With several offshore wind farms currently under consideration off the U.S. Atlantic seaboard, offshore wind has the potential to be an abundant source of renewable, low carbon electricity. Island communities throughout New England are leading the way in developing effective approaches for engaging with offshore wind developers. The report highlights key insights for designing good community engagement processes and demonstrates these best practices through case studies from Block Island (RI), Martha’s Vineyard (MA), and Monhegan (ME).
Separating myth and reality is essential for evaluating the effectiveness of laws. Section 7 of the US Endangered Species Act (Act) directs federal agencies to help conserve threatened and endangered species, including by consulting with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or National Marine Fisheries Service on actions the agencies authorize, fund, or carry out. Consultations ensure that actions do not violate the Act’s prohibitions on “jeopardizing” listed species or “destroying or adversely modifying” these species’ critical habitat. Because these prohibitions are broad, many people consider section 7 the primary tool for protecting species under the Act, whereas others believe section 7 severely impedes economic development. This decades-old controversy is driven primarily by the lack of data on implementation: past analyses are either over 25 y old or taxonomically restricted. We analyze data on all 88,290 consultations recorded by FWS from January 2008 through April 2015. In contrast to conventional wisdom about section 7 implementation, no project was stopped or extensively altered as a result of FWS finding jeopardy or adverse modification during this period. We also show that median consultation duration is far lower than the maximum allowed by the Act, and several factors drive variation in consultation duration. The results discredit many of the claims about the onerous nature of section 7 but also raise questions as to how federal agencies could apply this tool more effectively to conserve species. We build on the results to identify ways to improve the effectiveness of consultations for imperiled species conservation and increase the efficiency of consultations.
Marine fish and invertebrates are shifting their regional and global distributions in response to climate change, but it is unclear whether their productivity is being affected as well. Here we tested for time-varying trends in biological productivity parameters across 262 fish stocks of 127 species in 39 large marine ecosystems and high-seas areas (hereafter LMEs). This global meta-analysis revealed widespread changes in the relationship between spawning stock size and the production of juvenile offspring (recruitment), suggesting fundamental biological change in fish stock productivity at early life stages. Across regions, we estimate that average recruitment capacity has declined at a rate approximately equal to 3% of the historical maximum per decade. However, we observed large variability among stocks and regions; for example, highly negative trends in the North Atlantic contrast with more neutral patterns in the North Pacific. The extent of biological change in each LME was significantly related to observed changes in phytoplankton chlorophyll concentration and the intensity of historical overfishing in that ecosystem. We conclude that both environmental changes and chronic overfishing have already affected the productive capacity of many stocks at the recruitment stage of the life cycle. These results provide a baseline for ecosystem-based fisheries management and may help adjust expectations for future food production from the oceans.
In this article, we examine the relations between global value chain governance and environmental upgrading in maritime shipping. Drawing from interviews with global shipping companies and major buyers of shipping services (cargo-owners), we reveal the key issues and challenges faced in improving the environmental performance of maritime transportation. Contributing to the Global Value Chain (GVC) literature, we compare and analyze the influence of three main external drivers on environmental upgrading in the tanker, bulk and container shipping segments: regulation, cooperation and buyer demands. Our findings suggest that environmental upgrading is more likely to occur when global value chains are characterized by unipolar governance and where the lead firms are consumer-facing companies with reputational risks. Furthermore, environmental upgrading in shipping is not likely to materialize without clear and enforceable global regulation and stronger alignment between regulation and voluntary sustainability initiatives.
Several decision support systems were developed in recent years to encourage climate adaptation planning in coastal areas, especially at a national to global scale. However, few prototypes are easy to use and accessible for decision-makers to evaluate and manage risks locally. DESYCO is a GIS based decision support system specifically designed to better understand the risks that climate change poses at the regional/subnational scale (e.g. the effect of sea level rise and coastal erosion on human assets and ecosystems) and set the context of strategic adaptation planning within Integrated Coastal Zone Management. It implements a Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) methodology allowing the spatial assessment of multiple climate change impacts in coastal areas and the ranking of key elements at risk (beaches, wetlands, protected areas, urban and agricultural areas). The core of the system is a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) model used to operationalize the steps of the RRA (hazard, exposure, susceptibility, risk and damage assessment) by integrating a blend of information from climate scenarios (global/regional climate projections and hydrodynamic/hydrological simulations) and from non-climate vulnerability factors (physical, environmental and socio-economic features of the analysed system). User-friendly interfaces simplify the interaction with the system, providing guidance for risk mapping, results communication and understanding.
DESYCO was applied to low-lying coastal plains and islands (the North Adriatic Sea, the Gulf of Gabes and the Republic of Mauritius), river basins and groundwater systems (Upper Plain of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Marche Region). The paper presents the RRA methodology, the structure of DESYCO and its software architecture, showing the capabilities of the tool to support decision making and climate proofing in a wide range of situations (e.g. shoreline planning, land use and water resource management, flood risk reduction).
By considering not only target species catch but also bycatch of non-target species and habitat damage, ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) has the potential to minimize the environmental impact of fisheries. Defining and benchmarking EBFM strategies for these incidental environmental impacts has been challenging, and this lack of consensus has, in part, resulted in a proliferation of eco-labeling schemes with variable and vague criteria for environmental targets. The performance of fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the most prominent eco-labeling certifier, was compared to non-certified fisheries and evaluated against target reference points for a suite of metrics derived from the EBFM literature. Specifically we compared marine mammal bycatch, finfish discard rates, and gear impacts between MSC-certified fisheries and non-certified fisheries. Discards of non-target finfish and bycatch rates of marine mammals were no different between certified and non-certified U.S. fisheries. Observer coverage was no higher in certified fisheries, and many fisheries failed to meet the coverage level thought adequate to document bycatch of protected species. MSC-certified fisheries did have lower average gear destructiveness scores than non-certified stocks when weighted by landings but not when weighted by the number of fisheries. Our analysis indicates that MSC-certified fisheries perform better on some ecosystem-based sustainability metrics but are indistinguishable from non-certified stocks on others, and improvement is needed for all certified fisheries to meet quantitative goals for the collateral impacts of fishing.
Current knowledge of the complex relationships within ecological and economic systems make operationalizing ecosystem approaches within fisheries management difficult. As these approaches are developed, it is important to include non-target species that affect the productivity (as prey) and availability (as predators) of targeted species. This study develops a multispecies bioeconomic model that incorporates ecological and economic interactions to determine the optimal harvest of each species in the presence of a "nuisance" species, which lowers the value of the fishery by negatively affecting the growth of the other species in the ecosystem, and has little harvest value of its own. The populations of walleye pollock, Pacific cod, and arrowtooth flounder (a nuisance species) in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands region of Alaska are used as a case study. Vessel-and gear-specific profit functions with multi-output production technologies are used, along with estimated multispecies stock dynamics equations, to determine the optimal multispecies quotas and subsidy on the harvest of the nuisance species to maximize the value of this fishery. Ignoring the nuisance species results in a substantially less productive and lower value fishery than optimal joint management. This study highlights the importance of incorporating the impact of non-targeted species in ecosystem-based fisheries management.
The impact that microplastics have on baleen whales is a question that remains largely unexplored. This study examined the interaction between free-ranging fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and microplastics by comparing populations living in two semi-enclosed basins, the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California, Mexico). The results indicate that a considerable abundance of microplastics and plastic additives exists in the neustonic samples from Pelagos Sanctuary of the Mediterranean Sea, and that pelagic areas containing high densities of microplastics overlap with whale feeding grounds, suggesting that whales are exposed to microplastics during foraging; this was confirmed by the observation of a temporal increase in toxicological stress in whales. Given the abundance of microplastics in the Mediterranean environment, along with the high concentrations of Persistent Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) chemicals, plastic additives and biomarker responses detected in the biopsies of Mediterranean whales as compared to those in whales inhabiting the Sea of Cortez, we believe that exposure to microplastics because of direct ingestion and consumption of contaminated prey poses a major threat to the health of fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea.
Many multivariate methods have been applied to small-scale fishery data in an attempt to distinguish factors that characterize the fishing activity and influence catch composition. While such approaches are important, they are still incomplete for including the spatial structuring in the analysis, a non-random fundamental and functional component of the ecosystem. This study fills this gap by identifying, describing, and quantifying factors that influence the fleet type of tropical small-scale fisheries using a multivariate spatial approach. The example data came from two Brazilian States where two main fleets, open water canoes and motorized boats, operate. Different complex combinations of fishing, environmental and spatial factors affect the structure of the fish catch composition of each fleet. Motorized boats showed strong spatially-structured species catch composition in comparison with open water canoes. Similar environmental factors, such as type of the seabed and depth, but different fishing variables (gear vs crew size), affected the species catch composition of these vessel categories. Despite some overlap, each fleet focuses on a relatively distinct set of species groups and exploits habitats at different spatial scales. These results suggest that different sets of regulations should be considered for each fleet type within a specific spatial scale. It also shows that multi-species models that aggregate groups of species is a more efficient alternative than single-species assessment models for small-scale fisheries, as these are multi-specific and multi-gear, with scattered landing harbors, features that make such fisheries a complex challenge for management.
The Florida Keys is recognized as the birth place of flats fishing, but the flats fishery has historically been underappreciated by resource managers because it is a catch and release fishery. However, the fishery is increasingly threatened by habitat degradation and user conflicts. Ongoing regulatory revisions in the Florida Keys prompted us to work with flats fishing guides to document spatial fishing coverage and habitats so that this information could be included in management revisions. We used a geostatistical approach to create contour maps depicting fishing coverage and habitats, and provided this information to resource managers. This participatory GIS approach engages stakeholders in the management process, uses their knowledge of the resource, and contributes to resource and fisheries conservation. This study, in combination with research on the economic impact of the flats fishery, presents the flats fishery as an important conservation tool for the region and underscores the implication of relationships between researchers and data providers in the saltwater recreational fishery.