April - June 2021 (14:4)

Issue PDF archive:

Editor’s note: Artificial light at night (ALAN) whose undesirable effects are more colloquially referred to as light pollution – has long been known to affect sea turtles. Numerous studies document that adult sea turtles avoid nesting on artificially-lit beaches and artificial lights on land draw newly-hatched sea turtles away from the ocean, leading to increased mortality due to increased predation, dehydration and energy expenditure. But what about other marine organisms? In this article, we explore (Skimmer-style) recent research about how light pollution may be affecting many marine organisms and ultimately marine ecosystems.

Natural light cues structure a lot of behaviors and processes in marine ecosystems

Coastal light pollution is global and getting worse

Artificial light at night (ALAN) interferes with marine ecosystem processes


A conceptual map of individual- to ecosystem-level responses to ALAN

A conceptual map of individual- to ecosystem-level responses to ALAN in estuarine ecosystems by Zapata et al. (2019) classifies responses by level of organization.

  • At the individual level, ALAN can impact physiology and behavior by increasing, decreasing, and/or altering diel and nocturnal activity.
    • Mechanisms for this occurring can include changes to visual sensitivity, circadian rhythms, predation risk, food availability, and stress and reproductive hormone levels.
  • At the population level, ALAN can impact performance by shifting diel or nocturnal activity which may enhance or reduce fitness.
    • Mechanisms for this occurring can include lit areas serving as polarized or direct light traps or light expanding or constraining activity intervals.
  • At the species level, ALAN can impact interactions by altering predation and competition among diurnal and nocturnal taxa.
    • Mechanisms for this occurring include changes to the spatial, spectral, and temporal composition of light and the spatiotemporal distribution of food resources and habitat.
  • At the community level, ALAN can impact composition by changing relative abundance, species diversity, and distribution of taxa.
    • Mechanisms for this occurring include changes to the availability and partitioning of resources, risk regimes, and movement and dispersal patterns.
  • At the food web level, ALAN can impact structure by restructuring trophic network topology and functional attributes.
    • Mechanisms for this occurring include altering interaction strengths via spatial and temporal shifts and changing aquatic primary productivity.
  • At the ecosystem level, ALAN can impact function by changing nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and ecosystem productivity.
    • Mechanisms for this occurring include changes to cross-boundary nutrient flows.
  • Changes at any of these levels of organization (e.g., individual, population, species, community, food web, and ecosystem) can in turn impact other levels of organization (e.g., individual responses can cause population and community level impacts).

Text from Zapata, M.J., Sullivan, S.M.P. and Gray, S.M. Artificial lighting at night in estuaries – Implications from individuals to ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts 42, 309–330 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-018-0479-3


Furthering ALAN research in marine ecosystems

Furthering ALAN policy for marine ecosystems


Photo credit: Lights of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as seen from Stanley Park by Seán Ó Domhnaill.

Some more fisheries-related news and resources:

Some more plastic pollution-related news and resources:

Some more deep sea-related news and resources:

And some other recent news articles that caught our attention:

Editor’s notes: OCTO, the parent organization for The Skimmer and the EBM Tools Network, is currently working with the UN Environment Programme, the University of Queensland, The Nature Conservancy, WWF, and other partners to develop practical guidance on challenges in MPA practice, including effectiveness, sustainable financing, and climate change. Project partners recently surveyed marine conservation and management practitioners about tools and resources that they would recommend to help with these challenges. In this EBM Toolbox, we present some preliminary results from this survey, specifically tools and resources to assist with MPA financing, including the related work of business planning and benefit sharing.

Do you know of other relevant tools or resources, particularly tools/resources to assist with equitable benefit sharing? Do you have experience using any of the resources or tools below? Please let us know about ebmtools [at] octogroup.org. For the next phase of our research, we will be updating these initial results and gathering input from practitioners about their experiences using these tools and resources.

Part A: Tools and guides for business planning and sustainable financing of marine protected areas


Catalog: BIOFIN Catalogue of Finance Solutions
Provider: UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative
Description: This online catalog provides a comprehensive list of biodiversity finance instruments, tools, and strategies. Each catalog entry is a mechanism or “finance solution” and includes a brief description as well as links to guidance material or case studies.

Guide: Conservation Finance Guide (2002 with updates in 2019 and 2020)
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance
Description: This guide and associated documents provide guidance on business planning for protected areas and how to implement specific finance mechanisms in seven different classes. Specific finance mechanism include: biodiversity enterprise funds, biodiversity prospecting, carbon offset projects, debt-for-nature swaps, environmental funds, fiscal instruments, payments for watershed services, philanthropic foundations, bilateral and multilateral donors, extraction of non-renewable resources, tourism entrance and activity fees, tourism concessions in protected areas, and international public climate finance for biodiversity.
For more information:

  • Watch two webinars on the associated white paper Conservation Finance: A Framework,which provides several frameworks to understand concepts associated with conservation finance and a taxonomy of conservation finance strategies and mechanisms (Webinar 1 and Webinar 2).

Tool/Service: Eco2Fin (2015)
Provider: Wolfs Company
Description: The Eco2Fin tool (proprietary to, and used in conjunction with, Wolfs Company) is a framework that uses an ecosystem services approach to identify sustainable finance mechanisms within the context of a protected area.
For more information:

Guide: Finance Tools for Coral Reef Conservation: A Guide (2018)
Provider: Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation Finance Alliance, in support of the 50 Reefs initiative
Description: Aimed at protected area managers and others charged with managing and financing reef conservation, this guide provides descriptions of 13 types of finance tools that have proven successful at, or have good potential for, supporting reef conservation and sustainable management.
For more information:

Assessment Tool: Financial Sustainability Scorecard: for National Systems of Protected Areas (2007)
Provider: UN Development Programme
Description: This scorecard helps governments, donors, and NGOs investigate and record the structural foundations and accounts of their protected area financing system to assess its current health and status and long-term trends. The scorecard is designed for national systems of protected areas but can be used by state, regional, and municipal systems and MPA networks.

Guide: Financing mechanisms: A Guide for Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (2021)
Provider: BlueSeeds for the Co-managed No-Take Zones/MPAs project
Description: A continuation of the 2015 Sustainable financing of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean: A guide for MPA managers (available here), this new guide, designed for Mediterranean MPA managers, provides a step-by-step approach to help MPA managers accurately plan their financial strategy and implement relevant and effective financing mechanisms adapted to their needs. While written for Mediterranean MPA managers, the mechanisms presented in the guide are useful and replicable globally.
For more information:

Guide: Guide pour l’élaboration des Plans d’Affaire simplifiés pour les Aires Protégées (2012)
Provider: Benjamin Landreau (Lead author) for FIBA (Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin; now MAVA), RAMPAO (Network of Marine Protected Areas of West Africa), FFEM (French Global Environment Fund), and AFD (French Development Agency)
Description: This French language guide provides MPA managers with a simple, step-by-step approach to independently develop a simple business plan. The guide is accompanied by simplified spreadsheets that managers can complete and update on a regular basis. It has a focus on African PAs but is applicable globally.

Overview: Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes – Chapter 4: Sustainable financing of marine protected areas (2017)
Provider: OECD
Description: Book chapter that examines a range of financing instruments and approaches available for MPAs, ranging from traditional government budget and donor funding to user fees, taxes and fines, and payments for ecosystem services, among others.

Tool: MedPLAN (2015, updated 2020)
Provider: MedPAN, SPA/RAC, WWF (Owners); Vertigo Lab, BlueSeeds (Developers)
Description: This freely-available business plan tool developed by Vertigo Lab and updated by BlueSeeds helps MPA managers build their business plan and financial strategy. It is a series of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets containing formulas that allow MPA mangers to build a business plan by reporting the financial data of their MPA. The tool assesses total annual costs for implementing the MPA management plan, present and future financial resources for the MPA, and the financing gap between estimated costs and financial resources. While developed for Mediterranean MPA managers, the tool is applicable globally.
For more information:

  • Video tutorials for conducting this work are available on the MedPAN website.
  • The tool can be freely downloaded here or here.

Guide: Practice Standards for Conservation Trust Funds (2020)
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance
Description: These voluntary Practice Standards for Conservation Trust Funds serve as a tool for improving the design, management, and monitoring and evaluation of Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs).
For more information:

Guide: Protecting Our Marine Treasures: Sustainable Finance Options for U.S. Marine Protected Areas (2017)
Provider: US Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee
Description: This report focuses on a wide range of approaches to obtain external funding for MPAs. It covers funding vehicles such as friends groups, foundations, fiscal sponsorships, and other non-profit organizations. In addition, it covers sources of external financing such as philanthropic giving, bonds, environmental mitigation activities, penalties and settlements, taxes, fees, corporate support, competitive grants, tourism-based support, and international partnerships.
For more information:

Tool: Reef Support
Provider: Reef Support
Description: Reef Support is a simple, customizable, fee-based tool to help MPA managers collect and sell marine park fees to visitors. It offers a safe way to receive money and provides access to a database of park visitors, a ticketing system, and the possibility to generate customizable financial reports.
For more information:

Guide: Sustainable financing of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean: A guide for MPA managers (2015)
Provider: MedPAN, RAC/SPA, WWF (Publishers); Vertigo Lab (Technical Partner)
Description: This guide, designed for Mediterranean MPA managers, provides readers with information for developing the financial strategy of their MPA and identifying successful financing mechanisms. A continuation of this guide Financing mechanisms: A Guide for Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (available here) was published in 2021. While written for Mediterranean MPA managers, the mechanisms presented in the guide are useful and replicable globally.


Part B: Trainings and webinars for business planning and sustainable financing of marine protected areas


Training materials: Business planning for MPAs (2021)
Provider: MedPAN, Brijuni National Park, and BlueSeeds
Description: As part of the MedPAN network training program, an online training session was held with nine Mediterranean MPAs in January-February 2021. This training alternated between five pre-recorded videos and individual meetings with each MPA to work on their specific case study. With the exception of the first Mediterranean context webinar, the video content is applicable to MPAs globally, and an equivalent training program is currently being developed for MPAs in Western Africa.
For more information:

  • The teaching materials are freely available on the MedPAN website.

Training materials: Conservation Finance Training: Financing Sustainable Management of Marine and Coastal Biodiversity (2017)
Provider: Blue Solutions
Description: Materials from this training course provide an introduction to the value of marine ecosystem services and the need for conservation finance to support marine and coastal management; opportunities and approaches for financing conservation of marine and coastal areas; and key features in establishing a conservation finance mechanism.
For more information:

  • The live training will not be offered by Blue Solutions after 2021, but the training materials are freely available on the Blue Solutions website.

Webinar: Debt Conversions (2020)
Provider: Conservation Finance Alliance
Description: This webinar discusses debt conversions (also known as debt for climate and nature swaps), a finance instrument that allows countries to reduce their national debt and reallocate funds for sustainable development and conservation projects.
For more information:

Webinar: An introduction to business planning for protected areas (2017)
Provider: Government of Seychelles-UNDP-GEF Protected Area Finance (project work), OCTO (webinar host)
Description: This webinar outlines the importance of business planning for protected areas and how business plans can be used as tools to leverage financial support for conservation management. The presentation also provides an introduction to the components of business plans and a collection of over 45 examples of protected area business plans and guidelines.
For more information:

Training: Sustainable Financing for Marine Protected Areas
Provider: Coral Triangle Center
Description: This four-day course is an introduction to the concepts of sustainable financing and the range of tools and mechanisms available to support the long-term financing of MPAs.


Part C: Additional conservation financing resources


Report: Financing Nature: Closing the Global Biodiversity Financing Gap (2020)
Provider: The Paulson Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and Cornell University
Description: This report makes the economic case for protecting and conserving nature and highlights nine policy and financing mechanisms that will secure new funding for biodiversity conservation or reduce the need for future spending through the reform of harmful subsidies.

Guide: Innovations for Coral Finance (2017)
Provider: Vertigo Lab for the International Coral Reef Initiative
Description: Aimed at stakeholders involved in coral conservation, this guide introduces seven innovative financing mechanisms for the protection of coral reefs across the world. These mechanisms, both public and private-led, are complemented by a presentation of innovative business models that could be implemented to enhance coral reefs conservation finance.


Project partners would like to thank respondents to our March-April 2021 survey and MPA/finance experts Guillaume Le Port of BlueSeeds, John Bohorquez of Stony Brook University, Sue Wells, Pierre Vignes of MedPAN, Amilcar Guzman of Wolfs Company, Jan Kleine Buening of GIZ, Alan White of the USAID SEA Project of Tetra Tech, Indonesia, Lauren Wenzel of NOAA, and David Meyers of the Conservation Finance Alliance.

By Jon Hare, NOAA Fisheries

Editor’s note: Jon Hare is the Science and Research Director of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in the US. He oversees science related to NOAA Fisheries mission in the Northeast region (Maine to North Carolina) including marine fisheries, aquaculture, protected species, habitat, and ecosystem science. NOAA Fisheries is also actively engaged in managing multiple ocean use and deploying climate ready science and management.

In 2016 I made a career change from scientist to scientific administrator in NOAA Fisheries. Our mission is to provide advice supporting fisheries, aquaculture, marine mammals, endangered species, and habitats “backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management”. I brought a natural scientist's perspective to ecosystem-based management, emphasizing understanding the components of an ecosystem and then providing this understanding to managers as scientific advice.

The year after my career change, DeFries and Nagendra (2017) described ecosystem management as a wicked problem. What they described felt like my day-to-day: working with fishers to reduce the risk of entanglement to North Atlantic Right Whales; providing advice on how to balance the needs of offshore wind-energy development, commercial and recreational fishing, and wildlife conservation; and working to bring climate and ecosystem information into fisheries management.

By reading about and discussing the role of science in informing management, I came to realize that my perspective represented an assimilated culture, rooted in a policy making paradigm termed the “rational comprehensive” approach. Using this approach, institutions and trained professionals oversee and conduct comprehensive planning and decision-making to address complex problems (aka “command-and-control” as described by Holling and Meffe (1996)).

The “wicked-problem” concept calls for a different approach to management and decision-making, termed incrementalism. The idea recognizes that many problems are too complex for full understanding, let alone allowing clearly defined steps and comprehensive decision-making to develop and implement one-time solutions. Incrementalism holds that each stakeholder (including scientists) has a different perspective of the issues and that decision-making represents a compromise among these different perspectives. The approach provides for continued work on a problem and implements decisions stepwise with the participation of all stakeholders.

The idea of complex socio-ecological systems is very much related to incrementalism and “wicked problems”. Ostrom (2009) established a framework whereby knowledge is gathered on both the natural and human components of a complex system and their interactions. This knowledge is then used incrementally to manage the complex system toward desired outcomes.

These ideas resonated with me. I could see the value of incrementalism: fisheries management in the US has many elements of incrementalism largely as a result of the Regional Fishery Management Council structure. Additionally, I could see that fisheries are inseparable from the larger complex socio-ecological system. I also could see the rational-comprehensive approach throughout our science and management structures and processes – working to define problems in isolation and develop one-time solutions. I realized that from my position on the frontlines of science and management, I have the opportunity to apply incrementalism and to apply the concepts of complex socio-ecological systems. As a start, I came up with 10 lessons to carry forward in my efforts to provide advice “backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management”.

  1. Accept that fisheries are complex socio-ecological systems (explicitly acknowledging humans are part of ecosystems)
  2. Strengthen existing adaptive management processes and institutions
  3. Encourage and engage in participatory science (co-learning)
  4. Question inertia
  5. Respect all perspectives
  6. Recognize fishers as knowledge experts
  7. Always consider the scale of the problem
  8. Be open to changing your mind and adjusting your perspective
  9. Read, listen, and discuss broadly
  10. Publish and communicate results of science and management

These lessons are geared toward ecosystem approaches to management in marine ecosystems. However, the “wicked-problem” concept, incrementalism, complex socio-ecological systems, and these 10 lessons are generally applicable to practitioners of ecosystem-based management in any system. If you are interested, these ideas are more fully explored in a Food for Thought Article published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science in 2020.