them for the long term. Reducing the large Arctic marine infrastructure gap will be a key requirement to achieve effective MPA management and attain critical conservation goals.
Designing monitoring programs to detect impending climate change effects on marine vertebrates is challenging, as data sufficient for large-scale power analysis is severely limited, yet sensitivity and response time of potential indicator variables are key uncertainties. In the absence of such data, the experience of researchers can be used to inform decision making on monitoring design to detect impacts of climate change. We used expert elicitation to identify ecological traits of seabirds and marine mammals that have or were expected to respond to climate change. We analyzed the projected biological changes for five general categories of ecological traits that have been shown elsewhere to relate to climate signals: foraging and diet, body mass, breeding phenology, breeding success, and population size. Based on analysis of 106 traits in the five categories, 29 experts rated foraging- and diet-related traits to be the most responsive to climate change, although predictions for traits in this category were also the most variable across experts. Body mass related traits were projected to change almost as frequently, but with much lower variance. The timespan over which experts expected to see change also varied between trait categories. Foraging success was expected to respond most quickly. Considering sensitivity and response rate, we predict that the duration of foraging trips will be the best climate change indicator among the 106 traits. When combined with cost estimates, our results allow managers to choose ecological indicators that deliver information on system response in the most cost-effective manner.
The global expansion of aquaculture has raised concerns about its environmental impacts, including effects on wildlife. Aquaculture farms are thought to repel some species and function as either attractive population sinks (‘ecological traps’) or population sources for others. We conducted a systematic review and meta‐analysis of empirical studies documenting interactions between aquaculture operations and vertebrate wildlife. Farms were associated with elevated local abundance and diversity of wildlife, although this overall effect was strongly driven by aggregations of wild fish at sea cages and shellfish farms (abundance: 72×; species richness: 2.0×). Birds were also more diverse at farms (1.1×), but other taxa showed variable and comparatively small effects. Larger effects were reported when researchers selected featureless or unstructured habitats as reference sites. Evidence for aggregation ‘hotspots’ is clear in some systems, but we cannot determine whether farms act as ecological traps for most taxa, as few studies assess either habitat preference or fitness in wildlife. Fish collected near farms were larger and heavier with no change in body condition, but also faced higher risk of disease and parasitism. Birds and mammals were frequently reported preying on stock, but little data exist on the outcomes of such interactions for birds and mammals – farms are likely to function as ecological traps for many species. We recommend researchers measure survival and reproduction in farm‐associated wildlife to make direct, causal links between aquaculture and its effects on wildlife populations.
Poaching renders many of the world’s marine protected areas ineffective. Because enforcement capacity is often limited, managers are attempting to bolster compliance by engaging the latent surveillance potential of fishers. However, little is known about how fishers respond when they witness poaching. Here, we surveyed 2,111 fishers living adjacent to 55 marine protected areas in seven countries and found that 48% had previously observed poaching. We found that the most common response was inaction, with the primary reasons being: (1) conflict avoidance; (2) a sense that it was not their responsibility or jurisdiction; and (3) the perception that poaching was a survival strategy. We also quantified how institutional design elements or conditions were related to how fishers responded to poaching, and highlight ways in which fishers can be engaged while mitigating risks. These include emphasizing how poaching personally affects each fisher, promoting stewardship and norms of personal responsibility and poverty alleviation to reduce the need for fishers to poach for survival.
On June 19, 2015, following a long period of preparation, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/69/L.65: 65 “Development of an international legally-binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction”. A preparatory committee will develop draft recommendations in 2016 and 2017. The proposed new instrument will have important implications for the areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the Central Arctic Ocean and therefore for the Arctic governance regime overall. Key components of the “package” of measures discussed during the sessions of the Working Group were area-based management tools, including MPAs; marine genetic resources, including questions related to the sharing of benefits; environmental impact assessments and capacity-building and technology transfer. The potential implication of such a new legal instrument on areas beyond national jurisdiction in the Arctic will be manifold. They will affect shipping and other marine operations. Arctic nations have expressed initial views on the proposed measures but it will in the end be a decision of the international community as a whole to decide on the details of the new Implementing Agreement which will then provide a binding regime for all High Seas areas, including the Central Arctic Ocean.
Plastic ingestion by wedge-tailed shearwaters (WTS) nesting at near-shore and offshore sites along the east coast of Australia were investigated. Ingestion rates were at 20% in near-shore lavaged WTS, where the beaches were significantly more polluted, compared to 8% in birds at offshore sites. The material and colour of recovered plastics at offshore sites differed significantly between beach surveys and that ingested by seabirds in the same area. This pattern was not evident near-shore. Hence, in near-shore environments birds may feed locally and are influenced by nearby plastics, compared to birds offshore. The origins of marine debris between near-shore and offshore beaches differed; with land-based sources unsurprisingly having more influence on near-shore sites. The findings of this study indicate the need for localised data to address and manage this pollutant, with nesting seabirds at greater risk in near-shore environments. A preliminary modified ecological quality objective for WTS is presented.
Cultural edges, as sites of encounter and interaction between two or more cultural groups, tend to result in increased access to knowledge, skills, and material goods. First proposed more than a decade ago as an elaboration of the ecological edge concept, we suggest that cultural edges merit closer attention, particularly in relation to the complex histories and diverse processes of interaction indigenous communities have had with outsiders, including settlers and other indigenous groups. Our analysis is focused on the coastal Cree Nation of Wemindji, Eeyou Istchee, northern Québec (Canada) where multiple ecological and cultural edges have provided increased access to harvesting resources as well as expanded opportunities for social interaction and partnerships, knowledge and technology transfer, and economic diversification. As the locus within indigenous social-ecological systems where strategies for resistance and adaptation to disturbance and change are applied, including active enhancement of edge benefits, the concept of edges contributes to our understanding of the social, cultural, and ecological processes that shape indigenous territories and contribute to enhanced social-ecological resilience.
Marine policy and management has to cope with a plethora of human activities that cause pressures leading to changes to the natural and human systems. Accordingly, it requires many policy and management responses to address traditional, cultural, social, ecological, technical, and economic policy objectives. Because of this, we advocate that a fully-structured approach using the IEC/ISO 31010 Bow-tie analysis will allow all elements to be integrated for a cost-effective system.
This industry-standard system, described here with examples for the marine environment, will fulfil many of the demands by the users and uses of the marine system and the regulators of those users and uses. It allows for bridging several aspects: the management and environmental sciences, the management complexity and governance demands, the natural and social sciences and socio-economics and outcomes. Most importantly, the use of the Bow-tie approach bridges systems analysis and ecosystem complexity. At a time when scientific decisions in policy making and implementation are under question, we conclude that it provides a rigorous, transparent and defendable system of decision-making.
Prioritization of marsh-management strategies is a difficult task as it requires a manager to evaluate the relative benefits of each strategy given uncertainty in future sea-level rise and in dynamic marsh response. A modeling framework to evaluate the costs and benefits of management strategies while accounting for both of these uncertainties has been developed. The base data for the tool are high-resolution uncertainty-analysis results from the SLAMM (Sea-Level Affecting Marshes Model) under different adaptive-management strategies. These results are combined with an ecosystem-valuation assessment from stakeholders. The SLAMM results and stakeholder values are linked together using “utility functions” that characterize the relationship between stakeholder values and geometric metrics such as “marsh area,” marsh edge,” or “marsh width.” The expected-value of each site’s ecosystem benefits can then be calculated and compared using estimated costs for each strategy. Estimates of optimal marsh-management strategies may then be produced, maximizing the “ecosystem benefits per estimated costs” ratio.
A comparison of a Norwegian and two Canadian management plans reveals that most of the measures in the Norwegian plan were put into practice, whereas the Canadian plans did not result in the implementation of any new measures. This paper applies implementation theory to explain the different results. First, there is a striking difference in the leadership of the two governments and the way they organized for the planning. The Norwegian government led the process in a top-down manner and tried to apply a “whole-of-government” approach. The Canadian government delegated the entire task to the regional branches of one ministry alone. The different roles taken may be explained by different political and economic contexts that create different motivations for the governments to engage. Second, there were different ways of deciding when conflicts arose. The Norwegian coalition government negotiated internal compromises in the form of package deals. In Canada, the collaborative planning based on consensus concealed disagreements in high-level statements and pushed concrete solutions forward to later action planning that never occurred. These processes reflect different national policy styles and resulted in policy designs that created a very different impetus for implementation. The analysis demonstrate how theory-driven case-study methodology can lead to cumulative results.
While there is increasing evidence for habitat specialization in coral reef fishes, the extent to which different corals support different fish communities is not well understood. Here we quantitatively assess the relative importance of different coral species in structuring fish communities and evaluate whether sampling scale and coral colony size affect the perceived strength of fish-habitat relationships. Fish communities present on colonies of eight coral species (Porites cylindrica, Echinopora horrida, Hydnophora rigida, Stylophora pistillata, Seriatopora hystrix, Acropora formosa, A. tenuis and A. millepora) were examined in the Lizard Island lagoon, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Additionally, the differences in fish communities supported by three coral species (P. cylindrica, E. horrida, H. rigida) were investigated at three spatial scales of sampling (2x2 m, 1x1 m, 0.5x0.5 m). Substantial differences in fish communities were observed across the different coral species, with E. horrida and H. rigidasupporting the most fish species and individuals. Coral species explained more of the variability in fish species richness (20.9–53.6%), than in fish abundance (0–15%). Most coral species supported distinctive fish communities, with dissimilarities ranging from 50 to 90%. For three focal coral species, a greater amount of total variation in fish species richness and fish abundance was evident at a larger scale of sampling. Together, these results indicate that the structure of reef fish communities is finely tuned to coral species. Loss of preferred coral species could have profound effects on reef fish biodiversity, potentially more so than would be predicted on the basis of declining coral cover alone.
Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) are a standard feature of ocean-going vessels, designed to allow vessels to notify each other of their position and route, to reduce collisions. Increasingly, the system is being used to monitor vessels remotely, particularly with the advent of satellite receivers. One fundamental problem with AIS transmission is the issue of gaps in transmissions. Gaps occur for three basic reasons: 1) saturation of the system in locations with high vessel density; 2) poor quality transmissions due to equipment on the vessel or receiver; and 3) intentional disabling of AIS transmitters. Resolving which of these mechanisms is responsible for generating gaps in transmissions from a given vessel is a critical task in using AIS to remotely monitor vessels. Moreover, separating saturation and equipment issues from intentional disabling is a key issue, as intentional disabling is a useful risk factor in predicting illicit behaviors such as illegal fishing. We describe a spatial statistical model developed to identify gaps in AIS transmission, which allows calculation of the probability that a given gap is due to intentional disabling. The model we developed successfully identifies high risk gaps in the test case example in the Arafura Sea. Simulations support that the model is sensitive to frequent gaps as short as one hour. Results in this case study area indicate expected high risk vessels were ranked highly for risk of intentional disabling of AIS transmitters. We discuss our findings in the context of improving enforcement opportunities to reduce illicit activities at sea.
We developed a rockfish habitat model to evaluate a network of Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) implemented by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to reverse population declines of inshore Pacific rockfishes (Sebastes spp.). We modeled rocky reef habitat in all nearshore waters of southern British Columbia (BC) using a supervised classification of variables derived from a bathymetry model with 20 m2 resolution. We compared the results from models at intermediate (20 m2) and fine (5 m2) resolutions in five test areas where acoustic multibeam echosounder and backscatter data were available. The inclusion of backscatter variables did not substantially improve model accuracy. The intermediate-resolution model performed well with an accuracy of 75%, except in very steep habitats such as coastal inlets; it was used to estimate the total habitat area and the percent of rocky habitat in 144 RCAs in southern BC. We also compared the amount of habitat estimated by our 20 m2 model to the 100 m2 management model used to designate the RCAs and found that a slightly lower proportion of habitat (18% vs 20%) but a considerably smaller area (400 km2 vs 1370 km2) is protected in the RCAs, likely as a result of the poor resolution of the original model. Empirically derived maps of important habitats, such as rocky reefs, are necessary to support effective marine spatial planning and to design and evaluate the efficacy of management and conservation actions.
Soft robotics is an emerging technology that has shown considerable promise in deep-sea marine biological applications. It is particularly useful in facilitating delicate interactions with fragile marine organisms. This study describes the shipboard design, 3D printing and integration of custom soft robotic manipulators for investigating and interacting with deep-sea organisms. Soft robotics manipulators were tested down to 2224m via a Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV) in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) and facilitated the study of a diverse suite of soft-bodied and fragile marine life. Instantaneous feedback from the ROV pilots and biologists allowed for rapid re-design, such as adding “fingernails”, and re-fabrication of soft manipulators at sea. These were then used to successfully grasp fragile deep-sea animals, such as goniasterids and holothurians, which have historically been difficult to collect undamaged via rigid mechanical arms and suction samplers. As scientific expeditions to remote parts of the world are costly and lengthy to plan, on-the-fly soft robot actuator printing offers a real-time solution to better understand and interact with delicate deep-sea environments, soft-bodied, brittle, and otherwise fragile organisms. This also offers a less invasive means of interacting with slow-growing deep marine organisms, some of which can be up to 18,000 years old.
Between the 8th January and the 25th February 2016, the largest sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus mortality event ever recorded in the North Sea occurred with 30 sperm whales stranding in five countries within six weeks. All sperm whales were immature males. Groups were stratified by size, with the smaller animals stranding in the Netherlands, and the largest in England. The majority (n = 27) of the stranded animals were necropsied and/or sampled, allowing for an international and comprehensive investigation into this mortality event. The animals were in fair to good nutritional condition and, aside from the pathologies caused by stranding, did not exhibit significant evidence of disease or trauma. Infectious agents were found, including various parasite species, several bacterial and fungal pathogens and a novel alphaherpesvirus. In nine of the sperm whales a variety of marine litter was found. However, none of these findings were considered to have been the primary cause of the stranding event. Potential anthropogenic and environmental factors that may have caused the sperm whales to enter the North Sea were assessed. Once sperm whales enter the North Sea and head south, the water becomes progressively shallower (<40 m), making this region a global hotspot for sperm whale strandings. We conclude that the reasons for sperm whales to enter the southern North Sea are the result of complex interactions of extrinsic environmental factors. As such, these large mortality events seldom have a single ultimate cause and it is only through multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches that potentially multifactorial large-scale stranding events can be effectively investigated.
The Norwegian government has decided that the aquaculture industry shall grow, provided that the growth is environmentally sustainable. Sustainability is scored based on the mortality of wild salmonids caused by the parasitic salmon lice. Salmon lice infestation pressure has traditionally been monitored through catching wild sea trout and Arctic char using nets or traps or by trawling after Atlantic salmon postsmolts. However, due to that the Norwegian mainland coastline is nearly 25 000 km, complementary methods that may be used in order to give complete results are needed. We have therefore developed an operational salmon lice model, which calculates the infestation pressure all along the coast in near real-time based on a hydrodynamical ocean model and a salmon lice particle tracking model. The hydrodynamic model generally shows a negative temperature bias and a positive salinity bias compared to observations. The modeled salmon lice dispersion correlates with measured lice on wild salmonids caught using traps or nets. This allows for using two complementary data sources in order to determine the infestation pressure of lice originating from fish farms on wild salmonids, and thereby provide an improved monitoring system for assessing risk and sustainability which forms the basis for knowledge-based advice to management authorities.
Recreational fishing is often perceived as harmless when it comes to fisheries management, and its impact often estimated to surpass the economic outcomes of e.g. large-scale fisheries. Recreational fisheries are often an indication of political stability and sound ecosystem management. However, despite a high economic impact, the economic costs on traditional and small-scale commercial fishers is yet to be known. This paper answers the question of how unregulated recreational fisheries could rather generate a loss to an economy, and cause unfair competition with existing commercial sectors using the example of Algeria. This paper assesses catches and economic value of recreational fisheries in Algeria, and finds that over 6,000 tonnes reach commercial markets annually, competing directly with the small-scale artisanal sector, while selling recreationally caught fish is still illegal. The paper further finds that the public is thereby deprived—through lost tax, licence income and landed value of $45 million US annually.