Climate change, mismanaged resource extraction, and pollution are reshaping global marine ecosystems with direct consequences on human societies. Sustainable ocean development requires knowledge and data across disciplines, scales and knowledge types. Although several disciplines are generating large amounts of data on marine socio-ecological systems, such information is often underutilized due to fragmentation across institutions or stakeholders, limited standardization across scale, time or disciplines, and the fact that information is often not searchable within existing databases. Compiling metadata, the information which describes existing sets of data, is an effective tool that can address these challenges, particularly when metadata corresponding to multiple datasets can be combined to integrate, organize and classify multidisciplinary data. Here, using Mexico as a case study, we describe the compilation and analysis of a metadatabase of ocean knowledge that aims to improve access to information, facilitate multidisciplinary data sharing and integration, and foster collaboration among stakeholders. We also evaluate the knowledge trends and gaps for informing ocean management. Analysis of the metadatabase highlights that past and current research in Mexico focuses strongly on ecology and fisheries, with biological data more consistent over time and space compared to data on human dimensions. Regional imbalances in available information were also evident, with most available information corresponding to the Gulf of California, Campeche Bank and Caribbean and less available for the central and south Pacific and the western Gulf of Mexico. Despite existing knowledge gaps in Mexico and elsewhere, we argue that systematic efforts such as this can often reveal an abundance of information for decision-makers to develop policies that meet key commitments on ocean sustainability. Surmounting current cross-scale social and ecological challenges for sustainability requires transdisciplinary approaches. Metadatabases are critical tools to make efficient use of existing data, highlight and address strengths and deficiencies, and develop scenarios to inform policies for managing complex marine social-ecological systems.
Knowledge about extreme ocean currents and their vertical structure is important when designing offshore structures. We propose a method for statistical modelling of extreme vertical current velocity profiles, accounting for factors such as directionality, spatial and temporal dependence, and non-stationarity due to the tide. We first pre-process the data by resolving the observed (vector) currents at each of several water depths into orthogonal major and minor axis components by principal component analysis, and use harmonic analysis to decompose the total (observed) current into the sum of (deterministic) tidal and (stochastic) residual currents. A complete marginal model is then constructed for all residual current components, and the dependence structure between the components is characterized using the conditional extremes model by Heffernan and Tawn (2004). By simulating under this model, estimates of various extremal statistics can be acquired. A simple approach for deriving design current velocity profiles is also proposed. The method is tested using measured current profiles at two coastal locations in Norway, covering a period of 2.5 and 1.5 years. It is demonstrated that the method provides good extrapolations at both locations, and the estimated 10-year design current velocity profiles appear realistic compared to the most extreme velocity profiles observed in the measurements.
A novel blue planning discourse has been elevated through marine spatial planning (MSP) discussions in Brazil since 2011, following the evolution of international ocean governance policy innovation in the past decades. This paper investigates the early evolution stages of a socio-political arena around MSP in Brazil using as reference the IOC-UNESCO's step-by-step approach. It also employs the interactive governance theory to describe and analyze the challenges and opportunities in four phases in the evolution of a MSP policy arena at the Brazil's Blue Amazon level; and discuss it in terms of five major functional governability narratives this trajectory evoke to actors in this new interactive governance playing field. The evolution of Brazilian MSP arena was triggered by discussions at the international level (Phase I – 2011 to 2012), which encountered some resistance until it was reframed under a new formal intra-governmental institutional building process (Phase II – 2012 to 2013). Following a rapid surge and apparent early advances in MSP discussions (Phase III - 2014), the final (current) Phase IV can be characterized by the quiescence of the innovation process led by federal government, and the rise in numbers and diversity of agents in the MSP policy arena. It is noted with this analysis that Brazil is behind the international schedule on MSP, as it is still struggling in the ‘articulation and framing phase’. The analysis of thirty-four challenges and opportunities identified in this trajectory shows that improving functional capacities to govern (governability) the ocean in Brazil will require all actors to: (1) streamline cross-network knowledge-exchange to improve the nascent MSP arena; (2) further understand institutional dynamics impeding policy integration; (3) foster a more symmetrically responsive ocean governance arena; (4) promote coordinated scaling through principle-based policy-building and; (5) strengthening critical but proactive civil society participation at multiple, interrelated area-based ocean governance innovation frontlines. The accumulated capacities shared by existing knowledge-to-action networks in Brazil may render the emerging arena a dynamic, creative, and regional ocean learning experiment.
The Philippines is often highlighted as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, yet surveys of reef-associated fishes in this region rarely extend beyond shallow habitats. Here, we improve the understanding of fish species diversity and distribution patterns in the Philippines by analyzing data from mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs; 30–150 m depth) obtained via mixed-gas rebreather diving and baited remote underwater video surveys. A total of 277 fish species from 50 families was documented, which includes thirteen newly discovered and undescribed species. There were 27 new records for the Philippines and 110 depth range extensions, indicating that many reef fishes have a broader geographic distribution and greater depth limits than previously reported. High taxonomic beta-diversity, mainly associated with family and genus turnover with depth, and significant effects of traits such as species body size, mobility and geographic range with maximum recorded depth, were observed. These results suggest that MCEs are characterized by unique assemblages with distinct ecological and biogeographic traits. A high proportion (60.5%) of the fish species are targeted by fishing, suggesting that Philippine MCEs are as vulnerable to overfishing as shallow reefs. Our findings support calls to expand conservation efforts beyond shallow reefs and draw attention to the need to explicitly include deep reefs in marine protected areas to help preserve the unique biodiversity of MCEs in the Philippines.
Small-scale marine fisheries in Tanzania provide the main source of subsistence for coastal communities, yet due to poor management, they have been overexploited for decades. These coastal fisheries have historically been described as homogeneous in gear-use and fish community makeup. Yet, regional and local variability in the characteristics of these fishing communities was recently identified with community-based fisheries-dependent data. We proposed a flexible modeling approach that incorporated local monitoring data with spatial data to predict the spatial characteristics of the marine fisheries in Tanzania. The spatial models identified relationships between fishery landings and coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove habitat patch attributes, along with fisher density and a hydrologic index. Furthermore, the predicted spatial characteristics matched previously reported fishery characteristics in both districts. The maps developed by our modeling process provide a means for stakeholders and managers to understand the spatial distribution of their fisheries and in turn, focus on explicitly managing what, how, and where fishers operate. Overall, the flexible modeling approach developed here may act as a first step in incorporating local monitoring data into co-management frameworks, which may promote more sustainable fisheries management strategies in data-poor regions.
While the physical dimensions of climate change are now routinely assessed through multimodel intercomparisons, projected impacts on the global ocean ecosystem generally rely on individual models with a specific set of assumptions. To address these single-model limitations, we present standardized ensemble projections from six global marine ecosystem models forced with two Earth system models and four emission scenarios with and without fishing. We derive average biomass trends and associated uncertainties across the marine food web. Without fishing, mean global animal biomass decreased by 5% (±4% SD) under low emissions and 17% (±11% SD) under high emissions by 2100, with an average 5% decline for every 1 °C of warming. Projected biomass declines were primarily driven by increasing temperature and decreasing primary production, and were more pronounced at higher trophic levels, a process known as trophic amplification. Fishing did not substantially alter the effects of climate change. Considerable regional variation featured strong biomass increases at high latitudes and decreases at middle to low latitudes, with good model agreement on the direction of change but variable magnitude. Uncertainties due to variations in marine ecosystem and Earth system models were similar. Ensemble projections performed well compared with empirical data, emphasizing the benefits of multimodel inference to project future outcomes. Our results indicate that global ocean animal biomass consistently declines with climate change, and that these impacts are amplified at higher trophic levels. Next steps for model development include dynamic scenarios of fishing, cumulative human impacts, and the effects of management measures on future ocean biomass trends.
Marine protected areas are advocated as a key strategy for simultaneously protecting marine biodiversity and supporting coastal livelihoods, but their implementation can be challenging for numerous reasons, including perceived negative effects on human well-being. We synthesized research from 118 peer-reviewed articles that analyse outcomes related to marine protected areas on people, and found that half of documented well-being outcomes were positive and about one-third were negative. No-take, well-enforced and old marine protected areas had positive human well-being outcomes, which aligns with most findings from ecological studies. Marine protected areas with single zones had more positive effects on human well-being than areas with multiple zones. Most studies focused on economic and governance aspects of well-being, leaving social, health and cultural domains understudied. Well-being outcomes arose from direct effects of marine protected area governance processes or management actions and from indirect effects mediated by changes in the ecosystem. Our findings illustrate that both human well-being and biodiversity conservation can be improved through marine protected areas, yet negative impacts commonly co-occur with benefits.
Restricting human activities through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is assumed to create more resilient biological communities with a greater capacity to resist and recover following climate events. Here we review the evidence linking protection from local pressures (e.g., fishing and habitat destruction) with increased resilience. Despite strong theoretical underpinnings, studies have only rarely attributed resilience responses to the recovery of food webs and habitats, and increases in the diversity of communities and populations. When detected, resistance to ocean warming and recovery after extreme events in MPAs have small effect sizes against a backdrop of natural variability. By contrast, large die-offs are well described from MPAs following climate stress events. This may be in part because protection from one set of pressures or drivers (such as fishing) can select for species that are highly sensitive to others (such as warming), creating a ‘Protection Paradox’. Given that climate change is overwhelming the resilience capacity of marine ecosystems, the only primary solution is to reduce carbon emissions. High-quality monitoring data in both space and time can also identify emergent resilience signals that do exist, in combination with adequate reference data to quantify the initial system state. This knowledge will allow networks of diverse protected areas to incorporate spatial refugiaagainst climate change, and identify resilient biological components of natural systems. Sufficient spatial replication further offers insurance against losses in any given MPA, and the possibility for many weak signals of resilience to accumulate.
The world's coral reefs are rapidly transforming, with decreasing coral cover and new species configurations. These new Anthropocene reefs pose a challenge for conservation; we can no longer rely on established management plans and actions designed to maintain the status quo when coral reef habitats, and the challenges they faced, were very different. The key questions now are: what do we want to conserve on Anthropocene reefs, why, and how? Trends in reef management over recent decades reveal rapid shifts in perceived threats, goals and solutions. Future reefs will be unlike anything previously seen by humans, and while their ability to support tourism or fisheries may be relatively resilient, our capacity to manage them may be constrained by their new species configurations. Furthermore, there is a growing spatial mismatch between the escalating scale of threats and current or planned responses. We present a blueprint for future reef conservation that recognizes the need to better understand the processes that maintain Anthropocene reefs, and the growing imperative to reform conservation efforts to address both specific local issues and larger-scale threats. The future of coral reef conservation is no longer one solely of localized action and stewardship; it requires practices and institutions operating at far larger scales than today.
Science-based marine aquaculture, or mariculture, is expanding around the world. Nonetheless, how scientists engage in mariculture planning, and why particular types of data are used to inform development decision-making, is less clear. In the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, coastal managers and scientists embarked on an ambitious effort to establish shellfish farming and created a thriving mariculture industry. This study draws upon in-depth interviews with scientists, government officials, and shellfish growers to better understand the social forces that affected scientific engagement in mariculture planning in Santa Catarina. From agronomic insights about shellfish growth to microbiological understanding of pathogenic threats to seafood, wide-ranging types of science could inform mariculture planning. Our data show marked differences in 1) the involvement of scientists based on their disciplinary expertise and 2) the use of production versus impact or risk-related data to support decision-making. Utilizing conceptual insights from sociological study of science and institutions, we show how normative, cultural-cognitive, and regulative forces influence both scientists’ involvement in planning and the use of scientific data to inform mariculture-related decisions. Most notably, asymmetries appear in the effects of norms related to methodological practices among scientists focused on enhancing shellfish production versus those investigating potential health and environmental concerns. Cultural differences among scientists from different disciplines also affected their inclination to collaborate with government officials and growers. Finally, ambiguities in mariculture-related regulations led to the differential involvement of scientists, in particular hindering investigations focused on seafood safety and public health. These results illustrate that social forces influence how science is practiced and that this, in turn, shapes the course of science-based mariculture development. Given their key social role, broader sociological investigation of scientists as social actors could provide valuable insights to those seeking to ensure coastal development is both socially and ecologically sustainable.
Plastic waste has been documented in nearly all types of marine environments and has been found in species spanning all levels of marine food webs. Within these marine environments, deep pelagic waters encompass the largest ecosystems on Earth. We lack a comprehensive understanding of the concentrations, cycling, and fate of plastic waste in sub-surface waters, constraining our ability to implement effective, large-scale policy and conservation strategies. We used remotely operated vehicles and engineered purpose-built samplers to collect and examine the distribution of microplastics in the Monterey Bay pelagic ecosystem at water column depths ranging from 5 to 1000 m. Laser Raman spectroscopy was used to identify microplastic particles collected from throughout the deep pelagic water column, with the highest concentrations present at depths between 200 and 600 m. Examination of two abundant particle feeders in this ecosystem, pelagic red crabs (Pleuroncodes planipes) and giant larvaceans (Bathochordaeus stygius), showed that microplastic particles readily flow from the environment into coupled water column and seafloor food webs. Our findings suggest that one of the largest and currently underappreciated reservoirs of marine microplastics may be contained within the water column and animal communities of the deep sea.
The expectations on marine spatial planning to improve environmental governance of the Baltic Sea are high, not least for helping to close the huge gaps between environmental objectives and the state of the marine environment. This article focuses on the on-going implementation of marine spatial planning in Sweden, well-known to be a forerunner in environmental policy. Aiming to identify governance recommendations, the study analyses how the first consultation document for the Baltic Sea may complement existing governance systems and promote gap closure. A particular focus is placed on the potential impact of the plan on the implementation of an ecosystem approach to management (EAM) and how these issues are regarded by involved stakeholders. It is shown that the planning process promotes participation, but that the studied plan as such most likely does not significantly help to close any larger environmental goal-state gaps. A number of recommendations on how to develop the plan are discussed, but significant improvements require broader governance reforms, in particular concerning coordination and integration in relation to legislation on other marine and water strategies, as well as policies and laws for fisheries, agriculture and industrial chemicals. Major policy development is thus needed in order to allow marine spatial planning in Sweden, and most likely in several other geographical areas as well, to significantly help closing goal-state gaps in the future.
East Asia encompasses six large marine ecosystems (LME): the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea, the Sulu-Celebes Sea, and the Indonesian Sea. Despite occupying only 3 percent of the world’s ocean surface, portions of this area are considered to be the global center of marine biodiversity. Since the early 1990s, Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) has refined the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) methodology and fostered a collaborative, partnership approach in the region to implement sustainable coastal and ocean development of these LMEs. ICM provided the foundational delivery system promoting interdisciplinary approaches and cooperation among users and beneficiaries to address complex development issues. While addressing marine pollution at the beginning, it became obvious that it had to be tackled in the context of the whole marine environment and sustainable development. PEMSEA developed and adopted the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA) as the regional policy instrument from which countries of the region and other partners, individually or in groups, could apply the action programmes relevant to them. This in-depth review article describes the evolution of PEMSEA from a regional marine pollution project to an international organization, highlighting key developments, such as the SDS-SEA, the ICM Code, and the Ocean Investment Service, as well the advancement of ICM throughout the East Asian region and the adoption of the State of Oceans and Coasts reporting system to track progress. Looking forward, we summarize a United Nations Environment and IOC-UNESCO assessment of the current baseline status of these East Asian LMEs to examine future key areas for intervention by PEMSEA.
Coral reefs are among the world’s most endangered ecosystems. Coral mortality can result from ocean warming or other climate-related events such as coral bleaching and intense hurricanes. While resilient coral reefs can recover from these impacts as has been documented in coral reefs throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, no similar reef-wide recovery has ever been reported for the Caribbean. Climate change-related coral mortality is unavoidable, but local management actions can improve conditions for regrowth and for the establishment of juvenile corals thereby enhancing the recovery resilience of these ecosystems. Previous research has determined that coral reefs with sufficient herbivory limit macroalgae and improve conditions for coral recruitment and regrowth. Management that reduces algal abundance increases the recovery potential for both juvenile and adult corals on reefs. Every other year on the island of Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean, we quantified patterns of distribution and abundance of reef fish, coral, algae, and juvenile corals along replicate fixed transects at 10 m depth at multiple sites from 2003 to 2017. Beginning with our first exploratory study in 2002 until 2007 coral was abundant (45% cover) and macroalgae were rare (6% cover). Consecutive disturbances, beginning with Hurricane Omar in October 2008 and a coral bleaching event in October 2010, resulted in a 22% decline in coral cover and a sharp threefold increase in macroalgal cover to 18%. Juvenile coral densities declined to about half of their previous abundance. Herbivorous parrotfishes had been declining in abundance but stabilized around 2010, the year fish traps were phased out and fishing for parrotfish was banned. The average parrotfish biomass from 2010 to 2017 was more than twice that reported for coral reefs of the Eastern Caribbean. During this same period, macroalgae declined and both juvenile coral density and total adult coral cover returned to pre-hurricane and bleaching levels. To our knowledge, this is the first example of a resilient Caribbean coral reef ecosystem that fully recovered from severe climate-related mortality events.
Cellular agriculture is defined as the production of agricultural products from cell cultures rather than from whole plants or animals. With growing interest in cellular agriculture as a means to address public health, environmental, and animal welfare challenges of animal agriculture, the concept of producing seafood from fish cell- and tissue-cultures is emerging as an approach to address similar challenges with industrial aquaculture systems and marine capture. Cell-based seafood—as opposed to animal-based seafood—can combine developments in biomedical engineering with modern aquaculture techniques. Biomedical engineering developments such as closed-system bioreactor production of land animal cells create a basis for the large scale production of marine animal cells. Aquaculture techniques such as genetic modification and closed system aquaculture have achieved significant gains in production that can pave the way for innovations in cell-based seafood production. Here, we present the current state of innovation relevant to the development of cell-based seafood across multiple species, as well as specific opportunities and challenges that exist for advancing this science. The authors find that the physiological properties of fish cell- and tissue- culture may be uniquely suited to cultivation in vitro. These physiological properties, including tolerance to hypoxia, high buffering capacity, and low-temperature growth conditions, make marine cell culture an attractive opportunity for scaled production of cell-based seafood; perhaps even more so than mammalian and avian cell cultures for cell-based meats. This opportunity, coupled with the unique capabilities of crustacean tissue-friendly scaffolding such as chitosan, a common seafood waste product and mushroom derivative, presents promise for cell-based seafood production via bioreactor cultivation. To become fully realized, cell-based seafood research will require more understanding of fish muscle cell and tissue cultivation; more investigation into serum-free media formulations optimized for fish cell culture; and bioreactor designs tuned to the needs of fish cells for large scale production.
As a crisis sector, marine conservation needs continuous public scrutiny to maintain much-needed transparency, accountability, and to secure public trust. Such opportunities for public scrutiny can be ensured through independent, objective and critical journalism (Johns and Jacquet, 2018). However, mainstream media and other journalistic platforms often rely on communication professionals working at marine conservation groups for information and expertise related to marine conservation issues. It is therefore crucial that communication professionals at conservation groups have a professional code of conduct that encourages dissemination of objective truth about conservation efforts and does not prevent journalists from carrying out their duties to serve the public interest...
Marine biodiversity is under increasing threat as the area covered by corals diminishes under pressure from climate change and human activities, most of which lead to marine pollution. In Kenya, marine protected areas (MPAs) are the key strategy used to protect coral reefs and biodiversity. However, MPAs' effectiveness to prevent pollution of the reefs has not been specifically assessed. We determined if the levels of surrogates of human-source pollution, i.e., E. coli and nutrient concentrations on Kenyan coral reefs, varied with increasing levels of marine protection at the Kilifi creek (least protection), Malindi Reserve (moderate protection), and Kuruwitu Conservancy (strictest protection). The most probable number (MPN) of E. coli was estimated by serial dilution while nitrate and orthophosphate concentrations were determined spectrophotometrically. As protection increased from “least,” to “moderate” and “strictest,” E. coli concentrations (MPN/100 mL) decreased from 29, to 16 and undetectable, while mean orthophosphate concentrations increased from 0.326, to 0.422 and 0.524 mg/L, respectively. Mean nitrate concentrations, on the other hand, showed no trend with protection. These results suggest the potential of marine protection to mitigate coral reef pollution, especially from microbes. They also point to the possibility that multiple sources of pollution exist on which marine protection may have little or no effect. Significantly, this pilot study points to the need for improved study design to definitively determine the role MPAs may play in protecting against pollution.
Seagrass meadows play a key ecological role as nursery and feeding grounds for multiple fish species. Underwater Visual Census (UVC) has been historically used as the non-extractive method to characterize seagrass fish communities, however, less intrusive methodologies such as Remote Underwater Video (RUV) are gaining interest and could be particularly useful for seagrass habitats, where juvenile fish camouflage among the vegetation and could easily hide or flee from divers. Here we compared the performance of UVC and RUV methodologies in assessing the fish communities of two seagrass meadows with low and high canopy density. We found that RUV detected more species and fish individuals than UVC, particularly on the habitat with higher seagrass density, which sheltered more juveniles, especially herbivorous, and adult piscivorous of commercial importance, evidencing significant differences in energy flow from macrophytes to predators between seagrass habitats, and also differences in the ecosystem services they can provide. Considering the ongoing worldwide degradation of seagrass ecosystems, our results strongly suggest that fish surveys using RUV in ecologic and fisheries programs would render more accurate information and would be more adequate to inform the conservation planning of seagrass meadows around the world.
Analysis of data from vessel monitoring systems and automated identification systems in large-scale fisheries is used to describe the spatial distribution of effort, impact on habitats, and location of fishing grounds. To identify when and where fishing activities occur, analysis needs to take account of different fishing practices in different fleets. Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) vessels have generally been exempted from positional reporting requirements, but recent developments of compact low-cost systems offer the potential to monitor them effectively. To characterize the spatial distribution of fishing activities in SSFs, positions should be collected with sufficient frequency to allow detection of different fishing behaviours, while minimizing demands for data transmission, storage, and analysis. This study sought to suggest optimal rates of data collection to characterize fishing activities at appropriate spatial resolution. In a SSF case study, on-board observers collected Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) position and fishing activity every second during each trip. In analysis, data were re-sampled to lower temporal resolutions to evaluate the effect on the identification of number of hauls and area fished. The effect of estimation at different spatial resolutions was also explored. Consistent results were found for polling intervals <60 s in small vessels and <120 in medium and large vessels. Grid cell size of 100 × 100 m resulted in best estimations of area fished. Remote collection and analysis of GNSS or equivalent data at low cost and sufficient resolution to infer small-scale fisheries activities. This has significant implications globally for sustainable management of these fisheries, many of which are currently unregulated.
Coastal systems are among the most studied, most vulnerable, and economically most important ecosystems on Earth; nevertheless, little attention has been paid, so far, to the consequences of human activities on the shallow sea-floor of these environments. Here, we present a quantitative assessment of the effects of human actions on the floor of the tidal channels from the Venice Lagoon using 2500 kilometres of full coverage multibeam bathymetric mapping. Such extended dataset provides unprecedented evidence of pervasive human impacts, which extend far beyond the well known shrinking of salt marshes and artificial modifications of inlet geometries. Direct and indirect human imprints include dredging marks and fast-growing scours around anthropogenic structures built to protect the historical city of Venice from flooding. In addition, we document multiple effects of ship traffic (propeller-wash erosion, keel ploughing) and diffuse littering on the sea-floor. Particularly relevant, in view of the ongoing interventions on the lagoon morphology, is the evidence of the rapid morphological changes affecting the sea-floor and threatening the stability of anthropogenic structures.