Food for Thought

Whither the U.S. National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan?

Torres H, Muller-Karger F, Keys D, Thornton H, Luther M, Alsharif K. Whither the U.S. National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan?. Marine Policy [Internet]. 2015 ;53:198 - 212. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X14003145
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

The need for a statutory framework to manage valuable marine resources in the United States is highlighted by problems such as fragmented ocean governance and increasing conflict over the use of ocean spaces. On July 19, 2010 President Obama signed Executive Order 13547 to create a National Ocean Policy (NOP) for the United States. A subsequent Implementation Plan, released in 2013, set up hundreds of actions to be accomplished between 2013 and 2025 to address economic, community, scientific and other issues. Progress implementing the NOP appears to have stalled. The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the NOP and its Implementation Plan, and then discuss what needs to be done to bring the vision it set forth to fruition.

Should we “reef” obsolete oil platforms?

Fowler AM, Macreadie PI, Booth DJ. Should we “reef” obsolete oil platforms?. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2014 . Available from: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/12/30/1422274112.extract.html
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Claisse et al. (1) show that not only do oil platforms produce fish, but they do so at a rate far greater than our most productive marine habitats, such as coral reefs and mangroves. Because this information may be used to justify increased “reefing” of obsolete oil infrastructure worldwide, we offer some caveats.

Although Claisse et al.’s (1) production estimates further our understanding of the habitat value of oil platforms, they bring us little closer to deciding the fate of these structures worldwide. It has been known for more than a decade that platforms are capable of providing valuable habitat for fish, yet habitat value appears to vary greatly among platforms, even among those located in similar ecological settings (2). This conclusion is supported by the total production values in figure 3 of Claisse et al. (1), with some platforms off California producing nearly nine times more fish biomass than others. Productivity data for one platform therefore cannot be used to infer the productivity of other platforms. Crucially, this means that the productivity values obtained by Claisse et al. (1) should not be used to inform “rigs-to-reefs” decisions for the remaining 11 platforms off California, nor should they be used to inform rigs-to-reefs policies in other regions of the world.

Marine Historical Ecology in Conservation: Applying the Past to Manage for the Future

Kittinger JN, McClenachan L, Gedan KB, Blight LK eds. Marine Historical Ecology in Conservation: Applying the Past to Manage for the Future. University of California Press; 2014 p. 312. Available from: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520276949
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Book

This pioneering volume provides a blueprint for managing the challenges of ocean conservation using marine historical ecology—an interdisciplinary area of study that is helping society to gain a more in-depth understanding of past human-environmental interactions in coastal and marine ecosystems and of the ecological and social outcomes associated with these interactions.

Developed by groundbreaking practitioners in the field, Marine Historical Ecology in Conservation highlights the innovative ways that historical ecology can be applied to improve conservation and management efforts in the oceans.

The book focuses on four key challenges that confront marine conservation: (1) recovering endangered species, (2) conserving fisheries, (3) restoring ecosystems, and (4) engaging the public. Chapters emphasize real-world conservation scenarios appropriate for students, faculty, researchers, and practitioners in marine science, conservation biology, natural resource management, paleoecology, and marine and coastal archaeology.

By focusing on success stories and applied solutions, this volume delivers the required up-to-date science and tools needed for restoration and protection of ocean and coastal ecosystems.

Overcoming barriers to knowledge exchange for adaptive resource management; the perspectives of Australian marine scientists

Cvitanovic C, Hobday AJ, van Kerkhoff L, Marshall NA. Overcoming barriers to knowledge exchange for adaptive resource management; the perspectives of Australian marine scientists. Marine Policy [Internet]. 2015 ;52:38 - 44. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X14002887
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

The sustainable science-based management of natural resources requires knowledge exchange between scientists and environmental decision-makers; however, evidence suggests that information flow is inhibited by a range of barriers. To date, our understanding of the range and importance of factors limiting knowledge exchange between scientists and decision-makers is based primarily on the perceptions of decision-makers, while the perceptions of scientists have been largely overlooked. This study addresses this knowledge gap by quantitatively assessing the perceptions of scientists, represented by a sample of 78 Australian marine scientists, regarding (i) the role and importance of engaging with environmental decision-makers on a personal level, (ii) the role and importance of engaging with environmental decision-makers at the institutional level, (iii) current barriers to engaging with environmental decision-makers and (iv) options for overcoming barriers to engaging with environmental decision-makers. Survey results suggest that Australian marine scientists feel that they have an obligation to engage decision-makers in their science, and that engaging with and communicating to environmental decision-makers is important on a personal level. This study also identifies a range of barriers that impede engagement activities, including inadequate measures of science impact that do not account for engagement activities, a lack of organisational support for engagement activities, insufficient time to conduct engagement activities in addition to other responsibilities and a lack of funding to support engagement activities. To overcome these barriers, participants identified the need for institutional innovation by research institutions, research funders and decision-making agencies alike to promote a culture whereby knowledge exchange activities are legitimised as core business for research scientists, and recognised and rewarded appropriately. Although difficulties exist in implementing such institutional innovations, doing so will improve two-way knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers and improve the likely success of environmental management.

Who should do what in environmental management? Twelve principles for allocating responsibilities

Mostert E. Who should do what in environmental management? Twelve principles for allocating responsibilities. Environmental Science & Policy [Internet]. 2015 ;45:123 - 131. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901114002007
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

In environmental management there is often discussion on the allocation of responsibilities. Such discussions can continue for a long time and can form an obstacle for effective action. In this article twelve normative principles for the allocation of responsibilities are identified, coming from three different sources: the arguments used in discussions on responsibilities, Dutch and European law, and the environmental management literature. The principles are (1) capacity, (2) lowest social costs, (3) causation, (4) interest, (5) scale, (6) subsidiarity, (7) structural integration, (8) separation, (9) solidarity, (10) transparency, (11) stability (but not standstill), and (12) acquired rights. These principles point to fundamental tensions in environmental management and sometimes conflict with each other. At the same time they may help to resolve conflicts by providing common points of reference that are independent from the often conflicting interests of the discussants.

Map stories can provide dynamic visualizations of the Anthropocene to broaden factually based public understanding

Zolnai A. Map stories can provide dynamic visualizations of the Anthropocene to broaden factually based public understanding. The Anthropocene Review [Internet]. 2014 ;1(3):243 - 251. Available from: http://anr.sagepub.com/content/1/3/243.abstract
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Provision of broadly accessible and spatially referenced visualizations of the nature and rate of change in the Anthropocene is an essential tool in communicating to policy makers and to the wider public, who generally have little or no contact with academic publications and often rely on media-based information, to form and guide opinion. Three examples are used to demonstrate the use of geo-referenced data and GIS-based map compilations to provide accurate and widely accessible visual portrayals of historical processes. The first example shows the spread of Neolithic agriculture from Mesopotamia west and north across Europe over several millennia. The second plots the history of the drainage of the Fens (wetlands) in eastern England from the early seventeenth century onward. A third example illustrates one way in which releasing data in the public domain can lead to the enhancement of public data holdings. A concluding discussion outlines ways in which the methodology illustrated may be applied to processes key to understanding the Anthropocene.

Maritime and marine: synonyms, solitudes or schizophrenia?

Hildebrand LP, Schröder-Hinrichs J-U. Maritime and marine: synonyms, solitudes or schizophrenia?. WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs [Internet]. 2014 ;13(2):173 - 176. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s13437-014-0072-y
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Maritime and marine. Are they this, are they that, or are they something in between? Does it matter what we call them, or important what we mean?

Two words we use so loosely, in meaning and intent; marine implies protection, while maritime pays in rent. We find their use exchangeable, with understanding being bent.

Maritime, marine, it’s not as simple as it seems. Are these terms just synonyms, or is there more there yet to glean? Shall we accept our shared ambivalence, or discover what we mean?

We come from different backgrounds, in training and degree; one thinks in two dimensions, the other thinks in three. Marine regards the ocean, its rhythm and its rhyme, while maritime conducts its business, to be there just in time.

We see the sea in maritime, its profits being prime, while marine sees wealth in nature, its existence for all time. One views the sea as partner, in the world economy; one knows the natural wonder that gives us gifts for free.

We share the cause to protect our seas and certainly not abuse, we act on insults readily, not tolerate or excuse. The worlds that work together, nature and humankind, receive the gifts presented and protect them for all time.

Who is maritime, who is marine? Can we find a common language, in this anthropocene?

Collaboration among countries in marine conservation can achieve substantial efficiencies

Mazor T, Possingham HP, Kark S. Collaboration among countries in marine conservation can achieve substantial efficiencies. Diversity and Distributions [Internet]. 2013 ;19(11):1380 - 1393. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ddi.12095/abstract
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
Yes
Type: Journal Article

Aim

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.

Location

The Mediterranean Sea.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Main conclusions

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.

From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean

Anon. From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean. Oxford, UK: The Global Ocean Commission; 2014 p. 47. Available from: http://www.globaloceancommission.org/news/the-global-ocean-commissions-final-report-is-now-available/
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
Yes
Type: Report

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.

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