Diversity patterns of the deep-sea megafauna in the Caribbean Basin and the Guiana ecoregion were analyzed in order to test the hypothesis of species richness variation as a function of depth and the hypothesis of non-differences between ecoregions by analyzing spatial patterns of five taxa and a merged assemblage. Collections of five taxa (corals, sea stars, sea urchins, sea lilies and gastropods) were obtained from seven oceanographic expeditions aboard the R/V Pillsbury at 310 stations between 60 and 7500 m depth. Data were sorted according to depth zones and ecoregions and were analyzed in order to estimate species richness, changes in species composition and distinction of β-diversity by species turnover or by nestedness. The observed patterns of diversity were consistent between taxa and their assemblage: Species richness increased from the continental shelf (60–200 m deep) to the slope (200–2000 m deep), followed by a decrease at the continental rise-abyssal zone. We detected marked changes in species composition according to depth ranges. Changes in species composition in relation to ecoregions were also detected. In general, the Caribbean Basin lacks important physical barriers, causing high deep-sea ecosystem connectivity; however, variation in composition could be related to changes in environmental conditions associated with productivity and/or continental influences.
Wildlife-focused tourism is often considered as having the potential to play an integral part of threatened species conservation efforts, particularly through financial support. We focused on the direct financing of conservation by investigating tourists’ willingness to pay to snorkel with reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) at Barefoot Manta, an ecotourism resort in the Yasawa group of islands in Fiji. Our results indicate that 82.4% of people surveyed would be willing to pay a mean value of ~ USD $9.2 (SE 0.9) more than the current cost, a 28% increase. Also, 89% of people surveyed would be willing to pay a mean value of ~ USD $10.2 (SE 0.9) more for a hypothetical scenario where they would snorkel with 50% fewer people, a 31% increase. We also investigated tourists’ willingness to make voluntary donations to the local community above an existing payment of ~ USD $10 that is built into the current snorkel payment of ~ USD $32.5. On average, 91.3% of the tourists interviewed were willing to donate additional funds with an average additional donation of ~ USD $8.6 (SE 0.5) to the community to pay for educational and environmental support, an 86% increase. There were few significant relationships between willingness to pay and demographic factors (including age, income, nationality, education, and others), suggesting that willingness to pay was widely held by the tourist population staying at Barefoot Manta Resort. Together, these results indicate that wildlife-based nature tourism could represent a potential, but not unlimited, income source to fund conservation in the Yasawa group, Fiji islands, and that conservation can arise from partnerships between local communities and the tourism sector
Area management in the form of no-take marine protected areas (MPAs) has been criticised as a fisheries management tool because of its limited capacity to provide short-term benefits to local fisheries. This study used data from a long-term fish monitoring and tagging project to assess whether catch-and-release (C&R) shore angling could be compatible with the management objectives of a large, multiple-use, zoned MPA in South Africa. Tag-recapture rates, trends in relative abundance and mean size of target species, sub-lethal effects and other potential environmental impacts suggested that C&R research angling, using best practise fish handling techniques, did not have an overall negative impact on protected fish populations. While positive from a scientific monitoring perspective, more sensitive species did show evidence of increased post-release mortality that would be exacerbated by higher intensity C&R angling conducted by members of the angling public. It is thus concluded that C&R shore angling by members of the angling public is not compatible with MPAs zoned for no-take. However, because C&R angling does have substantially lower negative impacts compared to recreational harvest fisheries, areas zoned for C&R offer good potential as buffer areas adjacent to no-take areas or as stand-alone areas where fish conservation can be improved. This concept is proposed for the improved conservation of surf-zone angling fish species within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and further afield.
Climate change, in combination with population growth, is placing increasing pressure on the world’s oceans and their resources. This is threatening sustainability and societal wellbeing. Responding to these complex and synergistic challenges requires holistic management arrangements. To this end, ecosystem-based management (EBM) promises much by recognising the need to manage the ecosystem in its entirety, including the human dimensions. However, operationalisation of EBM in the marine environment has been slow. One reason may be a lack of the inter-disciplinary science required to address complex social–ecological marine systems. In the present paper, we synthesise the collective experience of the authors to explore progress in integrating natural and social sciences in marine EBM research, illustrating actual and potential contributions. We identify informal barriers to and incentives for this type of research. We find that the integration of natural and social science has progressed at most stages of the marine EBM cycle; however, practitioners do not yet have the capacity to address all of the problems that have led to the call for inter-disciplinary research. In addition, we assess how we can support the next generation of researchers to undertake the effective inter-disciplinary research required to assist with operationalising marine EBM, particularly in a changing climate.
An effective and efficient stewardship of natural resources requires consistency across all decision-informing approaches and components involved, i.e., managerial, governmental, political, and legal. To achieve this consistency, these elements must be aligned under an overarching management goal that is consistent with current and well-accepted knowledge. In this article, we investigate the adoption by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management of an environmental resilience-centered system that manages for resilience of marine ecological resources and its associated social elements. Although the framework is generally tailored for this Bureau, it could also be adapted to other federal or non-federal organizations. This paper presents a dynamic framework that regards change as an inherent element of the socio-ecological system in which management structures, e.g., federal agencies, are embedded. The overall functioning of the management framework being considered seeks to mimic and anticipate environmental change in line with well-accepted elements of resilience-thinking. We also investigate the goal of using management for resilience as a platform to enhance socio-ecological sustainability by setting specific performance metrics embedded in pre-defined and desired social and/or ecological scenarios. Dynamic management frameworks that couple social and ecological systems as described in this paper can facilitate the efficient and effective utilization of resources, reduce uncertainty for decision and policy makers, and lead to more defensible decisions on resources.
To solve conservation and planning challenges in the marine environment, researchers are increasingly developing geospatial tools to address impacts of anthropogenic activities on marine biodiversity. The paper presents a comprehensive set of built-in geospatial webtools to support Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and environmental management objectives implemented into the Tools4MSP interoperable GeoPlatform. The webtools include cumulative effects assessment (CEA), maritime use conflict (MUC) analysis, MSFD pressure-driven CEA and a CEA-based marine ecosystem service threat analysis (MES-Threat). The tools are tested for the Northern Adriatic (NA) Sea, one of the most industrialized sea areas of Europe using a case study driven modelling strategy. Overall results show that coastal areas within 0–9 nm in the Gulf of Trieste, Grado-Marano and Venice lagoon and Po Delta outlet are subjected to intense cumulative effects and high sea use conflicts mainly from port activities, fishery, coastal and maritime tourism and maritime shipping. Linking MES into CEA provided novel information on locally threatened high MES supporting and provisioning habitats such Cymodocea beds and infralittoral fine sands, threats to cultural MES are most pronounced in coastal areas. Results are discussed for their geospatial relevance for regional planning, resource management and their applicability within MSP and environmental assessment.
Many offshore oil and gas production facilities are nearing the end of their operational life, with decommissioning now becoming a global challenge. The compatibility of decommissioning operations to marine protected areas (MPAs) creates further challenges. The recently-developed DAPSI(W)R(M) problem structuring framework (covering Drivers, Activities, Pressures, State changes, Impacts (on Welfare) and Responses (as Measures)) was applied here to interrogate the complexity of decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure within MPAs, with outputs feeding into the development of a novel database tool for Screening Potential Impacts of Decommissioning Activities (SPIDA). In meeting the current requirements of the marine regulatory regime, SPIDA provides a more streamlined, evidence-based process which can be applied by industry, statutory nature conservation bodies and regulators for identifying and evaluating evidence that supports the implications of decommissioning alternatives on the condition of MPAs. SPIDA has been developed to be adapted for other activities and sectors, including offshore renewables.
There is a widely acknowledged need to explicitly include humans in our conceptual and mathematical models of food webs. However, a simple and generalized method for incorporating humans into fisheries food webs has yet to be established. We developed a simple graphical framework for defining whole‐system inland fishery food webs that includes a continuum of fishery behaviors. This range of behaviors mimics those of generalist to specialist predators, which differentially influence ecosystem diversity, sustainability, and functioning. Fishery behaviors in this food‐web context are predicted to produce a range of “fishery types” – from targeted (ie specialist) to multispecies (ie generalist) inland fisheries – and relate to the socioeconomic status of fishery participants. Fishery participants in countries with low Human Development Index (HDI) values are highly connected through fisheries food webs relative to humans in more developed countries. Our framework shows that fisheries can occupy a variety of roles within a food‐web model and may thereby affect food‐web stability in different ways. This realization could help to improve sustainable fisheries management at a global scale.
The benefits of protected areas depend on compliance, and achieving protection remains a challenge in intensely used areas where conservation and socioeconomic goals are in real or apparent conflict. One recent innovation – satellite tracking of commercial fishing vessels – has been introduced to help with ocean protection initiatives and build trust between fishers and managers. We paired vessel traffic data before and during a temporary closure in the Adriatic Sea with data on fish nursery habitat to examine changes in fishing effort and their potential consequences. Trawlers generally complied with the closure but maintained overall effort by trawling more intensely outside of the no‐trawl zone, especially near its borders and closer to shore. We detected stronger than expected fishing effort in a sub‐region within the protected area, suggesting that this location should be closely monitored for compliance. Notably, fishing effort was relocated to nursery grounds for some exploited species, illustrating the importance of understanding species’ life histories and habitat distribution in the design of protected areas.
Entanglement of marine fauna is one of the principal impacts of marine litter, with an incidence that can vary strongly according to regions, the type and the quantity of marine litter. On the seafloor, areas dominated by sessile suspension feeders, such as tropical coral reefs or deep-sea coral and sponge aggregations, have been termed “animal forests” and have a strong potential to monitor the temporal and spatial trends of entanglement by marine litter, especially fishing gears. Several characteristics of these organisms represent advantages while avoiding constraints and bias. Biological constraints and logistical aspects, including tools, are discussed to better define a strategy for supporting long-term evaluation of accumulation and entanglement of marine litter.
No-take marine reserves are essential for scientific monitoring, likely to contribute to the sustainability of targeted species, help to buffer biodiversity loss due to climate change impacts, and provide public education, tourism and diverse economic benefits to local communities. However, the establishment of no-take marine reserves has been a contentious policy in several countries because of a perception that recreational fishers are opposed to reserves. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether negative perceptions about reserves are widespread amongst recreational fishers, and whether perceptions change after the reserve has been created. In this study, recreational fishers were surveyed in ten Australian marine parks to determine levels of support and beliefs about the benefits and costs of no-take marine reserves. A ‘space-for-time’ approach was used to explore whether support is higher in older reserves. The results suggest that most recreational fishers who fish in established marine parks are supportive of the no-take marine reserves within them. On average, 63.3% of fishers support no-take marine reserves in their marine park, and 17.8% are opposed. Further, recreational fishers’ support for no-take marine reserves increases markedly with reserve age. This research indicates that most recreational fishers are supportive of no-take marine reserves within marine parks and that support increases over time.
Toxicity of polyethylene microplastics (PE-MP) of size ranges similar to their natural food to zooplanktonic organisms representative of the main taxa present in marine plankton, including rotifers, copepods, bivalves, echinoderms and fish, was evaluated. Early life stages (ELS) were prioritized as testing models in order to maximize sensitivity. Treatments included particles spiked with benzophenone-3 (BP-3), a hydrophobic organic chemical used in cosmetics with direct input in coastal areas. Despite documented ingestion of both virgin and BP-3 spiked microplastics no acute toxicity was found at loads orders of magnitude above environmentally relevant concentrations on any of the invertebrate models. In fish tests some effects, including premature or reduced hatching, were observed after 12 d exposure at 10 mg L-1 of BP-3 spiked PE-MP. The results obtained do not support environmentally relevant risk of microplastics on marine zooplankton. Similar approaches testing more hydrophobic chemicals with higher acute toxicity are needed before these conclusions could be extended to other organic pollutants common in marine ecosystems. Therefore, the replacement of these polymers in consumer products must be carefully considered.
The present work develops and implements at the global scale an innovative methodological approach to identify opportunities for farming seven fish species in offshore zones. The proposed methodology is based on a three-step approach integrated by: i) the biological suitability, to identify areas with optimal conditions for fish growth; ii) the structural suitability, to identify adequate areas for the integrity and durability of the cages; and iii) the operational suitability to evaluate the possibility of carrying out the operational and maintenance activities. The integration of these three complementary aspects, allowed the mapping of suitable zones for farming each fish species. It is shown, that the main potential zones for fish farming are concentrated in South America (South Pacific and South Atlantic Ocean), Africa (North Atlantic Ocean), Mediterranean Sea, Japanese and Chinese Seas and Oceania. The unprecedented global analysis presented by this work, considering comprehensive aspects other than only the biological requirements, provides guidelines to assist future studies in marine management.
A major challenge in global fisheries is posed by transshipment of catch at sea from fishing vessels to refrigerated cargo vessels, which can obscure the origin of the catch and mask illicit practices. Transshipment remains poorly quantified at a global scale, as much of it is thought to occur outside of national waters. We used Automatic Identification System (AIS) vessel tracking data to quantify spatial patterns of transshipment for major fisheries and gear types. From 2012 to 2017, we observed 10,510 likely transshipment events, with trawlers (53%) and longliners (21%) involved in a majority of cases. Trawlers tended to transship in national waters, whereas longliners did so predominantly on the high seas. Spatial hot spots were seen off the coasts of Russia and West Africa, in the South Indian Ocean, and in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Our study highlights novel ways to trace seafood supply chains and identifies priority areas for improved trade regulation and fisheries management at the global scale.
Transshipment at sea, the offloading of catch from a fishing vessel to a refrigerated vessel far from port, can obscure the actual source of the catch, complicating sustainable fisheries management, and may allow illegally caught fish to enter the legitimate seafood market. Transshipment activities often occur in regions of unclear jurisdiction where policymakers or enforcement agencies may be slow to act against a challenge they cannot see. To address this limitation, we processed 32 billion Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages from ocean-going vessels from 2012 to the end of 2017 and identified and tracked 694 cargo vessels capable of transshipping at sea and transporting fish (referred to as transshipment vessels). We mapped 46,570 instances where these vessels loitered at sea long enough to receive a transshipment and 10,233 instances where we see a fishing vessel near a loitering transshipment vessel long enough to engage in transshipment. We found transshipment behaviors associated with regions and flag states exhibiting limited oversight; roughly 47% of the events occur on the high seas and 42% involve vessels flying flags of convenience. Transshipment behavior in the high seas is relatively common, with vessels responsible for 40% of the fishing in the high seas having at least one encounter with a transshipment vessel in this time period. Our analysis reveals that addressing the sustainability and human rights challenges (slavery, trafficking, bonded labor) associated with transshipment at sea will require a global perspective and transnational cooperation.
Ocean temperatures have been accelerating at an alarming rate mainly due to anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions. This has led to an increase in the severity and duration of coral bleaching events. Predicted projections for the state of reefs do not take into account the rates of adaptation or acclimatization of corals as these have not as yet been fully documented. To determine any possible changes in thermal tolerances, manipulative experiments were conducted to precisely replicate the initial, pivotal research defining threshold temperatures of corals nearly five decades ago. Statistically higher calcification rates, survivorship, and lower mortality were observed in Montipora capitata, Pocillopora damicornis, and Lobactis scutaria in the present study at 31 °C compared to the original 1970 findings. First whole colony mortality was also observed to occur sooner in 1970 than in 2017 in M. capitata (3 d vs. 15 d respectively), L. scutaria (3 d vs. 17 d), and in P. damicornis (3 d vs. 13 d). Additionally, bleaching occurred sooner in 1970 compared to the 2017 experiment across species. Irradiance was an important factor during the recovery period for mortality but did not significantly alter calcification. Mortality was decreased by 17% with a 50% reduction in irradiance during the recovery period. These findings provide the first evidence of coral acclimatization or adaptation to increasing ocean temperatures for corals collected from the same location and using close replication of the experiment conducted nearly 50 years earlier. An important factor in this increased resistance to elevated temperature may be related to removal of the discharge of treated sewage into Kāne‘ohe Bay and resulting decrease in nitrification and eutrophication. However, this level of increased temperature tolerance may not be occurring rapidly enough to escape the projected increased intensity of bleaching events, as evidenced by the recent 2014 and 2015 high coral mortality in Hawai‘i (34%) and in the tropics worldwide.
The number of marine protected areas (MPAs) has grown exponentially worldwide over the past decade in order to meet international targets. Most of these protected areas allow extraction of resources and are therefore designated as “partially protected areas” (PPAs). However, the effectiveness of PPAs remains unclear due to the high variability of use types permitted. Here, we carried out what we believe to be the first global meta‐analysis of PPAs using a regulation‐based classification system for MPAs to assess their ecological effectiveness. This novel classification allows for unambiguous differentiation between areas according to allowed use, which is the key feature determining PPA performance. Highly and moderately regulated areas exhibited higher biomass and abundance of commercial fish species, whereas fish abundance and biomass in weakly regulated areas differed little from unprotected areas. Notably, the effectiveness of moderately regulated areas can be enhanced by the presence of an adjacent fully protected area. We concluded that limited and well‐regulated uses in PPAs and the presence of an adjacent fully protected area confer ecological benefits, from which socioeconomic advantages are derived.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are mostly studied from an environmental context. A review of available information identified a lack of knowledge in sustainable mechanisms to finance MPA networks. At the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, Fiji reaffirmed its voluntary commitment to make 30% of its inshore and offshore marine area MPAs by 2020 under Sustainable Development Goal 14. The work presented here uses empirical data to explore potential benefits from selected community-based MPAs to recipient local stakeholders. A Willingness to Pay (WTP) and Willingness to Contribute Time (WtCT) method was used to explore the extent to which bottom-up governance systems represent a potential financing mechanism of a MPA network. Results of 115 interviews concluded that proximity to a fishing market, dependence on marine resources, food security, income and international commitments were significant variables influencing stakeholder's WTP and WtCT to manage a MPA. We argue that there is a discrepancy between WtCT and WTP driven by income constraints. Thus, by using WTP and WtCT to support financing of a MPA network, a Provincial Trust Fund (PTF) could promote an equitable and benefits-based contribution. Equally important, a PTF has a polycentric and decentralized governance model, which endorses sustainable management of traditional fishing communities. The conclusions provide insight into a bottom-up approach for long-term financial sustainability of Fiji's national MPA commitments.
Ecological and environmental variables play a major role in the genetic structure of marine populations, but how oceanography affects their dispersal and associated connectivity remains far from being understood. To account for the effect of different dispersal strategies in terms of pelagic larvae and non-pelagic reproduction, we utilize the power of comparative phylogeographic analyses of five phylogenetically and functionally diverse intertidal species along the west coast of South Africa using population genetics and biophysical models within the Benguela Current system. Some broadcast spawners exhibit genetic panmixia, others show genetic structure similar to direct-developing species, suggesting complex recruitment patterns in rocky shore environments. Patterns of genetic structure do not correspond with pelagic larval competency period, with a broadcast spawning urchin displaying the highest levels of population structure. Biophysical models of larval dispersal reveal mixed dispersal patterns, with the strongest connections in a northward direction following the Benguela Current, yet most modeled species also show the capacity for southward (albeit weaker) migration among some sample localities. Some sites, particularly the most northern areas, show very low levels of potential connectivity. Lastly, we synthesized our results to highlight key areas for the development of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that capture the evolutionary patterns of marine species of the west coast and find that the results from our molecular and biophysical analyses are coherent with previous suggestions for a network of protected areas.
Policy formation for the marine environment seems to be a central issue for the maritime nations in order to propose a strategic plan for marine spatial governance. The idea of forming a policy is about understanding the action principle among the institutions involved that guides towards an effective decision making process. The analysis that suits into the reformation of policies is the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (IAD) that was proposed by Elinor Ostrom, the American political scientist focusing into the institutional behaviours. This paper strives to raise awareness of integrating the concept of Institutional Analysis and Development Framework into the effective practice of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in Malaysia. The integration of social science knowledge into the Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) cycles seems to show a growing number in the past decade and the results obtained are reviewed to ensure the suitability of integrating the idea of Institutional Analysis & Development (IAD) into the Malaysian MSP practice to predict institutional behaviour and relationship for the outcomes.