Ocean and coastal states around the world are increasingly seeking to better utilize and benefit from their ocean environments, which can be vast in comparison to their land areas. Conflicting human uses, a changing climate, and a desire to ensure long-term sustainability compound the challenge to grow a robust “blue economy.” Consequently, countries are turning to marine spatial planning as a comprehensive management tool to assess and organize present uses of their ocean environments and map for future uses. A wealth of literature describes the importance of marine spatial planning and how it can be used to organize a country’s ocean activities. To date, little attention has been paid to how countries can give their marine spatial planning initiatives the force of law. Designing Marine Spatial Planning Legislation for Implementation: A Guide for Legal Drafters is intended to fill this gap by providing a starting point for the busy government lawyer who has been asked to “draft a marine spatial planning law.” The Guide contains information about essential components and subcomponents of marine spatial planning legislation, describing each and highlighting its role and significance. The Guide also provides examples of textual provisions from existing marine spatial planning laws and regulations, along with sample provisions prepared by the authors, to illustrate how legislative or regulatory language can address each component.
Protecting marine biodiversity and ensuring sustainable use through a seascape approach is becoming increasingly widespread in response to the ecological, social and institutional challenges of scaling ocean management. A seascape approach means clustering spatial management measures (marine protected areas) based around the principles of ecological connectivity, and developing or enhancing collaborative governance networks of relevant stakeholders (managers, community groups, non-governmental organizations) based around the principles of social connectivity. As with other large-scale approaches to marine management, there is minimal evidence of long-term impact in seascapes. This study uses a theory-based, participatory impact evaluation to assess perceived changes attributed to the Atlántida seascape in Honduras (initiated in 2015), encompassing three well-established marine protected areas and the non-legally managed waters between them. Using an adapted most significant change method, 15 interviews with a representative subset of seascape stakeholders yielded 165 stories of change, the majority (88%) of which were positive. Enhanced social capital, associated with cross-sectoral collaboration, inter-site conflict resolution and shared learning, was the most consistently expressed thematic change (32% of stories). Although most stories were expressed as activity- or output-related changes, a small proportion (18%) were causally linked to broader outcomes or impact around increased fish and flagship species abundance as well as interconnected well-being benefits for people. Although minimal (and occasionally attributed to prior initiatives that were enhanced by the seascape approach), this impact evidence tentatively links seascapes to recent related research around the effectiveness of appropriately scaled, ecosystem-based and collaboratively governed marine management that balances strict protection with sustainable use.
Fish populations subject to heavy exploitation are expected to evolve over time smaller average body sizes. We introduce Stackelberg evolutionary game theory to show how fisheries management should be adjusted to mitigate the potential negative effects of such evolutionary changes. We present the game of a fisheries manager versus a fish population, where the former adjusts the harvesting rate and the net size to maximize profit, while the latter responds by evolving the size at maturation to maximize the fitness. We analyze three strategies: i) ecologically enlightened (leading to a Nash equilibrium in game-theoretic terms); ii) evolutionarily enlightened (leading to a Stackelberg equilibrium) and iii) domestication (leading to team optimum) and the corresponding outcomes for both the fisheries manager and the fish. Domestication results in the largest size for the fish and the highest profit for the manager. With the Nash approach the manager tends to adopt a high harvesting rate and a small net size that eventually leads to smaller fish. With the Stackelberg approach the manager selects a bigger net size and scales back the harvesting rate, which lead to a bigger fish size and a higher profit. Overall, our results encourage managers to take the fish evolutionary dynamics into account. Moreover, we advocate for the use of Stackelberg evolutionary game theory as a tool for providing insights into the eco-evolutionary consequences of exploiting evolving resources.
Vessels cause considerable disturbance to cetaceans world-wide, with potential long-term impacts to population viability. Here we present a comprehensive review of vessel impacts to cetacean behavior in Australian waters (2003–2015), finding inadequate protections to be in place. The majority of these studies found trends of decreased animal travel and resting behavioral states as well as low compliance to regulations, and they recommended further regulatory action such as greater enforcement or monitoring, or passive management strategies. As a case study, we conducted the first field assessment of vessel compliance with the Wildlife (Marine Mammal) Regulations 2009 in Gippsland Lakes, Australia, and provide the first assessment of the endangered Gippsland Lakes Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis) population’s behavioral ecology. Dolphin behavior and vessel regulation compliance data were collected during boat-based surveys of Gippsland Lakes from July 2017 to January 2018, with a total of 22 dolphin group sightings resulting in 477 five-minute point samples. 77% of dolphin sightings involved vessel interactions (within 400 m), and 56 regulation breaches were observed. These breaches were most severe in summer (mean = 4.54 breaches/hour). Vessels were found to alter dolphin behavior before, during, and after interactions and regulation breaches, including increased mating (mate guarding) and milling behavioral states, and increased ‘fish catch’, ‘high leap’ and ‘tail slap’ behavioral events. These behavioral changes may indicate masking of the dolphins' acoustic communication, disturbance of prey, increased dolphin transition behaviors, and/or induced stress and changes to group structure (including increased mate guarding). While our results provide evidence of short-term altered behavior, the potential for long-term effects on population dynamics for this threatened species is high. In the context of reported inadequate cetacean protection Australia-wide, our management recommendations include greater monitoring and enforcement, and the utilisation of adaptive management.
Coastal zones are affected by ocean–land interaction and furthermore, are areas of intense human activity. Exploitation and utilisation of coastal zones directly affect the sustainable development of coastal cities; therefore, it is necessary to conduct space suitability evaluation of such areas to facilitate the rational allocation and sustainable development of coastal resources. In this study, we selected the following factors for a relevant evaluation index, namely land and ocean natural conditions, resource and environmental bearing capacity, exploitation intensity, economic foundation, and social structure. We constructed a guidance and constraint model to evaluate the land and marine spaces of the coastal zone and, subsequently, established criteria for land–sea coordination and integration to facilitate optimum utilisation of coastal zones. Finally, we established an optimal land-use allocation model and relative deviation index to evaluate the scientificity and feasibility of our results. Taking the coastal zone of Ningbo in Zhejiang province, China, as an example, our results showed that (1) The ecological space comprises 5984 km2, accounting for 49.58% of the coastal zone in Ningbo, urban and construction space comprises 997.76 km2, accounting for 8.27%, and agriculture and fishery space comprises 5088.15 km2, accounting for 42.16%, with the ratio of the three types of space being 5:4:1. (2) Generally, the development intensity of the coastal zone in Ningbo is strong in the north and weak in the south, and the overall spatial pattern is urban exploitation in the north, industrial and port traffic areas in the east, and ecological, agricultural, and fishery areas in the south. (3) The relative deviation index of urban and construction space is 1.21, the planned land use exceeds the reasonable demand, the relative deviation indices of ecological space and agricultural and fishery spaces are 0.13 and −0.08, respectively, with the land area showing a decreasing trend. Clearly, development in the coastal zone in Ningbo is too intense. Consequently, it is necessary to strengthen the management and control of land use in this coastal zone to protect its ecological, agricultural, and fishery resources.
In the southern Gulf of California, the Cabo Pulmo reef has been the focus of many studies because it is the northern-most coral reef in the eastern Pacific. It is a paragon of a well-managed marine protected area. Under the assumption that fishing mortality is negligible, we want to identify and quantify major energy flows in an ecosystem without human intervention and describe the ecosystem resources and their interactions among species, to provide a tool for ecosystem-based management. We built a trophodynamic model using Ecopath to perform network analysis. Based on fieldwork (October 2017 – May 2018) and literature review, we identified 57 functional groups comprising 51 consumers (including 15 top predators), five primary producers plus detritus, and cluster analysis of trait profiles. The connectance index (0.17) and the system omnivory index (0.22) are low, suggesting that consumers feed on a few discrete trophic levels. Biomass of primary producers (grazing food chain; 186.8 t km−2) provides 9,813 t km−2 y−1, whereas flow from detritus supply 344.9 t km−2 y−1. The transfer efficiency decreases as flows go up the food web, from 12% at TL II to 4% at TL X, and throughput cycled (including detritus) = 118.7 t km−2 y−1. In comparison with other coral reefs, we found that Cabo Pulmo complies with the attributes to resist disturbances, with an estimated total system throughput = 95,789 t km−2 y−1, a net system production = 38,535 t km−2 y−1, a large mean path length = 12.11, ascendency = 123,662 (52%) flowbits and overhead = 116,164 (48%) flowbits. The high quality of the ecosystem services provided by Cabo Pulmo and the scenic beauty appeals to developers. Although the system is resilient, unregulated human activities may impact the reef condition and decrease the residents' quality of life and that of all the people who make a living from the low impact activities currently in effect. The trophic web model presented here may help to improve the response capacity of the coalition of residents, authorities, diving companies, and NGO's to preserve the reef and be a key element to conserve the system by contributing to its best management.
The increased global demand for plastic materials has led to severe plastic waste pollution, particularly to the marine environment. This critical issue affects both sea life and human beings since microplastics can enter the food chain and cause several health impacts. Plastic recycling, chemical treatments, incineration and landfill are apparently not the optimum solutions for reducing plastic pollution. Hence, this review presents two newly identified environmentally friendly approaches, plastic biodegradation and bioplastic production using algae, to solve the increased global plastic waste. Algae, particularly microalgae, can degrade the plastic materials through the toxins systems or enzymes synthesized by microalgae itself while using the plastic polymers as carbon sources. Utilizing algae for plastic biodegradation has been critically reviewed in this paper to demonstrate the mechanism and how microplastics affect the algae. On the other hand, algae-derived bioplastics have identical properties and characteristics as petroleum-based plastics, while remarkably being biodegradable in nature. This review provides new insights into different methods of producing algae-based bioplastics (e.g., blending with other materials and genetic engineering), followed by the discussion on the challenges and further research direction to increase their commercial feasibility.
Marine litter is a global problem which poses an increasing threat to ecosystem services, human health, safety and sustainable livelihoods. In order to better plan plastic pollution monitoring and clean-up activities, and to develop policies and programmes to deter and mitigate plastic pollution, information is urgently needed on the different types of coastal ecosystem that are impacted by land-sourced plastic inputs, especially those located in proximity to river mouths where plastic waste is discharged into the ocean. We overlayed the most current existing information on the input of plastic to the sea from land-based sources with maps of coastal environments and ecosystems. We found an inverse relationship exists between coastal geomorphic type, plastic trapping efficiency and the mass of plastic received. River-dominated coasts comprise only 0.87% of the global coast and yet they receive 52% of plastic pollution delivered by fluvial systems. Tide-dominated coasts receive 29.9% of river-borne plastic pollution and this is also where mangrove and salt marsh habitats are most common. Wave-dominated coasts receive 11.6% of river-borne plastic pollution and this is where seagrass habitat is most common. Finally, rocky shores comprise 72.5% of the global coast, containing fjords and coral reefs, while only receiving 6.4% of river-borne plastic pollution. Mangroves are the most proximal to river-borne plastic pollution point sources of the four habitat types studied here; 54.0% of mangrove habitat is within 20 km of a river that discharges more than 1 t/yr of plastic pollution into the ocean. For seagrass, salt marsh and coral reefs the figures are 24.1%, 22.7% and 16.5%, respectively. The findings allow us to better understand the environmental fate of plastic pollution, to advance numerical models and to guide managers and decision-makers on the most appropriate responses and actions needed to monitor and reduce plastic pollution.
An investigation into the abundance and distribution of meso- and microplastics within the Port of Durban was conducted using a static immersible water pump and particle filtration system to collect meso- and microplastics from the water column, microplastics from sediment samples and corresponding CTD. Microplastics were detected in all samples under investigation. Results suggest that sewage overflow, stormwater drains, port operations, followed by rivers are input areas for mitigation to focus on. Identifying meso- and microplastics inputs, baselines and distribution allow for long term monitoring and management in a harbour environment. This can potentially contribute to the control and regulation of small plastics particles in harbours, and the subsequent transport of these pollutants via dredged material into other ecosystems.
There is a lack of information on understanding how marine organisms respond to environmentally relevant microplastics (MP) which hampers decision making for waste management strategies. This study addresses this information gap by determining whether responses to MPs are species specific within a functional group. Benthic residing sea urchins, Psammechinus miliaris and Paracentrotus lividus were used as a case study. Psammechinus miliaris are strong omnivores with dietary intake including hard components (e.g. shell, tubeworms) and therefore likely to cope with the ingestion of MPs, while P. lividus are strong herbivores consuming softer dietary items (e.g. biofilms, algae) and therefore more likely sensitive. Responses to environmentally relevant MPs were conducted across two trials. Trial one determined the impact of short term (24 h) external exposure to storm-like sediment resuspension of MP concentrations (53 μm polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 25,000 MP L−1) compared to a control without MPs. No significant impacts were observed for both P. lividus and P. miliaris on metabolic rate or righting time, and urchins were able to remove MPs from the body surface using pedicellariae and cilia. Trial two determined the impact of medium term (2 months) ingestion of a diet laced with PVC MPs (59 μm) at an inclusion rate of 0.5% mass and a control diet (without MPs) on somatic growth and animal condition. The ingestion of MPs did not significantly impact P. miliaris but significantly reduced the alimentary index within P. lividus, indicating a compromised nutritional state. This study shows that responses to microplastics are species-specific and therefore cannot be generalized. Furthermore, feeding habit could act as a potential indicator for sensitivity to MP ingestion which will be important for impact assessments of plastic pollution and management strategies.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic and persistent aquatic pollutants that are known to bioaccumulate in a variety of marine mammals. They have been associated with reduced recruitment rates and population declines in multiple species. Evidence to date documents effects of PCB exposures on female reproduction, but few studies have investigated whether PCB exposure impacts male fertility. Using blubber tissue samples of 99 adult and 168 juvenile UK-stranded harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) collected between 1991 and 2017, here we show that PCBs exposures are associated with reduced testes weights in adults with good body condition. In animals with poor body condition, however, the impact of PCBs on testes weights was reduced, conceivably due to testes weights being limited by nutritional stress. This is the first study to investigate the relationship between PCB contaminant burden and testes weights in cetaceans and represents a substantial advance in our understanding of the relationship between PCB exposures and male reproductive biology in cetaceans. As testes weight is a strong indicator of male fertility in seasonally breeding mammals, we suggest the inclusion of such effects in population level impact assessments involving PCB exposures. Given the re-emergent PCB threat our findings are globally significant, with potentially serious implications for long-lived mammals. We show that more effective PCB controls could have a substantial impact on the reproductive health of coastal cetacean species and that management actions may need to be escalated to ensure adequate protection of the most vulnerable cetacean populations.
This paper analyses the governance of MPAs through 28 case studies in 17 countries. Limitations of the polycentric governance concept are discussed, particularly its faith in linkages as a means of resolving conflicts and its assumption that the state should only take a passive role. The concept of coevolutionary governance is described and justified, noting that this essentially builds on polycentrism’s systematic case study analysis approach, but evolves it to move beyond its limitations. Coevolutionary governance takes a synecology perspective to analyse how incentives coevolve through their functional integration, as well as how social and ecological systems can coevolve through the feedback mechanisms of human impacts and ecological services. Drawing on the wider concept of multi-level governance, coevolutionary governance is considered to provide for synergies between governance approaches, proposing that coordination can be achieved and conflicts addressed through reconfigured roles of the state providing steer through governance in ‘the shadow of hierarchy’. The MPAG empirical framework is described and the findings of its application outlined. Drawing on these findings, some key trends within and amongst five categories of incentives are explored. These illustrate that incentives synergistically interact in a way that is analogous to synecology, providing for them to be functionally integrated as a means of combining governance approaches. As such, it is argued that these findings support the validity of the coevolutionary governance concept, as well as supporting the argument that “diversity is the key to resilience, both of species in ecosystems and incentives in governance systems”.
About 80% of the total pollution from ships is caused by operational oil discharges into the sea, often made deliberately and in violation of international rules; the main reasons can be due to cost savings or lack of adequate facilities in ports to receive waste oils. Therefore, reducing waste oil discharges is crucial for a proper protection of the marine environment. In this regard, the paper presents the preliminary feasibility of a particular waste recycling technology, aimed at obtaining marine fuel oil from sludge, through a pyrolysis process to be carried out in a small reactor onboard. The originality of the research consists in the adaptation of pyrolysis to oily waste produced by ships, since this technology is traditionally applied to solid waste and biomass. Furthermore, the plant has to be designed for operation on board the ship, therefore under very different constraints compared to traditional land plants. Although the preliminary lab tests and simulation results in the chemical process are promising enough, there are still some technical criticalities due to the energy optimization of the reactor for an efficient use onboard of the whole system. In addition, the possibility of recycling waste, directly onboard ships, is not yet covered by mandatory regulations, which is why shipowners generally still feel unmotivated to invest in such technologies.
To contribute to the debate about sustainable seafood consumption, this article considers the role of mandatory food labeling. The article first flags the rise of a policy paradigm of shared responsibility and policy imperatives at various levels calling for increased integration of the citizen/consumer into public regimes, including in fisheries governance. It then explores the options available to citizen/consumers to engage in the fisheries regime in different stages of the value chain and evaluates their readiness to respond to the expectations. Mandatory food labeling of seafood is introduced as an under-unexplored governance tool, alongside the key enabling technological and policy trends. The rise of transparency and traceability, both as norms and a set of technological capabilities, is highlighted as an opportunity for implementation of mandatory seafood labeling. While recognizing equity challenges and various supplementary actions needed to ensure an effective behavioral and attitudinal shift toward more engaged governance (better education and enforcement and an enabling social setting), the article suggests to further explore mandatory labeling within the governance toolbox. It should be particularly relevant in the context of developed markets with global trade and political influence, and as means of fostering ocean literacy and transparent, participative and deliberative kind of governance.
Artificial intelligence is an exciting technological frontier for the coral reef remote sensing community, especially the emergence of machine learning algorithms for mapping and detecting features from aerial images of coral reef environments. Machine learning algorithms are finding uses in environmental remote sensing applications that are principally founded on three technological advances.
The resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities to poor environmental and health outcomes is threatened by cumulative anthropogenic pressures. In Kiribati, a developing Pacific Island country where human activities are closely connected with the ocean, both people and environment are particularly vulnerable to coastal pollution. We present a survey of environmental and human health water quality parameters around urban South Tarawa, and an overview of their impacts on the semi-enclosed atoll. Tarawa has significant water quality issues and decisions to guide improvements are hindered by a persistent lack of appropriate and sufficient observations. Our snapshot assessment identifies highest risk locations related to chronic focused and diffuse pollution inputs, and where mixing and dilution with ocean water is restricted. We demonstrate the importance of monitoring in the context of rapidly changing pressures. Our recommendations are relevant to other atoll ecosystems where land-based activities and ocean health are tightly interlinked.
Quantifying the number of recreational fishers is important for many aspects of managing coastal resources. Unfortunately, quantifying recreational boaters in offshore settings has proven difficult due to their distance from shore and a lack of cost-effective methods to monitor small boats (<10 m length). We investigated visitor-use at an offshore marine protected area (MPA) in the southeastern USA. We used multiple methods of counting boats (satellites, buoy camera, passive acoustics, and boat-based observations) and a generalized linear modeling approach to identify environmental and calendar-based predictor variables that influenced visitation. Based on the model, predicted visitor-encounter rates were estimated for various weather and calendar-based scenarios, and the probability of detecting a hypothetical change in visitation with each counting method was examined through a power analysis. The most important predictors were day of the week, special day (e.g., tournament), water temperature, and wave height. Boat counts were 2–5 times higher on weekend days than on weekdays. More boats were predicted on weekdays with good weather (defined as water temperature 24 °C, wave height 0.5 m), than weekends with decent weather (17 °C and 1 m). Considering weekends alone, those with good weather were predicted to have 5 times higher visitation than weekends with decent weather. Predicted visitation was highest on calm days, dropped by ∼75 % when wave height reached 1 m, and was essentially zero when wave height exceeded 1.5 m. Highest counts were predicted when water temperature was warmest and gradually declined as temperatures cooled. For the buoy camera and passive acoustic boat-count methods, power analysis suggested that 3–6 years of typical samples before and after a hypothetical 25 % increase in visitation would be needed to have an 80 % chance of detecting the change. Other techniques would take 14 or more years of typical samples. The process used here for investigating visitation can be adapted to other offshore or remote locations.
Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that bioaccumulate in the food web and adversely affect humans, animals, and entire marine ecosystems. Blooms of the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia can produce domoic acid (DA), a toxin that most commonly causes neurological disease in endothermic animals, with cardiovascular effects that were first recognized in southern sea otters. Over the last 20 years, DA toxicosis has caused significant morbidity and mortality in marine mammals and seabirds along the west coast of the USA. Identifying DA exposure has been limited to toxin detection in biological fluids using biochemical assays, yet measurement of systemic toxin levels is an unreliable indicator of exposure dose or timing. Furthermore, there is little information regarding repeated DA exposure in marine wildlife. Here, the association between long-term environmental DA exposure and fatal cardiac disease was investigated in a longitudinal study of 186 free-ranging sea otters in California from 2001 – 2017, highlighting the chronic health effects of a marine toxin. A novel Bayesian spatiotemporal approach was used to characterize environmental DA exposure by combining several DA surveillance datasets and integrating this with life history data from radio-tagged otters in a time-dependent survival model. In this study, a sea otter with high DA exposure had a 1.7-fold increased hazard of fatal cardiomyopathy compared to an otter with low exposure. Otters that consumed a high proportion of crab and clam had a 2.5- and 1.2-times greater hazard of death due to cardiomyopathy than otters that consumed low proportions. Increasing age is a well-established predictor of cardiac disease, but this study is the first to identify that DA exposure affects the risk of cardiomyopathy more substantially in prime-age adults than aged adults. A 4-year-old otter with high DA exposure had 2.3 times greater risk of fatal cardiomyopathy than an otter with low exposure, while a 10-year old otter with high DA exposure had just 1.2 times greater risk. High Toxoplasma gondii titers also increased the hazard of death due to heart disease 2.4-fold. Domoic acid exposure was most detrimental for prime-age adults, whose survival and reproduction are vital for population growth, suggesting that persistent DA exposure will likely impact long-term viability of this threatened species. These results offer insight into the pervasiveness of DA in the food web and raise awareness of under-recognized chronic health effects of DA for wildlife at a time when toxic blooms are on the rise.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the four main elements of the package being negotiated in the Intergovernmental Conference to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ agreement). “Internationalization” of EIA under the agreement, which partly relates to the international community's role in oversight and outcome of the process, remains a contentious issue that requires continued consideration. Less controversial aspects of internationalization in the EIA process are internationalization of consultation and dissemination of information. They are shown to be critical to achieving quality outcomes and encouraging transparency and accountability. This paper addresses a third dimension of internationalization, relating to review and decision-making, which is proving to be the most divisive in the negotiations to date. This aspect of internationalization is fundamental to allowing decisions taken on proposed activities to be seen as legitimate but concerns exist about the bureaucracy and costs that the process may entail, as well as potential interference with sovereign rights of States Parties under UNCLOS. This paper advances a proposal for internationalization of review and decision-making under the BBNJ agreement that attempts to bridge the divide evident going into the 4th session of the Inter-governmental Conference in 2021.
Sea level rise (SLR) is projected to have severe consequences for people and assets in European coastal areas. Planning for SLR is a critical step to ensure timely and adequate responses. Despite our rapidly increasing understanding of SLR impacts and the need to adapt, few studies have looked at how countries are planning for SLR. We surveyed experts from the 32 European countries with a coastline about how their country is planning for SLR. Our online survey focused on four areas: (1) whether SLR planning exists and at what level of government; (2) which climate information and scenarios are used in planning; (3) what planning horizons and corresponding levels of SLR are used; and (4) how uncertainty in handled and whether high-end sea level rise is being considered in planning. Additionally, we asked experts to assess the status of sea level rise planning in their country. Our results indicate that most coastal countries in Europe are planning for SLR, but 25% still do not. We find that the planning horizon 2100 is most common and many countries are considering around 1m (adjusted for local conditions) of SLR at that point in time. However, there are significant differences between countries, which may lead to unequal impacts, over time. We also find that RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 are the most widely used climate change scenarios, suggesting that countries are considering high-end climate change in planning, although this does not mean they consider high amounts of SLR. Important questions remain about how planning is realized into levels of protection or preparedness and whether the amounts of SLR and planning horizons currently in use will lead countries to act in time.