Economic benefits are derived from sea turtle tourism all over the world. Sea turtles also add value to underwater recreation and convey non-use values. This study examines the non-market value of sea turtles in Tobago. We use a choice experiment to estimate the value of sea turtle encounters to recreational SCUBA divers and the contingent valuation method to estimate the value of sea turtles to international tourists. Results indicate that turtle encounters were the most important dive attribute among those examined. Divers are willing to pay over US$62 per two tank dive for the first turtle encounter. The mean WTP for turtle conservation among international visitors to Tobago was US$31.13 which reflects a significant non-use value associated with actions targeted at keeping sea turtles from going extinct. These results illustrate significant non-use and non-consumptive use value of sea turtles, and highlight the importance of sea turtle conservation efforts in Tobago and throughout the Caribbean region.
Bycatch mortality is a significant driver of marine mammal population declines. However, there is little information available on patterns or magnitude of bycatch mortality in many heavily fished Asian marine systems such as the South China Sea (SCS). To address this limited knowledge base, we conducted interviews with fishers to gather local ecological knowledge on marine mammal bycatch around Hainan Island, China. Gillnets were the primary fishing gear used in local fisheries, and were also responsible for the majority of reported marine mammal bycatch events in recent decades. Bycatch events were reported from all seasons but were most frequent in spring (38.4%), which might relate to seasonal variation in fishing activities. The spatial pattern of relative bycatch densities for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Indo-Pacific finless porpoises and unidentified small dolphins varied around Hainan and neighbouring waters. A substantial proportion of informants (36.1 and 9.2% respectively) reported that they have eaten or sold marine mammal meat, demonstrating the continued existence of cultural practices of consuming marine mammals on Hainan. Responses of fishers to bycatch events were dependent both on their existing attitudes and perceptions towards marine mammals and on other sociocultural factors. Almost half of informants agreed that marine mammal populations in the SCS have decreased. Declines were thought by informants to have been caused by overfishing, water pollution and vessel collisions, with bycatch responsible for further declines in dolphins.
Climate change is altering habitats and causing changes to species behaviors and distributions. Rapid changes in Arctic sea ice ecosystems have increased the need to identify critical habitats for conservation and management of species such as polar bears (Ursus maritimus). We examined the distribution of adult female and subadult male and female polar bears tracked by satellite telemetry (n = 64 collars) in the southern Beaufort Sea, Canada, to identify summer refugia in 2007–2010. Using utilization distributions, we identified terrestrial and sea ice areas used as summer refugia when nearshore sea ice melted. Habitat use areas varied between months, but interannual variation was not significant. Overall, bears made high use of ice over shallow waters, and bears that remained near terrestrial areas used sea ice (presumably to hunt from) when it was available. The majority of the bears remained on sea ice during summer and used the edge of the pack ice most notably west of Banks Island, Canada. A mean of 27 % (range 22–33 %) of bears used terrestrial areas in Alaska and use was concentrated near the remains of subsistence harvested bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus). Energetic expenditure is anticipated to increase as bears are required to travel further on a seasonal basis.
Several international agreements and conventions require nations to establish Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks as an approach to alleviating biodiversity declines; however, a common problem in planning MPA networks is how to balance conservation objectives against economic objectives. Here, using the distributions of 102 biodiversity features and 7 extractive uses we trial the systematic conservation planning software Zonation as a decision-support tool to facilitate progress towards New Zealand's commitment to establishing a representative network of MPAs while providing for economic development. Our results indicate that: (i) New Zealand's existing MPAs provide on average 70% less representation of the input biodiversity features than would be achieved by an MPA network of equivalent area designed from the outset using Zonation; (ii) small increases in the geographic extent of existing protection results in rapid increases in representation of the selected biodiversity features when systematic conservation planning software is used to inform expansion of existing protection; and (iii) the impacts on existing resource users of an expanded MPA system can be minimized by using Zonation to identify areas that increase biodiversity representation, while avoiding areas where existing uses may be incompatible with marine protection. These results demonstrate the utility of systematic conservation planning software as a decision-support tool within a broader social process for MPA network design and implementation. The iterative application of tools such as Zonation during participatory processes that balance alternative uses could potentially lead to more informed, efficient and socially enduring outcomes that enhance the ability to establish representative MPA networks.
Seabirds, as foragers in marine waters for at least part of their lifecycle, encounter the global fishing fleet in search of marine resources. While fishing gear is designed to catch fish and invertebrates, it also catches unintended species, including seabirds. We reviewed bycatch incidence for 378 marine and coastal bird species in 18 different gear types, and found that 60% (228 species) have been recorded interacting with at least one type of fishing gear. At least one species from each of the taxonomic groups analyzed (generally at the family level) has been documented interacting with fishing gear. With respect to two measures of degree of interaction, four families have a high degree of documented interaction: Gaviidae (loons or divers), Podicipedidae (grebes), Diomedeidae (albatrosses) and Sulidae (boobies and gannets). Set and drift gillnets (among the most studied gear types), have the greatest number of documented species interactions: 92 and 88 species, respectively. Hook gear (longlines and handlines) have documented interactions with 127 species. Together these four gear types have documented bycatch of 193 species. The waters of the Arctic, the Caribbean, the Guinea and Canary Currents in the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and Asia have been poorly studied. Particular gear types, including industrially-deployed seines, and the artisanal fisheries sector also constitute significant gaps in our knowledge of seabird bycatch patterns worldwide.
Increasing recognition of the human dimensions of natural resource management issues, and of social and ecological sustainability and resilience as being inter-related, highlights the importance of applying social science to natural resource management decision-making. Moreover, a number of laws and regulations require natural resource management agencies to consider the “best available science” (BAS) when making decisions, including social science. Yet rarely do these laws and regulations define or identify standards for BAS, and those who have tried to fill the gap have done so from the standpoint of best available natural science. This paper proposes evaluative criteria for best available social science (BASS), explaining why a broader set of criteria than those used for natural science is needed. Although the natural and social sciences share many of the same evaluative criteria for BAS, they also exhibit some differences, especially where qualitative social science is concerned. Thus we argue that the evaluative criteria for BAS should expand to include those associated with diverse social science disciplines, particularly the qualitative social sciences. We provide one example from the USA of how a federal agency − the U.S. Forest Service − has attempted to incorporate BASS in responding to its BAS mandate associated with the national forest planning process, drawing on different types of scientific information and in light of these criteria. Greater attention to including BASS in natural resource management decision-making can contribute to better, more equitable, and more defensible management decisions and policies.
Planning for coastal and marine environments is often characterized by conflict over current and proposed uses. Marine spatial planning has been proposed as a way forward, however, social data are often missing impeding decision-making. Participatory mapping, a technique useful for providing social data and predict conflict potential, is being used in an increasing number of terrestrial applications to inform planning, but has been little used in the marine realm. This study collected social data for an extensive coastline in northwestern Australia via 167 in-depth face-to-face interviews including participant mapping of place values. From the transcribed interviews and digitized maps, we inductively identified 17 values, with biodiversity, the physical landscape, and Aboriginal culture being most valued. To spatially identify conflict potential, values were classified in matrices as consumptive or non-consumptive with the former assumed to be less compatible with other values. Pairwise comparisons of value compatibilities informed a spatial GIS determination of conflict potential. The results were overlaid with the boundaries of nine marine protected areas in the region to illustrate the application of this method for marine spatial planning. The three near shore marine protected areas had at least one third of their area exhibiting conflict potential. Participatory mapping accompanied by conflict potential mapping provides important insights for spatial planning in these often-highly contested marine environments.
The protection of intertidal ecosystems is complex because they straddle both marine and terrestrial realms. This leads to inconsistent characterisation as marine and/or terrestrial systems, or neither. Vegetated intertidal ecosystems are especially complex to classify because they can have an unclear border with terrestrial vegetation, causing confusion around taxonomy (e.g., mangrove-like plants). This confusion and inconsistency in classification can impact these systems through poor governance and incomplete protection. Using Australian mangrove ecosystems as a case study, we explore the complexity of how land and sea boundaries are defined among jurisdictions and different types of legislation, and how these correspond to ecosystem boundaries. We demonstrate that capturing vegetated intertidal ecosystems under native vegetation laws and prioritizing the mitigation of threats with a terrestrial origin offers the greatest protection to these systems. We also show the impact of inconsistent boundaries on the inclusion of intertidal ecosystems within protected areas. The evidence presented here highlights problems within the Australian context, but most of these issues are also challenges for the management of intertidal ecosystems around the world. Our study demonstrates the urgent need for a global review of legislation governing the boundaries of land and sea to determine whether the suggestions we offer may provide global solutions to ensuring these critical systems do not fall through the cracks in ecosystem protection and management.
Understanding the performance of each coastal area as it develops is the primary task of policy-makers in a marine economy; however, quantitative regional differences in China's marine economy have not been empirically examined. This paper offers a methodological contribution by applying a series of techniques, including the variation coefficient, Gini coefficient, and Theil index decomposition, to illustrate the relative differences among coastal areas. Additionally, the coastal areas of China were divided into two categories to reveal the provincial differences and regional disparities in China's marine economy. The results show that although the numerical economic differences in Gross Ocean Product (GOP) among coastal areas have increased significantly during the 21st century, the gaps among coastal regions have gradually decreased. In addition, China's marine economy presents three levels of regional development (developed, medium-developed, and developing). The results of the Theil index decomposition show that the overall difference in China's marine economy is derived mainly from differences within the three macro marine economic regions; these differences account for more than 95% of the overall difference. Furthermore, the underlying reasons for and driving mechanism of regional differences in China's marine economy can be illuminated in terms of differences in natural resource endowments and geographic locations; industrial agglomeration and diffusion; changes in regional development policy; and foreign investment. These findings offer basic data support and policy recommendations for marine economy management at the national and regional levels.
Systematic, effective monitoring of animal population parameters underpins successful conservation strategy and wildlife management, but it is often neglected in many regions, including much of the Mediterranean Sea. Nonetheless, a series of systematic multispecies aerial surveys was carried out in the seas around Italy to gather important baseline information on cetacean occurrence, distribution and abundance. The monitored areas included the Pelagos Sanctuary, the Tyrrhenian Sea, portions of the Seas of Corsica and Sardinia, the Ionian Seas as well as the Gulf of Taranto. Overall, approximately 48,000 km were flown in either spring, summer and winter between 2009–2014, covering an area of 444,621 km2. The most commonly observed species were the striped dolphin and the fin whale, with 975 and 83 recorded sightings, respectively. Other sighted cetacean species were the common bottlenose dolphin, the Risso's dolphin, the sperm whale, the pilot whale and the Cuvier's beaked whale. Uncorrected model- and design-based estimates of density and abundance for striped dolphins and fin whales were produced, resulting in a best estimate (model-based) of around 95,000 striped dolphins (CV=11.6%; 95% CI=92,900–120,300) occurring in the Pelagos Sanctuary, Central Tyrrhenian and Western Seas of Corsica and Sardinia combined area in summer 2010. Estimates were also obtained for each individual study region and year. An initial attempt to estimate perception bias for striped dolphins is also provided. The preferred summer 2010 uncorrected best estimate (design-based) for the same areas for fin whales was around 665 (CV=33.1%; 95% CI=350–1,260). Estimates are also provided for the individual study regions and years. The results represent baseline data to develop efficient, long-term, systematic monitoring programmes, essential to evaluate trends, as required by a number of national and international frameworks, and stress the need to ensure that surveys are undertaken regularly and at a sufficient spatial scale. The management implications of the results are discussed also in light of a possible decline of fin whales abundance over the period from the mid-1990s to the present. Further work to understand changes in distribution and to allow for improved spatial models is emphasized.