This dissertation work presents a novel method for addressing system uncertainty to improve management of a small-scale fishery in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. Using fishers' ecological knowledge (FEK), this research examines existing perspectives and biases through the Q-Method to identify regulatory inefficiencies in the management framework and strengthen the rationale for including fishers into the management process, develops a coupled behavior-economics model to predict the likelihood of fishing the preferred grounds under a range of physical and regulatory conditions, establishes a baseline assessment of a spawning aggregation of mutton snapper following sixteen years of protection through a no-take marine protected area, and conducts a discrete choice method test to examine likely public support for FEK-based proposed regulatory alternatives. This work contributes to an under-studied and much-needed area of fisheries management, that of incorporating socioeconomic motivations within an ecosystem-based framework. As fisheries management efforts begin to embrace ecosystem-based approaches, the need for understanding and incorporating the knowledge and behavior of fishers into management has never been greater. Ecological goals of fishery sustainability and continued habitat function cannot be achieved without first understanding how fishers view and respond to any regulatory environment and then developing a framework that achieves the greatest support for those regulations. The time has come for incorporating FEK into ecosystem-based fisheries management.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
Hong Kong’s pink dolphins are majestic, intelligent, and beautiful. Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s coastal waters are no longer suitable for pink dolphin populations. Vessel traffic, water pollution, land reclamation projects, and localized constructionblasting activity all contribute to the declining stability of their habitat. These destructive impacts on the marine environment derive from Hong Kong’s generally inadequate political and regulatory protections, increased tourist use of polluting river boats to view the dolphins, ambivalent local perceptions of the problem, and a growing human population, which together make environmental protection increasingly more difficult. Despite this unequivocally bleak future, legal tools exist that can help improve and preserve their habitat. Although litigation under Hong Kong’s environmental statutes is rare, bringing suit under existing laws can create meaningful change for the pink dolphin. The Wild Animals Protection Ordinance contains provisions that may lead to a prohibition of local vessels navigating through dolphin marine habitat.
In order to carry out this litigation strategy and others like it, parties need more exposure and a better understanding of the legal actions available to them. This comment demonstrates how parties can successfully litigate under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance for the protection of pink dolphins despite Hong Kong’s current political climate. Part II describes the Hong Kong pink dolphin and major threats to dolphin populations. Part III analyzes Hong Kong’s history of delayed proactivity, regulation, litigation, and enforcement of environmental and animal welfare matters. Part IV develops a potential case under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance for better protection of Hong Kong’s pink dolphins. Part V summarizes other legal avenues available for protection of pink dolphins and other marine species. Finally, Part VI concludes by encouraging government agencies and private parties to bring novice environmental cases under existing legislation and to press for statutory amendments where necessary to better protect Hong Kong’s natural resources, habitat, and species.
California kelp forests are highly productive and species rich ecosystems. However, ecosystem-wide consequences of fishing higher tropic levels (fishes) and the effect of climate on primary producers such as the giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, are not well understood. I develop and apply mass-balanced ecological network models, Ecopath with Ecosim, to explore separately how fishing and the dynamics of giant kelp influence ecosystem functions (e.g., species interactions, biomass dynamics), structure (e.g., the distribution of biomass density among species or species groups) and their dynamics. Faced with the difficulty of synthesizing information required to construct these models, I develop and apply an online database (http://kelpforest.ucsc.edu/) to facilitate the accessibility of such information. It is the first online database designed specifically to inform development of ecological network models. To explore ecosystem-wide effects of fishing in giant kelp forests, I examine (i) the extent to which changes in species interactions and biomass of nodes caused by fishing extend across the ecological network, how these changes vary with (ii) levels of fishing mortality, (iii) fishing of six different species of fishes, and (iv) when all six species are fished simultaneously. Results suggest that fished species differ markedly in the extent to which species interactions and biomass densities are altered across the ecosystem and these responses vary with different levels of fishing mortality. I also used the models to predict ecosystem-wide responses to different dynamics of giant kelp biomass. I test the hypotheses that different scenarios of dynamics of giant kelp biomass will influence (i) total network biomass, (ii) distribution of biomass density across nodes, (iii) temporal variation in biomass density of nodes, and (iv) how this variation differs among trophic levels. Results suggest that both the mean and the variability of giant kelp biomass alter the direction and magnitude of change in total network biomass. Variation is greater for lower trophic levels. Although all inferences of these models are based solely on trophic interactions, they illustrate the value of ecosystem models to generate hypotheses and predictions of ecosystem responses to one or more changes in kelp forests.
This work looks into the conservation of South American sea lions (SSL), Otaria byronia by advancing a process of Marine Protected Area (MPA) design targeted for reproductive females during the first weeks of lactation. Focusing on protection of a single species may result in the establishment of a more comprehensive and ecologically functional system for management. SSL is distributed in the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts of South America. Along the coast of the Argentine Patagonian coast, 73 colonies were described, 42 % of which are reproductive. Breeding females give birth during the austral summer (January) and lactation lasts ca. one year. Critical to the annual cycle are the few weeks after birth, when mothers spend 2-3 days nursing and a similar or longer time at sea foraging, while pups remain alone on shore. Satellite tracking and dive recording instruments indicate that females are either coastal or pelagic in their feeding habits, but the latter travel relatively short distances from colony (mean 152 km). SSL are bottom foragers that dive to maximum depths of approximately 80 m. Optimizing travel and foraging time is critical for these animals, as pups left alone fast and are threatened by both starvation and being accidentally crushed by fighting adult males. Foraging areas overlap with fishing grounds, sea lions are caught in fishing gear and competition for food cannot be ignored. Yet, although 20 of the 31 existing breeding colonies are within coastal protected areas, none of the foraging areas have been considered for protection to minimize the consequences of interactions with fisheries. This work draws from very limited data to advance a process of design of Marine Protected Areas that is eminently practical, thus affordable to government wildlife administrators. I selected the most important colonies, based on location and abundance, integrated satellite locations at sea, analyzed potential associations with physical variables, and proposed criteria to decide important marine areas based on distribution at sea. Finally, I estimated the cost for fisheries to comply with the proposed conservation intervention scenarios. Foraging distribution did not follow a pattern consistent with physical oceanographic variables (sea surface temperature, productivity, bathymetry and seafloor composition) to guide conservation intervention. Bathymetry was the best proxy to help in the design of protected areas. Most of the conservation scenarios based on distribution at sea of lactating females did not strongly overlap with fisheries to justify conservation intervention. The colonies that did, however, involved the largest breeding colonies of Argentine Patagonia and Uruguay. In a context of closing the fisheries for the area of overlap and compensate for the loses during one month, I estimate a conservation cost of 2-3 million dollars, as the impact is on the most profitable of all Argentine Patagonian fisheries, targeting Argentine red shrimp, Pleoticus muelleri. I conclude that management that includes MPAs for this species requires a priori spatial planning considerations. Once a fishery is operational, the costs for conservation will not be affordable for the administrators. I identified some areas where an a priori approach would be practical, effective and feasible.
A key element of the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change is the threat to coral reef ecosystems. Regional Heads of Government throughout the Caribbean have recognized the important role that coral reefs play in national economies and their crucial contribution to sustainable development. Accordingly, governments, regional leaders and coastal communities have begun to take measures to address the region’s vulnerability and build resilience to climate change.
The Coral Reef Plan of Action provides a roadmap for navigating the challenges of sustainably managing coral reefs to protect biological diversity while sustaining provision of goods and services that these ecosystems provide to the people of the Caribbean.
The plan presents a set of objectives for improving the outlook for Caribbean reefs by 2018. These are the result of regional consultations that identified the priority needs expressed by regional leaders, stakeholders, officials and experts who together have accumulated the experience required for tackling the issues faced in the sustainable management of Caribbean coral reefs. The objectives are grouped under four goals:
- Improve the health and resilience of Caribbean coral reefs
- Strengthen adaptive capacity of communities
- Build foundations for national and regional action
- Advocate globally for stronger action on climate change
Investment in achieving the goals and objectives in this plan will be further guided through development of an associated implementation plan, and a program of monitoring, evaluation and reporting. With the support of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism will lead implementation of this plan to ensure it has the best chance of building the resilience of coral reefs to the impacts of climate variability and change in the Caribbean region.
This Coral Reef Plan of Action is aligned with relevant initiatives, sub-regional strategies and plans targeted at Caribbean coral reefs. These include the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism’s Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Strategy and Action Plan, the 2012 Report Card for the Mesoamerican Reef, and the Strategic Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of the Shared Living Marine Resources of the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystems and Adjacent Regions (CLME+SAP).
The Plan supports the vision articulated in the Liliendaal Declaration and contributes to strategic elements and goals elaborated in the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (Regional Framework) and its associated Implementation Plan (see Appendix 1). Through an integrated approach across these strategic initiatives, the Coral Reef Plan of Action will help build regional coordination and national commitment, motivate actions and stimulate much-needed support and investment from the international community in a coordinated effort to improve the outlook for Caribbean coral reefs.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the key tools used to achieve conservation, biodiversity and fisheries management objectives around the world. Increasingly though, conservation planners, MPA managers, researchers and local communities are calling for a more people-centred approach to MPA planning and management, recognising that long-term conservation and fisheries management objectives will not be realised unless human dimensions and societal concerns are adequately addressed.
To date, many MPAs have been established, planned and managed with little consideration of the human dimensions – social, cultural, economic, political and governance issues – and impact of the MPA on local communities. In order to address this challenge, WWF South Africa and the Environmental Evaluation Unit (EEU) at the University of Cape Town, undertook a three year long project looking at how to integrate human and ecological dimensions in MPA governance.
Funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and based on a number of Phd and Masters dissertations, the EEU have developed a comprehensive and collaborative set of guidelines which was finalised in March 2014 around MPA planning, titled ‘Integrating Human Dimensions into MPA Planning and Management’.
This project explores how MPAs can become more meaningful to society in terms of addressing social, economic and ecological objectives. It highlights the importance of considering issues such as human values, aspirations, lifestyles, cultural heritage, livelihoods, local economic activities and institutional arrangements in the development of MPAs and their management strategies. Provided in a short and long form, the guidelines are available for download and use by all.
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) Initiative is a public process focused on planning for, and management of, the sustainable and long-term use and health of the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a marine area covering 1,374,000 km2 and 115 islands. The MSP Initiative is a government-led process, with planning and facilitation managed by a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the Government of Seychelles, and the United Nations Development Programme - Global Environment Facility Programme Coordinating Unit. Funding for the Initiative is being provided by UNDP-GEF grants to the Government of Seychelles, and an Oceans 5 grant to The Nature Conservancy.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) provides a participatory and transparent way to focus on sustainable uses for the Seychelles marine environment and minimise spatial conflicts between uses. The Seychelles MSP Initiative takes an integrated, multi-sector approach and will balance ecological, social, cultural and economic objectives. The participatory nature of MSP encourages communities and private sector partners to provide advice, information and input to the Seychelles Initiative.
Article 38 of the Constitution of Seychelles provides the authority for planning and the guiding principles, vision and goals of the Seychelles Sustainable Development Strategy (SSDS) helps provide the framework for the MSP Initiative. The Initiative will develop an integrated, multi-use marine zoning and climate change adaptation plan to optimise the sustainable use and effective management of the Seychelles marine environment while ensuring and improving the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of its people. This marine plan will serve as the basis for guiding the strategies and decisions of the Seychelles Conservation & Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) that was established by the Government of Seychelles for a Debt-for-Climate-Change-Adaptation swap. Phase I of the MSP Initiative (February 2014 – June 2015) will produce a suite of design options, tools and management strategies as a basis for further development and implementation of the national multi-use plan.
The Seychelles MSP Initiative was launched at a workshop on 4-5 February 2014 in Victoria. The key objectives of that workshop were to introduce the MSP Initiative being facilitated by The Nature Conservancy, and identify the key components that will support the Seychelles Blue Economy. People at the workshop identified seven sectors important to the scope of the planning process (in no particular order): biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage, fisheries, marine transportation, petroleum (mineral & aggregate) extraction, renewable energy, and tourism. Focusing on the seven sectors, participants were led through a 10-20 year visioning exercise to describe what they did and did not want to see for these sectors over this time scale. The results of the visioning exercise were refined into general goals by the workshop participants and ranked in order of low, medium, and high priority.
A website is currently being developed for the MSP Initiative (www.seychellesmarinespatialplanning.com) that will host all the relevant background documents, reports and presentations. The website will be used to keep all stakeholders updated on progress of the process and should be accessible by early July. In the interim, all related handouts and documents are included in the annex section.
The project has produced a handbook that aims to provide reef managers with tools, information and recommendations on management of coral reef ecosystems. The handbook sections range from ecological history and biogeography, resilience as well as climate change issues to fisheries, governance and the monitoring of coral reef ecosystems.
Within each section are practical stand-alone ‘briefs’. These briefs offer concise information on particular reef-related issues, utilising some of the most recent scientific research to inform management actions. Each of the briefings is a unique grab-and-go resource. The accessible format also provides a useful resource for students, researchers, policy-makers and anyone interested in the future of Caribbean coral reefs.
Research suggest three key enablers of sustainable and profitable fisheries that, together, provide the basis for increased value:
- Secure tenure aligns the incentives and empowers the fishing industry to pursue sustainable use of the resource and is a vital first step in the transition
- Sustainable harvests determine how much fish can be caught sustainably and enable the creation of both management and investment frameworks
- Monitoring and enforcement provide assurance that fishers will comply with sustainable management and reduce the chance of illegal activity that could undermine the transition
These conditions, particularly establishing secure tenure, provide the platform for unlocking greater social, economic and environmental value in fisheries and are vital to investment activities. With the conditions described above in place, investment can be channelled towards the three key drivers of increased fisheries value:
- Improving stock health leads to higher long-term yields and makes fish less costly to find and catch
- Increasing operational efficiency reduces fishing and delivery-related costs, improving profit margins and thus improving the returns from fishing as a whole
- Increasing market value through improved market access, certification, branding and long-term partnerships returns more value to fishers
- A clear business case for the transition that includes a contextual analysis of the project as well as a bioeconomic and financial model of the investment proposition
- Investable entities to act as counterparty to the investment; these can be existing, modified, or newly created entities
- Mechanisms for capturing return from the beneficiaries of the transition to share the upside of a transitioned fishery with the investor, such as dividends, taxes, or fees
- Risk management through appropriate identification and articulation of risks, as well as efforts to mitigate or manage risk
Structuring the investment to align and coordinate sources of capital can create a financially sustainable transition and match investors to the financial, environmental and social returns that fisheries provide. Project developers can consider two key points:
- Sources of capital, or investors, fall along a spectrum based on, among other things, target returns, type of investment and target terms. Traditionally, fishery transitions have been funded by ‘impact-only’ investors who expect no return or little financial return
- Combining capital to sequence, blend or layer investment structures can effectively reduce and spread risk, while leveraging larger pools of capital. Including different types of investors will ultimately unlock the resources needed to start to address the scale of the challenge that lies ahead
Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs) are a source of sustainable financing for long-term biodiversity conservation, in particular for protected areas management. Through a review of 12 case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Australasia, this research report provides a broad overview of how to create a CTF, describing its legal and institutional structure, fund generation and delivery, and identifying when it might be an appropriate tool. The lessons learnt from the case studies provide guidance on best practice and an insight into the conditions for the sustainability and success of the funds, and thereby their value to conservation.
This guide on performance monitoring and evaluation (evaluation) is intended for practitioners responsible for planning and managing marine areas. Practitioners are the managers and stakeholders who are responsible for designing, planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating marine management plans. While its focus is on the performance monitoring and evaluation of MSP, planners and managers should know how to incorporate monitoring and evaluation considerations into the MSP process from its very beginning, and not wait until a plan is completed before thinking about how to measure “success”. Effective performance monitoring and evaluation is only possible when management objectives and expected outcomes are written in a way that is measurable, either quantitatively or qualitatively.
This guide builds on the general approach and structure of the previous UNESCO’s IOC guide, Marine Spatial Planning: a step-by-step approach toward ecosystem-based management (Ehler & Douvere 2009) available at: www.unesco-ioc-marinesp.be. Similar in organization to the first MSP guide, this one presents a logical sequence of eight steps to monitoring and evaluating the performance of management plans (and their related management actions) that are important outputs of any MSP process.
View the online Interactive Compendium to the guide here on OpenChannels at https://www.openchannels.org/msp-eval-guide.
The User's Guide for Evaluating Learning Outcomes from Citizen Science was developed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology researchers for practitioners who want to evaluate learning outcomes from their citizen science projects. It includes a practical overview of evaluation techniques, tips, and best-practices for conducting evaluations, a glossary of terms, and an extensive set of templates and worksheets to help with evaluation planning and implementation.
Evaluating learning outcomes is a high priority for citizen science practitioners, but many find it to be challenging. We want this guide to make evaluation easy to understand - and easy to execute!
Coastal and ocean recreation provides significant economic and social benefits to coastal communities of the Mid-Atlantic, encompassing New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. It is important to understand how and where people use the coast and ocean as a first step towards better management of the natural resources integral to coastal and ocean recreation.
To address this need, and to inform regional ocean planning efforts for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB), the Surfrider Foundation (Surfrider), in partnership with Point 97 (a company of Ecotrust), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Monmouth University's Urban Coast Institute (Monmouth) (jointly, the Team), in collaboration with MARCO, engaged 'non-consumptive&' recreational users such as divers, surfers, kayakers, beach goers, and wildlife viewers to carry out the Mid-Atlantic Coastal and Ocean Recreation Study (Study) in 2013-2014.
The Team used a web-based survey to collect data from respondents on recreational use patterns, trip expenditures, and demographics. The survey included a series of questions and an easy-to-use interactive mapping tool. Respondents marked places on maps where they recreated over the last 12 months. The Team then analyzed the resulting spatial data to develop maps indicating intensity of use for 16 recreational activities in the region.
To promote participation in the Study, the Team engaged coastal and ocean recreational stakeholders and regional planning partners like MARCO to collaboratively develop the survey instrument, deploy targeted outreach strategies, and review the resulting spatial data on coastal and ocean recreation use patterns.
The Team implemented a variety of outreach strategies designed to promote stakeholder engagement in all phases of the Study. Outreach efforts targeted non-consumptive coastal and ocean users and leveraged the collaboration of a broad set of recreational businesses, groups, and associations, as well as environmental organizations in the region. The Team's outreach also incorporated information about the regional ocean planning process and opportunities for public engagement.
In total, Mid-Atlantic respondents completed nearly 1,500 surveys resulting in over 22,000 unique data points. The data show that coastal and ocean recreation encompasses a popular and diverse group of activities in the Mid-Atlantic, resulting in major economic and social benefits to coastal communities. The average respondent who visited the Mid-Atlantic coast spent an average of $71.06 per trip.
The Team, in coordination with other relevant recreational use studies in the region, has made the data and information from the Study available on the MARCO Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal (http://portal.midatlanticocean.org/portal) and to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (http://www.boem.gov/Mid-Atlantic-Regional-Planning-Body), as it develops a Regional Ocean Action Plan for coastal and ocean uses in the Mid-Atlantic.
For the first time, regional scale maps showing coastal and ocean recreational use patterns are available to help planners and managers make better-informed decisions in consideration of maintaining and improving recreational uses and values. The Team expects this new baseline to serve as a credible first iteration, a foundation to be updated and improved as new information on coastal and ocean recreation becomes available.
In 2010, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was established for the Chesapeake Bay, defining the limits on emissions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment necessary to reverse declines in the Bay’s quality and associated biological resources. Agriculture is the largest single source of nutrients and sediment in the watershed. We use data on crop and animal agriculture in the watershed to assess the relative effectiveness of alternative policy approaches for achieving the nutrient and sediment reduction goals of the TMDL, ranging from voluntary financial incentives to regulations. The cost of achieving water quality goals depends heavily on which policy choices are selected and how they are implemented. We found that policies that provide incentives for water quality improvements are the most efficient, assuming necessary information on pollutant delivery is available for each field. Policies that directly encourage adoption of management systems that protect water quality (referred to as design-based) are the most practical, given the limited information that is generally available to farmers and resource agencies. Information on field characteristics can be used to target design-based policies to improve efficiency.
Accurately accounting for the cumulative effects of impacts, however, can be difficult. Human activities produce a range of stressors that may interact and have greater impacts than expected, compounding direct and indirect effects on individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. In addition, natural variability in ecosystem processes may affect the manifestation of resulting impacts. Assessment of cumulative effects on marine ecosystems requires extensive scientific research that directly tests the effects of multiple stressors; however, our knowledge of cumulative effects is largely based upon studies of single stressors on single ecological components that are combined to estimate the effect of multiple stressors. Therefore, advancing cumulative effects knowledge and assessments requires embracing the complexity, uncertainty, and natural variation in ecosystems and applying the best available science to evaluate and predict cumulative effects. In this review we discuss four components of cumulative effects science and application: (1) how cumulative effects manifest in ecosystems as a result of multiple human activities; (2) challenges in applying scientific knowledge in cumulative effects assessment, including defining spatial and temporal scales, baselines, reference points, indicators, and identifying significant changes in the face of uncertainty and natural environmental variability; (3) models and tools that have been developed to assess cumulative effects; and (4) priorities for science and management of cumulative effects. Conservation of marine ecosystems and support for sustainable development requires using primary research, models, and tools in an integrated, adaptive ecosystem-based framework to address cumulative effects.
As a non-market good, the economic value of an MPA is not revealed in market data or by household production behavior (e.g., travel costs used as the price of a fishing trip); therefore, values are typically estimated from data collected from in-person, telephone, mail, or internet surveys. This research employs a stated preference choice experiment survey of households in California, Oregon, and Washington to quantify public preferences and simulate a suite of different MPA designs and their associated values. The research pertains specifically to MPAs designated in U.S. federal waters (waters 3 to 200 miles from shore) off the coasts of California, Washington, and Oregon West Coast, hereafter referred to as west coast federal waters. All permanently protected marine areas located in west coast federal waters prohibit industrial uses such as mining, oil and gas extraction, and windmill/turbine construction.
The results may be useful in helping managers understand public preferences for MPAs, particularly as they relate to key, and often contested, issues including:
- The effect of MPA size on public economic value
- The effect of MPA use regime on public economic value
- Size/use combinations for MPAs that maximize public values
- Preference heterogeneity for MPAs
The remainder of the report is organized as follows: Section II describes the methods used in the research, including survey development and implementation and choice model theory and estimation. Section III presents results of the general questionnaire and respondent demographics. Section IV presents econometric model results and value estimates associated with MPAs of different size and use configurations. Section V provides a brief discussion of the results and conclusions and recommendations stemming from the research.
This report is the culmination of three years of fish and seafloor (benthic) invertebrate community observations on the East and West Flower Garden Banks. It provides baseline information on key biological communities, and can be utilized to address resource management priorities in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary(FGBNMS). The benthic and fish community surveys were designed and implemented by a team of multi-disciplinary scientists using three complementary techniques:
- diver surveys, using recreational and technical scuba techniques, quantified benthic and fish communities on the coral reef at depths between 18-45 m / 59-150 ft;
- remotely operated vehicles (ROV) conducted video surveys at depths greater than 46 m / 150 ft; and
- fishery acoustics (sonar) surveyed fish in the water column across all habitat types and depths.
FGBNMS is one of the least impacted, thriving coral reef ecosystems in the western Atlantic and Caribbean region. It does, however, face numerous pressures that should be recognized and responded to through informed management actions. In April of 2012, NOAA published an updated management plan for the sanctuary, representing over five years of data analysis and public participation to ensure a sound strategy for conserving and protecting sanctuary resources for the future. During the management plan review process, input on potential resource protection and management issues was collected and summarized. This process identified direct and indirect impacts of fishing activities as a priority issue for management attention. Hook and line fishing (both commercial and recreational) has always been allowed within the sanctuary. However, to better understand this and other management issues, enhanced biogeographic data are needed to determine the most appropriate management actions needed to fulfill the sanctuary goals and objectives. The sanctuary Management Plan proposes a research strategy that includes characterizing FGBNMS to obtain comprehensive baseline information on fish and benthic communities prior to any management action. A second component of the strategy includes utilizing a fully-protected research area to compare to areas where fishing and other activities occur. The process of designing the research area will build upon prior successful efforts within other sanctuaries, such as Tortugas Ecological Reserve in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, as well as the information presented in this report.