Since the industrial revolution, anthropogenic CO2 emissions have caused ocean acidification, which particularly affects calcified organisms. Given the fan-like calcified fronds of the brown alga Padina pavonica, we evaluated the acute (short-term) effects of a sudden pH drop due to a submarine volcanic eruption (October 2011–early March 2012) affecting offshore waters around El Hierro Island (Canary Islands, Spain). We further studied the chronic (long-term) effects of the continuous decrease in pH in the last decades around the Canarian waters. In both the observational and retrospective studies (using herbarium collections of P. pavonica thalli from the overall Canarian Archipelago), the percent of surface calcium carbonate coverage of P. pavonica thalli were contrasted with oceanographic data collected either in situ (volcanic eruption event) or from the ESTOC marine observatory data series (herbarium study). Results showed that this calcified alga is sensitive to acute and chronic environmental pH changes. In both cases, pH changes predicted surface thallus calcification, including a progressive decalcification over the last three decades. This result concurs with previous studies where calcareous organisms decalcify under more acidic conditions. Hence, Padina pavonica can be implemented as a bio-indicator of ocean acidification (at short and long time scales) for monitoring purposes over wide geographic ranges, as this macroalga is affected and thrives (unlike strict calcifiers) under more acidic conditions.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted Louisiana's coastal estuaries physically, chemically, and biologically. To better understand the ecological consequences of this oil spill on Louisiana estuaries, we compared the abundance and size of two Gulf shrimp species (Farfantepeneus aztecus and Litopeneus setiferus) in heavily affected and relatively unaffected estuaries, before and after the oil spill. Two datasets were used to conduct this study: data on shrimp abundance and size before the spill were available from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Data on shrimp abundance and size from after the spill were independently collected by the authors and by LDWF. Using a Before-After-Control-Impact with Paired sampling (BACIP) design with monthly samples of two selected basins, we found brown shrimp to become more abundant and the mean size of white shrimp to become smaller. Using a BACIP with data on successive shrimp year-classes of multiple basins, we found both species to become more abundant in basins that were affected by the spill, while mean shrimp size either not change after the spill, or increased in both affected and unaffected basins. We conclude that following the oil spill abundances of both species increased within affected estuaries, whereas mean size may have been unaffected. We propose two factors that may have caused these results: 1) exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may have reduced the growth rate of shrimp, resulting in a delayed movement of shrimp to offshore habitats, and an increase of within-estuary shrimp abundance, and 2) fishing closures established immediately after the spill, may have resulted in decreased fishing effort and an increase in shrimp abundance. This study accentuates the complexities in determining ecological effects of oil spills, and the need of studies on the organismal level to reveal cause-and-effect relationships of such events.
Although iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, bioavailable iron limits marine primary production in about one third of the ocean. This lack of iron availability has implications in climate change because the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by phytoplankton requires iron. Using literature values for global fish biomass estimates, and elemental composition data we estimate that fish biota store between 0.7–7×1011 g of iron. Additionally, the global fish population recycles through excretion between 0.4–1.5×1012 g of iron per year, which is of a similar magnitude as major recognized sources of iron (e.g. dust, sediments, ice sheet melting). In terms of biological impact this iron could be superior to dust inputs due to the distributed deposition and to the greater solubility of fecal pellets compared to inorganic minerals. To estimate a loss term due to anthropogenic activity the total commercial catch for 1950 to 2010 was obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Marine catch data were separated by taxa. High and low end values for elemental composition were obtained for each taxonomic category from the literature and used to calculate iron per mass of total harvest over time. The marine commercial catch is estimated to have removed 1–6×109 g of iron in 1950, the lowest values on record. There is an annual increase to 0.7–3×1010 g in 1996, which declines to 0.6–2×1010 g in 2010. While small compared to the total iron terms in the cycle, these could have compounding effects on distribution and concentration patterns globally over time. These storage, recycling, and export terms of biotic iron are not currently included in ocean iron mass balance calculations. These data suggest that fish and anthropogenic activity should be included in global oceanic iron cycles.
Many marine populations exhibit high variability in the recruitment of young into the population. While environmental cycles and oceanography explain some patterns of replenishment, the role of other growth-related processes in influencing settlement and recruitment is less clear. Examination of a 65-mo. time series of recruitment of a common coral reef fish, Stegastes partitus, to the reefs of the upper Florida Keys revealed that during peak recruitment months, settlement stage larvae arriving during dark lunar phases grew faster as larvae and were larger at settlement compared to those settling during the light lunar phases. However, the strength and direction of early trait-mediated selective mortality also varied by settlement lunar phase such that the early life history traits of 2–4 week old recruit survivors that settled across the lunar cycle converged to more similar values. Similarly, within peak settlement periods, early life history traits of settling larvae and selective mortality of recruits varied by the magnitude of the settlement event: larvae settling in larger events had longer PLDs and consequently were larger at settlement than those settling in smaller pulses. Traits also varied by recruitment habitat: recruits surviving in live coral habitat (vs rubble) or areas with higher densities of adult conspecifics were those that were larger at settlement. Reef habitats, especially those with high densities of territorial conspecifics, are more challenging habitats for young fish to occupy and small settlers (due to lower larval growth and/or shorter PLDs) to these habitats have a lower chance of survival than they do in rubble habitats. Settling reef fish are not all equal and the time and location of settlement influences the likelihood that individuals will survive to contribute to the population.
The drastic decline in the abundance of Caribbean acroporid corals (Acropora cervicornis, A. palmata) has prompted the listing of this genus as threatened as well as the development of a regional propagation and restoration program. Using in situ underwater nurseries, we documented the influence of coral genotype and symbiont identity, colony size, and propagation method on the growth and branching patterns of staghorn corals in Florida and the Dominican Republic.
Individual tracking of> 1700 nursery-grown staghorn fragments and colonies from 37 distinct genotypes (identified using microsatellites) in Florida and the Dominican Republic revealed a significant positive relationship between size and growth, but a decreasing rate of productivity with increasing size. Pruning vigor (enhanced growth after fragmentation) was documented even in colonies that lost 95% of their coral tissue/skeleton, indicating that high productivity can be maintained within nurseries by sequentially fragmenting corals. A significant effect of coral genotype was documented for corals grown in a common-garden setting, with fast-growing genotypes growing up to an order of magnitude faster than slow-growing genotypes. Algal-symbiont identity established using qPCR techniques showed that clade A (likely Symbiodinium A3) was the dominant symbiont type for all coral genotypes, except for one coral genotype in the DR and two in Florida that were dominated by clade C, with A- and C-dominated genotypes having similar growth rates.
The threatened Caribbean staghorn coral is capable of extremely fast growth, with annual productivity rates exceeding 5 cm of new coral produced for every cm of existing coral. This species benefits from high fragment survivorship coupled by the pruning vigor experienced by the parent colonies after fragmentation. These life-history characteristics make A. cervicornis a successful candidate nursery species and provide optimism for the potential role that active propagation can play in the recovery of this keystone species.
The reduction in coral cover on many contemporary tropical reefs suggests a different set of coral community assemblages will dominate future reefs. To evaluate the capacity of reef corals to persist over various time scales, we examined coral community dynamics in contemporary, fossil, and simulated future coral reef ecosystems. Based on studies between 1987 and 2012 at two locations in the Caribbean, and between 1981 and 2013 at five locations in the Indo-Pacific, we show that many coral genera declined in abundance, some showed no change in abundance, and a few coral genera increased in abundance. Whether the abundance of a genus declined, increased, or was conserved, was independent of coral family. An analysis of fossil-reef communities in the Caribbean revealed changes in numerical dominance and relative abundances of coral genera, and demonstrated that neither dominance nor taxon was associated with persistence. As coral family was a poor predictor of performance on contemporary reefs, a trait-based, dynamic, multi-patch model was developed to explore the phenotypic basis of ecological performance in a warmer future. Sensitivity analyses revealed that upon exposure to thermal stress, thermal tolerance, growth rate, and longevity were the most important predictors of coral persistence. Together, our results underscore the high variation in the rates and direction of change in coral abundances on contemporary and fossil reefs. Given this variation, it remains possible that coral reefs will be populated by a subset of the present coral fauna in a future that is warmer than the recent past.
Fishing, farming and ranching provide opportunities for predators to prey on resources concentrated by humans, a behavior termed depredation. In the Gulf of Alaska, observations of sperm whales depredating on fish caught on demersal longline gear dates back to the 1970s, with reported incidents increasing in the mid-1990s. Sperm whale depredation provides an opportunity to study the spread of a novel foraging behavior within a population. Data were collected during National Marine Fisheries Service longline surveys using demersal longline gear in waters off Alaska from 1998 to 2010. We evaluated whether observations of depredation fit predictions of social transmission by fitting the temporal and spatial spread of new observations of depredation to the Wave of Advance model. We found a significant, positive relationship between time and the distance of new observations from the diffusion center (r2 = 0.55, p-value = 0.003). The data provide circumstantial evidence for social transmission of depredation. We discuss how changes in human activities in the region (fishing methods and regulations) have created a situation in which there is spatial-temporal overlap with foraging sperm whales, likely influencing when and how the behavior spread among the population.
The complex multi-gear, multi-species tropical fisheries in developing countries are poorly understood and characterising the landings from these fisheries is often impossible using conventional approaches. A rapid assessment method for characterising landings at fish markets, using an index of abundance and estimated weight within taxonomic groups, is described. This approach was developed for contexts where there are no detailed data collection protocols, and where consistent data collection across a wide range of fisheries types and geographic areas is required, regardless of the size of the site and scale of the landings. This methodology, which was demonstrated at seven fish landing sites/fish markets in southern Indonesia between July 2008 and January 2011, provides a rapid assessment of the abundance and diversity in the wild catch over a wide variety of taxonomic groups. The approach has wider application for species-rich fisheries in developing countries where there is an urgent need for better data collection protocols, monitoring future changes in market demographics, and evaluating health of fisheries.
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is often considered as a pragmatic approach to implement an ecosystem based management in order to manage marine space in a sustainable way. This requires the involvement of multiple actors and stakeholders at various governmental and societal levels. Several factors affect how well the integrated management of marine waters will be achieved, such as different governance settings (division of power between central and local governments), economic activities (and related priorities), external drivers, spatial scales, incentives and objectives, varying approaches to legislation and political will. We compared MSP in Belgium, Norway and the US to illustrate how the integration of stakeholders and governmental levels differs among these countries along the factors mentioned above. Horizontal integration (between sectors) is successful in all three countries, achieved through the use of neutral ‘round-table’ meeting places for all actors. Vertical integration between government levels varies, with Belgium and Norway having achieved full integration while the US lacks integration of the legislature due to sharp disagreements among stakeholders and unsuccessful partisan leadership. Success factors include political will and leadership, process transparency and stakeholder participation, and should be considered in all MSP development processes.
The paper discusses the combined effects of ocean acidification, eutrophication and climate change on the Baltic Sea and the implications for current management strategies. The scientific basis is built on results gathered in the BONUS+ projects Baltic-C and ECOSUPPORT. Model results indicate that the Baltic Sea is likely to be warmer, more hypoxic and more acidic in the future. At present management strategies are not taking into account temporal trends and potential ecosystem change due to warming and/or acidification, and therefore fulfilling the obligations specified within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, OSPAR and HELCOM conventions and national environmental objectives may become significantly more difficult. The paper aims to provide a basis for a discussion on the effectiveness of current policy instruments and possible strategies for setting practical environmental objectives in a changing climate and with multiple stressors.
Aquaculture production is an important industry in many countries and there has been a growth in the use of medicines to ensure the health and cost effectiveness of the industry. This study focused on the inputs of sea lice medication to the marine environment. Diflubenzuron, teflubenzuron, emamectin benzoate, cypermethrin, and deltamethrin were measured in water, sediment, and biota samples in the vicinity of five aquaculture locations along the Norwegian coast. Deltamethrin and cypermethrin were not detected above the limits of detection in any samples. Diflubenzuron, teflubenzuron, and emamectin benzoate were detected, and the data was compared the UK Environmental Quality Standards. The concentrations of emamectin benzoate detected in sediments exceed the environmental quality standard (EQS) on 5 occasions in this study. The EQS for teflubenzuron in sediment was exceeded in 67% of the samples and exceeded for diflubenzuron in 40% of the water samples collected. A crude assessment of the concentrations detected in the shrimp collected from one location and the levels at which chronic effects are seen in shrimp would suggest that there is a potential risk to shrimp. It would also be reasonable to extrapolate this to any species that undergoes moulting during its life cycle.
Multinational collaboration is important for successfully protecting marine environments. However, few studies have assessed the costs and benefits incurred by taking collaborative action. One of the most complex marine regions in the world is the Mediterranean Sea biodiversity hotspot. The sea is shared by over 20 countries across three continents with a vast array of socio-economic and political backgrounds. We aimed to examine how collaboration between countries of the Mediterranean Sea affects conservation plans when costs and threats are considered.
The Mediterranean Sea.
We compared three collaboration scenarios to test the efficiencies of coordinated marine conservation efforts: full coordination between Mediterranean countries, partial coordination within continents and no coordination where countries act in isolation. To do so, we developed four basin-wide surrogates for commercial and recreational fishing effort in the Mediterranean Sea. Using a systematic decision support tool (Marxan), we minimized the opportunity costs while meeting a suite of biodiversity targets.
We discovered that to reach the same conservation targets, a plan where all the countries of the Mediterranean Sea collaborate can save over two-thirds of the cost of a plan where each country acts independently. The benefits of multinational collaboration are surprisingly unequal between countries.
This approach, which incorporates biodiversity, costs and collaboration into a systematic conservation plan, can help deliver efficient conservation outcomes when planning spatially explicit actions within marine environments shared by many countries.
Florida represents a major component of the nation’s seafood industry. The commercial fishing industry in Florida lands approximately 100 million pounds of wild-caught finfish and shellfish annually. Over one hundred species, including shrimp, grouper, spiny lobster, stone crab, snapper, and others, are harvested in Florida and comprise an extremely diverse mix of high-quality products that are eventually sold into local, regional, and national markets. While effective management has kept the traditional finfish and shellfish species in the markets, an even more diverse group of seafood products are imported into Florida from other states and foreign sources.
During 2012, the quantity of imported seafood into the US market exceeded domestic landings by 42%. With Florida being a leading state for importing and processing seafood, the contribution of imports into local markets cannot be understated. The seafood industry in Florida includes a complex network of harvesting, importation, processing, and sales which fuels a very large economic engine. Florida-harvested seafood annually generates $171 million in economic impacts and creates over 7,400 jobs, while imported seafood generates $2.4 billion in economic impacts and creates 65,000 jobs. The economic importance of the state’s industry aside, locally-harvested and imported seafood products provide Florida’s seafood consumers with an unparalleled assortment of seafood products to savor and enjoy.
As the demand for seafood continues to grow in Florida, driven by a growing population, a constantly changing ethnicity mix, and evolving economic conditions, the need for a high-quality, diverse, sustainable, and affordable seafood supply is increasingly important. However, many Floridians are becoming more concerned about the origin, quality, sustainability, safety, affordability, and convenience of the seafood products they purchase. Local food movements are compelling consumers to purchase more locally sourced products. The growing presence of “green” products and eco-labeling is creating an awareness of the sustainability of seafood. Convenience packaging is realizing a growing market share as consumers continue to seek confidence in preparing seafood at home. In addition, the media exposure of contaminants in food products and the increasing incidence of economic fraud, such as mislabeling, contribute to a complex and confusing marketplace. Consumer confusion and uncertainty exists, creating a demonstrable need for educational programs that help can help buyers make informed decisions about the seafood products they should purchase for their households.
Thus, a survey of Florida seafood consumer preferences, perceptions and concerns was needed to assess the regional educational needs of seafood consumers. A survey was needed to address the myriad issues concerning seafood quality, safety, product origin, mislabeling, sustainability and traceability. The survey also addressed regional needs within the state (i.e., proximity to the coast, north/south/central with the peninsula, etc.), seasonality issues, consumer demographics, awareness of health benefits associated with seafood, preparation methods, and concerns associated with recent environmental events. The findings of the survey augment the information that exists from previous seafood perception surveys for Florida and the other states within the Gulf region. The survey findings are a key source of information to accurately assess the educational needs of the future educational programs and help identify the topics of greatest concern to various clientele groups.
Fisheries are an important source of food, income and cultural identity for Caribbean communities. While reef fisheries in the Caribbean are frequently over-exploited, offshore pelagic resources also targeted by the US sport-fishing industry may generate alternative economic benefits and divert pressure from reefs. Key to the efficient harvesting of thinly-distributed pelagic fish is the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs). Traditionally, FADs were deployed by individuals or close-knit groups of fishers. Recently, governments have deployed public FADs accessible to all. There is concern that public FADs are exploited less efficiently and produce conflicts related to crowding and misuse.
In partnership with Counterpart International, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism and the Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Fisheries Divisions, Florida Sea Grant collected information from fishermen on their use of FADs that were deployed privately, by small groups or by the government. This allowed for a determination of governance arrangements that were most profitable and provided input to stakeholder meetings with FAD fishers to identify best practices for sustainably using and co-managing FADs.
The fishing trip analysis shows that catch and profitability are higher when FADs are managed privately or by small groups and access to the aggregated fisheries resources is somewhat restricted. An engagement strategy that introduced an activity planner as a best practice to increase information sharing helped strengthen the rapport between government and fisheries stakeholders. Study results are helping shape regional implementation of policy, which favors FADs co-managed by fishers and government, but can benefit from positive aspects of FADs managed privately or by small groups.
A movement ecology framework is applied to enhance our understanding of the causes, mechanisms and consequences of movement in seagrasses: marine, clonal, flowering plants. Four life-history stages of seagrasses can move: pollen, sexual propagules, vegetative fragments and the spread of individuals through clonal growth. Movement occurs on the water surface, in the water column, on or in the sediment, via animal vectors and through spreading clones. A capacity for long-distance dispersal and demographic connectivity over multiple timeframes is the novel feature of the movement ecology of seagrasses with significant evolutionary and ecological consequences. The space–time movement footprint of different life-history stages varies. For example, the distance moved by reproductive propagules and vegetative expansion via clonal growth is similar, but the timescales range exponentially, from hours to months or centuries to millennia, respectively. Consequently, environmental factors and key traits that interact to influence movement also operate on vastly different spatial and temporal scales. Six key future research areas have been identified.
he concept of ecosystem goods and services (ES) has become increasingly important in conservation management. This report provides an overview of how ES theory, classification, valuation methods and spatial modelling tools can be used to manage and protect New Zealand’s existing marine parks, management areas, sanctuaries and the protected area network. Specifically, it summarises the ES of coastal and marine areas, including marine protected areas (MPAs), and provides an estimate of their values, based on a benefit-transfer of values from the literature. The rapid ecosystem services assessment (RESA) method was applied to seven New Zealand marine areas, including the Exclusive Economic Zone (and Territorial Sea), a marine mammal sanctuary and five marine reserves. These RESAs were based on GIS data, which generated a solid starting point for the valuations and highlighted the benefit of having clear definitions of biomes. Collectively, the case-study areas generated an average ES value of NZ$403B per year for 2010, which is about 2.07 times gross domestic product (GDP) for that same year (NZ$194B) and equates to a per capita ES value of NZ$92,245 per year. Qualitative analysis of the supply, demand and value of ES suggests that a change in the legal status of a marine or coastal area will only bring benefits if the value is perceived—which is often not the case for marine ecosystems. Therefore, this report concludes with an overview of the tools that are being developed for ES valuation, ranging from those that can be applied when the benefits are evident to those that are more suitable for when they are not.
Management of marine ecosystems increasingly demands comprehensive and quantitative assessments of ocean health, but lacks a tool to do so. We applied the recently developed Ocean Health Index to assess ocean health in the relatively data-rich US west coast region. The overall region scored 71 out of 100, with sub-regions scoring from 65 (Washington) to 74 (Oregon). Highest scoring goals included tourism and recreation (99) and clean waters (87), while the lowest scoring goals were sense of place (48) and artisanal fishing opportunities (57). Surprisingly, even in this well-studied area data limitations precluded robust assessments of past trends in overall ocean health. Nonetheless, retrospective calculation of current status showed that many goals have declined, by up to 20%. In contrast, near-term future scores were on average 6% greater than current status across all goals and sub-regions. Application of hypothetical but realistic management scenarios illustrate how the Index can be used to predict and understand the tradeoffs among goals and consequences for overall ocean health. We illustrate and discuss how this index can be used to vet underlying assumptions and decisions with local stakeholders and decision-makers so that scores reflect regional knowledge, priorities and values. We also highlight the importance of ongoing and future monitoring that will provide robust data relevant to ocean health assessment.
The vastness of the ocean came sharply into focus nearly 50 years ago, when the Apollo missions produced the first images of our overwhelmingly blue planet from space. More recently, a number of United Nations reports and peer-reviewed scientific studies have underlined the interconnectedness between the planetary climate and ocean systems, and the central role that the ocean is playing in protecting us from the impacts of climate change. Yet, despite this heightened awareness, the ocean remains chronically undervalued, poorly managed and inadequately governed.
This is particularly true of the high seas, the 64% of the total surface area of the ocean that is beyond the jurisdiction of any State. The high seas also provides a critical life-support function for areas within the national jurisdiction of coastal States (exclusive economic zones or EEZs) and what happens on the high seas can and does have a significant impact on the ecological health and productivity of EEZs.
When the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – the ‘constitution for the ocean’ – was negotiated, the high seas was protected by its inaccessibility. Today, there is virtually nowhere that industrial fishing vessels cannot reach, offshore oil and gas drilling is extending further and deeper every year, and deep sea mineral extraction is fast becoming a reality. The concept of the ‘freedom of the high seas’ guaranteed in the Convention once conjured up images of adventure and opportunity, but it is now driving a relentless ‘tragedy of the commons’, characterised by the depletion of fish stocks and other precious marine resources. The freedom is being exploited by those with the money and ability to do so, with little sense of responsibility or social justice.
People have lived near the ocean for millennia and maritime communities have always recognised the importance of the ocean and made it the centre of their economies and cultures. While it was living ocean resources that first drew people to the sea – and ocean fisheries and aquaculture today provide food for billions of people as well as livelihoods for millions – today we are increasingly aware of the less visible yet even more vital role the ocean plays in regulating the life-giving systems of our planet. It is the great biological pump at the heart of global atmospheric and thermal regulation and the driver of the water and nutrient cycles.
High seas ecosystems are estimated to be responsible for nearly half of the biological productivity of the entire ocean. The global ocean produces almost half of all the oxygen we breathe and absorbs more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere. More than 90% of the heat trapped in the Earth system by greenhouse gas emissions is stored in the ocean, providing a buffer against the full impacts of climate change on land; but this is having alarming consequences on ocean life and is perhaps the largest unseen environmental disaster of our time.
The ocean is, in essence, the kidney of our planet, keeping its systems healthy and productive. But the ability of the ocean to continue to provide these essential ecosystem services is being compromised as rising temperatures reduce its oxygen-carrying capacity. The increasing uptake of carbon dioxide is causing ocean acidification, and unprecedented changes in chemical and physical conditions are already impacting the distribution and abundance of marine organisms and ecosystems. The very life of the global ocean, from the smallest phytoplankton to the largest of the great whales, is being impacted.
The international community has expended a tremendous amount of political capital and diplomatic effort on establishing policy commitments aimed at reversing ocean degradation. Unfortunately, there remains a huge gap between the commitments expressed in various policy documents and the willingness or ability of States to implement them. For example, the Heads of State and Government at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) said that they would establish a representative network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012, but by the time of the 2012 Rio+20 Summit it was evident that little progress had been made towards meeting this target, especially beyond coastal areas. Today, MPAs cover less than 1% of the high seas.
The conclusion we have come to is that the current governance system for the management of human activities impacting the high seas is no longer fit for purpose and cannot ensure longterm sustainability or equity in resource allocation, nor create the conditions for maximising economic benefits from the high seas. UNCLOS has proven itself particularly slow in responding to new challenges, not least when it comes to improving the management of growing threats and risks to biodiversity, ecosystems and fishery resources in the high seas, a need that has been widely recognised since at least 2002.
By understanding the drivers of decline individually and together, we have come to understand that what is needed is an integrated rescue package which can deliver ocean restoration when undertaken as a whole. We have considered equity, development and sustainability, and economic as well as intrinsic values. We have thought about the roles of consumers, intermediaries and markets, politicians, direct users and indirect beneficiaries.
In 2013, the Aspen Institute published The Ocean Community Report, a study based on a 2012 roundtable discussion with oceans leaders at Fort Baker, California on the state of ocean conservation, as well as two research papers on marine protection advocacy, policy and management.
The report’s recommendations suggested opportunities for improving the effectiveness of collaboration among ocean conservation advocacy groups, funders and policymakers, including taking advantage of the synergies between conservation tools, reframing ocean conservation as a solution to other national issues, and promoting win-win conservation opportunities.
Building on this report, a second gathering of oceans experts was convened one year later at Aspen Wye River to assess the steps required for scaling investment in and deployment of ocean conservation tools in both small-scale coastal fisheries and large-scale MPAs. This roundtable served as a platform for the community to discuss and develop its alignment of conservation priorities with socioeconomic goals and advance innovative conservation financing opportunities.
Based on these 2013 discussions at Wye River, and Aspen’s Ocean Community Report, the following recommendations have been forwarded for continued reflection and prioritization by the ocean community:
- Public-Private Partnerships on ocean conservation should be built around the needs of local governments and communities—rather than solely around MPAs, MSP or biodiversity—and focus on specific local fisheries problems, food security challenges and economic needs. This approach will get at the heart of the particular goals in which that country will be more willing to invest public funds. The global replication of successful marine protection requires the development of a clear and strong value proposition, such that the conservation community becomes an agent for establishing the systems and benefits that local leaders themselves want. Moving forward, the conservation community must apply a nuanced understanding of strategies for inspiring local leadership in this way, especially in the case of initially unreceptive governments.
- Scaling marine protection to the levels required for global impact will require significant partnership with not only government but with the private sector, specifically with corporations. Where MPAs, MSP or TURFs may gain little traction, developing a stronger economic development approach of selling a specific goal (in this case, long-term conservation of marine resources) will help coastal communities to understand the product being offered and better recognize its value. The private sector—especially corporations dependent on coastal resilience—is particularly interested in the sustainability of small scale artisanal fisheries, and so will lead the way in creating sustainable ocean economies by investing in coastal resilience and implementing technologies that make enhanced marine protection and monitoring possible.
- An innovative and landscape-changing approach to replicating marine conservation is coordination by NGOs or funders using a subcontractor model of partnership and coordination, whereby a single NGO or funder entity develops the demand and commitment from local political leadership, and then delivers on the goals by establishing partnerships with those best prepared to achieve specific goals.
The industrialisation and overuse of the high seas jeopardises the natural wealth of their ecosystems and the services they provide to people. Fishing and shipping continue to inflict harm on high-seas ecosystems. Mining for minerals and new sources of fossil fuels will likely increase the industrial use of the high seas and will further damage their ecosystems. At the same time, the governance of the high seas is fragmented, with different international institutions focusing on specific industrial activities, places, or even different parts of the ecosystems. For instance, weak fisheries governance in the high seas has led to ad hoc regulation that varies from place to place. The result has been widespread overfishing.
There is growing evidence that the ecosystem services provided by the high seas are of high social and economic value. The evidence also is clear that poor management of human activities on the high seas has eroded the natural wealth and productivity of high-seas ecosystems with negative economic and social consequences for all of us.
We examine 15 important ecosystem services provided by the high seas. These fall into the categories of provisioning services (seafood; raw materials; genetic resources; medicinal resources; ornamental resources), regulating services (air purification; climate regulation; waste treatment; biological control) habitat services (lifecycle maintenance; gene pool protection) and cultural services (recreation and leisure; aesthetic information; information for culture, art, design and for cognitive development). The quantity and quality of ecosystem services depend directly on both the living (e.g. animals, algae, microorganisms) and non-living (e.g. the shape and structure of the seabed) components of the marine ecosystems of the high seas.
To understand the potential value of high-seas ecosystem services, we describe and quantify, when possible, the provision and general nature of values provided by these 15 types of ecosystem services. We put these values in the context of the costs of improved governance and management of human activities in the high seas with a particular focus on improved marine protection.
Few ecosystem services in the high seas can be accurately valued given currently available information. We lack scientific information about the provision and use of most high-seas ecosystem services and their quantity and nature, and even lack knowledge regarding how and where, precisely, they are produced. The high seas support economically important species that may swim, migrate or drift well beyond the physical boundaries of the high seas. This makes it difficult to disentangle the contribution of high-seas ecosystems to the services that are produced in the high seas but are enjoyed elsewhere – sometimes thousands of kilometres away. Many high-seas ecosystem services are not enjoyed directly in all contexts. Instead, in some contexts, many play an intermediate role in the creation of ecosystem services elsewhere (e.g. high-seas ecosystems support prey that are consumed by commercially important fish species which are harvested elsewhere). Clearly, there is the need for more and better science on the provision and value of high-seas ecosystem services.
We provide estimates of the economic value of two important high-seas ecosystem services: carbon storage and fisheries. Carbon is stored by high-seas ecosystems as part of naturally occurring processes in which marine organisms convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and biological production. We estimate that high-seas ecosystems are responsible for nearly half of the biological productivity of the global ocean. While the science of carbon sequestration in the high seas is still evolving, we estimate that nearly half a billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of over 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, are captured and stored by high-seas ecosystems annually. Based on current estimates of the economic cost of additional carbon in the atmosphere (i.e. the social cost of carbon), we find that the value of carbon storage by high-seas ecosystems ranges between US$74 billion and US$222 billion annually.