Historically, marine ecologists have lacked efficient tools that are capable of capturing detailed species distribution data over large areas. Emerging technologies such as high-resolution imaging and associated machine-learning image-scoring software are providing new tools to map species over large areas in the ocean. Here, we combine a novel diver propulsion vehicle (DPV) imaging system with free-to-use machine-learning software to semi-automatically generate dense and widespread abundance records of a habitat-forming algae over ~5,000 m2 of temperate reef. We employ replicable spatial techniques to test the effectiveness of traditional diver-based sampling, and better understand the distribution and spatial arrangement of one key algal species. We found that the effectiveness of a traditional survey depended on the level of spatial structuring, and generally 10–20 transects (50 × 1 m) were required to obtain reliable results. This represents 2–20 times greater replication than have been collected in previous studies. Furthermore, we demonstrate the usefulness of fine-resolution distribution modeling for understanding patterns in canopy algae cover at multiple spatial scales, and discuss applications to other marine habitats. Our analyses demonstrate that semi-automated methods of data gathering and processing provide more accurate results than traditional methods for describing habitat structure at seascape scales, and therefore represent vastly improved techniques for understanding and managing marine seascapes.
In response to direct and indirect pressures on the marine environment posed by increased development and climate change, the international community has been planning and implementing networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in national waters. This paper critically assesses the role of evidence in marine conservation planning in the United Kingdom (UK), a process that drew heavily on the example set by California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) planning process. Whereas a science advisory panel played a constructive role and facilitated MPA planning in the Californian context, the outcome in the UK was quite different; evidence became a sticking point hampering the process. The actual designation of sites in the UK has been slower than expected, and none of the Reference Areas (i.e., no-take MPAs) proposed by stakeholder-led consultations have been implemented. Drawing on interviews with participants in the UK process and on theoretical debates surrounding evidence-based decision-making, this paper provides recommendations for effective science-driven marine conservation.
National-scale polls demonstrate high levels of public support for developing renewable energy while local opposition has led to delays and cancelations of renewable energy projects around the world. What makes for robust public engagement processes to reject or site renewable energy projects? A literature review reveals numerous considerations, with complexity that impedes their application by practitioners. In this study, we conducted interviews and document analysis to assess the extent to which design principles from the analytic-deliberative process literature arose during public engagement on three New England islands adjacent to proposed offshore wind farms. In our study sites—amongst the array of criteria in the literature—good public engagement boiled down to two key themes: enabling bidirectional deliberative learning and providing community benefit. Decision processes perceived as effective occurred when (1) participants, including experts and local stakeholders, learned from each other while reconciling technical expertise with citizen values; and (2) outcomes included the provision of collaboratively negotiated community benefits. Our findings highlight that community benefits are not the same as benefits to groups of individuals. Attending to these key themes may improve the quality of interactions among communities, government authorities and developers when deciding if and where to site renewable energy infrastructure.
Governments adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ushering in a new era of sustainable development where ‘no one is left behind.’ They include a specific goal — SDG 14 — to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. While policymakers can use a number of legal, regulatory and economic tools to do so, there should be more focus on harnessing fiscal instruments such as taxes, subsidies and conditional transfers to provide the necessary incentives. Provided these approaches strike an appropriate balance between economic, social and ecological considerations, they could play an important role in making SDG 14 a reality. It must be noted that fiscal instruments or reforms do not operate in a vacuum. Their effective implementation requires adequate institutional frameworks to be in place. It is argued that (i) building or strengthening both technical and institutional capacity for fiscal administration; (ii) enhancing compliance through either (or a combination of) incentives and/or punitive measures; (iii) promoting transparency and accountability to win legitimacy and thereby cooperation from all stakeholders involved; and (iv) clearly defining use and access rights of marine and coastal resources either by recognising traditional or customary rights or through a participatory and equitable approach are very critical for an effective implementation of fiscal instruments their reforms.
Invasive lionfish are assumed to significantly affect Caribbean reef fish communities. However, evidence of lionfish effects on native reef fishes is based on uncontrolled observational studies or small-scale, unrepresentative experiments, with findings ranging from no effect to large effects on prey density and richness. Moreover, whether lionfish affect populations and communities of native reef fishes at larger, management-relevant scales is unknown. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of lionfish on coral reef prey fish communities in a natural complex reef system. We quantified lionfish and the density, richness, and composition of native prey fishes (0–10 cm total length) at sixteen reefs along ∼250 km of the Belize Barrier Reef from 2009 to 2013. Lionfish invaded our study sites during this four-year longitudinal study, thus our sampling included fish community structure before and after our sites were invaded, i.e., we employed a modified BACI design. We found no evidence that lionfish measurably affected the density, richness, or composition of prey fishes. It is possible that higher lionfish densities are necessary to detect an effect of lionfish on prey populations at this relatively large spatial scale. Alternatively, negative effects of lionfish on prey could be small, essentially undetectable, and ecologically insignificant at our study sites. Other factors that influence the dynamics of reef fish populations including reef complexity, resource availability, recruitment, predation, and fishing could swamp any effects of lionfish on prey populations.
The development of risk assessments for the exposure of protected populations to noise from coastal construction is constrained by uncertainty over the nature and extent of marine mammal responses to man-made noise. Stakeholder concern often focuses on the potential for local displacement caused by impact piling, where piles are hammered into the seabed. To mitigate this threat, use of vibration piling, where piles are shaken into place with a vibratory hammer, is often encouraged due to presumed impact reduction. However, data on comparative responses of cetaceans to these different noise sources are lacking. We studied the responses of bottlenose dolphins and harbor porpoises to both impact and vibration pile driving noise during harbor construction works in northeast Scotland, using passive acoustic monitoring devices to record cetacean activity and noise recorders to measure and predict received noise levels. Local abundance and patterns of occurrence of bottlenose dolphins were also compared with a five-year baseline. The median peak-to-peak source level estimated for impact piling was 240 dB re 1 μPa (single-pulse sound exposure level [SEL] 198 dB re 1 μPa2 s), and the r.m.s. source level for vibration piling was 192 dB re 1 μPa. Predicted received broadband SEL values 812 m from the piling site were markedly lower due to high propagation loss: 133.4 dB re 1 μPa2 s (impact) and 128.9 dB re 1 μPa2 s (vibration). Bottlenose dolphins and harbor porpoises were not excluded from sites in the vicinity of impact piling or vibration piling; nevertheless, some small effects were detected. Bottlenose dolphins spent a reduced period of time in the vicinity of construction works during both impact and vibration piling. The probability of occurrence of both cetacean species was also slightly less during periods of vibration piling. This work provides developers and managers with the first evidence of the comparative effects of vibration and impact piling on small cetaceans, enabling more informed risk assessments, policy frameworks, and mitigation plans. In particular, our results emphasize the need for better understanding of noise levels and behavioral responses to vibration piling before recommending its use to mitigate impact piling.
The near-term progression of ocean acidification (OA) is projected to bring about sharp changes in the chemistry of coastal upwelling ecosystems. The distribution of OA exposure across these early-impact systems, however, is highly uncertain and limits our understanding of whether and how spatial management actions can be deployed to ameliorate future impacts. Through a novel coastal OA observing network, we have uncovered a remarkably persistent spatial mosaic in the penetration of acidified waters into ecologically-important nearshore habitats across 1,000 km of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. In the most severe exposure hotspots, suboptimal conditions for calcifying organisms encompassed up to 56% of the summer season, and were accompanied by some of the lowest and most variable pH environments known for the surface ocean. Persistent refuge areas were also found, highlighting new opportunities for local adaptation to address the global challenge of OA in productive coastal systems.
The global overexploitation of fish stocks is endangering many marine food webs. Scientists and managers now call for an ecosystem-based fisheries management, able to take into account the complexity of marine ecosystems and the multiple ecosystem services they provide. By contrast, many fishery management plans only focus on maximizing the productivity of harvested stocks. Such practices are suggested to affect other ecosystem services, altering the integrity and resilience of natural communities. Here we show that while yield-maximizing policies can allow for coexistence and resilience in predator-prey communities, they are not optimal in a multi-objective context. We find that although total prey and predator maximum yields are higher with a prey-oriented harvest, focusing on the predator improves species coexistence. Also, moderate harvesting of the predator can enhance resilience. Furthermore, increasing maximum yields by changing catchabilities improves resilience in predator-oriented systems, but reduces it in prey-oriented systems. In a multi-objective context, optimal harvesting strategies involve a general trade-off between yield and resilience. Resilience-maximizing strategies are however compatible with quite high yields, and should often be favored. Our results further suggest that balancing harvest between trophic levels is often best at maintaining simultaneously species coexistence, resilience and yield.
Aquaculture now supplies half of the fish consumed directly by humans. We evaluate whether aquaculture, given current patterns of production and distribution, supports the needs of poor and food-insecure populations throughout the world. We begin by identifying 41 seafood-reliant nutritionally vulnerable nations (NVNs), and ask whether aquaculture meets human nutritional demand directly via domestic production or trade, or indirectly via purchase of nutritionally rich dietary substitutes. We find that a limited number of NVNs have domestically farmed seafood, and of those, only specific aquaculture approaches (e.g., freshwater) in some locations have the potential to benefit nutritionally vulnerable populations. While assessment of aquaculture's direct contribution via trade is constrained by data limitations, we find that it is unlikely to contribute substantially to human nutrition in vulnerable groups, as most exported aquaculture consists of high-value species for international markets. We also determine that subpopulations who benefit from aquaculture profits are likely not the same subpopulations who are nutritionally vulnerable, and more research is needed to understand the impacts of aquaculture income gains. Finally, we discuss the relationship of aquaculture to existing trends in capture fisheries in NVNs, and suggest strategies to create lasting solutions to nutritional security, without exacerbating existing challenges in access to food and land resources.
Text mining and analytics may offer possibilities to assess scientists' professional writing and identify patterns of co-occurrence between words and phrases associated with different environmental challenges and their potential solutions. This approach has the potential to help to track emerging issues, semi-automate horizon scanning processes, and identify how different institutions or policy instruments are associated with different types of ocean and coastal sustainability challenges. Here I examine ecologically-oriented ocean and coastal science journal article abstracts published between 2006 and 2015. Informed by the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, I constructed a dictionary containing phrases associated with 40 ocean challenges and 15 solution-oriented instrument or investments. From 50,817 potentially relevant abstracts, different patterns of co-occurring text associated with challenges and potential solutions were discernable. Topics receiving significantly increased attention in the literature in 2014–15 relative to the 2006–13 period included: marine plastics and debris; environmental conservation; social impacts; ocean acidification; general terrestrial influences; co-management strategies; ocean warming; licensing and access rights; oil spills; and economic impacts. Articles relating to global environmental change were consistently among the most cited; marine plastics and ecosystem trophic structure were also focal topics among the highly cited articles. This exploratory research suggests that scientists' written outputs provide fertile ground for identifying and tracking important and emerging ocean sustainability issues and their possible solutions, as well as the organizations and scientists who work on them.
Evidence-based decision making is an essential process for sustainable, effective, and efficient marine spatial planning (MSP). In that sense, decision support tools (DSTs) could be considered to be the primary assistant of planners. Although there are many DSTs listed in tool databases, most of them are conceptual and not used in real MSP implementation. The main objective of this review is to: (i) characterize and analyse the present use of the DSTs in existing MSP implementation processes around the world, (ii) identify weaknesses and gaps of existing tools, and (iii) propose new functionalities both to improve their feasibility and to promote their application. In total, 34 DSTs have been identified in 28 different MSP initiatives with different levels of complexity, applicability and usage purposes. Main characteristics of the tools were transferred into a DST matrix. It was observed that limited functionality, tool stability, consideration of economic and social decision problems, ease of use, and tool costs could be considered as the main gaps of existing DSTs. Future developments are needed and should be in the direction of the specific need of marine planners and stakeholders. Results revealed that DST developments should consider both spatial and temporal dynamics of the ocean, and new tools should provide multi-functionality and integrity; meanwhile they should be easy to use and freely available. Hence, this research summarised current use, gaps, and expected development trends of DSTs and it concludes that there is still a big potential of DST developments to assist operational MSP processes.
Coastal environments are some of the most populated on Earth, with greater pressures projected in the future. Managing coastal systems requires the consideration of multiple uses, which both benefit from and threaten multiple ecosystem services. Thus understanding the cumulative impacts of human activities on coastal ecosystem services would seem fundamental to management, yet there is no widely accepted approach for assessing these. This study trials an approach for understanding the cumulative impacts of anthropogenic change, focusing on Tasman and Golden Bays, New Zealand. Using an expert elicitation procedure, we collected information on three aspects of cumulative impacts: the importance and magnitude of impacts by various activities and stressors on ecosystem services, and the causal processes of impact on ecosystem services. We assessed impacts to four ecosystem service benefits — fisheries, shellfish aquaculture, marine recreation and existence value of biodiversity—addressing three main research questions: (1) how severe are cumulative impacts on ecosystem services (correspondingly, what potential is there for restoration)?; (2) are threats evenly distributed across activities and stressors, or do a few threats dominate?; (3) do prominent activities mainly operate through direct stressors, or do they often exacerbate other impacts? We found (1) that despite high uncertainty in the threat posed by individual stressors and impacts, total cumulative impact is consistently severe for all four ecosystem services. (2) A subset of drivers and stressors pose important threats across the ecosystem services explored, including climate change, commercial fishing, sedimentation and pollution. (3) Climate change and commercial fishing contribute to prominent indirect impacts across ecosystem services by exacerbating regional impacts, namely sedimentation and pollution. The prevalence and magnitude of these indirect, networked impacts highlights the need for approaches like this to understand mechanisms of impact, in order to develop strategies to manage them.
Bycatch of marine fauna by small-scale (artisanal) fisheries is an important anthropogenic mortality source to several species of cetaceans, including humpback whales and odontocetes, in Ecuador's marine waters. Long-term monitoring actions and varied conservation efforts have been conducted by non-governmental organizations along the Ecuadorian coast, pointing toward the need for a concerted mitigation plan and actions to hamper cetaceans’ bycatch. Nevertheless, little has currently been done by the government and regional authorities to address marine mammal interactions with fisheries in eastern Pacific Ocean artisanal fisheries. This study provides a review of Ecuador's current status concerning cetacean bycatch, and explores the strengths and weaknesses of past and current programs aiming to tackle the challenges of bycatch mitigation. To bolster our appraisal of the policies, a synthesis of fishers’ perceptions of the bycatch problem is presented in concert with recommendations for fostering fishing community-based conservation practices integrated with policies to mitigate cetacean bycatch. Our appraisal, based upon the existing literature, indicates a situation of increasing urgency. Taking into consideration the fishers’ perceptions and attitudes, fisheries governance in Ecuador should draw inspiration from a truly bottom-up, participatory framework based on stakeholder engagement processes; if it is based on a top-down, regulatory approach, it is less likely to succeed. To carry out this process, a community-based conservation programs to provide conditions for empowering fishing communities is recommend. This would serve as an initial governance framework for fishery policy for conserving marine mammals while maximizing the economic benefits from sustainable small-scale fisheries in Ecuador.
Industrial harbours are a complex interface between environmental, economic and social systems. Trying to manage the social and economic needs of the community while maintaining the integrity of environmental ecosystems is complicated, as is the identification and evaluation of the various factors that underpin the drivers of economic, community and resource condition. An increasingly popular strategy to deal with the identification and evaluation challenges in complex human-environmental systems is to use a report card system which can be used as a summary assessment tool to monitor the health of aquatic ecosystems. To date though these have largely focused on environmental factors, and it is only very recently that attempts are being made to include social, cultural and economic indicators. There has been limited consensus in the selection of social and economic indicators applied in different aquatic report cards but as recreation is such an important activity, typically some measure of recreation benefit is included. However, there has been no commonality in the measures applied to assess its performance as an economic indicator.
This paper is focused on the assessment of recreational benefits as an indicator of economic value in the report card for Gladstone Harbour in Queensland, Australia. It is the first aquatic health report card to include an assessment of the nonmarket value of recreation which makes it a more comprehensive indicator of economic value compared to other report cards based on measures of employment, participation or expenditure. There have now been three consecutive years of reporting (2014–2016) of the Gladstone Harbour report card, and the results indicate that the recreation index appears to be effective in monitoring changes over time.
Tropical tuna fisheries are among the largest worldwide, with some having significant bycatch issues. However, pole-and-line tuna fisheries are widely believed to have low bycatch rates, although these have rarely been quantified. The Maldives has an important pole-and-line fishery, targeting skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). In the Maldives, 106 pole-and-line tuna fishing days were observed between August 2014 and November 2015. During 161 fishing events, tuna catches amounted to 147 t: 72% by weight was skipjack, 25% yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and 3% other tunas. Bycatch (all non-tuna species caught plus all tuna discards) amounted to 951 kg (0.65% of total tuna catch). Most of the bycatch (95%) was utilized, and some bycatch was released alive, so dead discards were particularly low (0.02% of total tuna catch, or 22 kg per 100 t). Rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulata) and dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) together constituted 93% of the bycatch. Live releases included small numbers of silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) and seabirds (noddies, Anous tenuirostris and A. stolidus). Pole-and-line tuna fishing was conducted on free schools and schools associated with various objects (Maldivian anchored fish aggregating devices [aFADs], drifting FADs from western Indian Ocean purse seine fisheries, other drifting objects and seamounts). Free school catches typically included a high proportion of large skipjack and significantly less bycatch. Associated schools produced more variable tuna catches and higher bycatch rates. Fishing trips in the south had significantly lower bycatch rates than those in the north. This study is the first to quantify bycatch rates in the Maldives pole-and-line tuna fishery and the influence of school association on catch composition. Ratio estimator methods suggest roughly 552.6 t of bycatch and 27.9 t of discards are caught annually in the fishery (based on 2015 national catch), much less than other Indian Ocean tuna fisheries, e.g. gillnet, purse-seine, and longline.
An ambitious nonprofit has announced new plan to sweep up plastic litter circulating in a "garbage patch" in the remote North Pacific. The Ocean Cleanup, based in Delft, the Netherlands, intends to launch a fleet of drifting trash collectors with booms that would funnel trash into central tanks, which ships would empty. Some experts and environmentalists have doubts. They say collecting trash closer to shore would be more cost effective, and they worry the project will distract from less glamorous efforts to keep plastic out of the sea in the first place. The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $31.5 million in donations, originally planned to deploy a 100-kilometer-long arc of booms and secure the unit to the sea bed some 5 kilometers down. But on 11 May, the group unveiled a revised blueprint that calls for up to 50 unmoored collectors, each just 1 or 2 kilometers long. They will be cheaper and faster to build, and they will collect more trash. The target is to start production in early 2018.
Europe has a long tradition of exploiting marine fishes and is promoting marine economic activity through its Blue Growth strategy. This increase in anthropogenic pressure, along with climate change, threatens the biodiversity of fishes and food security. Here, we examine the conservation status of 1,020 species of European marine fishes and identify factors that contribute to their extinction risk. Large fish species (greater than 1.5 m total length) are most at risk; half of these are threatened with extinction, predominantly sharks, rays and sturgeons. This analysis was based on the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) European regional Red List of marine fishes, which was coherent with assessments of the status of fish stocks carried out independently by fisheries management agencies: no species classified by IUCN as threatened were considered sustainable by these agencies. A remarkable geographic divergence in stock status was also evident: in northern Europe, most stocks were not overfished, whereas in the Mediterranean Sea, almost all stocks were overfished. As Europe proceeds with its sustainable Blue Growth agenda, two main issues stand out as needing priority actions in relation to its marine fishes: the conservation of marine fish megafauna and the sustainability of Mediterranean fish stocks.
Quantitative Seascape Ethnoecology practice is considered through a community-based food security lens. Fish and marine mammal records obtained from a wide range of Inuit co-management agreements are, for the first time combined to calculate an Inuit-culture marine ecological footprint, targeted on calendar year 2008. A reflexive, participatory and inclusive education/governance strategy for Arctic coastal food security is presented, particularly in Nunavut; considering caloric marine catch may average as high as 40% of human basal metabolic requirements for some communities. The current work provides a foundation to mitigate food insecurity for the Inuit in what may be the most insecure indigenous food setting in any country that is generally considered as developed. Four large marine ecosystems are considered within Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) areas 18 and 21. Initial fish catch reconstructions for 1950–2001 are combined with mammal harvest records. Food system changes and planning are examined from a community health and management perspective. The relationship between food security, gender, livelihoods and ecosystem capacity are discussed within current management challenges and the related mandates for Canadian government agencies, based in part upon the 2007, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). A process to combine academic ecological knowledge with traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and an Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) is suggested within a beneficiary-led marine protected area network. A re-evaluation of Canada’s northern (Nunavut) transfer and land claim agreements are suggested, with a goal to provide redress for UNDRIP compliance. Therein, consideration should be given to dedicated funds for reflexive and participatory development of university-level Ethnoecology programming and community-based offices for Nunavut food security science.
Bioerosion of calcium carbonate is the natural counterpart of biogenic calcification. Both are affected by ocean acidification (OA). We summarize definitions and concepts in bioerosion research and knowledge in the context of OA, providing case examples and meta-analyses. Chemically mediated bioerosion relies on energy demanding, biologically controlled undersaturation or acid regulation and increases with simulated OA, as does passive dissolution. Through substrate weakening both processes can indirectly enhance mechanical bioerosion, which is not directly affected by OA. The low attention and expert knowledge on bioerosion produced some ambiguous views and approaches, and limitations to experimental studies restricted opportunities to generalize. Comparability of various bioerosion and calcification rates remains difficult. Physiological responses of bioeroders or interactions of environmental factors are insufficiently studied. We stress the importance to foster and advance high quality bioerosion research as global trends suggest the following: (i) growing environmental change (eutrophication, coral mortality, OA) is expected to elevate bioerosion in the near future; (ii) changes harmful to calcifiers may not be as severe for bioeroders (e.g. warming); and (iii) factors facilitating bioerosion often reduce calcification rates (e.g. OA). The combined result means that the natural process bioerosion has itself become a “stress factor” for reef health and resilience.
The ocean acidification (OA) literature is replete with laboratory studies that report species sensitivity to seawater carbonate chemistry in experimental treatments as an “effect of OA”. I argue that this is unintentionally misleading, since these studies do not actually demonstrate an effect of OA but rather show sensitivity to CO2. Documenting an effect of OA involves showing a change in a species (e.g. population abundance or distribution) as a consequence of anthropogenic changes in marine carbonate chemistry. To date, there have been no unambiguous demonstrations of a population level effect of anthropogenic OA, as that term is defined by the IPCC.