Increasing Arctic marine use is driven primarily by natural resource development and greater marine access throughout the Arctic Ocean created by profound sea ice retreat. Significant management measures to enhance protection of Arctic people and the marine environment are emerging, including the development of marine protected areas (MPAs) which may be effective and valuable tools. MPAs have been established by individual Arctic coastal states within their respective national jurisdictions; however, a pan-Arctic network of MPAs has yet to be established despite Arctic Council deliberations. This overview focuses on those MPAs that can be designated by the International Maritime Organization and by international instrument or treaty to respond to increasing Arctic marine operations and shipping. Key challenges remain in the Arctic to the introduction of select MPAs and development of a circumpolar network of MPAs in response to greater marine use: the variability of sea ice; the rights and concerns of indigenous people; a lack of marine infrastructure; application to the Central Arctic Ocean; establishing effective monitoring; and, compliance and enforcement in remote polar seas. Robust bilateral and multilateral cooperation will be necessary not only to establish effective MPAs but also to sustain them for the long term. Reducing the large Arctic marine infrastructure gap will be a key requirement to achieve effective MPA management and attain critical conservation goals.
Vessel Traffic and Tracking, Shipping, and Ports
On June 19, 2015, following a long period of preparation, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/69/L.65: 65 “Development of an international legally-binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction”. A preparatory committee will develop draft recommendations in 2016 and 2017. The proposed new instrument will have important implications for the areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the Central Arctic Ocean and therefore for the Arctic governance regime overall. Key components of the “package” of measures discussed during the sessions of the Working Group were area-based management tools, including MPAs; marine genetic resources, including questions related to the sharing of benefits; environmental impact assessments and capacity-building and technology transfer. The potential implication of such a new legal instrument on areas beyond national jurisdiction in the Arctic will be manifold. They will affect shipping and other marine operations. Arctic nations have expressed initial views on the proposed measures but it will in the end be a decision of the international community as a whole to decide on the details of the new Implementing Agreement which will then provide a binding regime for all High Seas areas, including the Central Arctic Ocean.
The benefits of protected areas depend on compliance, and achieving protection remains a challenge in intensely used areas where conservation and socioeconomic goals are in real or apparent conflict. One recent innovation – satellite tracking of commercial fishing vessels – has been introduced to help with ocean protection initiatives and build trust between fishers and managers. We paired vessel traffic data before and during a temporary closure in the Adriatic Sea with data on fish nursery habitat to examine changes in fishing effort and their potential consequences. Trawlers generally complied with the closure but maintained overall effort by trawling more intensely outside of the no‐trawl zone, especially near its borders and closer to shore. We detected stronger than expected fishing effort in a sub‐region within the protected area, suggesting that this location should be closely monitored for compliance. Notably, fishing effort was relocated to nursery grounds for some exploited species, illustrating the importance of understanding species’ life histories and habitat distribution in the design of protected areas.
A major challenge in global fisheries is posed by transshipment of catch at sea from fishing vessels to refrigerated cargo vessels, which can obscure the origin of the catch and mask illicit practices. Transshipment remains poorly quantified at a global scale, as much of it is thought to occur outside of national waters. We used Automatic Identification System (AIS) vessel tracking data to quantify spatial patterns of transshipment for major fisheries and gear types. From 2012 to 2017, we observed 10,510 likely transshipment events, with trawlers (53%) and longliners (21%) involved in a majority of cases. Trawlers tended to transship in national waters, whereas longliners did so predominantly on the high seas. Spatial hot spots were seen off the coasts of Russia and West Africa, in the South Indian Ocean, and in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Our study highlights novel ways to trace seafood supply chains and identifies priority areas for improved trade regulation and fisheries management at the global scale.
Transshipment at sea, the offloading of catch from a fishing vessel to a refrigerated vessel far from port, can obscure the actual source of the catch, complicating sustainable fisheries management, and may allow illegally caught fish to enter the legitimate seafood market. Transshipment activities often occur in regions of unclear jurisdiction where policymakers or enforcement agencies may be slow to act against a challenge they cannot see. To address this limitation, we processed 32 billion Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages from ocean-going vessels from 2012 to the end of 2017 and identified and tracked 694 cargo vessels capable of transshipping at sea and transporting fish (referred to as transshipment vessels). We mapped 46,570 instances where these vessels loitered at sea long enough to receive a transshipment and 10,233 instances where we see a fishing vessel near a loitering transshipment vessel long enough to engage in transshipment. We found transshipment behaviors associated with regions and flag states exhibiting limited oversight; roughly 47% of the events occur on the high seas and 42% involve vessels flying flags of convenience. Transshipment behavior in the high seas is relatively common, with vessels responsible for 40% of the fishing in the high seas having at least one encounter with a transshipment vessel in this time period. Our analysis reveals that addressing the sustainability and human rights challenges (slavery, trafficking, bonded labor) associated with transshipment at sea will require a global perspective and transnational cooperation.
Shipping is key to global trade, but is also a dominant source of anthropogenic noise in the ocean. Chronic noise from ships can affect acoustic quality of important whale habitats. Noise from ships has been identified as one of three main stressors–in addition to contaminants, and lack of Chinook salmon prey–in the recovery of the endangered southern resident killer whale (SRKW) population. Managers recognize existing noise levels as a threat to the acoustical integrity of SRKW critical habitat. There is an urgent need to identify practical ways to reduce ocean noise given projected increases in shipping in the SRKW's summertime critical habitat in the Salish Sea. We reviewed the literature to provide a qualitative description of mitigation approaches. We use an existing ship source level dataset to quantify how some mitigation approaches could readily reduce noise levels by 3–10 dB.
The fabled Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route that were once the quests of early Western explorers are now increasingly sea ice–free, with routine vessel transits expected by midcentury. The potential impacts of this novel vessel traffic on endemic Arctic marine mammal (AMM) species are unknown despite their critical social and ecological roles in the ecosystem and widely recognized susceptibility to ice loss. We developed a vulnerability assessment of 80 subpopulations of seven AMM species to vessel traffic during the ice-free season. Vulnerability scores were based on the combined influence of spatially explicit exposure to the sea routes and a suite of sensitivity variables. More than half of AMM subpopulations (42/80) are exposed to open-water vessel transits in the Arctic sea routes. Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) were estimated to be most vulnerable to vessel impacts, given their high exposure and sensitivity, and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) were estimated to be the least vulnerable because of their low exposure and sensitivity. Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by two to three times higher vulnerability than more remote regions. These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory AMMs, and so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for conservation-informed planning. Some of the species and regions identified as least vulnerable were also characterized by high uncertainty, highlighting additional data and monitoring needs. Our quantification of the heterogeneity of risk across AMM species provides a necessary first step toward developing best practices for maritime industries poised to advance into this rapidly changing seascape.
Ecotourism is a movement that seeks to sustain local communities by uniting conservation, travel, and education. To minimize effects on animal behavior, ecotourism operations must be carefully managed. Local management efforts that can be tailored to the specific area and animals may be more successful than broad‐scale efforts that may be unknown to users of the environment, or inappropriate for the species. A profitable and growing whale‐watch industry exists in Oregon, USA, but prior to this project, no state guidelines existed to protect animals and maintain sustainability of the industry. This project integrated research and outreach regarding gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) behavioral response to vessels, and translated results into community‐developed vessel operation guidelines. We tracked whales and vessels in summer 2015 using non‐invasive, shore‐based theodolite and photo identification techniques. We monitored 2 sites along the Oregon coast with differing levels of vessel traffic for 4 weeks each. We analyzed tracks of whales using Markov chains to assess behavior state changes relative to location, individual, vessel presence, vessel type, and distance between whale and vessel. We documented significant differences in gray whale activity budgets between control and impact conditions, and between study sites. We did not observe significant differences in individual responses to vessel disturbance. Researchers and stakeholders collaboratively applied these results to create scientifically informed vessel operation guidelines that aim to balance the economic and educational gains of a whale‐watch industry with adequate protection of the exploited whale population to enhance sustainability.
This paper develops and tests a conceptual environmental risk assessment and management framework to guide businesses and other stakeholders, including government, in defining and addressing potential environmental problems in ocean shipping and port operations. The framework aims to protect the natural environment and its ecosystem services while at the same time allowing society to obtain goods and benefits from the seas. As such it integrates three elements: firstly, the criteria required to achieve sustainable management that, secondly, underpin a problem structuring method which, thirdly, can be assessed using an ISO Bow-tie industry standard analysis tool. Ocean pollution from water and air-borne discharges are used to illustrate this framework; this uses an input from an exploratory research study with maritime practitioners which investigated the framework veracity and potential for use, highlighting its potential and shortcomings.
Although the importance of Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) as a concept is know acknowledged and the legal framework is in place, the task of applying it remains a delicate one. One of the keys to success is having pertinent data. Knowing how maritime uses unfold in a spatio-temporal context, and what conflicting or synergistic interactions exist between activities, is crucial. However, this information is especially hard to obtain in a marine environment. As a result this information has often been identified as the missing layer in information systems developed by maritime stakeholders. Since 2002, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) has been undergoing a major development. Allowing for real time geo-tracking and identification for equipped vessels, the data that issues from AIS data promises to map and describe certain marine human activities.
After recapitulating the main characteristics of AIS and the data it provides, this article proposes to evaluate how AIS is currently used in MSP at a European level, and to concisely present a series of methods and results obtained within the framework of several operational research projects. The objective is to illustrate how the AIS data processing and analysis can produce adequate information for MSP: maritime traffic density, shipping lanes and navigation flows, hierarchical network of maritime routes, alleged fishing zones, spatio-temporal interactions between activities (potential conflicting uses or synergies). The conclusion looks in particular at the legal questions concerning the use of AIS.