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The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

“[Ocean plastic] isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is. We know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle.”

--- Ted Siegler, DSM Environmental Services, on building the institutions and systems needed to deal with plastic before it reaches the ocean

Editor’s note: Marine plastic has a profound impact on marine ecosystems – entangling and killing wildlife, spreading disease and non-native species, and even impairing the oceans’ creation of oxygen. Managing marine ecosystems will need to include managing the marine plastic problem. Last month the Skimmer reported on the impacts of marine plastic on the Blue Economy, including on tourism, fishing, and ecosystem services. This month, in the second half of our plastics coverage, we examine which policies to reduce marine plastic seem to work best.

There is an abundance of information out there on how to reduce one’s personal plastic consumption, with the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of plastic that is polluting marine (and terrestrial) ecosystems. There are also numerous great reports (examples here and here) on government and industry interventions for reducing marine plastic pollution. But what do we know about the efficacy and level of impact of these activities? Are we lumping actions which are likely to have relatively little impact on the problem with actions that potentially have huge impacts? Of course, the ideal is to eliminate all plastic pollution marine and terrestrial – but in this article, we attempt to:

  1. Provide perspective (by way of lots of numbers) for what actions are most likely to make the biggest difference in marine plastic pollution
  2. Provide information on what has been shown to work to reduce marine plastic pollution.
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s Note: For this article, we interviewed Ekaterina Popova, a global ocean modeller with the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, United Kingdom, about her new article "Ecological connectivity between the areas beyond national jurisdiction and coastal waters: Safeguarding interests of coastal communities in developing countries" published in Marine Policy in June 2019. This research found that coastal regions of some least-developed countries (LDCs) are connected to areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) through larval dispersal and the potential dispersal of pollutants. These findings suggest that protecting ‘source’ areas in the ABNJ could help promote sustainable livelihoods for coastal regions that depend on larval supply from these regions (and could prevent pollutants from these source areas reaching coastal regions.) 

The Skimmer: Can you briefly describe some of the connections between source areas in the ABNJ and coastal regions?

Popova: Our study showed that connectivity between the ABNJ and coastal waters of different countries varies considerably. How tight the connectivity is, depends on the prevailing direction, timescale and variability of ocean currents. Sometimes, the shape of the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) also has an effect. The complex ways these various factors interact means that close geographical proximity, or ‘adjacency’, of coastal waters to ABNJ is not always a good indicator of strong connectivity and some countries are much more exposed to the influence of ABNJ than others. The world’s most ABNJ-impacted LDC is the Federal Republic of Somalia. Its strong connectivity is shaped by three powerful currents: the South Equatorial current, the East African coastal current, and the seasonally reversing East Somali current. The most tightly ABNJ-connected stretch of the Somali coastline can be impacted by the upstream ABNJ waters on a time scale of just over a month. In contrast, the Republic of Senegal is one of the world’s least connected LDCs. Its most tightly ABNJ-connected coastline stretch is impacted by upstream ABNJ on a time scale of more than seven months.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s Note: From the Archives calls attention to past Skimmer/MEAM articles whose perspectives and insight remain relevant.

To some in conservation and resource management, marketing can seem like a bad word. But marketing is inherently about getting people to change their behavior, whether it is buying a product, recycling, or supporting a new approach to management. Marketing techniques bring together elements of psychology, sociology, economics, and graphic design. Learn from three experts how to use conservation marketing to make marine conservation and management processes more effective.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: The deluge of popular articles and reports on marine plastic continues, but here at The Skimmer, we became curious about one important area where we weren’t seeing as much information – how marine plastic pollution is affecting ocean users and the Blue Economy. We know that marine plastic is pretty much everywhere in the ocean and can have horrific effects on individual marine organisms – think whales and seabirds with bellies full of plastic – but that the research is just not there to fully assess the severity of marine ecosystem-level impacts.

But aside from the unpleasant views of trash-strewn beaches and coastal waters, how are people, cities, and countries affected? One important reason to dig into this area and have this information readily available is that money talks. If the harm to marine life doesn’t convince decision makers to make difficult changes to address marine plastic pollution, maybe understanding the economic and social impacts can.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: In this interview, Val Stori, the project director for the Clean Energy Group and Clean Energy States Alliance, discusses US offshore wind energy under the Trump administration and new developments in the offshore wind industry. She can be contacted at val [at] cleanegroup.org.

The Skimmer: How have offshore wind energy policies in the US changed (or not changed) under the Trump presidential administration?

Stori: Under the Trump administration, the Department of Interior and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have taken steps that will enable the further development of offshore wind energy in the US.

One of the first changes to offshore wind under the Trump administration has been making permitting for offshore wind projects easier. BOEM may now use a ‘design envelope approach’ in Construction and Operations Plans (COPs). This streamlines the review and permitting of infrastructure projects and allows developers more flexibility to make last-minute project design decisions without triggering another environmental review.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

By Alf Håkon Hoel

Editor’s note: Alf Håkon Hoel is a professor at UiT – the Arctic University of Norway. He can be contacted at alf.hakon.hoel [at] uit.no.

A valuable development in international oceans governance is the growing importance of regional cooperation. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there are currently about 60 international organizations that deal with regional oceans governance. The increase in the number of these organizations is partly driven by the regional nature of many of the challenges confronting the oceans, as is the case for the Arctic. Other important drivers are the provisions on regional cooperation in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: The term on everyone’s lips (and documents) these days is Blue Economy. In this issue, The Skimmer takes a look at what various groups mean when they use this term, how it came about, what it looks like in practice or could look like in practice, and why it has some people worried. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about the Blue Economy in the Comments section below.

So what in the world is the ‘Blue Economy’?

  • It really depends on whom you ask. The term Blue Economy means a lot of different things to a lot of different groups. For example, the World Bank defines the Blue Economy as the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.” In contrast, a recent European Commission document defines it as “all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts.”
     
  • A 2015 article by Silver et al. analyzed preparatory documents for and discussions of the Blue Economy at the 2012 UN conference on Sustainable Development (aka Rio+20) and described four general ways that groups were conceptualizing what the Blue Economy is. Voyer et al. 2018 reviewed newer documents and updated those initial conceptualizations of the Blue Economy to the following:
     
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Joanna Smith is director of ocean planning and mapping with Nature United, the Canadian affiliate of The Nature Conservancy. In this capacity, she is the Seychelles marine spatial planning (MSP) process and science lead. She splits her time between Canada, Seychelles, and other travels.

The Skimmer: How have you seen Blue Economy develop over recent years?

Smith: In 2012, the European Union introduced its “Blue Growth” platform. This platform was heavily focused on employment and creating jobs in new and emerging ocean sectors. It was a diversification of sorts to make up for shrinkage in other markets. Initially it did not have a sustainability focus per se, but in the following years, the word “sustainable” became more prominent.

To me, the “Blue Economy” was launched in 2014 by small island developing states (SIDS). It is a fundamentally different concept from Blue Growth in that it highlights the significance of the oceans for these nations in the context of ocean conservation, sustainable livelihoods, economic diversification, and maritime security. For many SIDS, a high percentage of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from marine sources – their economies truly are “blue”. For these nations, Blue Economy is not just about diversifying their ocean economies (the parts of their national economies dependent on the ocean). It is also about increasing the resilience of their ocean economies, increasing maritime safety and security (from piracy and IUU), improving ocean management and food security, protecting the environment, and adapting to climate change.

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