The Skimmer & MPA News

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: In last month’s issue, The Skimmer interviewed three practitioners about their experiences developing and using serious games to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of the conservation and management of coastal and marine ecosystems. This month we interviewed Harald Warmelink, a senior research project leader at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, about his work developing the serious game MSP Challenge. Warmelink’s work focuses on the design, use, and evaluation of serious games for policy analysis, decision-making, management, and organization, as well as their gamification.

The Skimmer: Can you tell us a little bit about your game and the target audience?

Warmelink: As we wrote in the article “Communicating Maritime Spatial Planning: The MSP Challenge approach”: “The MSP Challenge Simulation Platform integrates real geodata (both marine and human activities) sourced from a great many proprietary institutions and data-portals (such as IMO, HELCOM, EMODnet, and national data centers) with science-based simulation models for shipping, energy and ecology (Ecopath with Ecosim). The data and models have been linked together in a game engine (Unity) to create an interactive simulation platform. This simulation platform allows anyone – experts as well as non-experts – to creatively operate it for scenario development, and/or for multi-player game sessions. This can have multiple purposes such as scenario exploration, co-design, validation or policy-oriented learning. Although the simulation platform has taken a significant step towards becoming a next generation marine planning support system, it continues to use play mechanics, in the form of player roles, scenarios and challenges.”

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Historically, games were a means for young people to learn critical survival skills. In recent decades, however, games have come to be viewed as simply a source of entertainment. A recent movement – “serious gaming” – is now revitalizing the idea that games can do a lot more than just entertain. It is showing that they can be a powerful tool for teaching, engaging stakeholders, conducting research, and evaluating public policy. For instance, serious games can:

  • Help players better understand complex topics and the interests of a wide variety of groups, promoting thinking about systems as a whole
  • Let players experiment with and see the consequences of different choices over time, promoting longer-term thinking
  • Create a high level of engagement with the public, potentially at lower cost than other more traditional engagement activities
  • Help policymakers and researchers understand stakeholder decision making and the way stakeholders may respond to a variety of policy choices.

This month The Skimmer has compiled information about role-playing/simulation games designed to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation. These serious games allow players to experiment with coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation actions (or inaction) to help players, researchers, and policymakers better understand how coastal and marine ecosystems (including resource users and human communities) work. We also interview a range of game developers about their experiences using their games in the field.

Look through our new compilation for a serious game for your coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation work.

Read about how these games are being used to engage stakeholders, educate students and the general public, and conduct research.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

The Skimmer interviewed three practitioners about their experiences developing and using serious games to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of the conservation and management of coastal and marine ecosystems. Learn about:

One striking commonality of these stories is the ability of games to engage a wide variety of audiences – oftentimes even wider audiences than those for which they were developed – in discussion and learning about the conservation and management of marine ecosystems.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

It’s no secret that news about the ocean is pretty disheartening these days. So, as we get started with 2020, we here at The Skimmer want to highlight a new report that looks at ocean potential. The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy recently released “The Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action”, which quantifies contributions that ocean-based mitigation strategies can make in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, while also delivering other ecosystem services. The report considers the potential contributions of:

  • Scaling up ocean-based renewable energy (e.g., wind, wave, and tidal power)
  • Reducing emissions from freight and passenger shipping
  • Increasing protection and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems (particularly “blue carbon” habitats such as mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses), which would provide carbon mitigation as well as other ecosystem service benefits
  • Shifting diets towards low-carbon sources of protein from the ocean
  • Storing carbon in the seabed.
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Aquaculture production is an increasingly important component of global seafood production. Seafood production from aquaculture has expanded nearly six-fold since 1990, while capture fisheries production has remained relatively stagnant. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s most recent analysis of global fisheries and aquaculture, seafood production from aquaculture (excluding seaweeds) exceeded production from marine capture fisheries for the first time in 2016.[i]

Aquaculture’s reputation is mixed, however. It obviously has the potential to feed many people, but it has is associated with a number of observed and potential negative environmental impacts, including:

  • Altering and destroying habitat, such as mangrove forests, for aquaculture facilities
  • Escapes of farmed species into the wild, enabling species invasions and altering the genetics of wild populations
  • Spreading diseases and parasites to wild populations
  • Releasing fecal waste, uneaten food, and pesticides into the local environment, decreasing water quality
  • Contributing to the overfishing of wild fish populations because of the use of wild fish to feed farmed fish.

This negative view obscures the incredible diversity of aquaculture types and their diverse interactions with marine environments. Aquaculture enterprises vary in:

  • What species are cultivated (e.g., seaweeds, mollusks, crustaceans, finfish) and what they feed on (e.g., whether they are photosynthesizers, filter feeders, deposit feeders, herbivores, carnivores)
  • How intense production is (e.g., total biomass per cage, the degree to which fertilizer and supplementary feeds are used)
  • The type of environment production takes place in (e.g., freshwater streams or lakes, fully enclosed tanks, ponds, intertidal, sheltered bays, open ocean, sea pens, ponds, tanks).
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Thierry Chopin is a professor of marine biology and director of the Seaweed and Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Research Laboratory at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. He is also president of Chopin Coastal Health Solutions Inc. His research focuses on the ecophysiology/biochemistry/cultivation of seaweeds and the development of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) for environmental sustainability, economic stability, and societal acceptability.

The Skimmer: Can you tell us a little bit about what IMTA is?

Chopin: With IMTA, farmers cultivate species from different trophic levels and with complementary ecosystem functions in proximity. They combine fed species (e.g., finfish that need to be provided with feed) with extractive species (e.g., seaweeds, aquatic plants, shellfish, and other invertebrates that extract their food from the environment) to take advantage of synergistic interactions among them. In these systems, biomitigation operates as part of a circular economy (i.e., nutrients are no longer considered wastes or by-products of one species, but instead are co-products for the other species).

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, The Skimmer. Email: tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net

A recent publication “Marine zoning revisiting: How decades of zoning the Great Barrier Reef has evolved an effective spatial planning approach for marine ecosystem-based management” published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems distills important lessons from Australia’s evolving commitment to manage the world’s most iconic multiple use marine protected area. It casts a critical eye on what has worked and what has not, and it pushes us beyond our marine comfort zone to face the challenge of true ecosystem-based management (EBM), which neither ocean zoning nor marine spatial planning (MSP) in their current applications can adequately provide. With this publication, Jon Day and his coauthors have given the world a valuable gift that will keep on giving if we can acknowledge this gift and heed it.

Day and his colleagues (including Richard Kenchington, who like Day has been intimately involved in the design and management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park [GBRMP] through its various iterations over the years) recount how zoning both set the stage for multiple use management and evolved to provide the legal framework for regulations to protect the world’s largest barrier reef. The use of zoning had to be adapted over decades because the GBRMP Authority was a pioneer in spatial management and the allocation of space to uses of the marine environment. Zoning on land may have provided a glimpse of the possible, but adapting zoning approaches to the fluid and obscured ocean realm required experimentation and a fair amount of risk taking.

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