Being a large maritime nation, the need to develop sustainable ocean planning and management processes in Portugal has been gaining increased importance in the last decade. After promulgating its first national framework law on maritime spatial planning (MSP), Portugal has recently approved a new MSP Diploma that aims at “developing” (i.e. implementing in detail) the framework law. This paper analyzes and discusses the new Portuguese MSP Diploma by (1) briefly presenting its main specificities; (2) analyzing its contents (and comparing them to the EU MSP Directive contents), namely in what pertains to environmental references; (3) analyzing the link between the EU Marine Strategy Directive (MSFD) and the MSP implementation in Portugal; and (4) discussing the main challenges that the Diploma poses to the long-term sustainability of Portuguese ocean management. Results show that environmental references represent only a small account on the Diploma contents (c. 2% against c. 5% in the EU MSP Directive); main environmental topics addressed include environmental “monitoring” and “evaluation”, “environmental protection”, “sustainability”, and “good (environmental) status”; and the ecosystem-based approach is never referred to. In Portugal the same government entity has responsibility over the implementation of both MSP and the MSFD, and such an institutional framework is expected to promote sustainable maritime uses as well as a true coordination/communication between both processes. The Diploma enshrines several “unusual” aspects that may compromise environmental sustainability. Although the new Portuguese MSP Diploma has been recently approved and promulgated, it may still be amended in the framework of a parliamentary discussion, therefore still having the opportunity to overcome the identified environmental challenges/concerns.
As sea-level rises, the frequency of coastal marine flooding events is changing. For accurate assessments, several other factors must be considered as well, such as the variability of sea-level rise and storm surge patterns. Here, a global sensitivity analysis is used to provide quantitative insight into the relative importance of contributing uncertainties over the coming decades. The method is applied on an urban low-lying coastal site located in the north-western Mediterranean, where the yearly probability of damaging flooding could grow drastically after 2050 if sea-level rise follows IPCC projections. Storm surge propagation processes, then sea-level variability, and, later, global sea-level rise scenarios become successively important source of uncertainties over the 21st century. This defines research priorities that depend on the target period of interest. On the long term, scenarios RCP 6.0 and 8.0 challenge local capacities of adaptation for the considered site.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a well-established practice in most developed countries, even though its application to projects in the marine environment is at a much earlier stage of development. We use the Portuguese example to address marine EIA legislation since its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is currently the third largest in the European Union and its EIA legislation does not require various offshore activities with potentially negative environmental impacts to undergo EIA before being licensed. This paper aims to determine whether three types of projects implemented within Portuguese maritime zones – artificial reefs using sunken ships, hydrocarbon prospecting and wave-energy generation – would benefit from application of an appropriately designed EIA. We have conducted a structured review of EIA legal provisions from seven other countries, and considered whether a full EIA was required for each project type. Consequently, 12 Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) have been compared to identify patterns of (dis)similarity across countries and project types. Additionally, we identified key descriptors and predicted impacts for each project type referred to in their EIS. The main conclusion is that ultimately all three projects would benefit from mandatory EIA in Portugal. This paper is relevant for countries with large maritime areas and underdeveloped marine EIA legislation, helping improve international policy-making relating to these three types of marine projects.
Wind energy development on land has faced local opposition for reasons such as effects on cultural landscapes and wildlife, which can be instrumental in whether or not and the speed with which a project moves toward completion. Offshore wind can generate electricity where onshore wind is limited. Factors leading to support for, or opposition to, offshore wind energy are not well known, particularly for developments that are near-shore and in-view of coastal communities. Here we present results from a survey of 699 residents (35.5% response rate) completed in 2013 in greater Atlantic City, New Jersey and coastal Delaware, United States, where near-shore wind demonstration projects had been proposed. We examined how the public considers the societal tradeoffs that are made to develop small-scale, in-view demonstration wind projects instead of larger facilities farther offshore. Results indicate that a strong majority of the public supports near-shore demonstration wind projects. We find the primary reasons for support include benefits to wildlife, cost of electricity, and job creation, while the primary reasons for opposition include wildlife impacts, aesthetics, tourism, and user conflicts. These factors differ between the two communities and highlight the importance of local, community engagement in the early stages of development.
Global warming and its link to the burning of fossil fuels has prompted many governments around the world to set legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets which are to be partially realised through a stronger reliance on renewable (e.g. wind) and other lower carbon (i.e. natural gas and nuclear) energy commodities. The marine environment will play a key role in hosting or supporting these new energy strategies. However, it is unclear how the construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of these energy systems, and their related infrastructure, will impact the marine environment, the ecosystem services (i.e. cultural, regulating, provisioning and supporting) and in turn the benefits it provides for human well-being. This uncertainty stems from a lack of research that has synthesised into a common currency the various effects of each energy sector on marine ecosystems and the benefits humans derive from it. To address this gap, the present study reviews existing ecosystem impact studies for offshore components of nuclear, offshore wind, offshore gas and offshore oil sectors and translates them into the common language of ecosystem service impacts that can be used to evaluate current policies. The results suggest that differences exist in the way in which energy systems impact ecosystem services, with the nuclear sector having a predominantly negative impact on cultural ecosystem services; oil and gas a predominately negative impact on cultural, provisioning, regulating and supporting ecosystem services; while wind has a mix of impacts on cultural, provisioning and supporting services and an absence of studies for regulating services. This study suggests that information is still missing with regard to the full impact of these energy sectors on specific types of benefits that humans derive from the marine environment and proposes possible areas of targeted research.
Mortalities due to interactions between loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles and commercial bottom trawl fisheries impede the recovery of loggerhead populations worldwide. In the U.S. Mid-Atlantic, several hundred loggerheads interact with commercial bottom trawl gear each year despite the implementation of temporal and spatial conservation measures. In this analysis a Generalized Additive Model (GAM) is developed using fisheries observer data to estimate the magnitude of loggerhead interactions and mortalities in U.S. Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl gear from 2009 to 2013. Based on the results, the potential conservation benefits of hypothetical spatial closures or turtle excluder device (TED) requirements in times and areas of high estimated interactions is then evaluated. Loggerhead interaction rates were modeled as a function of retained catch, depth, latitude, and sea surface temperature. From 2009–2013, a total of 1156 (CV = 0.13, 908–1488) loggerheads were estimated to have interacted with bottom trawl gear in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic, of which 479 resulted in mortality. The total number of estimated interactions was equivalent to 166 adults, of which 68 resulted in mortality. The trawl fishery targeting Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) in the southern Mid-Atlantic had the highest turtle interactions among fisheries investigated; this may be due to larger mesh sizes in the mouth of the trawl and high headline height of the gear. The potential conservation benefit of hypothetical spatial closures or TEDs differs depending on the metric used to define “benefit”, and further depends on factors such as the spatial and temporal design of the closure, the magnitude and distribution of effort displacement, the spatial distribution of observed loggerhead life stages, and the assumed survival rate of animals passing through TEDs.
Reports from the fishing industry suggest that seal depredation in Irish bottom-set gillnets and entangling net fisheries has increased substantially in recent years. A dedicated observer program was conducted in a range of such fisheries off the southwest and west coasts of Ireland to provide the first quantitative estimates of seal depredation. Zero inflated negative binomial and Poisson regression models found positive correlations between depredation and factors such as latitude, depth, timing of a haul within a trip and quantities of gear hauled. Soak time was significant in the inshore gillnet fishery for pollack species (Pollachius spp.) but not significant in the deeper more offshore gillnet fishery for hake (Merluccius merluccius). Results suggest that soak times should be kept short in shallow areas while faster hauling speeds, and systems which actively deter seals from the vicinity of Vessels operating in deep water should be explored.
The marine environment provides significant benefits to many local communities. Pressure to develop coastal waterways worldwide creates an urgent need for tools to locate marine spaces that have important social or ecological values, and to quantify their relative importance. The primary objective of this study was to develop, apply and critically assess a tool to identify important social-ecological hotspots in the marine environment. The study was conducted in a typical coastal community in northern British Columbia, Canada. This expert-informed GIS, or xGIS, tool used a survey instrument to draw on the knowledge of local experts from a range of backgrounds with respect to a series of 12 social-ecological value attributes, such as biodiversity, cultural and economic values. We identified approximately 1500 polygons on marine maps and assigned relative values to them using a token distribution exercise. A series of spatial statistical analyses were performed to locate and quantify the relative social-ecological importance of marine spaces and the results were ultimately summarized in a single hotspot map of the entire study area. This study demonstrates the utility of xGIS as a useful tool for stakeholders and environmental managers engaged in the planning and management of marine resources at the local and regional levels.
Ocean acidification (OA) refers to the general decrease in pH of the global ocean as a result of absorbing anthropogenic CO2 emitted in the atmosphere since preindustrial times (Sabine et al., 2004). There is, however, considerable variability in ocean acidification, and many careful measurements need to be made and compared in order to obtain scientifically valid information for the assessment of patterns, trends, and impacts over a range of spatial and temporal scales, and to understand the processes involved. A single country or institution cannot undertake measurements of worldwide coastal and open ocean OA changes; therefore, international cooperation is needed to achieve that goal. The OA data that have been, and are being, collected represent a significant public investment. To this end, it is critically important that researchers (and others) around the world are easily able to find and use reliable OA information that range from observing data (from time-series moorings, process studies, and research cruises), to biological response experiments (e.g., mesocosm), data products, and model output.
The global nature of ocean acidification (OA) transcends habitats, ecosystems, regions, and science disciplines. The scientific community recognizes that the biggest challenge in improving understanding of how changing OA conditions affect ecosystems, and associated consequences for human society, requires integration of experimental, observational, and modeling approaches from many disciplines over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. Such transdisciplinary science is the next step in providing relevant, meaningful results and optimal guidance to policymakers and coastal managers. We discuss the challenges associated with integrating ocean acidification science across funding agencies, institutions, disciplines, topical areas, and regions, and the value of unifying science objectives and activities to deliver insights into local, regional, and global scale impacts. We identify guiding principles and strategies for developing transdisciplinary research in the ocean acidification science community.