This report analyzes options for improving agency decision making under existing authorities to support development of the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan.
Indicators have been recognised as a useful tool aiding the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries in marine ecosystems. Studies, such as the IndiSeas project (www.indiseas.org), use a suite of indicators as a method of assessing the state and trends of several of the world's marine ecosystems. While it is well known that both fishing and climatic variability influence marine fisheries in the southern Benguela ecosystem there are currently few studies in support of fisheries management that make use of environmental indicators in order to include climatic impacts on marine fish populations. Trends in ecological, fishing and environmental indicators can be utilised in a way that allows an overall ecosystem trend to be determined, and can therefore be used to aid decision support within southern Benguela fisheries. In this study trends in indicators were determined using linear regressions across three time periods, Period 1: 1978–1993, Period 2: 1994–2003 and Period 3: 2004–2010. These time periods were selected based on the timing of regime shifts within the southern Benguela, including changes in upwelling, wind stress and temperature. Each ecological indicator received a score based on the direction and significance of the observed trend with respect to fishing. To account for the impacts of fishing and environmental drivers on ecological indicators, scores were adjusted by predetermined factors, depending on the extent and direction of trends in these indicators. Weightings were applied to correlated ecological indicators to account for their redundancy, and lessen their impact on overall ecosystem score. Mean weighted scores were then used to establish an overall ecosystem score for each time period. Ecosystem classification was determined as follows: 1–1.49 = improving, 1.5–2.49 = possibly improving, 2.5–3.49 = no improvement or deterioration, 3.5–4.49 = possible deterioration, 4.5–5 = deteriorating. The ecosystem was observed to neither deteriorate nor improve across Period 1 or 2 (mean weighted scores: 2.75 and 2.56 respectively), however, during Period 3 a possible improvement was observed (mean weighted score: 1.99). This study shows that the sequential analysis of suites of ecological, fishing and environmental indicators can be used in order to determine ecosystem trends, accounting for both the impacts of fishing and the environment on ecosystem components.
In recent years there have been calls among decision makers, interest groups, citizens, and scientists alike for the use of the “best available science” when making environmental policy and managing natural resources. The assumption is that including scientists and the best available scientific information will improve the quality of complex policy decisions. Others have argued, however, that science and scientists are just one source of expertise concerning environmental management and increasing involvement will not necessarily lead to better policy. We report on a study examining the attitudes and orientations of marine scientists, resource managers, and interest group representatives concerning factors that may affect scientific credibility, the credibility of scientific research produced by various organizations, and perceptions of the ability of certain groups to understand scientific research. Using national random sample surveys and interviews of marine scientists, marine managers, and interest groups involved in marine policy issues conducted in 2011, we examine indicators of scientific credibility, data, research and reputation; the ability of scientists to communicate findings; and the role of scientists in the policy process. Further, we explore what factors contribute to credible science, the credibility of the science produced by various organizations, and the scientific literacy of various policy actors.
The decline in coral reef health presents a complex management issue. While several causes of decline have been identified and are under continued study, it is often difficult to discern management actions necessary to address multiple near- and far-field stressors to these ecosystems. As a result, resource managers seek tools to improve the understanding of ecosystem condition and to develop management responses to reduce local and regional pressures in the wake of larger, global impacts. A research study conducted from 2010 to 2014 in southeast Florida, USA consisted of two objectives: (1) conduct a needs assessment survey with coral reef and marine resource managers to identify data needs and the preferred design and delivery of climate information; and (2) develop and evaluate prototype decision support tools. The needs assessment process was helpful for identifying the types of climate information managers would like to obtain to inform decision making and to specify the preferred format for the delivery of that information. Three prototype tools were evaluated by managers using pre/post surveys that included hands-on tutorials to explore the functionality of each. Manager responses were recorded using a five-point scale with 1 being No or Not Useful to 5 being Absolutely or Very Useful. The median responses rated the usefulness of the tools (4), if they would consider using the tool (4), and if they would recommend using the tool to other managers (4 or 5). The median response for increasing manager’s knowledge about climate impacts after completing a tutorial of each of the climate tools was a 3 (moderately useful). Of the managers surveyed in the pre/post-survey, all but one stated they believed they would use the decision support tools in the future with the single response due to wealth of data availability in their institution.
Several decision support systems were developed in recent years to encourage climate adaptation planning in coastal areas, especially at a national to global scale. However, few prototypes are easy to use and accessible for decision-makers to evaluate and manage risks locally. DESYCO is a GIS based decision support system specifically designed to better understand the risks that climate change poses at the regional/subnational scale (e.g. the effect of sea level rise and coastal erosion on human assets and ecosystems) and set the context of strategic adaptation planning within Integrated Coastal Zone Management. It implements a Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) methodology allowing the spatial assessment of multiple climate change impacts in coastal areas and the ranking of key elements at risk (beaches, wetlands, protected areas, urban and agricultural areas). The core of the system is a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) model used to operationalize the steps of the RRA (hazard, exposure, susceptibility, risk and damage assessment) by integrating a blend of information from climate scenarios (global/regional climate projections and hydrodynamic/hydrological simulations) and from non-climate vulnerability factors (physical, environmental and socio-economic features of the analysed system). User-friendly interfaces simplify the interaction with the system, providing guidance for risk mapping, results communication and understanding.
DESYCO was applied to low-lying coastal plains and islands (the North Adriatic Sea, the Gulf of Gabes and the Republic of Mauritius), river basins and groundwater systems (Upper Plain of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Marche Region). The paper presents the RRA methodology, the structure of DESYCO and its software architecture, showing the capabilities of the tool to support decision making and climate proofing in a wide range of situations (e.g. shoreline planning, land use and water resource management, flood risk reduction).
As part of implementing the 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act (MCAA), the UK Government undertook an ambitious program of stakeholder-led site selection projects from 2009–2011 to designate a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). This process resulted in a list of 127 proposed MCZs designed to conserve biodiversity and reconcile socioeconomic concerns, however, citing budgetary constraints and evidence-related issues, the UK Government has proceeded with a tranche approach, designating far fewer sites than stakeholders had expected. Concerned with the Government's lack of progress on the MCZ process, Parliament conducted two inquiries, highlighting problems with the Government's approach. In addition, public confidence in the participative process has eroded, with particular despair expressed by participants in the regional projects, who invested considerable time and effort in the site-selection process. This outcome has implications not only for the UK's future coastal and marine planning, but also with regard to the implementation of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. Drawing on interviews with participants in the consultation process, this paper examines the role of stakeholder participation in the UK MCZ site selection process, in particular how well the UK Government implemented its obligations under the Aarhus Convention, and the meaning of “participation” in a climate of political change and budgetary constraint.
The use of management strategy evaluation (MSE) techniques to inform strategic decision-making is now standard in fisheries management. The technical aspects of MSE, including how to design operating models that represent the managed system and how to simulate future use of management strategies, are well understood and can be readily applied, especially for single-species fisheries. However, MSE evaluations seldom identify strategies that will satisfy all the objectives of decision-makers simultaneously, i.e. each strategy will achieve a different trade-off among the objectives. This study illustrates the basis for identifying management objectives and representing them mathematically using performance measures, as well as how trade-offs among management objectives have been displayed to various audiences who provide input into decision-making. Approaches and experiences are illustrated using case studies. Examples highlight the wide variety of objectives that can be considered using MSE, but that traditional single-species considerations continue to dominate the information provided to decision-makers. The desirability and consequences of having minimum acceptable standards of performance for management strategies, as well as difficulties assigning plausibility ranks to alternative states of nature, are found to be among the major challenges to effective provision of strategic advice on trade-offs among management strategies.
Multinational conservation initiatives that prioritize investment across a region invariably navigate trade-offs among multiple objectives. It seems logical to focus where several objectives can be achieved efficiently, but such multi-objective hotspots may be ecologically inappropriate, or politically inequitable. Here we devise a framework to facilitate a regionally cohesive set of marine-protected areas driven by national preferences and supported by quantitative conservation prioritization analyses, and illustrate it using the Coral Triangle Initiative. We identify areas important for achieving six objectives to address ecosystem representation, threatened fauna, connectivity and climate change. We expose trade-offs between areas that contribute substantially to several objectives and those meeting one or two objectives extremely well. Hence there are two strategies to guide countries choosing to implement regional goals nationally: multi-objective hotspots and complementary sets of single-objective priorities. This novel framework is applicable to any multilateral or global initiative seeking to apply quantitative information in decision making.
Much of the detailed, incremental knowledge being generated by current scientific research on ocean acidification (OA) does not directly address the needs of decision makers, who are asking broad questions such as: Where will OA harm marine resources next? When will this happen? Who will be affected? And how much will it cost? In this review, we use a series of mainly US-based case studies to explore the needs of local to international-scale groups that are making decisions to address OA concerns. Decisions concerning OA have been made most naturally and easily when information needs were clearly defined and closely aligned with science outputs and initiatives. For decisions requiring more complex information, the process slows dramatically. Decision making about OA is greatly aided (1) when a mixture of specialists participates, including scientists, resource users and managers, and policy and law makers; (2) when goals can be clearly agreed upon at the beginning of the process; (3) when mixed groups of specialists plan and create translational documents explaining the likely outcomes of policy decisions on ecosystems and natural resources; (4) when regional work on OA fits into an existing set of priorities concerning climate or water quality; and (5) when decision making can be reviewed and enhanced.
The expansion of offshore renewable energy production, such as wind, wave and tidal energy, is likely to lead to conflict between different users of the sea. Two types of spatial decision support tools were developed to support stakeholder workshops. A value mapping tool combines regional attributes with local knowledge. A negotiation support tool uses these value maps to support stakeholders in finding acceptable locations for tidal energy devices. Interactive value mapping proved useful to address deficiencies in data and to create credibility for these maps. The negotiation tool helped stakeholders in balancing objectives of the various stakeholders.