- Despite a relatively long history of scientific interest fuelled by exploratory research cruises, the UK deep sea has only recently emerged as the subject of targeted and proactive conservation. Enabling legislation over the past 10 years has resulted in the designation of marine protected areas and the implementation of fisheries management areas as spatial conservation tools. This paper reflects on progress and lessons learned, recommending actions for the future.
- Increased investment has been made to improve the evidence base for deep‐sea conservation, including collaborative research surveys and use of emerging technologies. New open data portals and developments in marine habitat classification systems have been two notable steps to furthering understanding of deep‐sea biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in support of conservation action.
- There are still extensive gaps in fundamental knowledge of deep‐sea ecosystems and of cause and effect. Costs of new technologies and a limited ability to share data in a timely and efficient manner across sectors are barriers to furthering understanding. In addition, whilst the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services are considered a useful tool to support the achievement of conservation goals, practical application is challenging.
- Continued collaborative research efforts and engagement with industry to share knowledge and resources could offer cost‐effective solutions to some of these barriers. Further elaboration of the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services will aid understanding of the costs and benefits associated with human–environment interactions and support informed decision‐making in conserving the deep sea.
- Whilst multiple challenges arise for deep‐sea conservation, it is critical to continue ongoing conservation efforts, including exploration and collaboration, and to adopt new conservation strategies that are implemented in a systematic and holistic way and to ensure that these are adaptive to growing economic interest in this marine area.
In Paris in 2015, the global community agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 ∘∘C, aiming at even 1.5 ∘∘C. It is still uncertain whether these targets are sufficient to preserve marine ecosystems and prevent a severe alteration of marine biogeochemical cycles. Here, we show that stringent mitigation strategies consistent with the 1.5 ∘∘C scenario could, indeed, provoke a critical difference for the ocean’s carbon cycle and calcium carbonate saturation states. Favorable conditions for calcifying organisms like tropical corals and polar pteropods, both of major importance for large ecosystems, can only be maintained if CO22 emissions fall rapidly between 2025 and 2050, potentially requiring an early deployment of CO22 removal techniques in addition to drastic emissions reduction. Furthermore, this outcome can only be achieved if the terrestrial biosphere remains a carbon sink during the entire 21st century.
No-take marine protected areas (MPAs) are an important tool for conserving marine biodiversity and managing fisheries. However, with increasing environmental change driven by local and global stressors, it is critical to understand whether MPAs can continue to provide social, economic and conservation benefits in the long-term. Here, we compare coral reef benthic and fish assemblages across 17 paired MPA-fished control sites on three heavily populated, high elevation “mainland” islands, and four lowly populated, low elevation “offshore” islands that differed in their exposure to recent typhoons. Despite lower cover of macroalgae in MPAs compared to fished areas, especially on mainland islands, there were no consistent differences in benthic assemblages or total hard coral cover between paired MPA and fished reefs. Typhoons had severe negative effects on live hard coral cover, regardless of island type or MPA protection, and typhoon impacted reefs supported different fish assemblages and lower total biomass of fish, compared to non-impacted reefs. Although fish assemblage structure and total biomass differed between mainland and offshore islands, MPAs consistently supported a higher total biomass of fish than fished areas, with the magnitude of the MPA effect lower on typhoon impacted reefs. Our findings suggest that despite inherent differences in environmental conditions between mainland and offshore island coral reefs, MPAs can provide benefits to fish biomass, even when reefs are affected by typhoons. The development of management strategies that incorporate sound coastal land-use practices, while positioning MPAs in areas less prone to typhoon impact, will provide MPAs the best chance of success if climatic extremes increase.
This study investigates the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, Montagu 1821) habitat use in the Portofino marine protected area (NW Italy) and adjacent waters, a core area for the dolphins and a highly touristic area in the Mediterranean Sea. A permanent automated real-time passive acoustic monitoring system, able to detect and track dolphins continuously, was tested in the area within the activities of the Life+ Nature project ARION. The habits of bottlenose dolphins was investigated considering the resident rate inside the area, which quantifies the amount of time dolphins spent in these waters, by means of random forest regression. The dependency of dolphin resident rate was analyzed in relation to four explanatory variables: sea surface temperature, season, time of day, and proximity to the coast. Dolphins spent more time in the area during spring and when sea surface temperature ranged between 15–16°C. Summer resulted the season with lower dolphin residency with significant difference between working day and weekend, in the last the lowest residency was recorded. Main findings provide important information to properly manage the area in order to protect bottlenose dolphins.
Marine spatial planning aims to create a framework for the oceans and seas that minimise conflicts between economic activities within the marine environment while maintaining good environmental status. Although reports by international – and national – organisations suggest there are economic benefits to marine spatial planning this analysis has, to date, been aspatial. Employing an explorative Q methodology approach with ten participants, this paper seeks to address this spatial and distributive gap by exploring stakeholders (marine renewable energy, fishing industry, aquaculture and marine tourism) perceptions of the economic impacts of marine spatial planning across varying (local to national) geographical scales in the U.K. The paper develops a typology of three different perspectives on the economic impacts of marine spatial planning: the optimistic ‘place-makers’; the sceptical ‘place-holders’; and the utilitarian ‘place-less’. Findings highlight that participants loading onto a specific ‘type’ cannot simply be explained by stakeholder categorisation. This research contributes to the coastal management literature by identifying differing perceptions on the ‘spatial economic impact’ of marine spatial planning by economic actors utilising marine and coastal areas in the U.K.
The success of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) depends on the effective participation of small-scale fishers (SSFs), and the extent to which marine governance in general can address the problems they face. As Poland's MSP in areas that are key to small-scale fisheries are yet to begin, this paper explores tensions in the country's looming coastal MSP processes through clarifying both the risks faced by SSFs and their perspectives on MSP. Using semi-structured interviews with SSFs and analytical literature reviews on small-scale fisheries, it is found that Poland's MSP is cast against a contentious history of marine resource management that shapes negative perceptions of and attitudes towards both the European Union-mediated MSP and marine scientists. Notably, SSFs believe that (1) authorities often undervalue and underutilize their experiential knowledge, (2) MSP is intended primarily to facilitate the siting of offshore wind farms and, (3) scientific knowledge is either not effectively communicated or is at the service of investors. A discussion follows that proposes measures through which planners can ensure procedural fairness. The paper concludes by offering TURF-Reserves as a novel and integrated co-management system within MSP which has potentials for empowering SSFs and revitalizing Poland's small-scale fisheries, while ensuring effective marine protection.
Natural protected areas are often required to concurrently support conservation and tourism development. Estimating the ecosystem's carrying capacity and setting up visitor access limitations is a common approach in maximising resource use to avoid environmental degradation. Our research used a case study strategy and a political ecology approach to analyse the conflict surrounding a carrying capacity-based management plan implemented in a Mediterranean marine protected area under severe pressure from scuba diving. A mixed documental and discourse analysis method based on fieldwork, grey literature and 16 semi-structured interviews with representatives of seven groups of stakeholders was used. Results indicate that although the carrying capacity approach was instrumentally supported by all groups, conventional scientific ecological knowledge played only a specious role in decision-making. Factors related to path dependency, neoliberal governance frameworks, uneven distribution of power among stakeholders and regulatory weaknesses were found to be the most influential in facilitating increased visitor pressure in the reserve. We conclude that, in order to be effective and mitigate social conflict, natural resource management strategies based on the carrying capacity concept must be complemented with a precursory assessment of the biopolitical context to align the goals of planning with the possibilities of the socially constructed environment.
Multi-purpose marine protected areas (MPAs) are prevalent world-wide as institutional mechanisms deployed in the marine environment to manage multiple uses, conserve resources and protect ecosystems. Yet some people may experience disadvantage following the implementation of new MPAs. One understudied aspect of MPAs is the distribution of advantages and disadvantages and how best to address the “justice” concerns that they raise. This article identifies a framework of principles, methods and tools to address these concerns. It devises a “MPA justice model” and demonstrates its applicability to a Taiwanese case study. In 2014, Taiwan proclaimed its first multiple-purpose MPA, the South Penghu Marine National Park and the case study shows ways that the MPA’s socio-economic sustainability could have been better accomplished. The article focuses on future MPA establishment that incorporates distributional fairness and procedural legitimacy into MPA site designation and zoning design - but might also be adapted to use retrospectively in MPA review processes.
Ocean ecosystems are in decline, yet we also have more ocean data, and more data portals, than ever before. To make effective decisions regarding ocean management, especially in the face of global environmental change, we need to make the best use possible of these data. Yet many data are not shared, are hard to find, and cannot be effectively accessed. We identify three classes of challenges to data sharing and use: uploading, aggregating, and navigating. While tremendous advances have occurred to improve ocean data operability and transparency, the effect has been largely incremental. We propose a suite of both technical and cultural solutions to overcome these challenges including the use of natural language processing, automatic data translation, ledger-based data identifiers, digital community currencies, data impact factors, and social networks as ways of breaking through these barriers. One way to harness these solutions could be a combinatorial machine that embodies both technological and social networking solutions to aggregate ocean data and to allow researchers to discover, navigate, and download data as well as to connect researchers and data users while providing an open-sourced backend for new data tools.
Boundary spanning – the practice of facilitating knowledge exchange to address complex sustainability challenges – has the potential to align research and policymaking and increase the uptake of research in decision making. But the goals, methods, and outcomes of boundary-spanning activities in the environment sector can be difficult to describe, missing an opportunity to share lessons learned and improve as a community of practice. This paper describes boundary-spanning activities to integrate research about environmental sustainability with federal ocean policy dialogues in the U.S. We describe the process of organizing, facilitating, and learning from a series of meetings in which five interdisciplinary researchers engaged with federal ocean policy audiences. While the longer-term impacts of the activities associated with these meetings are subtle and remain difficult to detect, more immediate outcomes are observable. These include new professional relationships among researchers and policy staff, reported relevance of the research to general policy discourse, and a narrative that frames the opportunity for policymakers to learn from past industrialization on land as they manage an emerging industrial revolution in the ocean. By presenting the process and outcomes of our boundary-spanning activities, we aim to stimulate timely debate within ocean policy, management, and research communities about the importance of multiple benefits provided by healthy and intact ocean ecosystems and how to protect them in the face of the expanding industrialization of the ocean.
Kelp farming is increasing along the temperate coastlines of the Americas and Europe. The economic, ecological, and social frameworks surrounding kelp farming in these new areas are in contrast with the conditions of progenitor kelp farming regions in China, Japan, and Korea.
Thus, identifying and addressing the environmental and social impacts of kelp farming in these regions is vital to ensuring the industry’s long-term sustainability. Here, a conceptual model of the human and natural systems supporting this nascent kelp aquaculture sector was developed using Maine, USA as a focal region. Potential negative impacts of kelp aquaculture were identified to be habitat degradation, overfishing of wild seeds, predation and competition with wild fish and genes, and transmission of diseases. Increased food security, improved restoration efforts, greater fisheries productivity, and alternative livelihoods development were determined to be potential positive impacts of kelp aquaculture. Changes in biodiversity and productivity resulting from either negative or positive impacts of kelp aquaculture were confirmed to have downstream effects on local fisheries and coastal communities. Recommendations to improve or protect the ecosystem services tangential to kelp farming include: define ecosystem and management boundaries, assess ecosystem services and environmental carrying capacity, pursue ecologically and socially considerate engineering, and protect the health and genetic diversity of wild kelp beds. Recommendations to ensure that kelp farming improves the well-being of all stakeholders include: increase horizontal expansion, expand and teach Best Management Practices, and develop climate change resiliency. Additionally, an integrated management strategy should be developed for wild and farmed kelp to ensure that kelp aquaculture is developed in the context of other sectors and goals.
Many of the world's shark populations are in decline, indicating the need for improved conservation and management. Well managed and appropriately located marine parks and marine protected areas (MPAs) have potential to enhance shark conservation by restricting fisheries and protecting suitable habitat for threatened shark populations. Here, we used shark occurrence records collected by commercial fisheries to determine suitable habitat for pelagic sharks within the Australian continental Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and to quantify the amount of suitable habitat contained within existing MPAs. We developed generalised linear models using proportional occurrences of pelagic sharks for three families: Alopiidae (thresher), Carcharhinidae (requiem), and Lamnidae (mackerel) sharks. We also considered aggregated species from the Lamnidae and Carcharhinidae families (‘combined sharks’ in the models). Using a set of environmental predictors known to affect shark occurrence, including chlorophyll-a concentration, salinity, sea surface temperature, and turbidity, as well as geomorphological, geophysical, and sedimentary parameters, we found that models including sea surface temperature and turbidity were ranked highest in their ability to predict shark distributions. We used these results to predict geographic regions where habitat was most suitable for pelagic sharks within the Australian EEZ, and our results revealed that suitable habitat was limited in no-take zones within MPAs. For all shark groupings, suitable habitats were found mostly at locations exposed to fishing pressure, potentially increasing the vulnerability of the pelagic shark species considered. Our predictive models provide a foundation for future spatial planning and shark management, suggesting that strong fisheries management in addition to MPAs is necessary for pelagic shark conservation.
The current arrangements for the management of the marine resources of Bangladesh are not adequate for sustainable management. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) may be a tool to achieve sustainable management of marine resources. The Government of Bangladesh is planning for the development of MSP for sustainable management of the marine resources in the Bay of Bengal. However, a clear understanding of the current and required legal and institutional arrangements for the development of MSP in Bangladesh is essential for sustainable management of the marine resources. This article analyzes the current legal and institutional arrangements concerning the management of marine resources and explores potential inadequacies for the development of MSP for sustainable management. The article refers to the legal and institutional arrangements of other coastal states which have already developed MSP to find out the required arrangements for the development of MSP in Bangladesh.
The expansion of marine protected areas in pelagic areas has been crucial to achieve sufficient protection of the oceans. However, there is still some controversy about whether these protected areas actually cover the vital areas for some species. We investigate the summer distribution of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and its overlap with the Special Protection Area for seabirds (SPA), using the Gulf of Cadiz as a case study. This area holds the SPA named Marine Area of Gulf of Cádiz, covering 2314.2 km2. A dataset of nine years of vessel-based surveys between 2006 and 2017 was analysed, using Kernel Density Estimation to generate the core area polygons for each year. The area located off the Bay of Cádiz, southeast of the mouth of the Guadalquivir, has revealed as a very consistent key area for this species during summer. This area, covering 1082 Km2, regularly hosted populations that exceeded the threshold for area of international importance (IBA criteria) for the species. The current SPA covers less than 40% of this new key area. The limitation in the number of years of monitoring and seasonal differences in the dataset used to establish the boundaries of the current protected area may be at the base of these discrepancies. This study emphasizes the importance of synthesizing and collecting long-term information to define marine protected areas and to assess their efficiency over the time. Furthermore, our study highlights the urgent need to expand this marine protected area to protect effectively this critically threatened species.
Bigi Pan Multiple Use Management Area (MUMA, IUCN category VI) is a coastal protected area situated in the Northwest Suriname between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nickerie River. The area is characterized by wetlands with mangrove forests, contains high biodiversity, and is of socio-economic, ecological and ornithological importance. However, the MUMA is overexploited and subject to competition between various income generating activities, including uncontrolled fisheries and unregulated tourism combined. Insufficient capacity of government agencies for enforcement and policy implementation and lack of communication between relevant government agencies has further contributed to unsustainable practices that diverge from ‘wise use’ and conservation. This article analyses the case of Bigi Pan MUMA from the perspective of collaborative governance. It explores how local communities address the conflicts, user pressure, and implementation gaps that lead to unsustainable practices in Bigi Pan MUMA. In addition, it explores the potential of stakeholder engagement with the local community and key user groups to provide meaningful and regular opportunities to actively participate in decision-making structures and to deliberate on management actions. The conclusion finally presents arguments on how collaborative governance can become more effective by including local communities and by strengthening local decision-making and management.
Collisions with ships (ship strikes) are a pressing conservation concern for fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) along western North America. Fin whales exhibit strong diel patterns in dive behavior, remaining near the surface for most of the night, but how this behavior affects ship-strike risk is unknown. We combined diel patterns of surface use, habitat suitability predictions, and ship traffic data to evaluate spatial and temporal trends in ship-strike risk to fin whales of the California Current System (CCS). We tested a range of surface-use scenarios and found that both increased use of the upper water column and increased ship traffic contribute to elevated ship-strike risk at night. Lengthening nights elevate risk during winter throughout the CCS, though the Southern California Bight experienced consistently high risk both day and night year-round. Within designated shipping lanes, total annual nighttime strike risk was twice daytime risk. Avoidance probability models based on ship speed were used to compare the potential efficacy of speed restrictions at various scales. Speed reductions within lanes may be an efficient remediation, but they would address only a small fraction (13%) of overall ship-strike risk. Additional speed restrictions in the approaches to lanes would more effectively reduce overall risk.
Marine biodiversity is under extreme pressure from anthropogenic activity globally, leading to calls to protect at least 10% of the world’s oceans within marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures. Fulfilling such commitments, however, requires a detailed understanding of the distribution of potentially detrimental human activities, and their predicted impacts. One such approach that is being increasingly used to strengthen our understanding of human impacts is cumulative impact mapping; as it can help identify economic sectors with the greatest potential impact on species and ecosystems in order to prioritize conservation management strategies, providing clear direction for intervention. In this paper, we present the first local cumulative utilization impact mapping exercise for the Bioko-Corisco-Continental area of Equatorial Guinea’s Exclusive Economic Zone – situated in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most important and least studied marine regions in the Eastern Central Atlantic. This study examines the potential impact of ten direct anthropogenic activities on a suite of key marine megafauna species and reveals that the most suitable habitats for these species, located on the continental shelf, are subject to the highest threat scores. However, in some coastal areas, the persistence of highly suitable habitat subject to lower threat scores suggests that there are still several strategic areas that are less impacted by human activity that may be suitable sites for protected area expansion. Highlighting both the areas with potentially the highest impact, and those with lower impact levels, as well as particularly damaging activities can inform the direction of future conservation initiatives in the region.
The whale-watching industry in Juneau, Alaska relies primarily on the presence of North Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). To meet demands from the rapidly growing tourism industry, the number of whale-watching vessels in this region has tripled over the last 18 years. As a result, increased vessel presence could have negative effects on humpback whales, ranging from short-term behavioral disturbance to long-term impacts. The current humpback whale viewing regulations are outdated and may not be as effective as they were 18 years ago, when both the whale-watching industry and humpback whale population were smaller. The present study assessed how humpback whale movement and behavioral patterns were affected by (1) vessel presence and number of vessels present, and (2) time spent in the presence of vessels. The study also determined how humpback whale behavioral state transitions were affected by vessel presence. A total of 201 humpback whale focal follows were conducted during summer 2016 and 2017. Based on linear mixed effects models, whales in the presence (vs. absence) of vessels exhibited 38.9% higher deviation in linear movement (p = 0.001), 6.2% increase in swimming speed (p = 0.047) and a 6.7% decrease in inter-breath intervals (IBI) (p = 0.025). For each additional vessel present, deviation increased by 6.2% (p = 0.022) and IBI decreased by 3.4% (p = 0.001). As time spent in the presence of vessels increased, respiration rate increased (p = 0.011). Feeding and traveling humpback whales were likely to maintain their behavioral state regardless of vessel presence, while surface active humpback whales were likely to transition to traveling in the presence of vessels. These short-term changes in movement and behavior in response to whale-watching vessels could lead to cumulative, long-term consequences, negatively impacting the health and predictability of the resource on which the industry relies. Current formal vessel approach regulations and voluntary guidelines should be revisited to reduce vessel pressure and mitigate potential negative effects of this growing whale-watching industry.
In this paper, we aim to provide optimal parameters for micro-computed tomography scans of fish otoliths. We tested fifteen different combinations to sagittae. The images were scaled to Hounsfield units, and segmented in two distinct volumes-of-interest (external and internal). The strategy we applied, for identifying optimum scan settings for otoliths, included analyses of the sinogram, the distribution of the Hounsfield units and the signal-to-noise ratio. Based on these tests, the optimum sets of parameters for the acquisition of tomographic images of sagittal otoilths were 80 kV, 220 μA, and 0.5 mm aluminum filter. The method allowed 3D shape analysis, internal and external density distribution, layer-by-layer density segmentation, and a potential objective method to count growth rings in otoliths. It was possible to compare mean densities between species, and we observed a significant difference among them. In addition, there are ontogenic changes, which could be increasing or decreasing the density. In this study, we applied tomography for several otolith analysis, that could be of great interest for future studies in diverse areas that use otoliths as the basic structure of analysis, or represents a new research line called eco-densitometry of otoliths, where tomography could be applied to explore the density within an ecological perspective.
Multidisciplinary, integrated ocean observing programs provide critical data for monitoring the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems. California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) samples along the US West Coast and is one of the world’s longest-running and most comprehensive time series, with hydrographic and biological data collected since 1949. The pairing of ecological and physical measurements across this long time series informs our understanding of how the California Current marine ecosystem responds to climate variability. By providing a baseline to monitor change, the CalCOFI time series serves as a Keeling Curve for the California Current. However, challenges remain in connecting the data collected from long-term monitoring programs with the needs of stakeholders concerned with climate change adaptation (i.e., resource managers, policy makers, and the public), including for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. We use the CalCOFI program as a case study to ask: how can long-term ocean observing programs inform ecosystem based management efforts and create data flows that meet the needs of stakeholders working on climate change adaptation? Addressing this question and identifying solutions requires working across sectors and recognizing stakeholder needs. Lessons learned from CalCOFI can inform other regional monitoring programs around the world, including those done at a smaller scale in developing countries.