Shark-diving tourism provides important economic benefits to the Maldives. We examine the link between shark conservation actions and economic returns from diving tourism. A combined travel cost and contingent behaviour approach is used to estimate the dive trip demand under different management scenarios. Our results show that increasing shark populations could increase dive-trip demand by 15%, raising dive tourists’ welfare by US$58 million annually. This could result in annual economic benefits for the dive-tourism industry of >US$6 million. Conversely, in scenarios where shark populations decline, where dive tourists observe illegal fishing, or if dive operators lack engagement in shark conservation, dive trip demand could decrease by up to 56%. This decline causes economic losses of more than US$24 million annually to the dive tourism industry. These results highlight the dependence of the shark-diving industry on the creation and enforcement of appropriate management regimes for shark conservation.
Conservation Targets & Planning
Despite billions of dollars invested, “getting to scale” remains a fundamental challenge for conservation donors and practitioners. Occasionally, however, a conservation intervention will “go viral,” with rapid, widespread adoption that transforms the relationship between people and nature across large areas. The factors that shape rates and patterns of conservation interventions remain unclear, puzzling scientists and hindering evidence‐based policymaking. Diffusion of innovation theory—the study of the how and why innovations are adopted, and the rates and patterns of adoption—provides a novel lens for examining rates and patterns in the establishment of conservation interventions. Case studies from Tanzania and the Pacific illustrate that characteristics of the innovation, of the adopters, and of the social‐ecological context shape spatial and temporal dynamics in the diffusion of community‐centered conservation interventions. Differential trends in adoption mirrored the relative advantage of interventions to local villagers and villager access to external technical assistance. Theories of innovation diffusion highlight new arenas for conservation research and provide critical insights for conservation policy and practice, suggesting the potential to empower donors and practitioners with the ability to catalyze conservation at scale—and to do so at less cost and with longer‐lasting impacts.
The Earth's oceans are inherently 3‐D in nature. Many physical, environmental, and biotic processes vary widely across depths. In recent years, human activities, such as oil drilling, mining, and fishing are rapidly expanding into deeper frontier ocean areas, where much of the biodiversity remains unknown. Most current conservation actions, management decisions and policies of both the pelagic and benthic domains do not explicitly incorporate the 3‐D nature of the oceans and are still based on a two‐dimensional approach. Here, we review current advances in marine research and conservation, aiming to advance towards incorporating the third dimension in marine systematic conservation planning. We highlight the importance and potential of vertical conservation planning and zoning from the sea surface to the seafloor. We propose that undertaking marine conservation, management and environmental decisions in 3‐D has the potential to revolutionize marine conservation research, practice and legislation.
Genetic analyses of nuclear DNA (e.g., microsatellites) are a primary tool for investigating mating systems in reptiles, particularly marine turtles. Whereas studies over the past two decades have demonstrated that polyandry (i.e., females mating with multiple males) is common in marine turtles, polygyny (i.e., males mating with multiple females) has rarely been reported. In this study we investigated the mating structure of Critically Endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) at Bahía de Jiquilisco in El Salvador, one of the largest rookeries in the eastern Pacific Ocean. We collected genetic samples from 34 nesting females and hatchlings from 41 clutches during the 2015 nesting season, including one nest from each of 27 females and two nests from seven additional females. Using six highly polymorphic microsatellite loci, we reconstructed the paternal genotypes for 22 known male turtles and discovered that seven (31.8%) sired nests from multiple females, which represents the highest polygyny level reported to date for marine turtles and suggests that this is a common mating structure for this population. We also detected multiple paternity in four (11.8%) clutches from the 34 females analyzed, confirming polyandrous mating strategies are also employed. The high level of polygyny we documented suggests there may be a limited number of sexually mature males at Bahía de Jiquilisco; a scenario supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence. Our findings highlight key management uncertainties, including whether polygynous mating strategies can compensate for potential ongoing feminization and the low number of adult males found for this and possibly other marine turtle populations.
Conservation of marine megafauna is nested within an intricate tapestry of multiple ocean resource uses which are, in turn, embedded in a dynamic and complex ecological ocean system that varies and shifts across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Marine megafauna conservation is often further complicated by contemporaneous, and sometimes competing, social, economic, and ecological factors and related management objectives. Advances in emerging technologies and applications, such as remotely-sensed oceanographic data, animal-based telemetry, novel computational analyses, innovations in structured decision making, and stakeholder engagement and policy are supporting complex systems and complexity-aware approaches to megafauna conservation and research. Here we discuss several applications that focus on megafauna fisheries bycatch and exemplify how complex systems and complexity-aware approaches that inherently acknowledge and account for the complexity of ocean systems can advance megafauna conservation and research. Emerging technologies, applications and approaches that embrace, rather than ignore, complexity can drive innovation and success in megafauna conservation and research.
The field of systematic conservation planning has grown substantially, with hundreds of publications in the peer-reviewed literature and numerous applications to regional conservation planning globally. However, the extent to which systematic conservation plans have influenced management is unclear. This paper analyses factors that facilitate the transition from assessment to implementation in conservation planning, in order to help integrate assessment and implementation into a seamless process. We propose a framework for designing implementation strategies, taking into account three critical planning aspects: processes, inputs, and context. Our review identified sixteen processes, which we broadly grouped into four themes and eight inputs. We illustrate how the framework can be used to inform context-dependent implementation strategies, using the process of ‘engagement’ as an example. The example application includes both lessons learned from successfully implemented plans across the engagement spectrum, and highlights key barriers that can hinder attempts to bridge the assessment-implementation gap.
Biological invasions threaten biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, requiring substantial conservation and management efforts. To examine how the conservation planning literature addresses biological invasions and if planning in the marine environment could benefit from experiences in the freshwater and terrestrial systems, we conducted a global systematic review. Out of 1,149 scientific articles mentioning both “conservation planning” and “alien” or any of its alternative terms, 70 articles met our selection criteria. Most of the studies were related to the terrestrial environment, while only 10% focused on the marine environment. The main conservation targets were species (mostly vertebrates) rather than habitats or ecosystems. Apart from being mentioned, alien species were considered of concern for conservation in only 46% of the cases, while mitigation measures were proposed in only 13% of the cases. The vast majority of the studies (73%) ignored alien species in conservation planning even if their negative impacts were recognized. In 20% of the studies, highly invaded areas were avoided in the planning, while in 6% of the cases such areas were prioritized for conservation. In the latter case, two opposing approaches led to the selection of invaded areas: either alien and native biodiversity were treated equally in setting conservation targets, i.e., alien species were also considered as ecological features requiring protection, or more commonly invaded sites were prioritized for the implementation of management actions to control or eradicate invasive alien species. When the “avoid” approach was followed, in most of the cases highly impacted areas were either excluded or invasive alien species were included in the estimation of a cost function to be minimized. Most of the studies that followed a “protect” or “avoid” approach dealt with terrestrial or freshwater features but in most cases the followed approach could be transferred to the marine environment. Gaps and needs for further research are discussed and we propose an 11-step framework to account for biological invasions into the systematic conservation planning design.
Mexico registers about 60% of the total of marine mammals worldwide. However, species listed under a risk category show that, globally, Mexico faces big marine mammal conservation challenges. Thus, it becomes essential to successfully apply the existing knowledge into interdisciplinary conservation programs. We generated a presence/absence species richness map containing all 47 marine mammal species recorded in Mexico's Exclusive Economic Zone. After selecting nine oceanographic variables influencing marine mammal species richness, the top three factors influencing such richness were sea surface temperature and dissolved oxygen grouped in component #1, and salinity composed component #2. We also identified the species that are protected within a Marine Protected Area (MPA) category and its representation in management programs of these areas. Currently, 98% of marine mammal species distributed in Mexican waters are protected within an MPA; nevertheless, around 12% of them are not listed in management programs. Three priority sites in the Pacific Ocean and one for the Gulf of Mexico were identified to promote their conservation. Considering the sentinel and umbrella attributes of marine mammals, the information presented here will not only benefit their populations, but will also contribute to address marine species and ecosystems threats and improve the effectiveness of conservation plans.
Puffers are biologically and ecologically fascinating fishes best known for their unique morphology and arsenal of defenses including inflation and bioaccumulation of deadly neurotoxins. These fishes are also commercially, culturally, and ecologically important in many regions. One-hundred-and-fifty-one species of marine puffers were assessed against the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Criteria at a 2011 workshop held in Xiamen, China. Here we present the first comprehensive review of puffer geographic and depth distribution, use and trade, and habitats and ecology and a summary of the global conservation status of marine puffers, determined by applying the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Criteria. The majority (77%) of puffers were assessed as Least Concern, 15% were Data Deficient, and 8% were threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable) or Near Threatened. Of the threatened species, the majority are limited-ranging habitat specialists which are primarily affected by habitat loss due to climate change and coastal development. However, one threatened puffer (Takifugu chinensis – CR) and four Near Threatened puffers, also in the genus Takifugu (which contains 24 species total), are wide-ranging habitat generalists which are commercially targeted in the international puffer trade. A disproportionate number of species of conservation concern are found along the coast of eastern Asia, from Japan to the South China Sea, with the highest concentration in the East China Sea. Better management of fishing and other conservation efforts are needed for commercially fished Takifugu species in this region. Taxonomic issues within the Tetraodontidae confound accurate reporting and produce a lack of resolution in species distributions. Resolution of taxonomy will enable more accurate assessment of the conservation status of many Data-Deficient puffers.
Scientific monitoring has recorded only a recent fraction of the oceans’ alteration history. This biases our understanding of marine ecosystems. Remote coral reef ecosystems are often considered pristine because of high shark abundance. However, given the long history and global nature of fishing, sharks’ vulnerability, and the ecological consequences of shark declines, these states may not be natural. In the Chagos archipelago, one of the remotest coral reef systems on the planet, protected by a very large marine reserve, we integrated disparate fisheries and scientific survey data to reconstruct baselines and long-term population trajectories of two dominant sharks. In 2012, we estimated 571,310 gray reef and 31,693 silvertip sharks, about 79 and 7% of their baseline levels. These species were exploited longer and more intensively than previously thought and responded to fishing and protection with variable and compensatory population trajectories. Our approach highlights the value of integrative and historical analyses to evaluate large marine ecosystems currently considered pristine.