Recent additions to marine environmental legislation are usually designed to fill gaps in protection and management, build on existing practices or correct deficiencies in previous instruments. Article 13 of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires Member States to develop a Programme of Measures (PoM) by 2015, to meet the objective of Good Environmental Status (GES) for their waters by 2020. This review explores key maritime-related policies with the aim to identify the opportunities and threats that they pose for the achievement of GES. It specifically examines how Member States have relied on and will integrate existing legislation and policies to implement their PoM and the potential opportunities and difficulties associated with this. Using case studies of three Member States, other external impediments to achieving GES are discussed including uses and users of the marine environment who are not governed by the MSFD, and gives recommendations for overcoming barriers.
The Ecosystem Services Toolkit is a technical guide to ecosystem services assessment and analysis that offers practical, step-by-step guidance for governments at all levels, as well as for consultants and researchers. The approach is fully interdisciplinary, integrating biophysical sciences, social sciences, economics, and traditional and practitioner knowledge. It provides guidance on how to consider and incorporate ecosystem services analysis in a variety of different policy contexts such as spatial planning, environmental assessment, and wildlife management, among others. It contains numerous innovative tools and resources designed to enhance users’ understanding of ecosystem services and to support analysis and decision-making. Canadian examples are featured throughout the guide.
Human activities drive environmental changes at scales that could potentially cause ecosystem collapses in the marine environment. We combined information on marine biodiversity with spatial assessments of the impacts of climate change to identify the key areas to prioritize for the conservation of global marine biodiversity. This process identified six marine regions of exceptional biodiversity based on global distributions of 1729 species of fish, 124 marine mammals, and 330 seabirds. Overall, these hot spots of marine biodiversity coincide with areas most severely affected by global warming. In particular, these marine biodiversity hot spots have undergone local to regional increasing water temperatures, slowing current circulation, and decreasing primary productivity. Furthermore, when we overlapped these hot spots with available industrial fishery data, albeit coarser than our estimates of climate impacts, they suggest a worrying coincidence whereby the world’s richest areas for marine biodiversity are also those areas mostly affected by both climate change and industrial fishing. In light of these findings, we offer an adaptable framework for determining local to regional areas of special concern for the conservation of marine biodiversity. This has exposed the need for finer-scaled fishery data to assist in the management of global fisheries if the accumulative, but potentially preventable, effect of fishing on climate change impacts is to be minimized within areas prioritized for marine biodiversity conservation.
Plastics pollution can be curtailed by targeting the source of the issue. This report uniquely looks all the way upstream, and down to the point of plastic entering the ocean. It identifies solutions throughout the supply chain and provides a full portfolio of intervention options and investment and philanthropic opportunities.
In order to mitigate against possible impacts of seismic surveys on baleen whales it is important to know as much as possible about the presence of whales within the vicinity of seismic operations. This study expands on previous work that analyzes single seismic streamer data to locate nearby calling baleen whales with a grid search method that utilizes the propagation angles and relative arrival times of received signals along the streamer. Three dimensional seismic reflection surveys use multiple towed hydrophone arrays for imaging the structure beneath the seafloor, providing an opportunity to significantly improve the uncertainty associated with streamer-generated call locations. All seismic surveys utilizing airguns conduct visual marine mammal monitoring surveys concurrent with the experiment, with powering-down of seismic source if a marine mammal is observed within the exposure zone. This study utilizes data from power-down periods of a seismic experiment conducted with two 8-km long seismic hydrophone arrays by the R/V Marcus G. Langseth near Alaska in summer 2011. Simulated and experiment data demonstrate that a single streamer can be utilized to resolve left-right ambiguity because the streamer is rarely perfectly straight in a field setting, but dual streamers provides significantly improved locations. Both methods represent a dramatic improvement over the existing Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) system for detecting low frequency baleen whale calls, with ~60 calls detected utilizing the seismic streamers, zero of which were detected using the current R/V Langseth PAM system. Furthermore, this method has the potential to be utilized not only for improving mitigation processes, but also for studying baleen whale behavior within the vicinity of seismic operations.
Harvested to perilously low numbers by commercial whaling during the past century, the large scale response of Antarctic blue whales Balaenoptera musculus intermedia to environmental variability is poorly understood. This study uses acoustic data collected from 586 sonobuoys deployed in the austral summers of 1997 through 2009, south of 38°S, coupled with visual observations of blue whales during the IWC SOWER line-transect surveys. The characteristic Z-call and D-call of Antarctic blue whales were detected using an automated detection template and visual verification method. Using a random forest model, we showed the environmental preferences pattern, spatial occurrence and acoustic behaviour of Antarctic blue whales. Distance to the southern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (SBACC), latitude and distance from the nearest Antarctic shores were the main geographic predictors of blue whale call occurrence. Satellite-derived sea surface height, sea surface temperature, and productivity (chlorophyll-a) were the most important environmental predictors of blue whale call occurrence. Call rates of D-calls were strongly predicted by the location of the SBACC, latitude and visually detected number of whales in an area while call rates of Z-call were predicted by the SBACC, latitude and longitude. Satellite-derived sea surface height, wind stress, wind direction, water depth, sea surface temperatures, chlorophyll-a and wind speed were important environmental predictors of blue whale call rates in the Southern Ocean. Blue whale call occurrence and call rates varied significantly in response to inter-annual and long term variability of those environmental predictors. Our results identify the response of Antarctic blue whales to inter-annual variability in environmental conditions and highlighted potential suitable habitats for this population. Such emerging knowledge about the acoustic behaviour, environmental and habitat preferences of Antarctic blue whales is important in improving the management and conservation of this highly depleted species.
Theory predicts that loss of gape-limited sharks should lead to increases in the abundance and biomass of smaller size classes of prey. We used stereo-baited remote underwater video stations (stereo-BRUVS) and stereo diver-operated video systems (stereo-DOVS) to characterise the shark and fish assemblages on 2 remote, atoll-like reef systems in northwestern Australia, the Rowley Shoals and the Scott Reefs. Whereas the Rowley Shoals is a marine protected area, sharks have been removed from the Scott Reefs for over 3 centuries. We found that sharks were significantly more diverse, more abundant, larger in size and greater in biomass in the marine reserve relative to the Scott Reefs. Consistent with a priori hypotheses, bony fishes displayed greater species diversity, abundance and biomass where sharks were common relative to the predator-depleted location. The size and trophic structure of bony fish assemblages also differed between locations. Our results provide large-scale evidence consistent with the hypothesis that reef-associated sharks are gape-limited trophic omnivores that impose top-down effects on medium sized (<50 cm), low- to mid-trophic level fishes. On stereo-BRUVS, for example, prey in the 0 to 29.99 cm size class had 203% more biomass at the predator-depleted reef relative to the location where sharks were abundant. As body size is an important determinant of ecological role and fitness in fishes, these findings suggest that the rapid and ongoing loss of sharks from reefs globally may have important implications for reef management and investigations into the effect of fishing on reef systems.
Overexploitation leads to the ecological extinction of many oceanic species. The depletion of historical abundances of large animals, such as whales and sea turtles, is well known. However, the magnitude of the historical overfishing of exploited invertebrates is unclear. The lack of rigorous baseline data limits the implementation of efficient management and conservation plans in the marine realm. The precious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum has been intensively exploited since antiquity for its use in jewellery. It shows dramatic signs of overexploitation, with no untouched populations known in shallow waters. Here, we report the discovery of an exceptional red coral population from a previously unexplored shallow underwater cave in Corsica (France) harbouring the largest biomass (by more than 100-fold) reported to date in the Mediterranean. Our findings challenge current assumptions on the pristine state of this emblematic species. Our results suggest that, before intense exploitation, red coral lived in relatively high-density populations with a large proportion of centuries-old colonies, even at very shallow depths. We call for the re-evaluation of the baseline for red coral and question the sustainability of the exploitation of a species that is still common but ecologically (functionally) extinct and in a trajectory of further decline.
Protected Areas (PAs) are a central part of biodiversity conservation strategies around the world. Today, PAs cover c15% of the Earth’s land mass and c3% of the global oceans. These numbers are expected to grow rapidly to meet the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity target 11, which aims to see 17% and 10% of terrestrial and marine biomes protected, respectively, by 2020. This target also requires countries to ensure that PAs protect an “ecologically representative” sample of their biodiversity. At present, there is no clear definition of what desirable ecological representation looks like, or guidelines of how to standardize its assessment as the PA estate grows. We propose a systematic approach to measure ecological representation in PA networks using the Protection Equality (PE) metric, which measures how equally ecological features, such as habitats, within a country’s borders are protected. We present an R package and two Protection Equality (PE) measures; proportional to area PE, and fixed area PE, which measure the representativeness of a country’s PA network. We illustrate the PE metrics with two case studies: coral reef protection across countries and ecoregions in the Coral Triangle, and representation of ecoregions of six of the largest countries in the world. Our results provide repeatable transparency to the issue of representation in PA networks and provide a starting point for further discussion, evaluation and testing of representation metrics. They also highlight clear shortcomings in current PA networks, particularly where they are biased towards certain assemblage types or habitats. Our proposed metrics should be used to report on measuring progress towards the representation component of Aichi Target 11. The PE metrics can be used to measure the representation of any kind of ecological feature including: species, ecoregions, processes or habitats.
Although predators influence behavior of prey, analyses of electronic tracking data in marine environments rarely consider how predators affect the behavior of tracked animals. We collected an unprecedented dataset by synchronously tracking predator (killer whales, NN = 1; representing a family group) and prey (narwhal, NN = 7) via satellite telemetry in Admiralty Inlet, a large fjord in the Eastern Canadian Arctic. Analyzing the movement data with a switching-state space model and a series of mixed effects models, we show that the presence of killer whales strongly alters the behavior and distribution of narwhal. When killer whales were present (within about 100 km), narwhal moved closer to shore, where they were presumably less vulnerable. Under predation threat, narwhal movement patterns were more likely to be transiting, whereas in the absence of threat, more likely resident. Effects extended beyond discrete predatory events and persisted steadily for 10 d, the duration that killer whales remained in Admiralty Inlet. Our findings have two key consequences. First, given current reductions in sea ice and increases in Arctic killer whale sightings, killer whales have the potential to reshape Arctic marine mammal distributions and behavior. Second and of more general importance, predators have the potential to strongly affect movement behavior of tracked marine animals. Understanding predator effects may be as or more important than relating movement behavior to resource distribution or bottom-up drivers traditionally included in analyses of marine animal tracking data.
Climate change and resource exploitation have been shown to modify the importance of bottom-up and top-down forces in ecosystems. However, the resulting pattern of trophic control in complex food webs is an emergent property of the system and thus unintuitive. We develop a statistical nondeterministic model, capable of modeling complex patterns of trophic control for the heavily impacted North Sea ecosystem. The model is driven solely by fishing mortality and climatic variables and based on time-series data covering >40 y for six plankton and eight fish groups along with one bird group (>20 y). Simulations show the outstanding importance of top-down exploitation pressure for the dynamics of fish populations. Whereas fishing effects on predators indirectly altered plankton abundance, bottom-up climatic processes dominate plankton dynamics. Importantly, we show planktivorous fish to have a central role in the North Sea food web initiating complex cascading effects across and between trophic levels. Our linked model integrates bottom-up and top-down effects and is able to simulate complex long-term changes in ecosystem components under a combination of stressor scenarios. Our results suggest that in marine ecosystems, pathways for bottom-up and top-down forces are not necessarily mutually exclusive and together can lead to the emergence of complex patterns of control.
To protect the underwater acoustic environment and the marine mammals that depend upon it, Glacier Bay National Park implements marine vessel quotas, speed regulations, and routing restrictions in biologically important areas. Here, we characterize the underwater acoustic environment to quantify changes in conditions related to vessel management actions. Analysis of hourly 30-second acoustic samples obtained from a seafloor hydrophone included manual (aural and visual) identification of physical, biological, and human-made acoustic sources and measuring received sound pressure levels. A total of 10,659 30-second acoustic samples collected in 2000, 2001, 2007 and 2008 were analyzed. By quantifying the sources, occurrence, and characteristics of underwater sound we gained a new understanding of how the underwater acoustic environment relates to vessel management. For example, the occurrence of noise from large marine vessels (e.g. cruise ships) decreased despite an increase in the vessel quotas and use-days, likely due to changes in the timing of cruise ship entries. Our work documented the occurrence of biologically important humpback whale and harbor seal vocalizations; the frequency of occurrence of these vocalizations gives an indication of Glacier Bay's importance for these species and seasonality of calls documents the times of year at which a pristine acoustic environment would most benefit each species. These first descriptions of acoustic conditions in a protected coastal habitat indicate that both regulations and vessel behavior independent of regulations have discernible effects on the acoustic environment. Quantitatively describing these changes is a crucial first step toward protection of this important underwater habitat.
Corals represent a vast and detailed archive of past environmental changes in regions where instrumental data are limited and where our knowledge of multi-decadal climate variability is incomplete. In estuarine areas, coral skeletal records provide an opportunity to monitor anthropogenic impacts as well as to investigate natural environmental variability through a range of time scales, from seasonal to millennial. This paper analyzes the status of the field of coral sclerochronology (layer analysis) and geochemistry as it relates to the recovery of past records of environmental variability in estuarine settings. Coral biology, density band formation, and factors affecting the uptake of isotopic and elemental signals in the coral skeleton are explored, as they constitute important aspects in understanding corals as environmental proxies. Density bands in coral skeletons, commonly used for first-order dating, are a reliable proxy for long-term seasonal variability and to identify periods of environmental stress. The stable isotopic composition of coral carbonate has been employed to reconstruct sea-surface temperatures and salinities (δ18O), insolation changes (δ13C), pH variability (δ11B), and water quality (δ15N), while changes in the elemental composition of corals constitute robust proxies for sea surface temperature (Sr/Ca) and riverine discharge (Ba/Ca). Additionally, changes in the trace concentration of metals, such as Pb, Cd, Al, Mn and Zn, have been used to monitor pollutants entering estuaries from urban areas and to reconstruct past changes in water quality. However, there is still controversy about the degree to which biological parameters such as metabolism and calcification rate influence the final isotopic and elemental composition of the coral lattice. As a result, a multi-proxy approach to coral-based paleoclimatology has emerged, both from the need to better understand the influences controlling coral environmental records and from recent advances in the analytical techniques for measuring the composition of coral skeletons.
The Pacific Island Regional Ocean Policy (PIROP), which was released in 2002, provided the framework for ocean governance in the Pacific region. Since then there have been a myriad of policy documents and institutional arrangements that have been developed to address ocean governance issues, however, little progress has occurred with regard to the actual implementation of PIROP. This paper examines the region's progress in establishing integrated oceans management, and how this fits with the use of marine spatial planning and area based management tools, such as marine protected areas. It argues that policy making in this region encounters the usual difficulties with integrated policy approaches experienced elsewhere but that these difficulties are further accentuated when applied to developing nations that are highly dependent on external support. It suggests a way forward for the future with development of action plans, implementation and the practical application of those plans including a regional contextualisation/analysis of progress against regional objectives.
As tropical pelagic species are attracted by floating objects in the surface of the ocean, industrial purse seiners deploy thousands of man-made drifting fish aggregating devices (DFADs) to facilitate their catch of tunas. However, the sharp increase in the use of DFADs leads to some ecological concerns, such as producing higher amount of by-catch or alteration of natural behaviour of fish. We used fishers’ satellite-linked GPS buoys equipped with echo-sounders to continuously collect acoustic samples under remote DFADs and investigate the diel behaviour patterns of the associated fish (i.e., non-tuna species and small and large tunas) and their potential biological interactions. Results showed a strong correlation between the presence of non-tuna species and small tunas, and between small and large tunas. Diel biomass dynamics were highly variable and seem to be both species and region-specific, which may suggest adaptive behaviour patterns. Tuna associated with DFADs in the Somalia area showed a clear night-time associative behaviour. In contrast, tuna in the NW Seychelles associated with DFADs to a greater degree during daytime. In the Mozambique Channel, large tuna showed daytime associative behaviour, while small tuna showed a maximum biomass at sunrise, decreasing over the day. The associative behaviour of non-tuna species was slightly variable, being uniform near the equator or showing two peaks when increasing latitude. This study shows the importance and effect of biological factors on the associative behaviour of the fish and serves as a first step towards improving pre-set selectivity of purse seine fisheries using DFADs. The fish presence and density may improve DFAD attraction and detectability and the observed periodicity by species and area shows both similarities and differences with published literature.
Previous studies of symbiotic associations between scleractinians corals and Symbiodinium have demonstrated that the consortium of symbionts can change in response to environmental conditions. However, less is known about symbiont shuffling during early coral development, particularly in brooding species. This study examined whether Symbiodinium consortia (1) varied in Porites astreoides on shallow (10m) and upper mesophotic (30m) reefs, (2) changed during coral development, and (3) influenced growth of juveniles in different environments. Symbiodinium ITS2 sequences were amplified using universal primers and analyzed using phylotype-specific primers designed for phylotypes A, B, and C. Adults from both depths were found to host only phylotype A, phylotypes A and B, or phylotypes A, B, and C and the frequency of the phylotype composition did not vary with depth. However, phylotype A was the dominant symbiont that was vertically transmitted to the planulae. The presence of phylotypes B and C was detected in the majority of juveniles when transplanted onto the shallow and upper mesophotic reefs whereas only phylotype A was detected in the majority of juveniles reared in outdoor aquaria. In addition, growth of juvenile P. astreoides harboring different combinations of Symbiodinium phylotypes did not vary when transplanted to different reef zones. However, juveniles reared in in situ reef environments grew faster than those reared in ex situ outdoor aquaria. These results show that Symbiodinium consortia change during development of P. astreoides and are influenced by environmental conditions.
Conservation efforts strive to protect significant swaths of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems from a range of threats. As climate change becomes an increasing concern, these efforts must take into account how resilient protected spaces will be in the face of future drivers of change such as warming temperatures. Climate landscape metrics, which signal the spatial magnitude and direction of climate change, support a convenient initial assessment of potential threats to and opportunities within ecosystems to inform conservation and policy efforts where biological data are not available. However, inference of risk from purely physical climatic changes is difficult unless set in a meaningful ecological context. Here, we aim to establish this context using historical climatic variability, as a proxy for local adaptation by resident biota, to identify areas where current local climate conditions will remain extant and future regional climate analogues will emerge. This information is then related to the processes governing species’ climate-driven range edge dynamics, differentiating changes in local climate conditions as promoters of species range contractions from those in neighbouring locations facilitating range expansions. We applied this approach to assess the future climatic stability and connectivity of Japanese waters and its network of marine protected areas (MPAs). We find 88% of Japanese waters transitioning to climates outside their historical variability bounds by 2035, resulting in large reductions in the amount of available climatic space potentially promoting widespread range contractions and expansions. Areas of high connectivity, where shifting climates converge, are present along sections of the coast facilitated by the strong latitudinal gradient of the Japanese archipelago and its ocean current system. While these areas overlap significantly with areas currently under significant anthropogenic pressures, they also include much of the MPA network that may provide stepping-stone protection for species that must shift their distribution due to climate change.
- Marine conservation areas require high levels of compliance to meet conservation objectives, yet little research has assessed compliance quantitatively, especially for recreational fishers. Recreational fishers take 12% of global annual fish catches. With millions of people fishing from small boats, this fishing sector is hard to monitor, making accurate quantification of non-compliance an urgent research priority.
- Shore-based remote camera monitoring was tested for quantifying recreational non-compliance in near-shore, coastal rockfish conservation areas (RCAs) in the Salish Sea, Canada.
- Six high definition trail cameras were used to monitor 42 locations between July and August 2014.
- Seventy-nine percent of monitored conservation area sites showed confirmed or probable fishing activity, with no significant difference in fishing effort inside and outside RCAs.
- Mixed effects generalized linear models were used to test environmental and geographic factors influencing compliance. Sites with greater depth had significantly higher fishing effort, which may imply high, barotrauma-induced, rockfish mortality in RCA sites.
- Non-compliance estimates were similar to aerial fly-over compliance data from 2011, suggesting that trail camera monitoring may be an accurate and affordable alternative method of assessing non-compliance in coastal conservation areas, especially for community-based organizations wishing to monitor local waters.
- Widespread non-compliance could compromise the ability of RCAs to protect and rebuild rockfish populations. Increased education, signage, and enforcement is likely to improve compliance.
2017 could become a landmark year for efforts to put the world’s oceans on a pathway towards sustainability. Complemented by numerous regional and national initiatives, the UN Ocean Conference in June and the EU-hosted Our Ocean Conference in October are important opportunities for the international community to establish a firm foundation for future action and to agree on tangible measures to reverse the cycle of declining ocean health. While there is no lack in global ambition, the global community should now agree on concrete steps to develop coherent regional and international implementation frameworks for achieving oceans sustainability. To advance these efforts, this policy brief offers three key recommendations.
The Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) population in Prince William Sound, Alaska crashed in 1993 and has yet to recover, affecting food web dynamics in the Sound and impacting Alaskan communities. To help researchers design and implement the most effective monitoring, management, and recovery programs, a Bayesian assessment of Prince William Sound herring was developed by reformulating the current model used by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Bayesian model estimated pre-fishery spawning biomass of herring age-3 and older in 2013 to be a median of 19,410 mt (95% credibility interval 12,150–31,740 mt), with a 54% probability that biomass in 2013 was below the management limit used to regulate fisheries in Prince William Sound. The main advantages of the Bayesian model are that it can more objectively weight different datasets and provide estimates of uncertainty for model parameters and outputs, unlike the weighted sum-of-squares used in the original model. In addition, the revised model could be used to manage herring stocks with a decision rule that considers both stock status and the uncertainty in stock status.