Anthropogenic effects have created various risks for wild animals. Boat traffic is one of the most fatal risks for marine mammals. Individual behavioral responses of cetaceans, including diving behavior such as changing swimming direction and lengthing inter-breath interval, to passing boats is relatively well known; however, the social function of cetacean responses to boat traffic in a natural setting remains poorly understood. We focused on describing the behavioral responses of single and aggregated finless porpoises to boats passing at Misumi West Port, Ariake Sound, Japan, by using a drone characterized with a high-precision bird’s-eye angle. During the study period, we collected 25 episodes of finless porpoise responses to boats passing by. A mean (± SEM) of 5.1 ± 1.0 individuals were observed for each episode. The primary response to passing boats was avoidance by dive, which implies boat traffic is a substantial disturbance to finless porpoises that travel along the seawater surface daily. The diving duration decreased significantly with an increase in the number of aggregated individuals. The diving and floating reaction times were 10.9 ± 2.3 s and 18.7 ± 5.0 s, respectively. There was no significant difference between the reaction times indicating that each individual was motivated to keep the group cohesion consistent when floating even after the risk had dissolved, which is comparable to the behavior of porpoises that dive when riskier conditions are present, such as when a boat approaches an aggregation. Our findings provide new insights on the sociality of finless porpoises even though there were limitations, like an inability to identify a specific individual. The drone enabled us to observe the social behavior of finless porpoises and other cetaceans at an unprecedented resolution, which may lead to a better understanding of the evolutionary diversity of intelligence and sociality and the bridge to human evolution.
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Marine ecosystems of temperate regions are highly modified by human activity and far from their original natural status. The North Sea, known as an intensively used area, has lost its offshore oyster grounds due to overexploitation in a relatively short time. Native oyster beds as a once abundant and ecologically highly important biogenic reef-type have vanished from the North Sea ecosystem in most areas of both their former distribution and magnitude. Worldwide, oyster stocks have been severely exploited over the past centuries. According to estimates, about 85% of the worldwide oyster reef habitats have been destroyed over the course of the last century. This loss of oyster populations has meant far more than just the loss of a valuable food resource. Oyster reefs represent a characteristic benthic community which offers a variety of valuable ecosystem services: better water quality, local decrease of toxic algal blooms, increase in nutrient uptake, increase of bentho-pelagic coupling, increase in species richness, increase of multidimensional biogenic structures which provide habitat, food, and protection for numerous invertebrate and fish species. The aim of oyster restoration is to promote redevelopment of this valuable missing habitat. The development of strategies, methods, and procedures for a sustainable restoration of the European oyster Ostrea edulis in the German North Sea is currently a focus of marine nature conservation. Main drivers for restoring this ecological key species are the enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the marine environment. Results of these investigations will support the future development and implementation of a large-scale and long-term German native oyster restoration programme to re-establish a healthy population of this once-abundant species now absent from the region.
Coastal communities experience a wide array of environmental and social changes to which they must constantly adapt. Further, a community's perception of change and risk has significant implications for a community's willingness and ability to adapt to both current and future changes. As part of a larger study focusing on the adaptive capacity of communities on the Andaman Coast of Thailand, we used Photovoice to open a dialogue with communities about changes in the marine environment and in coastal communities. This article presents the results of two exploratory Photovoice processes and discusses prospects for using the Photovoice method for exploring social and environmental change. Changes examined included a number of broader environmental and social trends as well as ecological specifics and social particularities in each site. Participants also explored the social implications of environmental changes, the impacts of macro-scale processes on local outcomes, and emotive and active responses of individuals and communities to change. Photovoice is deemed a powerful method for: examining social, environmental, and socio-ecological change, triangulating to confirm the results of other scientific methods, revealing novel ecological interactions, and providing input into community processes focusing on natural resource management, community development, and climate change adaptation.
Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change have become a dominant theme in development and conservation research and work. Yet coastal communities are facing a wider array of different stressors that affect the sustainability of natural resources and the adaptive capacity of local residents. The ability of communities and households to adapt is influenced by the nature, number, and magnitude of the changes with which they have to contend. In this paper, we present the range of 36 socio-economic (i.e. economic, social, governance and conflict) and biophysical (i.e. climate change and other environmental) stressors that emerged from qualitative interviews in seven coastal communities on the Andaman coast of Thailand. These stressors were then integrated into a quantitative survey of 237 households wherein participants were asked to rate the level of impact of these stressors on household livelihoods. Ratings showed that economic and some climate change stressors – extreme weather events and changes in rainfall patterns and seasons – were scored higher than other stressors. The paper also examines the relationships between community and various individual and household characteristics – such as gender, age, livelihoods, levels of social capital, and socio-economic status – and the perceived level of impacts of various stressors on household livelihoods. Overall, community and livelihoods had the most differentiated impacts on perceptions of stressors but few other prominent patterns emerged. In conclusion, this paper discusses the implications of the results for current climate change vulnerability and adaptation policy and practice in Thailand and elsewhere.
Designation of large expanses of the ocean as Marine Protected Area (MPA) is increasingly advocated and realised. The effectiveness of such MPAs, however, requires improvements to vessel monitoring and enforcement capability. In 2014 commercial fishing was excluded from the Ascension Island Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In 2015, through updated regulations, a licenced fishery re-opened in the northern half of the EEZ while the southern half remained closed. To assess compliance with these closures and regulations, several promising satellite technologies (Satellite Automatic Identification System (S-AIS), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) of two vessels), were trialled alongside at-sea patrols. Use of SAR enabled assessment of ‘dark’ (non-AIS transmitting) vessels, the scope of whose activities are hardest to gauge. The high level of compliance with regulations observed, suggests the MPA may prove effective, yet a need for vigilance remains. Vessels aggregate near the EEZ border and a quarter of vessels tracked across three years exhibited S-AIS transmission gaps and present a heightened compliance risk. Use of remote, rather than local, expertise and infrastructure provide a blue-print and economies of scalefor replicating monitoring across similarly sized MPAs; particularly for large (>~ 25 m) vessels with metallic superstructures conducive to SAR detection. Funding ongoing monitoring in Ascension is challenged by current levels of license uptake, which provides insufficient offsetting revenue. Satellite-derived intelligence, can be used to set risk thresholds and trigger detailed investigations. Planning long-term monitoring must, however, incorporate adequate resources for follow-up, through patrols and correspondence with flag-states and fisheries management organisations.
Spatio-temporal variability of surface geostrophic mesoscale currents in the Balearic Sea (western Mediterranean) is characterized from satellite altimetry in combination with in-situ velocity measurements collected, among others, by drifting buoys, gliders and high-frequency radar. Here, we explore the use of tracking data from living organisms in the Balearic Sea as an alternative way to acquire in-situ velocity measurements. Specifically, we use GPS-tracks of resting Scopoli’s shearwaters Calonectris diomedea, that act as passive drifters, and compare them with satellite-derived velocity patterns. Results suggest that animal-borne GPS data can be used to identify rafting behaviour outside of the breeding colonies and, furthermore, as a proxy to describe local sea surface currents. Four rafting patterns were identified according to the prevailing driving forces responsible for the observed trajectories. We find that 76% of the bird trajectories are associated with the combined effects of slippage and Ekman drift and/or surface drag; 59% are directly driven by the sea surface currents. Shearwaters are therefore likely to be passively transported by these driving forces while resting. The tracks are generally consistent with the mesoscale features observed in satellite data and identified with eddy-tracking software.
Acoustic tagging is typically used to gather data on the spatial ecology of diverse marine taxa, informing questions about spatio-temporal attributes such as residency and home range, but detection data may also reveal unanticipated insights. Many species demonstrate predictable site fidelity, and so a sudden cessation of detections for multiple individuals may be evidence of an atypical event. During 2013 and 2014, we acoustically tagged 47 grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and 48 silvertip sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus) near reefs in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) Marine Protected Area (MPA). From March 2013 to November 2014 inclusive, tags were ‘lost’, i.e. permanently ceased to be detected within the monitoring area, at an average rate of 2.6 ± 1.0 tags per month. Between 1 and 10 December 2014, detection data suggest the near-simultaneous loss of 15 of the remaining 43 active tagged sharks, a monthly loss rate over five times higher than during the previous 21 months. Between 4 and 14 December of 2014, the BIOT patrol vessel encountered 17 vessels engaged in suspected illegal fishing in the northern BIOT MPA; such sightings averaged one per month during the previous 8 months. Two of these vessels were arrested with a total of 359 sharks on board, of which grey reef and silvertip sharks constituted 47% by number. The unusual and coincident peaks in tag loss and vessel sightings, and the catch composition of the arrested vessels, suggest illegal fishing as a plausible explanation for the unusual pattern in our detection data. A Cox proportional hazards model found that the presence of fishing vessels increased the risk of tag loss by a factor of 6.0 (95% CI 2.6–14.0, p < 0.001). Based on the number of vessels sighted and the average number of sharks on vessels arrested in BIOT during 2014, we conservatively estimate that over 2000 sharks may have been removed during the suspected fishing event. Based on average catch compositions, over 1000 would have been grey reef and silvertip sharks. Assuming a closed population mark-recapture model, over one-third of the locally resident reef sharks may have been removed from the monitoring area. The data suggest that even sporadic fishing events may have a marked impact on local reef shark populations, but also demonstrate the potential of electronic tagging a tool for detecting illegal or otherwise unreported fishing activity.
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.
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.
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.
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.