The distributions of migratory species in the ocean span local, national and international jurisdictions. Across these ecologically interconnected regions, migratory marine species interact with anthropogenic stressors throughout their lives. Migratory connectivity, the geographical linking of individuals and populations throughout their migratory cycles, influences how spatial and temporal dynamics of stressors affect migratory animals and scale up to influence population abundance, distribution and species persistence. Population declines of many migratory marine species have led to calls for connectivity knowledge, especially insights from animal tracking studies, to be more systematically and synthetically incorporated into decision-making. Inclusion of migratory connectivity in the design of conservation and management measures is critical to ensure they are appropriate for the level of risk associated with various degrees of connectivity. Three mechanisms exist to incorporate migratory connectivity into international marine policy which guides conservation implementation: site-selection criteria, network design criteria and policy recommendations. Here, we review the concept of migratory connectivity and its use in international policy, and describe the Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean system, a migratory connectivity evidence-base for the ocean. We propose that without such collaboration focused on migratory connectivity, efforts to effectively conserve these critical species across jurisdictions will have limited effect.
The following titles are freely-available, or include a link to a preprint or postprint.
Marine management interventions are increasingly being implemented with the explicit goal of rebuilding ocean ecosystems, but early responses may begin with alterations in ecological interactions preceding detectable changes in population-level characteristics. To establish a baseline from which to monitor the effects of spatial protection on reef fish trophic ecology and track future ecosystem-level changes, we quantified temperate reef fish densities, size, biomass, diets and isotopic signatures at nine sites nested within two fished and one five-year old marine protected area (MPA) on the northwest coast of Canada. We calculated rockfish (Sebastes spp.) community and species-specific niche breadth for fished and protected areas based on δ13C and δ15N values. We found that rockfish community niche width was greater inside the MPA relative to adjacent fished reefs due to an expanded nitrogen range, possibly reflecting early changes in trophic interactions following five years of spatial protection. Our data also demonstrated that the MPA had a positive effect on the δ15N signature of rockfish (i.e., trophic position), but the effect of rockfish length on its own was not well-supported. In addition, we found a positive interaction between rockfish length and δ15N signature, such that δ15N signatures of rockfish caught within the MPA increased more rapidly with body size than those caught in fished areas. Differences in rockfish size structure and biomass among fished and unfished areas were not clearly evident. Species of rockfish and lingcod varied in trophic and size responses, indicating that life-history traits play an important role in predicting MPA effects. These results may suggest early changes in trophic behavior of slow-growing rockfish due to predation risk by faster growing higher trophic level predators such as lingcod inside MPAs established on temperate reefs. Consequently, spatial protection may restore both the trophic and behavioral roles of previously fished consumers earlier and in measurable ways sooner than observable changes in abundance and size.
The technology-driven application of big data is expected to assist policymaking towards sustainable development; however, the relevant literature has not addressed human welfare under climate change, which limits the understanding of climate change impacts on human societies. We present the first application of unique mobile phone network data to evaluate the current nation-wide human welfare of coastal tourism at Japanese beaches and project the value change using the four climate change scenarios. The results show that the projected national economic value loss rates are more significant than the projected national physical beach loss rates. Our findings demonstrate regional differences in recreational values: most southern beaches with larger current values would disappear, while the current small values of the northern beaches would remain. These changes imply that the ranks of the beaches, based on economic values, would enable policymakers to discuss management priorities under climate change.
Ship strikes are one of the main human-induced threats to whale survival. A variety of measures have been used or proposed to reduce collisions and subsequent mortality of whales. These include operational measures, such as mandatory speed reduction, or technical ones, such as detection tools. There is, however, a lack of a systematic approach to assessing the various measures that can mitigate the risk of ship collisions with whales. In this paper, a holistic approach is proposed to evaluate mitigation measures based on a risk assessment framework that has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), namely the Formal Safety Assessment (FSA). Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) is “a rational and systematic process for assessing the risk related to maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment and for evaluating the costs and benefits of IMO's options for reducing these risks”. The paper conceptualizes the use of a systematic risk assessment methodology, namely the FSA, to assess measures to reduce the risk of collisions between ships and whales.
The declining costs of Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS, aka drones), their ease of use, and their ability to collect high resolution data from a variety of sensors has resulted in an explosion of applications across the globe. Scientists working in the marine environment are increasingly using UAS to study a variety of topics, from counting wildlife populations in remote locations to estimating the effects of storms and sea level rise on shorelines. UAS also provide transformative potential to study the ways in which humans interact with and affect marine and coastal ecosystems, but doing so presents unique ethical and legal challenges. Human subjects have property rights that must be respected and they have rights to privacy, as well as expectations of privacy and security that may extend beyond actual legal rights. Using two case studies to illustrate these challenges, we outline the legal and regulatory landscapes that scientists confront when people are their primary study subjects, and conclude with an initial set of legal best practices to guide researchers in their efforts to study human interactions with natural resources in the marine environment.
The integration of survey data in the processes of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations is a key step for conservation of deep-sea ecosystems and sustainable exploitation of deep-sea fisheries resources, including the mitigation of by-catch and discards of cold-water corals and deep-sea sponges, both considered by FAO as vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) indicator species. Information on corals and sponges from annual bottom trawl groundfish surveys in areas beyond national jurisdictions has been integrated into the “ecosystem management cycle” of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). Survey data have improved our knowledge on VMEs identification, distribution and extent, and has led to the proposal and implementation of conservation and management measures. These data have particular relevance to delineate and refine the boundaries of areas closed to commercial bottom fishing (14 closures), in order to prevent significant adverse impacts on VMEs, according to the mandate of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 61/105. Considering the European groundfish surveys in the NAFO Regulatory Area (high seas) as a case study, the paper presents an overview of how invertebrate catch data have been integrated into the fisheries management process as a basis to the implementation of VMEs closed areas. Fishing closures are considered effective spatial management measures to avoid by-catch and discards of cold-water corals and deep-sea sponges in commercial bottom fishing, mitigating the adverse impacts on deep-sea ecosystems.
Rivers transport land-based plastic waste into the ocean. Current efforts to quantify riverine plastic emission come with uncertainty as field observations are scarce. One of the challenging aspects is the lack of consistent measurement methods that allow for comparing rivers over space and time. Recent studies have shown that simple visual observations provide a robust first-order characterization of floating and superficially suspended plastic transport, both in quantity, spatiotemporal distribution and composition. For this study, we applied this method to the river Seine, France, to provide new insights in the spatiotemporal variation in riverine plastic transport. First, we studied the response of plastic flow to increased river discharge by comparing measurements taken during low flow and high flow periods. Second, we investigated the variation of riverine plastic transport over the river length to improve our understanding of the origin and fate of riverine plastics. We demonstrate that during a period with higher river discharge, plastic transport increased up to a factor ten at the observation point closest to the river mouth. This suggests that the plastic emission into the ocean from the Seine may also be considerably higher during increased discharge. Upstream of Paris plastic transport increased only with a factor 1.5, suggesting that most plastics originate from Paris or areas further downstream. With this paper we aim to shed additional light on the seasonal variation in riverine plastic transport and its distribution along the river length, which may benefit future long-term monitoring efforts and plastic pollution mitigation strategies.
YOUMARES 9, a conference from and for YOUng MArine RESearchers, is well-established and an format to present current research topics to early career scientists. This international conference represented a platform for early career scientists in Germany, Europe, and worldwide to build up a scientific network. At large congresses, young scientists often do not have the opportunity to present themselves. YOUMARES 9 was important, giving young researchers a place to discuss their research and engage in discussions on important research questions early in their scientific career. YOUMARES 9 was organized by master’s students and doctoral candidates as a bottom-up conference. The bottom-up concept of YOUMARES 9 was professionalized by a core organizational team and a local team provided by the host. The participants of the organizational team learned to organize conferences, communicate with different stakeholders, and moderate sessions or lead workshops. As a result, the team learned self-confidence and strengthened their key competencies besides their scientific work. These kinds of conferences are indeed a very good way of supporting young researchers in their starting careers. Young researchers learn to present their work and discuss it with peers and network. To sum up, all participants learn the parts of “how to do research” that take place outside of the lab. During the conference, there is a spirit of curiosity, interest, and energy of young researchers and an open-minded atmosphere. It was great to be the host of YOUMARES 9 under the theme “The oceans: our research, our future” from 11 to 14 September 2018 at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, ICBM. It was a pleasure to welcome over 300 participants to Oldenburg. Originally, YOUMARES 9 started with a zero budget, but with support from various sponsors from science and industry, it ended up being a prestigious conference. As a future perspective, such conferences would be an essential link between industry, institutions, and universities to provide young scientists the best possibilities for future careers inside and outside the universities. These proceedings, which include a peer-reviewed process, are an excellent summary of the research activities of young marine scientists and document the actual challenges in marine and social sciences. This book is the second that was published open access with Springer in the context of YOUMARES.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) has become the most adopted approach for sustainable marine governance. While MSP has transformative capacity, evaluations of its implementation illustrate large gaps between how it is conceptualised and how it is practiced. We argue that these gaps arise from MSP being implemented through post-political processes. Although MSP has been explored through post-political lenses, these evaluations are incomplete and do not provide sufficient detail about the complex nature of the post-political condition. Drawing on seminal literature, we conceptualise the post-political as consisting of highly interconnected modalities of depoliticisation, including: neoliberalism; choreographed participation; path dependency; technocratic-managerialism; and the illusion of progressive change. Using these modalities as an analytical framework, we evaluate English MSP and find that it focuses on entrenching neoliberal logic through: tokenistic participation; wholescale adoption of path-dependent solutions; obstructionist deployment of inactive technological solutions; and promising progressive change. We do not, however, view the post-political condition as unresolvable and we develop a suite of suggestions for the re-politicisation of MSP which, collectively, could form the basis for more radical forms of MSP.
Small-scale fisheries constitute an important component of coastal human societies. The present study describes the small-scale net fisheries on Kalymnos Island (south-east Aegean Sea) that harbors the largest small-scale fleet in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In addition, this study aims to evaluate their characteristics and economics. Relevant métiers were identified through a multivariate analysis by inputting the main resources and fishing gear data that were recorded during landings. Four main practices were observed being used as fishing gears, gillnets and trammel nets, targeting the species Mullus barbatus, Boops boops, Mullus surmuletus, Scorpaena porcus, and Sepia officinalis. Further analysis, which incorporated data concerning the type of the gear used, revealed 11 distinct métiers. Most of these métiers are practiced by other Mediterranean small-scale fisheries as well, in terms of target species, gear and seasonality. However, the métier that had its target species as B.boops is not practiced in other Mediterranean small-scale fisheries. The seasonal rotation of métiers was determined by the availability of different species rather than their market price. The results revealed the difference in fishing practice used by the fishermen in the study area compared to other fishing practices in the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, the fishermen of this study area targeted more species (B.boops) with a very low market price. They also provided essential information for the development and implementation of management plans aiming at the sustainability of small-scale fisheries.
Designing effective policy interventions to motivate mitigation actions requires more realistic assumptions about human decision-making based on empirical evidence from the behavioural sciences. We therefore need to consider behavioural rather than only economic costs and benefits in policy intervention designs.
Bioluminescence is a prominent functional trait used for visual communication. A recent quantification showed that in pelagic ecosystems more than 75% of individual macro-planktonic organisms are categorized as able to emit light. In benthic ecosystems, only a few censuses have been done, and were based on a limited number of observations. In this study, our dataset is based on observations from remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives conducted from 1991–2016, spanning 0–3,972 m depth. Data were collected in the greater Monterey Bay area in central California, USA and include 369,326 pelagic and 154,275 epibenthic observations at Davidson Seamount, Guide Seamount, Sur Ridge and Monterey Bay. Because direct observation of in situ bioluminescence remains a technical challenge, taxa from ROV observations were categorized based on knowledge gained from the literature to assess bioluminescence status. We found that between 30–41% of the individual observed benthic organisms were categorized as capable of emitting light, with a strong difference between benthic and pelagic ecosystems. We conclude that overall variability in the distribution of bioluminescent organisms is related to the major differences between benthic and pelagic habitats in the deep ocean. This study may serve as the basis of future investigations linking the optical properties of various habitats and the variability of bioluminescent organism distributions.
Numerical modeling efforts in support of restoration and protection activities in coastal Louisiana have traditionally been conducted externally to any stakeholder engagement processes. This separation has resulted in planning- and project-level models built solely on technical observation and analysis of natural processes. Despite its scientific rigor, this process often fails to account for the knowledge, values, and experiences of local stakeholders that often contextualizes a modeled system. To bridge this gap, a team of natural and social scientists worked directly with local residents and resource users to develop a participatory modeling approach to collect and utilize local knowledge about the Breton Sound Estuary in southeast Louisiana, USA. Knowledge capture was facilitated through application of a local knowledge mapping methodology designed to catalog local understanding of current and historical conditions within the estuary and identify desired ecological and hydrologic end states. The results of the mapping endeavor informed modeling activities designed to assess the applicability of the identified restoration solutions. This effort was aimed at increasing stakeholder buy-in surrounding the utility of numerical models for planning and designing coastal protection and restoration projects and included an ancillary outcome aimed at elevating stakeholder empowerment regarding the design of nature-based restoration solutions and modeling scenarios. This intersection of traditional science and modeling activities with the collection and analysis of traditional ecological knowledge proved useful in elevating the confidence that community members had in modeled restoration outcomes.
Aquaculture of bivalve shellfish and seaweed represents a global opportunity to simultaneously advance coastal ecosystem recovery and provide substantive benefits to humanity. To identify marine ecoregions with the greatest potential for development of shellfish and seaweed aquaculture to meet this opportunity, we conducted a global spatial analysis using key environmental (e.g., nutrient pollution status), socioeconomic (e.g., governance quality), and human health factors (e.g., wastewater treatment prevalence). We identify a substantial opportunity for strategic sector development, with the highest opportunity marine ecoregions for shellfish aquaculture centered on Oceania, North America, and portions of Asia, and the highest opportunity for seaweed aquaculture distributed throughout Europe, Asia, Oceania, and North and South America. This study provides insights into specific areas where governments, international development organizations, and investors should prioritize new efforts to drive changes in public policy, capacity-building, and business planning to realize the ecosystem and societal benefits of shellfish and seaweed aquaculture.
Geographic isolation is an important yet underappreciated factor affecting marine reserve performance. Isolation, in combination with other factors, may preclude recruit subsidies, thus slowing recovery when base populations are small and causing a mismatch between performance and stakeholder expectations. Mona Island is a small, oceanic island located within a partial biogeographic barrier—44 km from the Puerto Rico shelf. We investigated if Mona Island’s no-take zone (MNTZ), the largest in the U.S. Caribbean, was successful in increasing mean size and density of a suite of snapper and grouper species 14 years after designation. The La Parguera Natural Reserve (LPNR) was chosen for evaluation of temporal trends at a fished location. Despite indications of fishing within the no-take area, a reserve effect at Mona Island was evidenced from increasing mean sizes and densities of some taxa and mean total density 36% greater relative to 2005. However, the largest predatory species remained rare at Mona, preventing meaningful analysis of population trends. In the LPNR, most commercial species (e.g., Lutjanus synagris, Lutjanus apodus, Lutjanus mahogoni) did not change significantly in biomass or abundance, but some (Ocyurus chrysurus, Lachnolaimus maximus), increased in abundance owing to strong recent recruitment. This study documents slow recovery in the MNTZ that is limited to smaller sized species, highlighting both the need for better compliance and the substantial recovery time required by commercially valuable, coral reef fishes in isolated marine reserves.
Large marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being established to contribute to global conservation targets but present an immense challenge for managers as they seek to govern human interactions with the environment over a vast geographical expanse. These challenges are further compounded by the remote location of some MPAs, which magnify the costs of management activities. However, large size and remoteness alone may be insufficient to achieve conservation outcomes in the absence of critical management functions such as environmental monitoring and enforcement. The Australian subantarctic Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Marine Reserve is among the world’s most remote MPAs with notoriously harsh oceanographic conditions, and yet the region’s rich mammal and fish resources have been exploited intermittently since the mid-1800s. More recently, the development of lucrative international markets for Patagonian toothfish, sold as Chilean seabass, led to the growth in both legal and illegal fishing. In 2002, to conserve the unique ecology and biodiversity in the area, Australia declared a 65,000 km2 MPA around HIMI. Worldwide, government agencies have, however, struggled to develop cost-effective institutional arrangements for conservation. This paper therefore draws upon the social-ecological systems meta-analysis database (SESMAD) to characterize the structure of conservation governance and outcomes in the HIMI Marine Reserve. The Marine Reserve has generally been successful in supporting a sustainable fishery while addressing threats to biodiversity. The remote and isolated nature of the Marine Reserve was critical to its success, but also benefited greatly from collaborations between managers and the fishing industry. Commercial fishers keep watch over the Reserve while fishing, report any observations of illegal fishing (none since 2006/07), and have at times been asked to verify remote observation of potential illegal fishing vessels. The industry also undertakes annual ecological surveys in the MPA, allowing managers to track environmental trends. The fishing industry itself highlights the importance of industry participation in conservation planning, strengthened by secure access to resources via statutory fishing rights, which provide critical incentives to invest in conservation. We therefore reflect on the potential application of this case to other remote large MPAs, highlighting potential directions for future research.
Pervasive and sustained coral diseases contribute to the systemic degradation of reef ecosystems, however, to date an understanding of the physicochemical controls on a coral disease event is still largely lacking. Water circulation and residence times and submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) all determine the degree to which reef organisms are exposed to the variable chemistry of overlying waters; understanding these physical controls is thus necessary to interpret spatial patterns in coral health. The recent discovery of coral Black Band Disease at Mākua Reef on Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i prompted an investigation into the physicochemical drivers and geomorphic controls of reef water circulation, and the temporally variable nutrient fluxes derived from SGD. Results reveal localized stagnant water parcels at Mākua Reef where groundwater-derived high nutrient loading and low salinities act in concert as stressors to coralline health – and where Black Band Disease was uniquely identified. The observed high nutrient levels during low tide conditions are likely associated with nearby upstream cesspools and drain fields. Information obtained using such a multidisciplinary approach has direct value for successful management of coastal aquifers and the health and sustainability of adjacent nearshore coral reef ecosystems.
Harmful algae blooms (HABs) in coastal marine environments are increasing in number and duration, pressuring local resource managers to implement mitigation solutions to protect human and ecosystem health. However, insufficient spatial and temporal observations create uninformed management decisions. In order to better detect and map blooms, as well as the environmental conditions responsible for their formation, long-term, unattended observation platforms are desired. In this article, we describe a new cost-efficient, autonomous, mobile platform capable of accepting several sensors that can be used to monitor HABs in near real time. The Navocean autonomous sail-powered surface vehicle is deployable by a single person from shore, capable of waypoint navigation in shallow and deep waters, and powered completely by renewable energy. We present results from three surveys of the Florida Red Tide HAB (Karenia brevis) of 2017–2018. The vessel made significant progress toward waypoints regardless of wind conditions while underway measurements revealed patches of elevated chl. a likely attributable to the K. brevis blooms as based on ancillary measurements. Measurements of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and turbidity provided an environmental context for the blooms. While the autonomous sailboat directly adds to our phytoplankton/HAB monitoring capabilities, the package may also help to ground-truth satellite measurements of HABs if careful validation measurements are performed. Finally, several other pending and future use cases for coastal and inland monitoring are discussed. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a sail-driven vessel used for coastal HAB monitoring.
Age constitutes a critical parameter for the study of animal populations, providing information about development, environmental effects, survival, and reproduction. Unfortunately, age estimation is not only challenging in large, mobile and legally protected species, but often involves invasive sampling methods. The present work investigates the association between epigenetic modifications and chronological age in small cetaceans. For that purpose, DNA methylation at age-linked genes was characterized in an extensively studied, long-term resident common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) community from Sarasota Bay (FL, United States) for which sampled individuals have a known age. Results led to the identification of several CpG sites that are significantly correlated to chronological age in this species with the potential for sex to play a role in the modulation of this correlation. These findings have allowed for the development and validation of the “Bottlenose dolphin Epigenetic Age estimation Tool” (BEAT), improving minimally-invasive age estimation in free-ranging small cetaceans. Overall, the BEAT proved to be accurate in estimating age in these organisms. Given its minimally-invasive nature and potential large-scale implementation using skin biopsy samples, this tool can be used to generate age data from free-ranging small cetacean populations.
Coral reefs are exceptionally biodiverse and human dependence on their ecosystem services is high. Reefs experience significant direct and indirect anthropogenic pressures, and provide a sensitive indicator of coastal ocean health, climate change, and ocean acidification, with associated implications for society. Monitoring coral reef status and trends is essential to better inform science, management and policy, but the projected collapse of reef systems within a few decades makes the provision of accurate and actionable monitoring data urgent. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network has been the foundation for global reporting on coral reefs for two decades, and is entering into a new phase with improved operational and data standards incorporating the Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) (www.goosocean.org/eov) and Framework for Ocean Observing developed by the Global Ocean Observing System. Three EOVs provide a robust description of reef health: hard coral cover and composition, macro-algal canopy cover, and fish diversity and abundance. A data quality model based on comprehensive metadata has been designed to facilitate maximum global coverage of coral reef data, and tangible steps to track capacity building. Improved monitoring of events such as mass bleaching and disease outbreaks, citizen science, and socio-economic monitoring have the potential to greatly improve the relevance of monitoring to managers and stakeholders, and to address the complex and multi- dimensional interactions between reefs and people. A new generation of autonomous vehicles (underwater, surface, and aerial) and satellites are set to revolutionize and vastly expand our understanding of coral reefs. Promising approaches include Structure from Motion image processing, and acoustic techniques. Across all systems, curation of data in linked and open online databases, with an open data culture to maximize benefits from data integration, and empowering users to take action, are priorities. Action in the next decade will be essential to mitigate the impacts on coral reefs from warming temperatures, through local management and informing national and international obligations, particularly in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, climate action, and the role of coral reefs as a global indicator. Mobilizing data to help drive the needed behavior change is a top priority for coral reef observing systems.