The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) is the largest network of marine reserves in the world, yet little is known of the efficacy of no-fishing zones in the relatively lightly-exploited remote parts of the system (i.e., northern regions). Here, we find that the detection of reserve effects is challenging and that heterogeneity in benthic habitat composition, specifically branching coral cover, is one of the strongest driving forces of fish assemblages. As expected, the biomass of targeted fish species was generally greater (up to 5-fold) in no-take zones than in fished zones, but we found no differences between the two forms of no-take zone: ‘no-take’ versus ‘no-entry’. Strong effects of zoning were detected in the remote Far-North inshore reefs and more central outer reefs, but surprisingly fishing effects were absent in the less remote southern locations. Moreover, the biomass of highly targeted species was nearly 2-fold greater in fished areas of the Far-North than in any reserve (no-take or no-entry) further south. Despite high spatial variability in fish biomass, our results suggest that fishing pressure is greater in southern areas and that poaching within reserves may be common. Our results also suggest that fishers ‘fish the line’ as stock sizes in exploited areas decreased near larger no-take zones. Interestingly, an analysis of zoning effects on small, non-targeted fishes appeared to suggest a top-down effect from mesopredators, but was instead explained by variability in benthic composition. Thus, we demonstrate the importance of including appropriate covariates when testing for evidence of trophic cascades and reserve successes or failures.
There is growing awareness of the need for fishery management policies that are robust to changing environmental, social, and economic pressures. Here we use conventional bioeconomic theory to demonstrate that inherent biological constraints combined with nonlinear supply−demand relationships can generate threshold effects due to harvesting. As a result, increases in overall demand due to human population growth or improvement in real income would be expected to induce critical transitions from high-yield/low-price fisheries to low-yield/high-price fisheries, generating severe strains on social and economic systems as well as compromising resource conservation goals. As a proof of concept, we show that key predictions of the critical transition hypothesis are borne out in oceanic fisheries (cod and pollock) that have experienced substantial increase in fishing pressure over the past 60 y. A hump-shaped relationship between price and historical harvest returns, well demonstrated in these empirical examples, is particularly diagnostic of fishery degradation. Fortunately, the same heuristic can also be used to identify reliable targets for fishery restoration yielding optimal bioeconomic returns while safely conserving resource abundance.
The Representative Areas Program (RAP) was, at the time, the most comprehensive process of community involvement and participatory planning for any environmental issue in Australia. The RAP was a key component of the widely acclaimed rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and although completed in 2003, many lessons learned are still relevant today. This paper provides an analysis of the comprehensive public participation program that significantly influenced the final planning outcome. It provides insights into a fundamental component of effective marine planning, assessing what worked well and what did not in terms of public engagement. Some aspects of the public participation program were innovative, and some were more effective than others. The outcome was one-third of the Marine Park was declared as highly protected no-take zones in 2004, with the remainder of the park also zoned to provide lower levels of protection. The methods used to engage the public and the 25 lessons discussed in this paper should be of interest for practitioners, policy makers and academics elsewhere aiming for “good practice” approaches to achieve environmental conservation.
As the world’s population grows to a projected 11.2 billion by 2100, the number of people living in low-lying areas exposed to coastal hazards is projected to increase. Critical infrastructure and valuable assets continue to be placed in vulnerable areas, and in recent years, millions of people have been displaced by natural hazards. Impacts from coastal hazards depend on the number of people, value of assets, and presence of critical resources in harm’s way. Risks related to natural hazards are determined by a complex interaction between physical hazards, the vulnerability of a society or social-ecological system and its exposure to such hazards. Moreover, these risks are amplified by challenging socioeconomic dynamics, including poorly planned urban development, income inequality, and poverty. This study employs a combination of machine learning clustering techniques (Self Organizing Maps and K-Means) and a spatial index, to assess coastal risks in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) on a comparative scale. The proposed method meets multiple objectives, including the identification of hotspots and key drivers of coastal risk, and the ability to process large-volume multidimensional and multivariate datasets, effectively reducing sixteen variables related to coastal hazards, geographic exposure, and socioeconomic vulnerability, into a single index. Our results demonstrate that in LAC, more than 500,000 people live in areas where coastal hazards, exposure (of people, assets and ecosystems) and poverty converge, creating the ideal conditions for a perfect storm. Hotspot locations of coastal risk, identified by the proposed Comparative Coastal Risk Index (CCRI), contain more than 300,00 people and include: El Oro, Ecuador; Sinaloa, Mexico; Usulutan, El Salvador; and Chiapas, Mexico. Our results provide important insights into potential adaptation alternatives that could reduce the impacts of future hazards. Effective adaptation options must not only focus on developing coastal defenses, but also on improving practices and policies related to urban development, agricultural land use, and conservation, as well as ameliorating socioeconomic conditions.
Management reform has the potential to rebuild fisheries and increase long-term harvest and profitability. But timing is critical: delaying reform implementation significantly reduces the potential socio-economic and biological benefits of improved management. This study models the costs of delaying reform in terms of annual biomass, harvest, and profit for 28 Mexican fisheries, parameterized using novel, fishery-specific data. Three types of reforms are examined: 1) harvest policy, 2) elimination of illegal fishing, and 3) implementation of rights-based fisheries management. The harvest policies examined in this analysis are status quo (no reform), FMSY, and economically optimal fishing mortality. The results show that prompt management reforms lead to improved annual aggregate biomass, harvest, and profit over time. However, delaying reform results in substantial costs. Just a 5-year delay of the implementation of comprehensive reform leads to a 51 million USD loss to average annual profits. Without reform, stock status can continue to decline, and the recovery of harvests and profits are further delayed. Over a given time-horizon, delayed reforms can dramatically reduce the number of healthy stocks. The results demonstrate that delayed reform can significantly diminish potential benefits that could be secured through improved management; this highlights the importance of prompt timing considerations during policy reform.
The rapid exploitation of coastal and marine ecosystemic capital is on course to reach a critical point. The difficulty of implementing Integrated and ecosystem based management models, taking into the account the great complexity of the marine socio-ecological systems, has resulted in a significant gap between theory and practice. The majority of authors emphasize difficulties in engaging and convincing private stakeholders and a number of economic sectors involved in these processes. This reticence is traditionally more pronounced in the port sector, despite their important role in the transformation of coastal and marine areas. This paper seeks to establish bridges between the Environmental Management systems and Tools (EMT) of economic sectors and the Integrated and Ecosystem Based Management models (IEBM). To achieve this goal, an effort has been made to rethink concepts and principles traditionally used in EMT to bring them into line with those of IEBM. A DPSIR adapted framework is proposed and applied in a conceptual model, where the necessary elements for environmental management tools and ecosystemic models coexist. The logic of ecosystem services has been included, with special attention to the variable of human behaviour. How the proposals fit into the reality of the maritime-port sector was analysed in a transversal way, seeking Socio-Ecological Port System (SEPS) perspectives. This made it possible to move from Environmental Management Systems to an Integrated and Ecosystem Based Port Environmental Management System (PEMS-IEB). From a managerial perspective, it was also suggested that an additional DPSIR framework should be applied to the “response” component, the management system itself, understood as a system with its own elements, processes and interrelations.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) offers the possibility of democratising management of the seas. MSP is, however, increasingly implemented as a form of post-political planning, dominated by the logic of neoliberalism, and a belief in the capacity of managerial-technological apparatuses to address complex socio-political problems, with little attention paid to issues of power and inequality. There is growing concern that MSP is not facilitating a paradigm shift towards publicly engaged marine management, and that it may simply repackage power dynamics in the rhetoric of participation to legitimise the agendas of dominant actors. This raises questions about the legitimacy and inclusivity of participatory MSP. Research on stakeholder engagement within MSP has predominately focused on assessing experiences of active MSP participants and has not evaluated the democratic or inclusive nature of these processes. Adopting the Northeast Ocean Planning initiative in the US as a case study, this paper provides the first study of exclusion and non-participation of stakeholders in an MSP process. Three major issues are found to have had an impact on exclusion and non-participation: poor communication and a perception that the process was deliberately exclusionary; issues arising from fragmented governance, territorialisation and scale; and lack of specificity regarding benefits or losses that might accrue from the process. To be effective, participatory MSP practice must: develop mechanisms that recognise the complexity of socio-spatial relationships in the marine environment; facilitate participation in meaningful spatial decision-making, rather than in post-ideological, objective-setting processes; and create space for debate about the very purpose of MSP processes.
With increasing stressors to coral reefs, defining tools that evaluate their dynamics and resilience is important to interpret system trajectories and direct conservation efforts. In this context, surveys must go beyond conventional monitoring approaches that focus on abundance and biomass of key groups and quantify metrics that better assess ecological processes and ecosystem trajectories. By measuring a variety of conventional (e.g. proportional cover of broad benthic groups, biomass of herbivorous fish) and complementary resilience-based metrics (e.g. algal turf height, coral recruitment rates, juvenile coral densities, herbivorous fish grazing rates), this study evaluated the ecosystem responses to community-based management in Fiji. The study was conducted across three paired tabuareas (periodically closed to fishing) and adjacent fished sites. Conventional metrics reflected no management effect on benthic or herbivorous fish assemblages. In contrast, the complementary metrics generally indicated positive effects of management, particularly within the benthos. Significant differences were observed for turf height (33% lower), coral recruitment rate (159% higher) and juvenile coral density (42% higher) within areas closed to fishing compared to adjacent open reefs. In addition, turf height was inversely related to coral recruitment and juvenile coral density, and longer turfs (≥5 mm) were more competitive in interaction with corals. These results emphasise that conventional metrics may overlook benefits of local management to inshore reefs, and that incorporating complementary resilience-based metrics such as turf height into reef survey protocols will strengthen their capacity to predict the plausible future condition of reefs and their responses to disturbances.
This manual is intended to help marine resource managers, agencies and organizations plan impactful awareness activities. It provides an overview of key concepts in communications, with examples to guide the reader through the development and implementation of community outreach programs.
Modern reef-building corals sustain a wide range of ecosystem services because of their ability to build calcium carbonate reef systems. The influence of environmental variables on coral calcification rates has been extensively studied, but our understanding of their relative importance is limited by the absence of in situ observations and the ability to decouple the interactions between different properties. We show that temperature is the primary driver of coral colony (Porites astreoides and Diploria labyrinthiformis) and reef-scale calcification rates over a 2-year monitoring period from the Bermuda coral reef. On the basis of multimodel climate simulations (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) and assuming sufficient coral nutrition, our results suggest that P. astreoides and D. labyrinthiformis coral calcification rates in Bermuda could increase throughout the 21st century as a result of gradual warming predicted under a minimum CO2 emissions pathway [representative concentration pathway (RCP) 2.6] with positive 21st-century calcification rates potentially maintained under a reduced CO2 emissions pathway (RCP 4.5). These results highlight the potential benefits of rapid reductions in global anthropogenic CO2 emissions for 21st-century Bermuda coral reefs and the ecosystem services they provide.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is located in Massachusetts Bay off the densely populated northeast coast of the United States; subsequently, the marine inhabitants of the area are exposed to elevated levels of anthropogenic underwater sound, particularly due to commercial shipping. The current study investigated the alteration of estimated effective communication spaces at three spawning locations for populations of the commercially and ecologically important fishes, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus). Both the ambient sound pressure levels and the estimated effective vocalization radii, estimated through spherical spreading models, fluctuated dramatically during the three-month recording periods. Increases in sound pressure level appeared to be largely driven by large vessel activity, and accordingly exhibited a significant positive correlation with the number of Automatic Identification System tracked vessels at the two of the three sites. The near constant high levels of low frequency sound and consequential reduction in the communication space observed at these recording sites during times of high vocalization activity raises significant concerns that communication between conspecifics may be compromised during critical biological periods. This study takes the first steps in evaluating these animals’ communication spaces and alteration of these spaces due to anthropogenic underwater sound.
Access, defined as the ability to use and benefit from available marine resources or areas of the ocean or coast, is important for the well-being and sustainability of coastal communities. In Canada, access to marine resources and ocean spaces is a significant issue for many coastal and Indigenous communities due to intensifying activity and competition in the marine environment. The general trend of loss of access has implications for these communities, and for Canadian society. In this review and policy perspective, we argue that access for coastal and Indigenous communities should be a priority consideration in all policies and decision-making processes related to fisheries and the ocean in Canada. This paper reviews how access affects the well-being of coastal communities, factors that support or undermine access, and research priorities to inform policy. Recommended actions include: ensuring access is transparently considered in all ocean-related decisions; supporting research to fill knowledge gaps on access to enable effective responses; making data accessible and including communities in decision-making that grants or restricts access to adjacent marine resources and spaces; ensuring updated laws, policies and planning processes explicitly incorporate access considerations; and, identifying and prioritizing actions to maintain and increase access. Taking action now could reverse the current trend and ensure that coastal and Indigenous communities thrive in the future. This is not just a Canadian issue. Globally, the ability of coastal and Indigenous communities to access and benefit from the marine environment should be at the forefront in all deliberations related to the oceans.
Multiple dilemmas confound social-ecological modelling. This review paper focuses on two: a modeller's dilemma associated with determining appropriate levels of model simplification, and a dilemma of decision-making relating to the use of models that were never designed to predict. We analyse approaches for addressing these dilemmas as they relate to shallow coastal systems and conclude that wicked problems cannot be adequately addressed using traditional disciplinary or systems engineering modelling. Simplified inter- and trans-disciplinary models have the potential to identify directions of system change, challenge thinking in disciplinary silos, and ultimately confront the dilemmas of social-ecological modelling.
Ecosystem-based management involves the integration of ecosystem services and their human beneficiaries into decision making. This can occur at multiple scales; addressing global issues such as climate change down to local problems such as flood protection and maintaining water quality. At the local scale it can be challenging to achieve a consistent and sustainable outcome across multiple communities, particularly when they differ in resource availability and management priorities. A key requirement for consistent decision support at the community level is to identify common community objectives, as these can form the basis for readily transferable indices of ecosystem benefit and human well-being. We used a keyword-based approach to look for common terminology in community fundamental objectives as a basis for transferable indices of human well-being and then compared those commonalities to community demographics, location, and type. Analysis centered on strategic planning documents readily available from coastal communities in the conterminous United States. We examined strategic planning documents based on eight domains of human well-being, and found that Living Standards and Safety and Security were the most commonly addressed domains, and Health and Cultural Fulfillment were the least. In comparing communities, regional differences were observed in only one well-being domain, Safety and Security, while community type yielded significant differences in five of the eight domains examined. Community type differences followed an urban to rural trend with urban communities focusing on Education and Living Standards, and more rural communities focused on Social Cohesion and Leisure Time. Across all eight domains multivariate analysis suggested communities were distributed along two largely orthogonal gradients; one between Living Standards and Leisure Time and or Connection to Nature, and a second between Safety and Security and Social Priorities (Education/Health/Culture/Social Cohesion). Overall these findings demonstrate the use of automated keyword analysis for obtaining information from community strategic planning documents. Moreover, the results indicate measures and perceptions of well-being at the local scale differ by community type. This information could be used in management of ecosystem services and development of indices of community sustainability that are applicable to multiple communities with similar demographics, regional location, and type.
Increasingly recreational fisheries are being managed as socioecological systems using spatially explicit and participatory place based approaches. Such approaches require considering the spatial dynamics of a resource (fish) as well as its users (anglers). While the former is comparatively well studied, very little empirical information exists regarding the spatial ranges of angler travel to fishing locations. To address this and ultimately inform spatial and place based management approaches, the statistical properties of angler travel were assessed in six popular marine recreational fisheries in Florida, USA. Expected angler travel distances differed among species, regions, and years, with most trips in certain fisheries (e.g., common snook) made by anglers residing in close proximity to the fishing site (< 30 km), while anglers targeting other species (e.g., red snapper) usually traveled more than 200 km from their residence to fish. In concert with literature, these results suggest that some fisheries may be better suited than others for more spatially explicit or place based approaches to management. More broadly, these results can be used to better identify and engage stakeholders in management, anticipate effects of spatially explicit management decisions, and assess relative importance of different fisheries for attracting out-of-region or state trips, which may be important for local economies.
Participatory scenario planning (PSP) approaches are increasingly being used in research on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (IAV). We identify and evaluate how PSP has been used in IAV studies in the Arctic, reviewing work published in the peer-reviewed and grey literature (n = 43). Studies utilizing PSP commonly follow the stages recognized as ‘best practice’ in the general literature in scenario planning, engaging with multiple ways of knowing including western science and traditional knowledge, and are employed in a diversity of sectors. Community participation, however, varies between studies, and climate projections are only utilized in just over half of the studies reviewed, raising concern that important future drivers of change are not fully captured. The time required to conduct PSP, involving extensive community engagement, was consistently reported as a challenge, and for application in Indigenous communities requires careful consideration of local culture, values, and belief systems on what it means to prepare for future climate impacts.
Over the past decade the development of Decision Support Systems (DSSs) for the management of seas and oceans has increased rapidly. These DSSs take many shapes and forms and their application in actual decision processes varies widely. In order to appreciate the multitude of DSSs a theoretical framework was developed to evaluate the appropriateness of a given DSS for marine management decision processes with the aim to guide developers in building better DSSs. This framework was applied to a number of DSSs recently developed for marine management. Many tools, promoted to be DSSs, are in fact science driven models that do not address the basic problems and challenges of decision making. Of course, by providing information and making scientific data available in order to make scientifically informed decisions, science does have a role in environmental and ecosystem based decision making, yet the contribution of science to decision making in marine management by these models is highly overrated. In order for a DSS to be relevant and useful it must be aligned with the needs of the decision maker and provide available data in such a way that it becomes information in the decision process. The framework used to evaluate the DSSs can be a helpful tool to apply throughout the development of a DSS in order to enhance the effectiveness/usefulness of these tools through the engagement of end-users and stakeholders.
To successfully integrate and engage the general public into marine conservation decisions it is important that individuals are well informed. This study surveyed two sample groups, marine environmental professionals working in the UK, n = 61, and members of the public surveyed in Truro, Cornwall, UK, n = 71. Public awareness of marine environmental threats and conservation efforts was assessed through comparison with the, assumed well informed, professional sample. Findings suggest that the public are generally well informed of threats to the marine environment, but are significantly less well informed about marine conservation and management strategies. Furthermore, despite indicating concern for the marine environment, members of the public display significantly fewer pro-environmental behaviours than marine conservation professionals. Public knowledge (and action) gaps are discussed as well as how these may be minimised, including a more interdisciplinary and active approach to science communication and public engagement.
This Special Issue is intended to help readers gain a better understanding of the various definitions of blue growth, as well as to give a heightened awareness of the constraints of, and possibilities within, the important concept. Increased communication among those working together on these topics is of utmost importance, especially considering the diversity of the backgrounds of those who have a role to play in blue growth and sustainable development. Scientists, policy makers, business people, and the larger society need to become more precise and transparent in their language and meanings in order to effectively work together, and hopefully one day succeed in our joint goal to secure blue growth.
Our paper describes the application of a realist approach to synthesizing evidence from 31 articles examining the environmental outcomes of marine protected areas governed under different types of property regimes. The development of resource tenure interventions that promote sustainable management practices has been challenged by the difficulties of determining how contextual factors affect environmental outcomes given the complexity of socio-ecological systems. Realist synthesis is a promising evidence review technique for identifying the mechanisms that influence policy intervention outcomes in complex systems. Through a combination of inductive and deductive analysis of the links between context, mechanisms, and outcomes, realist synthesis can help clarify when, how, where, and why property regime interventions are likely to result in positive environmental outcomes. Our study revealed the importance of disaggregating property regimes into sub-categories, rather than treating them as homogenous categories. More importantly, use of a realist synthesis approach allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which three mechanisms—perceptions of legitimacy, perceptions of the likelihood of benefits, and perceptions of enforcement capacity—interact under different socio-ecological contexts to trigger behavioral changes that affect environmental conditions. The approach revealed the multi-faceted and interactive nature of perceptions of legitimacy, in which legal legitimacy, social acceptability, and ecological credibility combined to create robust legitimacy. The existence of robust legitimacy in turn appeared to be an important contributor to the success of regulatory systems reliant on voluntary compliance. Our study contributes to the field of natural resources governance by demonstrating the utility of a systematic review method which has received little attention by property scholars but which has promise to clarify understanding of how complex systems work. Our study also highlights that achieving long-term sustainability requires paying greater attention to the mechanisms that support or undermine people’s willingness to voluntarily engage in conservation behaviors.