Cetacean Morbillivirus, the most relevant pathogen impacting the health and conservation of cetaceans worldwide, has shown in recent years an increased tendency to cross “interspecies barriers”, thereby giving rise to disease and mortality outbreaks in free-ranging dolphins and whales. This "Personal View" deals with the evolutionary “trajectories” of this viral pathogen, likely originating from Rinderpest Virus, along with its "journey" from land to sea (and viceversa), mimicking that of cetaceans' terrestrial ancestors.
Many animals reproduce in large aggregations, which can vary in size from dozens to millions of individuals across species, time and space. The size of breeding colonies is a complex trade-off between multiple costs and benefits to an individual’s fitness, but the mechanisms by which colony size affects fitness are still poorly understood. One important cost of breeding in a large colony is the spatial constraint in resource use due to the need to regularly return to a central location. Large aggregations, like seabird breeding colonies, may therefore deplete food resources near the colony, forcing individuals to travel farther to find food, which may ultimately limit their reproductive output and population size. This hypothesis, proposed in 1963 by Ashmole for tropical oceanic islands, has so far not been tested at tropical seabird colonies, where food availability is less predictable than in colder waters. We compare the foraging distribution of a common tropical seabird, the masked booby Sula dactylatra, breeding on two islands in the South Atlantic that differ in the size of the breeding seabird community by 2 orders of magnitude, but are surrounded by similar oligotrophic waters. Foraging trips from the island with the smaller colony were on average 221 km (61 %) and 18.0 h (75 %) shorter because birds from the smaller colony rarely spent the night at sea and foraged on average 64 km (46 %) closer to the colony. Energy expenditure was significantly lower, and nest survival higher (47 vs. 37 %, n = 371) on the island with the smaller colony. These results are fully consistent with the predictions from Ashmole’s hypothesis and indicate that competition for food around tropical oceanic seabird colonies may indeed be a limiting factor for populations. Identifying important feeding areas for seabirds based on their foraging range may need to account for colony size of both the target and potential competitor species.
Knowledge about the spatial distribution of seabirds at sea is important for conservation. During marine conservation planning, logistical constraints preclude seabird surveys covering the complete area of interest and spatial distribution of seabirds is frequently inferred from predictive statistical models. Increasingly complex models are available to relate the distribution and abundance of pelagic seabirds to environmental variables, but a comparison of their usefulness for delineating protected areas for seabirds is lacking. Here we compare the performance of five modelling techniques (generalised linear models, generalised additive models, Random Forest, boosted regression trees, and maximum entropy) to predict the distribution of Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus mauretanicus) along the coast of the western Iberian Peninsula. We used ship transect data from 2004 to 2009 and 13 environmental variables to predict occurrence and density, and evaluated predictive performance of all models using spatially segregated test data. Predicted distribution varied among the different models, although predictive performance varied little. An ensemble prediction that combined results from all five techniques was robust and confirmed the existence of marine important bird areas for Balearic Shearwaters in Portugal and Spain. Our predictions suggested additional areas that would be of high priority for conservation and could be proposed as protected areas. Abundance data were extremely difficult to predict, and none of five modelling techniques provided a reliable prediction of spatial patterns. We advocate the use of ensemble modelling that combines the output of several methods to predict the spatial distribution of seabirds, and use these predictions to target separate surveys assessing the abundance of seabirds in areas of regular use.
No-take marine reserves (NTRs), i.e. areas with total fishing restrictions, have been established worldwide aiming to promote biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. Brazil has 3.3% of its exclusive economic zone protected by 73 different NTRs, however, most of them currently lack scientific knowledge and understanding of their ecological role, particularly regarding rocky reefs in subtropical regions. In this context, this study aimed to contrast a network of NTRs with comparable fished sites across a coastal biogeographic gradient to investigate the effect of fishing and habitat variability on the abundance and body size of rocky reef fish. We used Baited Remote Underwater stereo-Video (stereo-BRUVs) and Diver Operated stereo-Video (stereo-DOVs) systems to simultaneously sample reef fish and habitat. Model selection and results identified habitat and biogeographic variables, such as distance from shore, as important predictor variables, explaining several aspects of the fish assemblage. The effect of protection was important in determining the abundance and body size of targeted species, in particular for epinephelids and carangids. Conversely, species richness was correlated with habitat complexity but not with protection status. This is the first study using these survey methods in the Southwestern Atlantic, demonstrating how a network of NTRs can provide benchmarks for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management.
The mission of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), established under the Federal Government’s national collaborative research infrastructure program, is to deliver ocean observations to the marine and climate science community. However, the observations have many uses, ranging from real-time operational forecasting to understanding of processes and policy decision making. Observations need to be provided in a format that fits the purpose of the intended application. Turning observations into usable data, time series, gridded products and analyses broadens the use of such observations. Value adding by developing products that are relevant to end-user needs and easily accessible to non-scientists is also required as a strategic response to new and emerging socioeconomic, legal and policy priorities. This paper describes some of the pathways on which IMOS observations are being delivered and used in Australia, demonstrating the value that ocean observations have for society.
The complexity and scale of the sources, types and environmental impacts of persistent solid waste pollution (PSWP) continue to overwhelm the capabilities of government and private efforts to control it. Global cumulative production of virgin plastics is expected to quadruple by 2050 with a concomitant doubling of plastic waste. All nations must take significant steps to realize eventual mitigation of PSWP. These will include adopting a long-term PSWP elimination policy, creating an overarching authority to lead and coordinate a comprehensive national solid waste management program, and creating an International Convention for the Prevention of PSWP to enable global solutions for this global pollution. Initiating these changes will necessitate major, coordinated efforts on the part of environmental organizations, their supporting foundations and concerned citizens.
One role of Marine Protected Areas is to protect biodiversity; however, illegal fishing activity can reduce the effectiveness of protection. Quantifying illegal fishing effort within no-take MPAs is difficult and the impacts of illegal fishing on biodiversity are poorly understood. To provide an assessment of illegal fishing activity, a surveillance camera was deployed at the Seal Rocks no-take area within the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park from April 2017-March 2018. To assess impacts of illegal fishing activity in the no-take area, Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVs) were used to quantify abundance and size of snapper Chrysophrys auratusfrom 2011–2017. BRUVs were also deployed at two nearby fished locations and two other no-take areas to allow comparison. Over 12 months of camera surveillance, a total of 108 recreational vessels were observed illegally fishing within the no-take area (avg 9.0 ± 0.9 per month). The greatest number of vessels detected in a single month was 14 and the longest a vessel was observed fishing was ~ 6 hours. From 2011–2017, the abundance of C. auratuswithin the Seal Rocks no-take area significantly declined by 55%, whilst the abundance within the other fished areas and no-take areas did not significantly decline over the same period. Lengths of C. auratus in the Seal Rocks no-take area were significantly smaller in 2017 compared to 2013 which was driven by a decline in the number of legal sized fish over 30 cm. Based on mean number of illegal fishers per vessel recorded in the no-take area, and an allowable bag limit of 10 C. auratus per person, it is possible that more than 2,000 C. auratusare removed annually from this no-take area. There is a strong likelihood that illegal recreational fishing is causing a reduction on a fishery targeted species within a no-take MPA and measures need to be implemented to reduce the ongoing illegal fishing pressure.
Fisheries and marine ecosystem-based management requires a holistic understanding of the dynamics of fish communities and their responses to changes in environmental conditions. Environmental conditions can simultaneously shape the spatial distribution and the temporal dynamics of a population, which together can trigger changes in the functional structure of communities. Here, we developed a comprehensive framework based on complementary multivariate statistical methodologies to simultaneously investigate the effects of environmental conditions on the spatial, temporal and functional dynamics of species assemblages. The framework is tested using survey data collected during more than 4000 fisheries hauls over the Baltic Sea between 2001 and 2016. The approach revealed the Baltic fish community to be structured into three sub-assemblages along a strong and temporally stable salinity gradient decreasing from West to the East. Additionally, we highlight a mismatch between species and functional richness associated with a lower functional redundancy in the Baltic Proper compared with other sub-areas, suggesting an ecosystem more susceptible to external pressures. Based on a large dataset of community data analysed in an innovative and comprehensive way, we could disentangle the effects of environmental changes on the structure of biotic communities—key information for the management and conservation of ecosystems.
Human use of marine and coastal areas is increasing worldwide, resulting in conflicts between different interests for marine space, overexploitation of marine resources, and environmental degradation. In this study we developed a methodology that combines assessments of marine environmental vulnerability and cumulative human pressures to support the processes of ecosystem-based adaptive maritime spatial planning. The methodology is built on the spatially explicit marine environmental vulnerability profile (EVP) that is an aggregated product of the distribution of essential nature values (habitat-forming benthic macroalgal and invertebrate species, benthic species richness, birds and seals as top marine predators) and their sensitivities to disturbances. The marine environmental cumulative risk profile (ERP) combines the EVP and the HELCOM Baltic Sea Pressure Index (BSPI), the latter representing the spatial distribution of intensities of cumulative anthropogenic pressures. The ERP identifies areas where environmental risks are the highest due to both long recoveries of the biota and high intensities of human pressures. This methodology can be used in any other sea areas by modifying the list of nature values, their sensitivity to disturbances, and the intensities of human pressure.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries are responsible for the stewardship of the US living marine resources and their habitat and for providing productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems to the nation. Their approach to conservation requires, by legislative mandates, that management be informed by science. It has evolved into a four-step approach to providing this advice: (i) the national framework for conservation science, (ii) region specific implementation, (iii) development of unbiased, scientific advice as required by the framework, and (iv) scientists acting, as appropriate, as advocates and science communicators. This approach has been a conservation success where, e.g. 92% of known managed fish stocks are no longer being overfished and 84% of known stocks are at healthy levels, with the latter including 43 stocks rebuilt from depleted levels. In a changing marine climate, it is all the more important that marine conservation decisions be driven by science.
Scientists have advocated for local interventions, such as creating marine protected areas and implementing fishery restrictions, as ways to mitigate local stressors to limit the effects of climate change on reef-building corals. However, in a literature review, we find little empirical support for the notion of managed resilience. We outline some reasons for why marine protected areas and the protection of herbivorous fish (especially parrotfish) have had little effect on coral resilience. One key explanation is that the impacts of local stressors (e.g., pollution and fishing) are often swamped by the much greater effect of ocean warming on corals. Another is the sheer complexity (including numerous context dependencies) of the five cascading links assumed by the managed-resilience hypothesis. If reefs cannot be saved by local actions alone, then it is time to face reef degradation head-on, by directly addressing anthropogenic climate change—the root cause of global coral decline.
We present the design and preliminary results from ocean deployments of Zooglider, a new autonomous zooplankton‐sensing glider. Zooglider is a modified Spray glider that includes a low‐power camera (Zoocam) with telecentric lens and a custom dual frequency Zonar (200 and 1000 kHz). The Zoocam quantifies zooplankton and marine snow as they flow through a defined volume inside a sampling tunnel. Images are acquired on average every 5 cm from a maximum operating depth of ~ 400 m to the sea surface. Biofouling is mitigated using a dual approach: an ultraviolet light‐emitting diode and a mechanical wiper. The Zonar permits differentiation of large and small acoustic backscatterers in larger volumes than can be sampled optically. Other sensors include a pumped conductivity, temperature, and depth unit and chlorophyll a fluorometer. Zoogliderenables fully autonomous in situ measurements of mesozooplankton distributions, together with the three‐dimensional orientation of organisms and marine snow in relation to other biotic and physical properties of the ocean water column. It is well suited to resolve thin layers and microscale ocean patchiness. Battery capacity supports 50 d of operations. Zooglider includes two‐way communications via Iridium, permitting near‐real–time transmission of data from each dive profile, as well as interactive instrument control from remote locations for adaptive sampling.
Environmental non‐governmental organizations (ENGOs) largely select flagship species for conservation marketing based on their aesthetic appeal. However, little is known about the fundraising effectiveness of this approach or how it compares to ecosystem conservation campaigns that use habitat types as flagships. By performing a willingness to donate (WTD) survey of potential online donors from Finland, we identified which motivations and donor characteristics influence their preferences for a range of different flagship species and ecosystems. Using the contingent valuation method and the payment card approach, we found the combined funding for eight mammal flagship species was 29% higher funding than for eight bird flagship species. Furthermore, the aesthetically more appealing species, as well as the species and ecosystems that are native to Finland, attracted the most funding. We then used ordinal logistic regression to identify the factors influencing a donor's WTD, finding that knowledge of biodiversity conservation and familiarity with the flagship was associated with an increased WTD to birds and ecosystems, and people with higher education levels had an increased WTD to ecosystems. Surprisingly, species aesthetic appeal was not related to an increased WTD, although “need of conservation” was, suggesting that highlighting the plight of these less appealing threatened species or ecosystems could raise money. Our results suggest that the factors driving donating to mammals, birds or ecosystems differ, and so underline the importance of considering the diverse motivations behind donation behaviour in fundraising campaigns. They also provide new evidence of the motivations of online donors, an under‐studied group who are likely to become an increasingly important source of conservation funding.
This study primarily attempts to understand people's beliefs toward marine protected areas considering as a case study the National Marine Park of Alonissos, Northern Sporades in Greece in order to achieve its sustainability. Specifically, it aims to identify people's opinion about the utility of the park investigating also their beliefs in relation to socioeconomic characteristics. For this reason, a face‐to‐face survey of 200 randomly selected residents and visitors of the area was carried out. The research was structured according to the principles of the contingent valuation method. According to the empirical findings, the majority of respondents recognized the contribution of the park to preserve the monk seal and the natural environment. Moreover, they want the maintenance of the park and more specialized protection measures in the area.
The Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) is one of the largest and most important globally. In recent years Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand have come together to build consensus around a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters, Norway, Sweden and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) process identified a number of key issues including overexploitation of marine living resources, degradation of critical habitats and pollution and water quality. The TDA process identified several key drivers which contribute to these issues. These include socio-economic drivers, institutional, legal and administrative drivers and climate change. The agreed SAP identified four key objectives including that fisheries and other marine living resources are restored and managed sustainably; degraded, vulnerable and critical marine habitats are restored, conserved and maintained; coastal and marine pollution and water quality are controlled to meet agreed standards for human and ecosystem health; and social and economic constraints are addressed, which should lead to increased resilience and empowerment of coastal people. Analysis of the BOBLME SAP shows that just over 70% of the identified activities are being undertaken to some extent by countries already. SAP implementation recognises the importance of approaches such as the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF), Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and the focus on Small Scale Fisheries. Whilst BOBLME countries vary considerably in their governance arrangements and capacity to implement, they recognise the importance of regional coordination and cooperation to address transboundary issues.
This research investigates consumers’ responses to products made of recycled ocean plastic. A quantitative study was conducted online with 258 Dutch consumers in which attitudinal and behavioural responses to products made of ocean plastic were investigated. The most important predictors of consumers’ purchase intention were anticipated conscience, value for money and perceived functionality. In addition, risks of contamination negatively influenced purchase intention. For willingness-to-pay (WTP) a price premium, anticipated conscience, recognisability and perceived safety appeared to be the most important predictors. Through a cluster analysis, four different consumer groups were identified. Two consumer clusters consisting of ‘sustainability experts’ and the ‘sustainability benevolent’ (59% of our sample) demonstrated a strong interest and a willingness to pay a price premium for these products. When comparing consumers’ responses in different product categories, results showed that quality expectations and purchase intention were generally lower for textile products than for durables and fast-moving consumer goods packages. This research contributes to the theoretical understanding of consumer responses to products made of recycled ocean plastic and can help companies to develop strategies to launch such products effectively.
Increasingly studies are reporting sudden and dramatic changes in the structure and function of communities or ecosystems. The prevalence of these reports demonstrates the importance for management of being able to detect whether these have happened and, preferably, whether they are likely to occur. Ecological theory provides the rationale for why such changes occur and a variety of statistical indicators of approach that have generic properties have been developed. However, whether the theory has successfully translated into monitoring programmes is unknown. We searched the literature for guidelines that would drive design of monitoring programmes able to detect past and approaching tipping points and analysed marine monitoring programmes in New Zealand. We found very few guidelines in the ecological, environmental or monitoring literature, although both simulation and marine empirical studies suggest that within-year sampling increases the likelihood of detecting approaching tipping points. The combination of the need to monitor both small and medium scale temporal dynamics of multiple variables to detect tipping points meant that few marine monitoring programmes in New Zealand were fit for that purpose. Interestingly, we found many marine examples of studies detecting past and approaching TP with fewer data than was common in the theoretical literature. We, therefore, suggest that utilizing ecological knowledge is of paramount importance in designing and analyzing time-series monitoring for tipping points and increasing the certainty for short-term or infrequent datasets of whether a tipping point has occurred. As monitoring plays an important role in management of tipping points by providing supporting information for other locations about when and why a tipping point may occur, we believe that monitoring for tipping points should be promoted.
In the early 2000s, Senegal set up several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along its coastal zone with the purpose of biodiversity conservation and to support sustainable management of fisheries. However, the impact of MPAs may vary according to the type of fisheries. In Senegal, the sardinella fishery accounts for 70% of total catches. This fishery is of crucial importance for national food security and employment. Given this importance, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of MPAs, often being considered as a tool for fisheries management. An analytical, dynamic and spatial bio-economic model of sardinella fishery, considering fish and fisher migration, has been developed and scenarios over forty years have been analyzed. The results show that the fishery is economically overexploited and that Senegal could lose about 11.6 billion CFA over forty years of exploitation, i.e. 290 million CFA per year. To achieve an optimal level of exploitation, it would be necessary to halve the current fishing capacity. Implementing MPAs for 10, 20 and 30% of the Senegalese exclusive economic zone lead to slight increases in biomass (1%) and rent (5–11%). In addition, spatio-temporal closures can lead to increased exploitation in unclosed areas, due to the absence of enforcement. Achieving target 11 of the Aichi Convention, i.e., 10% of coastal and marine areas protected per country, will have a reserve effect on the resource but also only lead to weak improvements in economic indicators for the Senegalese fishery. Finally, because the sardinella resource is shared among many countries of the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC), a sub-regional cooperation is necessary for a sustainable management.
Studying the feeding ecology of seabirds is important not only to understand basic aspects of their ecology and threats but also for the conservation of marine ecosystems. In this regard, tropical seabirds have been relatively neglected, and in particular the trophic ecology of tropicbirds is scarcely known. We combined GPS tracking, environmental variables and sampling of regurgitates during incubation and brooding to understand the feeding ecology of red-billed tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus as well as how foraging strategies may change between 2 contrasting marine environments: a coastal island in the Canary Current upwelling (Îles de la Madeleine) and an oceanic island in the middle of the south Atlantic (St Helena). Tropicbirds breeding on the Îles de la Madeleine headed west, foraging on and beyond the shelf slope, probably to associate with subsurface predators which bring pelagic fish close to the surface. Birds from St Helena showed a greater foraging effort and a strong attraction to areas with the greatest species richness of Scombridae, possibly due to a greater difficulty in finding prey in the oligotrophic oceanic waters. Tropicbirds ranged much beyond the extension of the protected areas around their colonies, indicating that current protected areas are insufficient for these populations. We found no evidence to suspect direct mortality of tropicbirds in regional fisheries, but overexploitation of small epipelagic fish and tuna may decrease feeding opportunities and lead to competition with fisheries. The substantial differences in foraging behaviour demonstrated by individuals from both colonies indicates that caution should be taken when extrapolating foraging patterns of tropical seabirds breeding in contrasting oceanographic environments.
The two stocks of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in Alaska include an endangered western stock, recently recovering in parts of its range following decades of decline, and an eastern stock which was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 2013 following increasing numbers since the 1970s. Information on overlapping distributions of eastern and western sea lions is needed for management considerations. We analyzed >30,000 sightings collected from 2000–2014 of 2,385 sea lions that were branded as pups at 10 Alaskan rookeries to examine mesoscale (mostly <500km) spatial distribution, geographic range, and geographic population structure based on natal rookery, sex, and age during breeding and non-breeding seasons. Analyses of summary movement measures (e.g., natal rookery, sex, and age-class differences in spatial distribution and geographic range) indicate wide variation in rookery-specific movement patterns. Correlations between movement measures and population dynamics suggested movement patterns could be a function of density dependence. Animals from larger rookeries, and rookeries with slower population growth and lower survival, had wider dispersion than animals from smaller rookeries, or rookeries with high growth and survival. Sea lions from the largest rookery, Forrester Island, where survival and population trends are lowest, were the most widely distributed. Analysis of geographic population structure indicated that animals born in the eastern Aleutian Islands had the most distinct movements and had little overlap with other western sea lions. Northern Southeast Alaska, within the eastern stock, is the area of greatest overlap between stocks, and is important to western animals, especially those born in Prince William Sound. Detailed knowledge of distribution and movements of western sea lions is useful for defining recovery and population trend analysis regions that better reflect dispersion and population structure and provides valuable information to managers as critical habitat is re-evaluated and the location of the stock boundary reconsidered.