In recent years the European Union has firmly committed itself to energy from oceans as a means of decarbonising the European energy system. Despite a favourable political landscape, the development of offshore renewables still faces economic and technological barriers, which are coupled with the inherent difficulties of an increasingly industrialised marine environment, such as complex evolving regulation, lack of knowledge regarding the possible environmental impact of such an activity, as well as spatial conflicts with other traditional and emerging uses. Most of the coastal Member States have adopted Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) as a fundamental tool for integrated and sustainable management of human activities in the marine environment. MSP is capable of definitively driving the use of offshore renewable facilities. Its proper application supports decision making, simplifies and accelerates the process of obtaining permits, improves compatibility of uses, integrates stakeholders in planning, prevents environmental deterioration of sensitive areas, enhances the availability of information and promotes cross-border co-operation. This paper aims to evaluate the influence of maritime spatial planning processes on the advance of blue energy within the framework of the European Union. The results show positive relationships between MSP and the development of offshore renewable energy in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Microplastics are abundant in semi-enclosed seas, presumably because of local trapping. To investigate this trapping effect, we confronted the SLIM plastic oceanography model with field data of the distribution of microplastics in the Bohai Sea, China. Seven source locations were selected to reveal the fate of plastic debris from industrial and domestic usages. The model predictions compared well with the observed distribution of microplastics, highlighting that most plastics were trapped in the Bohai Sea. The model suggests that microplastics distribution within the Bohai Sea both in the water and on the bottom varies seasonally with wind and currents and depends on a complex interaction between source locations, prevailing hydrodynamic conditions, degradation, settling and resuspension rates. Further field studies are warranted to enable the models to better parameterize the fate of microplastics, and particularly the accumulation zones, in other poorly flushed semi-enclosed seas worldwide, where microplastics should be classified as a persistent pollutant.
Between 2010 and 2016, the Orkney Islands Council, Highland Council and Marine Scotland have collaborated to develop a pilot Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters in Scotland. This paper explores the challenges of marine spatial planning processes by looking at the possibilities for fisheries communities to mobilize their social capital – in the form of bonding, bridging or linking – in order to re-position and to empower themselves in these processes. This paper aims to uncover the resilience of local communities that deploy social capital in order to influence MSP processes and safeguard their own interests. For this article ten weeks of qualitative fieldwork in the form of in-depth interviews and participant observation with stakeholders of the pilot marine spatial plan were conducted on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The strong bonding social capital among fishermen in Orkney has resulted in a resilient community identity which allows for collaboration and self-organization, but also creates a defensive mentality which does not favor linking. Furthermore, a lack of trust in governmental authorities inhibits the mobilization of linking social capital among fishermen, obstructing the ability to access power through cross-scale connections. In response the fisheries community uses bridging social capital outside governance arenas to access networks and mobilize resources to strengthen its socio-economic and political position in support of future linking social capital. Researching this complex interrelation and functioning of social capital uncovers some of the social dimensions and socio-institutional constraints for fisheries engagement with and power in marine spatial planning.
A 3 year monitoring programme, realized in a citizen science context, from 2014 until 2016, allowed us to gather information on the prevalent quantities and qualities of anthropogenic waste in five Mediterranean coastal areas within the Pelagos Sanctuary, three of them located in Liguria, near La Spezia Gulf, and the other two in Tuscany. Here, we present results concerning the Polymeric Articles’ abundances registered during the survey. Moreover, we show the results of the first study devoted to describe and quantify the anthropogenic content of the nest of a pair of Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus), a pelagic bird that, starting from some years, has been reproducing regularly in La Spezia Gulf. This breeding is atypical for this species, as is associated with artificial structures such as piers, floating docks, or boats; the material used in the construction of the nest reflects the “anthropogenic” link with the chosen location and objects of polymeric origin in particular abound. We detect the existence of a correlation between the most abundant types of Anthropogenic Marine Debris found in the Northern Gannet’ nest (fragments of polypropylene nets) and one of the productive activities of the zones.
Development of guidance for environmental management of the deep-sea mining industry is important as contractors plan to move from exploration to exploitation activities. Two priorities for environmental management are monitoring and mitigating the impacts and effects of activities. International regulation of deep-sea mining activities stipulates the creation of two types of zones for local monitoring within a claim, impact reference zones (IRZ) and preservation reference zones (PRZ). The approach used for allocating and assessing these zones will affect what impacts can be measured, and hence taken into account and managed. This paper recommends key considerations for establishing these reference zones for polymetallic nodule mining. We recommend that zones should be suitably large (Recommendation 1) and have sufficient separation (R2) to allow for repeat monitoring of representative impacted and control sites. Zones should be objectively defined following best-practice and statistically robust approaches (R3). This will include the designation of multiple PRZ and IRZ (R4) for each claim. PRZs should be representative of the mined area, and thus should contain high -quality resource (R5) but PRZs in other habitats could also be valuable (R6). Sediment plumes will influence design of PRZ and may need additional IRZ to monitor their effects (R7), which may extend beyond the boundaries of a claim (R8). The impacts of other expected changes should be taken into account (R9). Sharing PRZ design, placement, and monitoring could be considered amongst adjacent claims (R10). Monitoring should be independently verified to enhance public trust and stakeholder support (R11).
Rapid ocean warming as a result of climate change poses a key risk for coral reefs. Even if the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are achieved, coral reefs are likely to decline by 70–90% relative to their current abundance by midcentury. Although alarming, coral communities that survive will play a key role in the regeneration of reefs by mid-to-late century. Here, we argue for a coordinated, global coral reef conservation strategy that is centred on 50 large (500 km2) regions that are the least vulnerable to climate change and which are positioned to facilitate future coral reef regeneration. The proposed strategy and actions should strengthen and expand existing conservation efforts for coral reefs as we face the long-term consequences of intensifying climate change.
This paper extends criminological interpretations of risky facilities to focus on how illegal fishing is concentrated in a small number of places in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia. Testing the applicability of the general hypothesis of risky facilities – that crime is highly concentrated among certain people, places and things – the results demonstrate that the spatial distribution of poaching in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park reflects previous environmental criminology studies which show that crime is concentrated in a small number of places. Poaching risk increases in no-take zones which share a number of homogenous characteristics that also attract legitimate routine activity. Our findings lend support to the emerging environmental criminology literature which examines wildlife crime through the lens of opportunity. Such an approach provides conservation practitioners with an established framework for developing prevention-based compliance management strategies in marine protected areas.
Reactions of singing behavior of individual humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) to a specific shipping noise were examined. Two autonomous recorders separated by 3.0 km were used for the acoustic monitoring of each individual song sequence. A passenger-cargo liner was operated once per day, and other large ship noise was excluded given the remote location of the Ogasawara Islands, 1000 km south of Tokyo. In total, locations of between 26 and 27 singers were measured acoustically using time arrival difference at both stereo recorders on the ship presence and absence days, respectively. Source level of the ship (157 dB rms re 1μPa) was measured separately in deep water. Fewer whales sang nearby, within 500 m, of the shipping lane. Humpback whales reduced sound production after the ship passed, when the minimum distance to the whale from the ship trajectory was 1200 m. In the Ogasawara water, humpback whales seemed to stop singing temporarily rather than modifying sound characteristics of their song such as through frequency shifting or source level elevation. This could be a cost effective adaptation because the propagation loss at 500 m from the sound source is as high as 54 dB. The focal ship was 500 m away within several minutes. Responses may differ where ship traffic is heavy, because avoiding an approaching ship may be difficult when many sound sources exist.
Unprecedented and rapid changes are ongoing in northern high latitude, marine ecosystems, due to climate warming. Species distributions and abundances are changing, altering both ecosystem structure and dynamics. At the same time, human impacts are increasing. Less sea ice opens for the opportunity of more petroleum-related activities, shipping and tourism. Fisheries are moving into previously unfished habitats, targeting more species across more trophic levels. There is a need for ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) and ecosystem-based management (EBM) to take the rapid, climate driven changes into account. Recently, there has been much development in qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative scientific approaches to support EBFM and EBM. Here, we present some of these approaches, and discuss how they provide opportunities for advancing EBFM and EBM in one high-latitude system, namely the Barents Sea. We propose that advancing EBFM and EBM is more about adding tools to the toolbox than replacing tools, and to use the tools in coordinated efforts to tackle the increasing complexities in scientific support to management. Collaborative and participatory processes among stakeholders and scientists are pivotal for both scoping and prioritizing, and for efficient knowledge exchange. Finally, we argue that increasing uncertainty with increasing complexity is fundamental to decision making in EBFM and EBM and needs to be handled, rather than being a reason for inaction or irrelevance.
Carrying capacity models for aquaculture have increased in complexity over the last decades, partly because aquaculture growth, sustainability, and licensing are themselves extremely complex. Moreover, there is an asymmetric pattern to all these components, when considered from an international perspective, because of very different regulation and governance of the aquaculture sector in Asia, Europe, and America. Two case studies were used, from Long Island Sound in the United States, and Belfast Lough, in Europe, to examine the interactions between cultivated shellfish and other autochthonous benthic filter-feeders. The objective is to illustrate how such interactions can be incorporated in system-scale ecological models and analyzed from the perspective of ecological carrying capacity. Two different models are described, one based on equations that relate the filtration rate of the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria to physiological and population factors and one based on a habitat-specific analysis of multiple species of benthic filter-feeders. Both types of models have relative advantages and challenges, and both were integrated in ecosystem modeling frameworks with substantial numbers of state variables representing physical and biogeochemical processes. These models were applied to (1) examine the relative role of the two components (cultivated and wild) in the filtration of particulate organic matter (both phytoplankton and organic detritus), (2) quantify the effect of wild species on harvest of cultivated organisms (eastern oyster and blue mussel), and (3) assess the role of organically extractive aquaculture and other filter-feeders on top–down control of eutrophication.
Gear selectivity and discards are important issues related to fisheries management but separately modelled. This work examines for the first time the overall size-selection pattern on the total amount of individuals of a species entering the trawl codend. An innovative approach was used based on modelling the escapement through the codend in the sea and the subsequently selection process by the fisher on the deck of the fishing vessel resulting into the discards and landings. Three different trawl codends and three species were investigated in the case study conducted. A dual sequential model accounting for both gear size-selectivity and the subsequent fisher-size-selectivity was applied, under the hypothesis that a fish entering the codend can follow a multinomial distribution with three probabilities, the escape, the discard and the landing probability, respectively. The model described the escape probability through the gear and the landing probability by the fisher as S-shaped curves leading to a bell-shaped curve for the discard probability affected by both gear and fisher selection. The model described well the experimental data in all cases. Sampling scheme of three compartments proved adequate. The model provides at the same time selectivity and discards parameters useful in fisheries management.
The appetite for ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) approaches has grown, but the perception persists that implementation is slow. Here, we synthesize progress toward implementing EBFM in the United States through one potential avenue: expanding fish stock assessments to include ecosystem considerations and interactions between species, fleets, and sectors. We reviewed over 200 stock assessments and assessed how the stock assessment reports included information about system influences on the assessed stock. Our goals were to quantify whether and how assessments incorporated broader system-level considerations, and to explore factors that might contribute to the use of system-level information. Interactions among fishing fleets (technical interactions) were more commonly included than biophysical interactions (species, habitat, climate). Interactions within the physical environment (habitat, climate) were included twice as often as interactions among species (predation). Many assessment reports included ecological interactions only as background or qualitative considerations, rather than incorporating them in the assessment model. Our analyses suggested that ecosystem characteristics are more likely to be included when the species was overfished (stock status), the assessment is conducted at a science centre with a longstanding stomach contents analysis program, and/or the species life history characteristics suggest it is likely to be influenced by the physical environment, habitat, or predation mortality (short-lived species, sessile benthic species, or low trophic-level species). Regional differences in stomach contents analysis programs may limit the inclusion of predation mortality in stock assessments, and more guidance is needed on best practices for the prioritization of when and how biophysical information should be considered. However, our results demonstrate that significant progress has been made to use best available science and data to expand single-species stock assessments, particularly when a broad definition of EBFM is applied.
Aquatic ecosystems are under severe pressure. Human activities introduce an array of pressures that impact ecosystems and their components. In this study we focus on the aquatic domains of fresh, coastal and marine waters, including rivers, lakes and riparian habitats to transitional, coastal as well as shelf and oceanic habitats. In an environmental risk assessment approach, we identified impact chains that link 45 human activities through 31 pressures to 82 ecosystem components. In this linkage framework >22,000 activity-pressure-ecosystem component interactions were found across seven European case studies. We identified the environmental impact risk posed by each impact chain by first categorically weighting the interactions according to five criteria: spatial extent, dispersal potential, frequency of interaction, persistence of pressure and severity of the interaction, where extent, dispersal, frequency and persistence account for the exposure to risk (spatial and temporal), and the severity accounts for the consequence of the risk. After assigning a numerical score to each risk criterion, we came up with an overall environmental impact risk score for each impact chain. This risk score was analysed in terms of (1) the activities and pressures that introduce the greatest risk to European aquatic domains, and (2) the aquatic ecosystem components and realms that are at greatest risk from human activities. Activities related to energy production were relevant across the aquatic domains. Fishing was highly relevant in marine and environmental engineering in fresh waters. Chemical and physical pressures introduced the greatest risk to the aquatic realms. Ecosystem components that can be seen as ecotones between different ecosystems had high impact risk. We show how this information can be used in informing management on trade-offs in freshwater, coastal and marine resource use and aid decision-making.
Understanding the biogeochemical cycles and distribution of trace elements in the marine environment is one of the main challenges in chemical oceanography. We describe herein the trace metal composition of the uppermost surface ocean of various oceanographic regions (Arctic and Southern Oceans, subtropical Atlantic Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea). Our results show that trace metals in the top meter of the ocean are found in two clearly differentiated layers according to metal abundance and stoichiometry, namely the surface microlayer (SML) and its underlying subsurface water (SSW). Although metal concentrations in the subsurface dissolved fractions vary regionally and globally, it shows a singular metal stoichiometric signature. This work emphasizes the need to study of the SML as unique compartment to improve our understanding of the biogeochemical cycle of trace metals in the surface ocean, especially for metals, such as Pb, Fe and Cu, which are abundant in the SML.
Ecosystem based management (EBM) is an ocean management theory that examines an ecosystem holistically, accounting for both human uses and natural processes. EBM has gained popularity due to growing conflicts over ocean space, fueled by increasing demands for natural resources and a rising awareness for environmental values. EBM asserts that by scoping short-term natural resource exploitation to allow for the preservation of the ecosystem's core structure and function, sustainable long-term exploitation can be achieved. Therefore, determining the ecosystem's structure and function is a main tenet to EBM. To translate EBM theory to practice, important ecological areas, or “ecological hotspots,” are identified to understand the core ecosystem spaces that drive overall function. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a process in which to operationalize EBM theory, including ecological hotspots. The literature has taken time to assess EBM from the theoretical perspective, however few studies exist that examine EBM-MSP interactions as EBM theory is translated into practice and secondly compare approaches across countries. This paper focuses on a comparative analysis of how ecological hotspots were (or are being) identified within two ecosystems, the Barents Sea and Gulf of Maine. The EBM ocean plans to be assessed are the Norwegian Barents Sea-Lofoten ocean management plan (BSMP) and the U.S. Northeast Ocean Plan (NEOP). It is found that the motivating factors that prompted the development of the BSMP and NEOP influenced when and how quickly ecological hotspots were determined. This paper aims to contribute to the discussion revolving around how EBM-MSP decision-making processes are operationalized.
There is large variation across countries regarding their use of marine protected areas (MPAs) for conservation or sustainable management purposes. This is the first in-depth econometric analysis that makes use of a large panel dataset to identify the key socio-economic and geographical factors that correlate strongly with the extent of MPA coverage. The findings provide strong evidence of an Environmental Kuznets Curve in the domain of MPAs ‒ i.e. MPA coverage (as a share of total territorial waters) initially declines as average income per capita rises, but then starts increasing above a relatively low threshold level of economic development. This also holds when using the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme in place of the level of (real) GDP per capita. There is also consistent evidence suggesting that democracy and population density are strong (positive and negative respectively) correlates of MPA coverage.
Fisheries have historically focused on single-species management, but there is a global movement to incorporate ecosystem-based processes. Marine protected areas (MPAs) offer an important management tool for enhancing ecosystem structure and function. This study investigated whether a non-lethal indicator of trophic position (TP) could be used to evaluate fishery health in southern California MPAs. We hypothesized that a common predator, kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus), would occupy a higher TP and smaller niche space inside MPAs than at fished reference sites, and that these patterns would be supported by trends in abundance and gut contents. Stable isotope analysis of nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) were used to estimate the TP and niche space of kelp bass (N = 125) collected inside and outside of four MPAs during summer 2016–2017. Although all MPA sites supported a significantly higher biomass of kelp bass than reference sites, there was no consistent pattern in TP and niche space inside versus outside of MPAs. Gut contents showed that exploitation of ephemeral pelagic foods may reduce localized effects of MPAs on prey availability for this species. Our findings suggest that MPAs will not have consistent impacts on food web dynamics for higher level generalist predators and that ecosystem-level responses to protection may vary across locations within a bioregion. These results emphasize the importance of accounting for site-specific differences in food web structure before applying ecosystem-based metrics to fishery management.
Sea-level change around southern Africa (southern Namibia, South Africa, southern Mozambique) since Termination I has been quantified using a variety of indicators. Existing and new data are reviewed to provide a baseline for future studies and identify key research needs and opportunities in the region. While the southern African records broadly agree with other far-field records, detailed Holocene records present as-yet unresolved discrepancies with glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) model predictions. Two domains, the west coast and east coast are considered. Radiocarbon dated saltmarsh facies and marine shells in life position provide the basis for the west coast sea-level curve back to 9 ka BP. Given the age and elevation uncertainties, a Mid-Holocene highstand of +2 to +4 m is suggested between 7.3 and 6 ka BP, as are several Late Holocene oscillations of <1 m amplitude. On the east coast, fewer data are available for the Mid to Late Holocene (post 7 ka BP) compared to the west, but many submerged indicators are available back to 13 ka BP. Reappraisal of existing data suggests a sea-level curve similar to that of the west coast. In both instances, the resolution of existing sea-level index points is neither sufficient to accurately constrain the magnitude and timing of the peak highstand nor the existence of minor inferred subsequent oscillations. Between 13 and 7 cal ka BP chronological and geomorphological evidence (submerged shoreline complexes) suggest several alternating periods of slow and rapid sea-level change. Despite abundant data, the indicator resolution to quantify these changes remains elusive.
We have assembled a database of Relative Sea Level (RSL) data points from the eastern coast of Canada from Hudson Bay to the border with the USA. In compiling this database we have critically reviewed 1092 radiocarbon dated samples from raised beaches, isolation basins, intertidal and marine deposits, and archaeological indicators to produce 405 sea-level index points and 687 sea-level limiting points. Our comprehensive, systematic, and quality-controlled RSL database allowed for the reconstruction of the postglacial evolution of 34 regions of eastern Canada providing new basin-scale insights into the processes driving RSL changes in the last ∼16 ka. The combination of a database of sea-level index points with an innovative empirical-Bayesian spatio-temporal statistical model provided new insights into rates and magnitude of the spatially-variable glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), which dominated the postglacial RSL evolution in this sector of North America. A continuous postglacial RSL fall is observed at latitudes ≥ ∼50° N with higher rates (up to 35 mm a−1) recorded in southeastern Hudson Bay. At lower latitudes, the evolution is non-monotonic with RSL that dropped to a spatially variable early-Holocene lowstand, followed by a mid-Holocene highstand and, eventually, a gradual drop to present RSL. This pattern is particularly evident in the St Lawrence corridor. Along the majority of the Newfoundland, New Brunswick and western Nova Scotia coasts, a late-Pleistocene/early-Holocene RSL lowstand was followed by a continuous rise through the Holocene. At the margin of the former ice-sheet (i.e. eastern Nova Scotia), our data identify a continuous RSL rise through the Holocene. These records are characterized by decreasing rates of RSL rise through time, commencing with a rapid rise during the early Holocene (up to ∼17 mm a−1), a slowdown in the mid-Holocene (average rates ≤ ∼9 mm a−1), and a further reduction in the late Holocene (average rates < 2 mm a−1). Finally, our database allowed the identification of regions, including the Labrador coast and part of the St Lawrence corridor, where further investigations are required to better constrain the RSL evolution and improve our ability to assess the variability of RSL histories.
The history of oyster management in the Chesapeake Bay is replete with examples of conflict, including an era commonly referred to as the Oyster Wars. Yet, the community of people who work with and depend on oysters has some shared challenges and some stories of success. Using conceptual modeling methods (fuzzy cognitive mapping in particular), we explore whether some stakeholders support and others oppose management proposals because they have fundamentally different predictions for what the outcome of the management actions or other perturbations to the system will be. Stakeholders across the oyster community completed a conceptual mapping exercise as part of the Chesapeake Oyster Summit to describe their perception of how the ecosystem (including humans) functions. This analysis takes those conceptual maps, aggregated by stakeholder group, to model their predictions under currently proposed or frequently discussed management scenarios. Results show more unity than one might expect in how the ecosystem is expected to respond to management initiatives and predicted environmental perturbations. Feedback loops also emerge in some scenarios to either buffer or exacerbate the effects of the management on the ecosystem.