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.
Management and Management Effectiveness
For almost two decades, marine protected areas (MPAs) have been a central instrument of coastal conservation and management policies, but concerns about their abilities to meet conservation goals have grown as the number and sizes of MPAs have dramatically increased. This paper describes how a large (15 years) program of transdisciplinary research was used to successfully measure MPA management effectiveness (ME)—how well an MPA is managed, how well it is protecting values, and how well it is achieving the various goals and objectives for which it was created. This paper addresses the co-production and uptake of monitoring-based evidence for assessing ME in coastal MPAs by synthesizing the experiences of this program conducted with MPA managers. I present the main outcomes of the program, many were novel, and discuss four ingredients (learned lessons) that underpinned the successful uptake of science during and after the research program: (i) early and inclusive co-design of the project with MPA partners and scientists from all disciplines, (ii) co-construction of common references transcending the boundaries of disciplines, and standardized methodologies and tools, (iii) focus on outcomes that are management-oriented and understandable by end-users, and (iv) ensuring that capacity building and dissemination activities occurred during and persisted beyond the program. Standardized monitoring protocols and data management procedures, a user-friendly interface for indicator analysis, and dashboards of indicators related to biodiversity, uses, and governance, were the most valued practical outcomes. Seventy-five students were trained during the projects and most of the monitoring work was conducted with MPA rangers. Such outcomes were made possible by the extended timeline offered by the three successive projects. MPA managers’ and scientists a posteriori perceptions strongly supported the relevance of such collaboration. Local monitoring and assessment meets the needs of MPA managers, and forms the basis for large-scale assessments through upscaling. A long-term synergistic transdisciplinary collaboration between coastal MPA managers and research into social-ecological systems (SESs) would simultaneously (i) address the lack of long-term resources for coastal monitoring and SES-oriented research; (ii) increase science uptake by coastal managers, and (iii) benefit assessments at higher levels or at broader geographic scales.
The catch-maximum sustainable yield (CMSY) method and a closely related Bayesian state-space Schaefer surplus production model (BSM) were combined with published catch data and catch per unit effort (CPUE) time series or spawning stock biomass (SSB) data to evaluate fisheries reference points for exploited resources of the Japan Sea. Eleven fish and invertebrate stocks were assessed; outcomes obtained through this analysis were the carrying capacity, biomass trajectory, maximum sustainable yield, and related parameters of each stock. Results showed that the stock of Arctoscopus japonicus was slightly overfished; the stocks of Cleisthenes pinetorum, Hippoglossoides dubius, Paralichthys olivaceus, and Chionoecetes opilio were overfished; and the stocks of Eopsetta grigorjewi, Pagrus major, Gadus chalcogrammus, and Glossanodon semifasciatus were grossly overfished; Pseudopleuronectes herzensteini was proved to be severely depleted; only Pandalus eous was in good condition. These results are consistent with the few previous studies on the status of fish species around the Japan Sea, where overfishing is becoming increasingly apparent. These assessments provide a basis for guiding the use, management, and rebuilding of fishery resources in the Japan Sea.
Isostichopus fuscus is the most important sea cucumber species exploited in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. It was the most important fishery in the Galápagos in the early 2000s until overfishing led to its collapse and a 5-year total fishing ban was established (2016–2021) to try to recover it. The management of I. fuscus in the Galápagos has always considered the population density as an indicator for decision-making. The objective of this study is to review the density as an indicator of the population status of I. fuscus using a stock-production model incorporating covariates methodology. For the first time, population and fishing parameters (K, r, and q), reference points (MSY, BMSY, FMSY, and DMSY) and indicators (B/BMSY and F/FMSY) were estimated for I. fuscus. The results indicate that the management measures have not prevented the overexploitation of this species for more than a decade. The goal of the I. fuscus management plan in the Galápagos, i.e., the recovering the fishery in a non-fishing scenario, will not be met by 2030. To accomplish its recovery six recommendations are proposed, including to extend the total ban of the fishery and to change the current management indicators to B/BMSY and F/FMSY. This study evidences that management measures taken with little scientific basis can have a pervasive effect on natural resources.
For Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to be effective in conservation their zoning and management needs to be based on scientific data. Obtaining information on spatio-temporal occurrence patterns of cetaceans can be especially challenging. This study used platforms of opportunity (i.e., fishing monitoring vessels) from May 2004 to May 2012 as a cost-effective way to address this knowledge gap in the Wakatobi National Park (WNP) at the heart of Coral Triangle, an important area for cetaceans in Indonesia. A database was created of cetacean sightings per surveyed days at sea, allowing for an analysis of species diversity and habitat use around the islands. Of the 11 cetacean species identified, spinner and bottlenose dolphins were sighted most often, followed by melon-headed and sperm whales. Spinner dolphin showed a wide distribution in the area, whilst bottlenose dolphin and melon-headed whale occupied the waters between the main islands and south atolls. Sperm whales occurred mostly in waters north of the main islands and as melon-headed whales, mostly in deep waters. Most cetacean sightings occurred in the zones designated for human use, indicating where potential conflicts might occur. No sightings were found in the Park core zone, suggesting a mismatch between WNP design and the cetacean ecological needs. Based on a sub-sample of the dedicated fishing monitoring sightings a sighting frequency was derived. Small and large cetaceans were reported mostly during inter-monsoonal seasons, possibly related to increased prey availability due to seasonal upwelling and increased survey activity. Inter-annual occurrence of cetaceans was variable, with no large cetaceans being sighted in 2010–2012, likely due to reduced survey efforts. In areas with limited resources for designated surveys, the use of platforms of opportunity can be a cost-effective tool to provide valuable data on cetacean occurrence. While data collection protocols in the WNP can be improved further, the results presented here already help identify potentially important areas as well as highlight where to direct designated research efforts. We advise to protect currently unprotected cetacean important habitats, and strictly regulate human activities in the current use zones for future WNP rezoning processes.
Caribbean coral reefs provide essential ecosystem services to society, including fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection from coastal erosion. However, these reefs are also exhibiting major declining trends, leading to the evolution of novel ecosystems dominated by non-reef building taxa, with potentially altered ecological functions. In the search for effective management strategies, this study characterized coral reefs in front of a touristic beach which provides economic benefits to the surrounding coastal communities yet faces increasing anthropogenic pressures and conservation challenges. Haphazard photo-transects were used to address spatial variation patterns in the reef’s benthic community structure in eight locations. Statistically significant differences were found with increasing distance from the shoreline, reef rugosity, Diadema antillarum density, among reef locations, and as a function of recreational use. Nearshore reefs reflected higher percent macroalgal cover, likely due to increased exposure from both recreational activities and nearby unsustainable land-use practices. However, nearshore reefs still support a high abundance of the endangered reef-building coral Orbicella annularis, highlighting the need to conserve these natural shoreline protectors. There is an opportunity for local stakeholders and regulatory institutions to collaboratively implement sea-urchin propagation, restoration of endangered Acroporid coral populations, and zoning of recreational densities across reefs. Our results illustrate vulnerable reef hotspots where these management interventions are needed and recommend guidelines to address them.
Globally, economies and marine ecosystems are increasingly dependent on sustainable fisheries management (SFM) to balance social, economic, and conservation needs. The overarching objectives of SFM are to maximize both conservation and socio-economic benefits, while minimizing short-term socio-economic costs. A number of tools have been developed to achieve SFM objectives, ranging from fishery specific to ecosystem-based strategies. Closures are a common SFM tool used to balance the trade-off between socio-economic and conservation considerations; they vary in scope from small-scale temporary closures to large-scale permanent networks. Unfortunately, closures are frequently implemented without a plan for monitoring or assessing whether SFM objectives are met. In situations in which a monitoring plan is not in place we propose that commonly available fishery data can often be used to evaluate whether management tools are effective in meeting SFM objectives. Here, we present a case study of closures on Georges Bank that shows how fishery data can be analyzed to perform such an assessment. Since 2006, on the Canadian side of Georges Bank, seasonal scallop fishery closures have been implemented with the aim of reducing by-catch of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and yellowtail flounder (Pleuronectes ferruginea) during spawning. In lieu of data from a dedicated monitoring program, we analyzed data from Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), fishery logbooks, and a scallop survey to assess the impact of these closures on the scallop fishery, and use observer data (i.e. by-catch) to assess the effectiveness of these closures in meeting their conservation objective. While compliance for these time-area closures was high, the closures did not significantly displace fishing activity and overall there was limited evidence of an impact on the scallop fishery. Further, the discard rates for both cod and yellowtail were above average when their respective closures were active. These results suggest that improvements to the closures design and/or other measures may be required to achieve the desired SFM objectives.
Marine turtles are of conservation concern throughout their range, with past population declines largely due to exploitation through both legal and illegal take, and incidental capture in fisheries. Whilst much research effort has been focused on nesting beaches and elaborating migratory corridors, these species spend the vast majority of their life-cycle in foraging grounds, which are, in some species, quite discrete. To understand and manage these populations, empirical data are needed on distribution, space-use, and habitats to best inform design of protective measures. Here we describe space-use, occupancy, and wide-ranging movements derived from conventional flipper tagging and satellite tracking of sub-adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) within the coastal waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI; 2011–2017). 623 turtles were fitted with flipper tags, with 69 subsequently recaptured, five of which in international waters. Sixteen individual turtles of between 63 and 81 cm curved carapace length were satellite tracked for a mean 226 days (range: 38–496). Data revealed extended periods of occupancy in the shallow coastal waters within a RAMSAR protected area. Satellite tracking and flipper tagging showed wide-ranging movements, with flipper tag recaptures occurring in waters off Nicaragua (n = 4), and Venezuela (n = 1). Also, four of 16 satellite tracked turtles exhibiting directed movements away (displaced >450 km) from TCI waters traveling through nine geo-political zones within the Caribbean-Atlantic basin, as well as on the High Seas. One turtle traveled to the Central American coast before settling on inshore habitat in Colombia’s waters for 162 days before transmission ceased, indicating ontogenetic dispersal to a distant foraging habitat. These data highlight connectivity throughout the region, displaying key linkages between countries that have previously only been linked by genetic evidence. This study also provides evidence of the importance of the Turks and Caicos Islands marine protected area network and importance of effective management of the sea turtle fishery for regional green turtle populations.
In order to inform decision making and policy, research to address sustainability challenges requires cross-disciplinary approaches that are co-created with a wide and inclusive diversity of disciplines and stakeholders. As the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development approaches, it is therefore timely to take stock of the global range of cross-disciplinary questions to inform the development of policies to restore and sustain ocean health. We synthesized questions from major science and policy horizon scanning exercises, identifying 89 questions with relevance for ocean policy and governance. We then scanned the broad ocean science literature to examine issues potentially missed in the horizon scans and supplemented the horizon scan outcome with 11 additional questions. This resulted in an unprioritized list of 100 general questions that would require a cross-disciplinary approach to inform policy. The questions fell into broad categories including: coastal and marine environmental change, managing ocean activities, governance for sustainable oceans, ocean value, and technological and socio-economic innovation. Each question can be customized by ecosystem, region, scale, and socio-political context, and is intended to inspire discussions of salient cross-disciplinary research directions to direct scientific research that will inform policies. Governance and management responses to these questions will best be informed by drawing upon a diversity of natural and social sciences, local and traditional knowledge, and engagement of different sectors and stakeholders.
Coral reefs are under threat and innovative management strategies are urgently required. However, discoveries from innovative fields of coral reef research are rarely transposed in practical conservation actions. This is mainly due to the difficulties in knowledge exchange between scientists and conservation stakeholders. The ManaCo consortium (http://manaco.ird.nc/) is an international network federating conservation stakeholders and researchers in a common effort to preserve the coral reefs. The focus is on using modern tools to build a bridge between indigenous knowledge and scientific innovation. ManaCo aims to orientate research toward relevant conservation needs and to facilitate the transposition of research into concrete management strategies. This will allow to coordinate a collaborative response against coral reef decline. We invite anyone sharing the same interests in joining us.