This article illustrates how the creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Malta is failing to adequately include stakeholders in the configuration of conservation targets and measures, leaving local fishers increasingly disempowered. Through a series of interviews and long-term participatory observation, it has been found that the leaders who represent local fishers are failing to communicate the MPA process to their community. Instead, they are using their position in the MPA negotiations to subjugate and silence the fishing community in general and trammel netters in particular. Moreover, in their support for the MPA, these community leaders reproduce the state's conservation discourse to pressure authorities to ban trammel net fishing, with whom they tend to be in competition. It is concluded that the state's narrow focus on ecology, the tight deadlines set out in the EU Habitats Directive, and the misrepresentation of the fishers, has characterised the process of creating this MPA. If artisanal livelihoods are not protected by conservation policies, fishers may regard conservation as a threat to their way of life, and resist policy measures. This compromises conversation efforts and can make the enforcement of the MPAs more expensive. This paper recommends a revision of the community consultation policies of the MPA to allow broader and more representative participation from the local community by encouraging engagement throughout the process as part of a consensual approach to effective marine conservation.
Understanding global fisheries patterns contributes significantly to their management. By combining harmonized unmapped data sources with maps from satellite tracking data, regional tuna management organisations, the ranges of fished taxa, the access of fleets and the logistics of associated fishing gears the expansion and intensification of marine fisheries for nearly a century and half (1869–2015) is illustrated. Estimates of industrial, non-industrial reported, illegal/unreported (IUU) and discards reveal changes in country dominance, catch composition and fishing gear use. Catch of industrial and non-industrial marine fishing by year, fishing country, taxa and gear by 30-min spatial cell broken to reported, IUU and discards is available. Results show a historical increase in bottom trawl with corresponding reduction in the landings from seines. Though diverse, global landings are now dominated by demersal and small pelagic species.
Puffers are biologically and ecologically fascinating fishes best known for their unique morphology and arsenal of defenses including inflation and bioaccumulation of deadly neurotoxins. These fishes are also commercially, culturally, and ecologically important in many regions. One-hundred-and-fifty-one species of marine puffers were assessed against the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Criteria at a 2011 workshop held in Xiamen, China. Here we present the first comprehensive review of puffer geographic and depth distribution, use and trade, and habitats and ecology and a summary of the global conservation status of marine puffers, determined by applying the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Criteria. The majority (77%) of puffers were assessed as Least Concern, 15% were Data Deficient, and 8% were threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable) or Near Threatened. Of the threatened species, the majority are limited-ranging habitat specialists which are primarily affected by habitat loss due to climate change and coastal development. However, one threatened puffer (Takifugu chinensis – CR) and four Near Threatened puffers, also in the genus Takifugu (which contains 24 species total), are wide-ranging habitat generalists which are commercially targeted in the international puffer trade. A disproportionate number of species of conservation concern are found along the coast of eastern Asia, from Japan to the South China Sea, with the highest concentration in the East China Sea. Better management of fishing and other conservation efforts are needed for commercially fished Takifugu species in this region. Taxonomic issues within the Tetraodontidae confound accurate reporting and produce a lack of resolution in species distributions. Resolution of taxonomy will enable more accurate assessment of the conservation status of many Data-Deficient puffers.
As international pressure for marine protection has increased, Scotland has increased spatial protection through the development of a Marine Protected Area(MPA) network. Few MPA networks to date have included specific considerations of climate change in the design, monitoring or management of the network. The Scottish MPA network followed a feature-led approach to identify a series of MPAs across the Scottish marine area and incorporated the diverse views of many different stakeholders. This feature led approach has led to wide ranging opinions and understandings regarding the success of the MPA network. Translating ideas of success into a policy approach whilst also considering how climate change may affect these ideas of success is a complex challenge. This paper presents the results of a Delphi process that aimed to facilitate clear communication between academics, policy makers and stakeholders in order to identify specific climate change considerations applicable to the Scottish MPA network. This study engaged a group of academic and non-academic stakeholders to discuss potential options that could be translated into an operational process for management of the MPA network. The results of Delphi process discussion are presented with the output of a management matrix tool, which could aid in future decisions for MPA management under scenarios of climate change.
Effective ecosystem-based fishery management involves assessment of foraging interactions among consumers, including upper level predators such as marine birds and humans. Of particular value is information on predator energetic and consumption demands and how they vary in response to the often volatile dynamics of forage populations, as well as the factors that affect forage availability and potential prey switching. We examined the prey requirements of common murre (Uria aalge), Brandt's cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus), and rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) in the central California Current over a 30-year period, 1986–2015. We developed a bioenergetics model that incorporates species-specific values for daily basic energy needs, diet composition, energy content of prey items and assimilation efficiency, and then projected results relative to stock size and levels of commercial take of several species. The most common forage species consumed were juvenile rockfish (Sebastesspp.), northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), smelt (Osmeridae), and market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens). Total biomass of forage species consumed during the breeding season varied annually from 8500 to >60,000 metric ton (t). Predator population size and diet composition had the greatest influence on overall prey consumption. The most numerous forage species consumed in a given year was related to abundance estimates of forage species derived from an independent ecosystem assessment survey within the central place foraging range of breeding avian predators. The energy density of dominant prey consumed annually affected predator energy expenditure during chick rearing and whether prey switching was required. Increased forage species take by predators, as revealed by seabirds, may be adding consumptive pressure to key forage fish populations, regardless of the potential additional impacts of commercial fisheries. Improving estimates of consumption by predators and fisheries will promote more effective management from an ecosystem perspective.
Shoreline recession due to the combined effect of waves, tides and sea level rise is increasingly becoming a major threat to beaches, one of the main assets of seaside tourist destinations. Given such an uncertain future climate and the climate-sensitive nature of many decisions that affect the long term, there is a growing need to shift current approaches towards probabilistic frameworks able to take uncertainty into account. This study contributes to climate change research by exploring the effects of erosion on the recreation value of beaches as a key indicator in the tourism sector. The new paradigm relates eroded sand to geographic and socioeconomic aspects and other physical settings, including beach type, quality and accesses, yielding monetary estimates of risk in probabilistic terms. Additionally, we look into policy implications regarding tourism management, adaptation and risk reduction. The methodology was implemented in 57 beaches in Asturias (north of Spain).
Marine mammal welfare has most frequently been a topic of discussion in reference to captive animals. However, humans have altered the marine environment in such dramatic and varied ways that the welfare of wild marine mammals is also important to consider as most current publications regarding anthropogenic impacts focus on population-level effects. While the preservation of the species is extremely important, so too are efforts to mitigate the pain and suffering of marine mammals affected by noise pollution, chemical pollution, marine debris, and ever-increasing numbers of vessels. The aim of this review is to define welfare for wild marine mammals and to discuss a number of key anthropogenic effects that are currently impacting their welfare.
The horse mussel Modiolus modiolus (L.) is a large marine bivalve that aggregates to create complex habitats of high biodiversity. As a keystone species, M. modiolusis of great importance for the functioning of marine benthic ecosystems, forming biogenic habitats used to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The present study investigates the condition of M. modiolus beds historically subjected to intense scallop fishing using mobile fishing gears. The study, conducted seven years after the introduction of legislation banning all forms of fishing, aimed to establish whether natural habitat recovery occurs after protection measures are put in place.
Lower biodiversity and up to 80% decline in densities of M. modiolus were recorded across the current distributional range of the species in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. The decline in biodiversity in most areas surveyed was consistent with that observed in biogenic reefs impacted by mobile fishing gears elsewhere. Epifauna, including sponges, hydroids and tunicates, experienced the most substantial decline in biodiversity, with up to 64% fewer taxa recorded in 2010 compared with 2003. Higher variability in community composition and a shift towards faunal assemblagesdominated by opportunistic infaunal species typical of softer substrata were also detected. Based on these observations we suggest that, for biogenic habitats, the designation of MPAs and the introduction of fishing bans alone may not be sufficient to reverse or halt the negative effects caused by past anthropogenic impacts. Direct intervention, including habitat restoration based on translocation of native keystone species, should be considered as part of management strategies for MPAs which host similar biogenic reef habitats where condition and natural recovery have been compromised.
Microplastics are ubiquitous in the marine environment and are now consistently found in almost all marine animals. This study examines the rate of accumulation in a modelled filter feeder (mussels) both from direct uptake of microplastics and from direct uptake in addition to trophic uptake (via consuming plankton which have consumed microplastic themselves). We show that trophic uptake plays an important role in increasing plastic present in filter feeders, especially when consumption of the plastic does not reduce its overall abundance in the water column (e.g. in areas with high water flow such as estuaries). However, we also show that trophic transfer increases microplastic uptake, even if the amount of plastic is limited and depleted, as long as plankton are able to reproduce (for example, as would happen during a plankton bloom). If both plankton and plastic are limited and reduced in concentration by filter feeding, then no increase in microplastic by trophic transfer occurs, but microplastic still enters the filter feeders. The results have important implications for large filter feeders such as baleen whales, basking and whale sharks, as these animals concentrate their feeding on zooplankton blooms and as a result are likely to consume more plastic than previous studies have predicted.
The United Nations’ target for global ocean protection is 10% of the ocean in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2020. There has been remarkable progress in the last decade, and some organizations claim that 7% of the ocean is already protected and that we will exceed the 10% target by 2020. However, currently only 3.6% of the ocean is in implemented MPAs, and only 2% is in implemented strongly or fully protected areas. Here we argue that current protection has been overestimated because it includes areas that are not yet protected, and that areas that allow significant extractive activities such as fishing should not count as ‘protected.’ The most rigorous projections suggest that we will not achieve the 10% target in truly protected areas by 2020. Strongly or fully protected areas are the only ones achieving the goal of protecting biodiversity; hence they should be the MPA of choice to achieve global ocean conservation targets.
Spatial connectivity has long been recognized as a key process for sustaining healthy ecosystems and robust ecosystem services. However, system-level metrics that capture environmentally significant aspects of connectivity at appropriate temporal and spatial scales have not previously been identified. Using a major industrial harbour adjacent to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a test case, we developed a consistent and comprehensive set of connectivity indicators associated with waterborne dispersal that transparently relate to water quality, spread of contaminants, and potential for recruitment of planktonic larvae to nursery habitats. Results indicate all measures of connectivity are variable across management zones and likely to influence water quality and breeding success at these scales. Connectivity indicators also reveal environmental and ecological trade-offs. For example, while reduced flushing of creeks and estuaries may negatively impact local water quality, it can benefit ecological connectivity through more effective upstream transport of larvae to nursery habitats.
This paper aims to investigate some of the hottest issues that concern the increasing presence of plastics in the sea. In an attempt to identify the main knowledge gaps and to suggest future research, we discuss priority topics on marine plastic pollution through ten thought-provoking questions on the current knowledge of multiple consequences of plastics on the marine ecosystem. Our investigation found that the majority of knowledge gaps include not only intrinsic aspects of plastics (e.g. quantification, typology, fate), but also biological, ecological and legislative implications (e.g. ingestion rate by wildlife, biomagnification across food webs, spread of alien species, consequences for human nutrition, mitigation measures). The current scenario shows that science is still far from assessing the real magnitude of the impact that plastics have on the sea. In particular, the transfer of plastics across marine trophic levels emerged as one of the most critical knowledge gaps. Current regulations seem not sufficient to tackle the massive release of plastics into the sea. Within this complex picture, a positive note is the ever-increasing public awareness. The release of plastics into the sea is certainly a serious environmental issue that can be effectively addressed only through the combined efforts of the three main stakeholders: ordinary citizens through more eco-friendly behaviours, scientists by filling knowledge gaps, and policymakers by passing conservation laws relying on prevention and scientific evidence.
Sustainable fisheries require strong management and effective governance. However, small-scale fisheries (SFF) often lack formal institutions, leaving management in the hands of local users in the form of various governance approaches (e.g., local, traditional, or co-management). The effectiveness of these approaches inherently relies upon some level of cohesion among resource users to facilitate agreement on common policies and practices regarding common pool fishery resources. Understanding the factors driving the formation and maintenance of community cohesion in SSF is therefore critical if we are to devise more effective participatory governance approaches and encourage and empower decentralized, localized, and community-based resource management approaches. Here, we adopt a social relational network perspective to propose a suite of hypothesized drivers that lead to the establishment of social ties among fishers that build the foundation for community cohesion. We then draw on detailed data from Jamaica’s small-scale fishery to empirically test these drivers by employing a set of nested exponential random graph models (ERGMs) based on specific structural building blocks (i.e., network configurations) theorized to influence the establishment of social ties. Our results demonstrate that multiple drivers are at play, but that collectively, gear-based homophily, geographic proximity, and leadership play particularly important roles. We discuss the extent to which these drivers help explain previous experiences, as well as their implications for future and sustained collective action in SSF in Jamaica and elsewhere.
This paper is the first to address the environmental legal issues that could arise from the conduct of unilateral seismic operations in disputed maritime areas. And that should be surprising: such operations are ongoing in many places across the globe as states seek to enhance their domestic natural resource potentials and establish their sovereign control in the areas under dispute. But, the lack of previous legal scholarship on the topic is even more surprising when one realises the serious and multifaceted risks posed by seismic surveys on the marine environment. As this paper discusses, there are known environmental risks that include permanent injuries to marine organisms or even immediate death. Other effects may include temporary injuries that may or may not directly result in death but that may make marine organisms less fit, resulting in lower chances of survival. These risks are in addition to less well understood but nonetheless plausible risks to marine ecosystems, such as the potential for noise-derived behavioural disturbance. This could have an impact on animals’ feeding, movement and reproduction, and might also have short- or long-term effects on catch success rates. The paper examines the possible application of provisional measures of protection under Article 290 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This provision enables a court or tribunal exercising jurisdiction under UNCLOS to prescribe provisional measures not only to preserve the rights of the disputants, but also, or even solely, to prevent serious harm to the marine environment. The analysis explores the foreseeable risks posed by unilateral seismic surveys and examines if Article 290 of UNCLOS provides adequate protection to the complainant state against such operations, pending the final settlement of the dispute. The paper reviews the existing environmental jurisprudence of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on provisional measures and comments on the potential to respond meaningfully to unilateral seismic exploration activities in disputed maritime areas through recourse to provisional measures of protection.
This policy brief focuses on the opening of the Central Arctic Ocean and the subsequent questions this poses to regional governance. This change has the potential to radically alter the nature of Arctic governance as non-Arctic states will have to play a significant role in the rules that will apply in the Arctic high seas. Talks about a regional fisheries regime will define the future of this region. The creation of a coordinating agreement would have the benefit of not challenging Arctic states too fundamentally while at the same time incorporating non-Arctic states in a meaningful way in the regional governance infrastructure.
Microplastics (MP) are recognized as a growing environmental hazard and have been identified as far as the remote Polar Regions, with particularly high concentrations of microplastics in sea ice. Little is known regarding the horizontal variability of MP within sea ice and how the underlying water body affects MP composition during sea ice growth. Here we show that sea ice MP has no uniform polymer composition and that, depending on the growth region and drift paths of the sea ice, unique MP patterns can be observed in different sea ice horizons. Thus even in remote regions such as the Arctic Ocean, certain MP indicate the presence of localized sources. Increasing exploitation of Arctic resources will likely lead to a higher MP load in the Arctic sea ice and will enhance the release of MP in the areas of strong seasonal sea ice melt and the outflow gateways.
Pollution of marine environments with microplastic particles (i.e. plastic fragments <5 mm) has increased rapidly during the last decades. As these particles are mainly of terrestrial origin, coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs are particularly threatened. Recent studies revealed that microplastic ingestion can have adverse effects on marine invertebrates. However, little is known about its effects on small-polyp stony corals that are the main framework builders in coral reefs. The goal of this study is to characterise how different coral species I) respond to microplastic particles and whether the exposure might II) lead to health effects. Therefore, six small-polyp stony coral species belonging to the genera Acropora, Pocillopora, and Porites were exposed to microplastics (polyethylene, size 37–163 μm, concentration ca. 4000 particles L−1) over four weeks, and responses and effects on health were documented.
The study showed that the corals responded differentially to microplastics. Cleaning mechanisms (direct interaction, mucus production) but also feeding interactions (i.e. interaction with mesenterial filaments, ingestion, and egestion) were observed. Additionally, passive contact through overgrowth was documented. In five of the six studied species, negative effects on health (i.e. bleaching and tissue necrosis) were reported.
We here provide preliminary knowledge about coral-microplastic-interactions. The results call for further investigations of the effects of realistic microplastic concentrations on growth, reproduction, and survival of stony corals. This might lead to a better understanding of resilience capacities in coral reef ecosystems.
Coral bleaching continues to be one of the most devastating and immediate impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems worldwide. In 2015, a major bleaching event was declared as the “3rd global coral bleaching event” by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, impacting a large number of reefs in every major ocean. The Red Sea was no exception, and we present herein in situ observations of the status of coral reefs in the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea from September 2015, following extended periods of high temperatures reaching upwards of 32.5°C in our study area. We examined eleven reefs using line-intercept transects at three different depths, including all reefs that were surveyed during a previous bleaching event in 2010. Bleaching was most prevalent on inshore reefs (55.6% ± 14.6% of live coral cover exhibited bleaching) and on shallower transects (41% ± 10.2% of live corals surveyed at 5m depth) within reefs. Similar taxonomic groups (e.g., Agariciidae) were affected in 2015 and in 2010. Most interestingly, Acropora and Porites had similar bleaching rates (~30% each) and similar relative coral cover (~7% each) across all reefs in 2015. Coral genera with the highest levels of bleaching (>60%) were also among the rarest (<1% of coral cover) in 2015. While this bodes well for the relative retention of coral cover, it may ultimately lead to decreased species richness, often considered an important component of a healthy coral reef. The resultant long-term changes in these coral reef communities remain to be seen.
At least two thirds of all ecosystems worldwide have been impacted and changed severely by human activity (MEA Millennium ecosystem assessment – ecosystems and human well-being: biodiversity synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, 2005), mostly without considering consequences for the structure, functioning or service-provisioning of these ecosystems. The societal challenges arising from this are twofold: conserving natural heritage and resources, and at the same time providing and sustaining valuable livelihood and well-being for mankind. Once we missed the chance of preserving an ecosystem from degradation through conservation, restoration is the attempt to repair (i.e., bringing back to a past state) or otherwise enhance (i.e., promoting remaining components and structures) the function of an ecosystem that has been impacted (Suding KN, Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 42:465–87, 2011) into a state that warrants historical continuity (Murcia C et al., Trends Ecol Evol 29:548–553, 2014) and closely resembles natural conditions. Nevertheless, most restoration efforts lack a clear aim, and monitoring is rarely considered. Hence, an evaluation of restoration success is difficult, if not impossible. As an alternative to restoration, a new five-step concept of directed design for novel ecosystems (sensu Hobbs RJ, Arico S, Aronson J, Baron JS, Bridgewater P, Cramer VA, Epstein PR, Ewel JJ, Klink CA, Lugo AE, Norton D, Ojima D, Richardson DM, Sanderson EW, Valladares F, Vilà M, Zamora R, Zobel M et al., Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:1–7, 2006; Morse NB, Pellissier PA, Cianciola EN, Brereton RL, Sullivan MM, Shonka NK, Wheeler TB, McDowell WH et al., Ecol Soc 19:12–21, 2014) with defined functions and services is presented in this chapter. Recent advances in restoration ecology pledge for accepting unintended novel ecosystems as valuable providers of ecosystem services in restoration efforts (Perring MP, Standish RJ, Hobbs RJ et al., Ecol Process 2:18–25, 2013; Abelson A, Halpern B, Reed DC, Orth RJ, Kendrick GA, Beck MW, Belmaker J, Krause G, Edgar GJ, Airoldi L, Brokovich E, France R, Shashar N, De Blaeij A, Stambler N, Salameh P, Shechter M, Nelson PA et al., Bio Sci 66:156–163, 2016). Ecosystem Design develops this idea further to intendedly designing novel ecosystems with the aim of providing particular services that are locally or regionally required for the well-being of mankind. Thus, in contrast to conventional restoration, Ecosystem Design places humans and their needs in the center of action. For this, Ecosystem Design first assesses local and regional needs for ecosystem services to be provided. Second, Ecosystem Design defines a set of these services as goals for the establishment of a functioning ecosystem in a degraded area. In a third step, a toolbox of information on species characteristics and requirements, as well as on the species-specific contributions to service-provisioning, including interspecific interactions under the given environmental conditions, recommends a set of suitable species from the regionally available species pool. Such a toolbox requires trait-based models to determine which species assemblages are most effective (Laughlin DC, Ecol Lett 17:771–784, 2014) in providing the desired ecosystem services, and the choice of suitable and appropriate species would be facilitated by knowledge of previous community composition. The set of initial species will, in a fifth step, be installed in the degraded area, and subsequent natural succession will shape and fine-tune this novel designed ecosystem (unless this semi-natural development deviates from the aim of providing particular ecosystem services, when counteraction to semi-natural succession will be required). Upon installation and subsequent development of the designed ecosystem, long-term monitoring in the sixth step will allow for evaluating the success of the design and intervention if needed, since clear aims and goals had been defined in the second step of Ecosystem Design. Whereas this approach may in cases contrast efforts to conserve or restore biodiversity on its own sake, Ecosystem Design aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in warranting human well-being in times of increasing demands for ecosystem services, especially in tropical coastal areas with ever-growing population sizes.
There are new, and increasing, pressures facing coastal communities, including socio‐economic and environmental change, exploitation of resources, urban development and the predicted impacts of climate change. The cumulative and interacting effect of these challenges may result in socio‐economic and physical decline. This paper responds to calls for more detailed investigation into coastal regeneration by providing empirical evidence (interviews, observations, policy analysis) on specific coastal resorts on the island of Ireland. In doing so it builds on an emerging area of research that suggests coastal regeneration may be theoretically and practically informed by “resilience thinking”. The case study findings highlight differing, and sometimes competing values, perceptions and priorities at the local level and highlight the challenges facing striving resorts seeking to find their contemporary identity and enhance their resilience to future change.