April - May 2010 (3:5)

Issue PDF archive: PDF icon MEAM12.pdf

Ecosystem-based management can be described relatively simply. It is an approach that uses ecosystem science - our knowledge of the connections among living organisms, natural phenomena, and human activities - to guide our uses of the ocean and coast. By doing so, we can ensure that those uses are sustainable and beneficial to society.

The processes for how to bring EBM to fruition, however, can be tricky. When conducted in a comprehensive manner, EBM can require ocean management to coordinate its work across sectors and agencies - some of which may be comfortably entrenched in sector-by-sector management. Furthermore, to ensure sustainability of the ocean, marine managers must begin to account for factors above the high tide line, including the impacts of land-based runoff and other terrestrial impacts on the marine environment.

Although the benefits of EBM for ecosystems and humans are increasingly apparent, the management changes necessary to achieve comprehensive EBM can appear substantial. As a result, the concept of EBM still seems complex and intimidating to a great number of ocean resource managers - as if they are standing at the start of a long journey. But the journey becomes less intimidating once the first steps are taken and benefits start to accrue. In addition, some elements of EBM may already be employed in current management in some cases, giving practitioners a head start.

MEAM asked several experts for advice to help managers on the path toward full EBM. Specifically we posed the question:

What are some small, feasible steps that resource managers can take that will make an immediate, noticeable difference in making management more ecosystem-based?

The answers from the EBM experts follow:

Take a walk through your watershed

By Lisa Lurie
Agriculture water quality coordinator, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, US. E-mail: lisa.lurie [at] noaa.gov

Take a walk through your watershed. As professional resource managers, we sometimes find ourselves immersed in a single issue or single sector to the point of losing sight of the bigger picture. We often sense the disconnection, but feel unable to make the shift to a more holistic, ecosystem-based approach. The more we are able to make tangible connections to the watersheds and ecosystems in which we live, the more likely we are to translate that perspective into our professional lives.

By simply walking through a watershed you gain an appreciation for the diversity of land uses and the complexities of ecosystems. And while you are at it, talk to your neighbors and to the people up- and downstream. EBM is as much about community management as it is about resource management. The more we are able to talk with and listen to the diverse people within a watershed, the better we will be at working with diverse interests and finding commonalities to manage resources in a more integrated way.

[Editor's note: Lurie's work to address the effects of upstream agricultural runoff on the coastal Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was featured in our August-September 2009 issue (MEAM 3:1).]

Build on what we already have - don't throw it out

By Alf Håkon Hoel
Editor of Best Practices in Ecosystems Based Oceans Management in the Arctic. E-mail: alf.haakon.hoel [at] imr.no

It is important to realize that ecosystem-based oceans management is an ongoing process, not an end state. It has to build on existing knowledge and management structures and develop these further. It is not about throwing out what we have and replacing it with something else. Rather, the point is to bring ecosystem perspectives to bear on science as well as management.

An initial key issue is to get an understanding of the cumulative impact on ecosystems from economic activities (fishing, petroleum development, tourism, transportation, etc.) on the one hand, and environmental change (climate, long-range pollution) on the other. The understanding of ecosystems and the total pressures on them is the starting point. A second issue is identifying areas of special concern, where important biological processes of high value to the whole ecosystem (e.g., spawning grounds for fish) take place. Such areas may warrant special management action.

As to management, it is critical to establish on-going monitoring programs to follow the status of ecosystems. There is a distinction between ecosystem-based oceans management (which is viewed from a systems perspective) and the management of fisheries or other sectors (which are viewed from an economic perspective). These perspectives can be mutually reinforcing, provided appropriate coordination mechanisms are developed. The design and operation of such mechanisms will depend upon the nature of the political systems.

Harness the self-interest of each sector to achieve better integration

By Jake Rice
Senior national advisor for ecosystem sciences with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. E-mail: ricej [at] dfo-mpo.gc.ca

The question asks for small, feasible steps that move toward a greater ecosystem context for fisheries management practices and greater integration of management across sectors. The former is much easier than the latter.

There are many domestic and international commitments that already require fisheries managers to place management in a broader ecosystem context. The FAO International Plans of Action on seabirds and sharks bring bycatch impacts on biodiversity into the picture. UN General Assembly Resolution 61/106 brings benthic habitat impacts onto managers' plates. Science advice on mitigation measures to make progress on all these types of commitments is readily available. The advice is incomplete (in that not all places and fisheries that require mitigation measures may be specifiable with existing information), but priorities for action can be identified, and those actions are small, feasible first steps.

Fortunately, many of the most suitable measures will be place-based ones, and those open the much stickier door to more integrated decision-making. (By "place-based measures", I am referring to spatially targeted fishery closures, allocation of space among fleet sectors, and other fishery-focused measures.) As soon as fisheries management starts to include place-based measures, both the managers and the industry participants get very concerned about what other activities are allowed to proceed, both in the (even slightly) more limited areas where they are still allowed to operate and the (even fewer) areas where their operations are much more stringently regulated. They become very concerned that the ecological benefits expected from their self-restraint could be dissipated by other industry sectors' activities.

Although their reasons are selfish, an appropriate mix of industry sectors will ultimately end up at the table with managers, discussing what suite of conservation measures and opportunities to operate will allow them to coexist, and to see benefits of the conservation actions they take on (willingly or not). Once that dialogue starts, it is up to those most committed to the integration to show that coordinated planning and decision-making can allow sustainability for all - sustainability in an ecological, economic, and social sense. If that is happening, then management is becoming integrated in all the ways that matter, even if some new form of "integrated governance" never does come to pass.

Identify ecosystem values

By Stacy Jupiter
Director, South Pacific Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fiji. E-mail: sjupiter [at] wcs.org

  1. Identify ecosystem values. Implementation of EBM calls for an understanding of the interactions between the biological and social systems in the management area. Biological and socioeconomic assessments can provide key indicators of ecosystem functions and the management needs of the people. When there are limited resources for new scientific assessments, integrating local knowledge with existing and emerging scientific knowledge may improve management effectiveness by increasing community participation.
  2. Identify and involve stakeholders. Effective EBM requires identification of the full range of stakeholders and strategic decisions about engaging stakeholders in the process of change. Collaborative partnerships greatly enhance management effectiveness by bringing together organizations with diverse expertise, roles, and resources.
  3. Understand the management context. Because resource tenure is a fundamental issue for conservation and natural resource management initiatives in many areas of the world, it is important to gain a clear understanding of the legal and de facto status of tenure claims in the management area. Gaining a clear understanding of customary and government decision-making processes can greatly enhance the effectiveness of EBM initiatives.

Use maps of human activities to focus EBM on where it is most needed

By Erik Olsen
Head, research program on oil and fish, Institute of Marine Research, Norway. E-mail: eriko [at] imr.no

  1. Making an assessment of the extent of all human activities is a first, simple, and achievable step that only requires access to statistics of each individual sector. If the data also can be mapped, managers get a first impression of where the human footprint on the ecosystem is highest, and where there are potential overlaps between sectors and potential for conflicts. This allows the managers to narrow the process of implementing EBM to the key issues or areas where the need is highest.
  2. The steps to achieve ecosystem-based management have been described in many publications, and many of these are concrete and well-known actions that also are cornerstones in sustainable single-species or single-sector management. Limiting fishing capacity (i.e., number of vessels or amount of gear) and reducing (or banning) habitat destructive fishing practices like the use of explosives, poison, or active fishing gear on coral reefs are all actions that have positive effects on the whole ecosystem. They may be costly from a socioeconomic perspective, but they are well-known and can easily be enforced.

EBM does not create new complexity; it exposes complexity that was previously ignored

By Kevern Cochrane
Chief, Fisheries Management and Conservation Service, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Italy. E-mail: Kevern.Cochrane [at] fao.org

The harsh reality is that we cannot afford not to do ecosystem-based management, and we had better start straight away with whatever resources and knowledge we have. From the perspective of fisheries, the starting point is to assemble all the knowledge currently available on the status, trends, and drivers (natural and human) of the fishery and the ecosystem in which it operates. This can be done through scientific reviews, stakeholder consultations, and public meetings. With that information and by working with stakeholders, managers should clarify the objectives for the fishery/fisheries and, expanding from single-sector approaches, the objectives of other stakeholders also using the ecosystem that interact with fisheries.

This does not create complexity. Rather, it makes explicit the underlying complexity that has always been there but has often been ignored. Then follows the consultative process of prioritizing the objectives, and reconciling any intra-sectoral and inter-sectoral conflicts between them. Once the top priority objectives are agreed, the final step is to consider, again with all stakeholders, any changes and additions to the current management measures needed to achieve them.

Involve stakeholders throughout management

By Marion Howard
MPA advisor to CORALINA, the Colombian regional institution that manages the natural resources and sustainable development of Colombia's San Andrés Archipelago, including the 65,000-km2 Seaflower Marine Protected Area. E-mail: mwhoward [at] brandeis.edu

In the Seaflower MPA, we prioritized EBM principles to address hindrances to marine conservation. Based on our experience, we recommend that managers could feasibly move forward by:

  1. Identifying with stakeholders the major drivers of ecosystem degradation and their root causes, including sociocultural, economic, environmental, and governmental factors;
  2. Decentralizing management to the level legally possible and involving people who have traditionally lived off the resources - such as by training and employing locals to serve as managers, scientists, educators, etc.;
  3. Emphasizing participation of the full range of stakeholders in planning, management, and evaluation, including legitimizing their participation through advisory committees or co-management structures;
  4. Incorporating scientific, technical, and indigenous knowledge into management (e.g., bringing resource users and scientists together in ongoing activities of research, monitoring, enforcement, and education); and
  5. Working with stakeholders to define zones to achieve a proper balance between conservation and use, and managing some of the zones for sustainable use and others to conserve ecosystem structure and functioning.

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM (tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net)

EBM is a journey, not a destination. But even significant journeys can be undertaken by taking small, purposeful steps. In the San Andrés Archipelago of Colombia, resource management has moved deliberately toward EBM via a series of discrete regulatory and policy moves.

The 300,000-km2 archipelago is located halfway between Central America and Jamaica, and is home to the second largest barrier reef in the Caribbean. Colombia set the stage for good governance of this vast area of reefs and islands by forming CORALINA - a decentralized, quasi-governmental regional corporation to oversee many aspects of environmental management.

CORALINA took its first step toward integrated management by establishing a biosphere reserve under UNESCO. This multiple-use land and sea area had a focus on people and biodiversity together - incorporating communities within the reserve but making the marine life on which those communities depend the centerpiece of management efforts.

More recently, CORALINA worked with residents to declare a zoned marine protected area spanning the archipelago's waters. The 65,000-km2 Seaflower Marine Protected Area was designated in 2005, and steps have been taken since then to establish the regulatory framework for managing commercial fishing, tourism, and residential uses of the reefs.

While using a marine protected area to advance EBM is not uncommon, CORALINA's process was exemplary: bringing in all user groups, establishing a flexible yet comprehensive system for management, coupling operational management with education and awareness-raising, and exploring mechanisms to ensure financial sustainability for the MPA.

The purpose of CORALINA's financial sustainability planning process has been to identify funding sources and financing mechanisms to provide long-term income to cover the recurrent costs of the Seaflower MPA (e.g., personnel, maintenance, surveillance and patrolling, education, and monitoring). According to a 2005 report by consultant Tom van't Hof, the approach included:

  • Evaluating a wide range of financing options;
  • Conducting a socio-economic analysis of the MPA's main stakeholders;
  • Consulting with stakeholders on the feasibility and acceptability of selected financing mechanisms;
  • Estimating the annual operational costs of the MPA;
  • Calculating the potential revenue from selected financing mechanisms; and
  • Building consensus among stakeholders about the implementation of selected mechanisms.

CORALINA is now working with local governments, NGOs, and the InterAmerican Development Bank to put the selected financial mechanisms in place. One such mechanism is a payment-for-ecosystem-services scheme, just established, to create investment opportunities for the private sector in the management of the Seaflower MPA.

Management authority plays a significant role in the San Andrés EBM case. CORALINA not only possesses the ability to monitor the condition of all ecosystems (land and sea), but may also develop environmental policies and regulations such as development setbacks, zoning, and waste management. In addition, it holds the authority to prosecute individuals and the private sector for infractions. These abilities to influence coastal management, freshwater use and watershed management, environmental quality/pollution control, and virtually all sectors that affect the sea has laid the foundation for continual progress toward true EBM.

The San Andrés Archipelago is not without substantial challenges. Unemployment is high in the general population (approximately 40%, according to CORALINA advisor Marion Howard) and average income remains relatively low by Colombian standards. Yet when CORALINA launched its EBM plans a decade ago, the population showed such a strong understanding of the value of their marine resources that they demonstrated a willingness to contribute an average of almost US $5 per month to coral reef conservation.

Under CORALINA Director Elizabeth Taylor's excellent leadership, San Andrés is poised to take its next important step toward full-scale EBM: amending the management regime so it is truly adaptive, with periodic rezoning and regulatory improvements. All this, with a very limited budget, small staff, and a huge area to manage, makes CORALINA's steps toward EBM a demonstration model for aspiring EBMers everywhere.

BOX: Online sources for case studies on marine and coastal EBM

As the marine EBM field matures, a growing number of case studies on implementation are appearing. Here are three free sources with multiple case studies on marine and coastal EBM programs:

This is the case studies page of the EBM Tools website. It offers links to several EBM programs that have prominently featured planning tools, as well as to various case study compilations that are also available online.

Operated by The Nature Conservancy, this website aims to guide managers on the use of common tools for regional planning. It provides several brief descriptions of EBM programs in progress, with links to more detailed information.

Implementation of Ecosystem-Based Management in Marine Capture Fisheries (http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwf_ebm_toolkit_2007.pdf)
This 2007 report by WWF provides 12 detailed case studies on ecosystem-based fisheries management from around the world.

As a field, marine ecosystem-based management is relatively new. But some of the challenges its practitioners face are ones that people have encountered through history. A main challenge, for example, involves getting individuals and groups to change from a set way of doing things (in the oceans' case, managing resources on a single-sector basis) to a new way (integrating ocean management across multiple sectors and agencies). Managing that change can benefit from an understanding of why and when humans agree to alter how they do things.

Change management is an established field of study with useful lessons for business and governments alike, including in ecosystem-based management. For insights on how to manage change among institutions and individuals, MEAM spoke with Tim Creasey, director of research and development for the Change Management Learning Center (www.change-management.com). The Center is a program of Prosci, an independent research and publishing company based in the US. Prosci has conducted six longitudinal benchmarking studies in change management over the past 12 years.

MEAM: What is the main bureaucratic obstacle to instituting change in organizations?

Tim Creasey: The top reason employees resist a change is they do not understand why the change is needed. No one made a compelling case for it. Making the case involves addressing the drivers of the change, why the change is happening now, and the risks of not changing. Communication efforts in times of change can fall into a trap of focusing exclusively on the future state or vision: how we will look after the change is implemented. The research indicates that employees first want to understand why there is even a need to change before they care about the details or what the future will bring.

MEAM: In the marine EBM field, many resource managers already feel overworked, and some suggest it is unreasonable to expect them to add EBM on top of their already-full routine of daily tasks.

Creasey: It is a reality in today's organizations that middle managers are already at capacity. When a change is introduced, there are certainly risks to the project in terms of resource allocation, missing deadlines, and lack of priority. There are also risks to individuals including disengagement, fatigue, burnout, anxiety, confusion, and apathy. Leaders must appreciate the current state of workload and capacity for change, and understand the impact it has on how changes will be accepted in the organization.

MEAM: Your research talks about the importance of "reinforcing the change". What does that mean?

Creasey: Reinforcing change is an essential element of any successful project or initiative. Our natural tendency as human beings is to revert back to what we know. The reinforcement of change should take place at both the group level and the individual level. At the group level, this involves celebration of project successes - even the interim, short-term wins. It includes recognizing group contributions and evaluating and sharing performance measurements and metrics. At the individual level, reinforcing change begins by making sure the change is taking place. You cannot evaluate the success of an initiative unless you know if individuals are doing their jobs differently - following the new processes, utilizing the new tools, working in a new way. Recognition of individual contributions and one-on-one discussions are effective tools for reinforcing change at an individual level.

MEAM: You also discuss the role of "sponsors" in change management. How important are they?

Creasey: In each of our benchmarking studies, Prosci has asked participants to identify the greatest overall contributor to success. In every one of the studies, active and visible participation by senior leaders was number one on the list. The importance of sponsorship cannot be understated - it is the great predictor of failure or success for any change effort.

We have identified three distinct roles for sponsors in times of change:

  • First, participate actively and visibly throughout the entire project. This means being involved and present from the kickoff or launch of the project all the way to the closing out of the effort. Senior leaders (along with managers) are the face and voice of change.
  • Second, build and maintain a healthy coalition of sponsorship to help manage resistance from other managers and leaders. The coalition is made up of leaders whose people will be impacted by the change. If a group of front-line employees are impacted by the change, then whomever they look up to as being "in charge" of their part of the operation needs to be in the sponsor coalition.
  • Third, communicate directly with employees. In times of change, employees have two preferred senders of messages - the person they report to and the person at the top of the organization. And, again, the specific messages they want to hear are why the change is happening, why it is happening now, and what the risks are of not changing.

For more information:

Tim Creasey, Change Management Learning Center, Prosci, Loveland, Colorado, US. E-mail: tcreasey [at] prosci.com

The website of the Change Management Learning Center contains several tutorials on aspects of managing change in organizations, at www.change-management.com/tutorials.htm.

Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools for facilitating EBM processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network, a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.

By Sarah Carr

Tools for modeling coastal hazard impacts and assessing the vulnerability of communities and ecosystems to these impacts include…

For modeling coastal hazard impacts

For assessing and mitigating vulnerability to coastal hazard impacts

  • Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Tool (www.csc.noaa.gov/rvat) provides a process for conducting hazard identification, social and environmental vulnerability, and mitigation opportunity analyses as well as a storm surge visualization tool.
  • HAZUS-MH (http://haz.main.org/taxonomy/term/19/all; US only) estimates physical damage, economic losses, and social impacts from floods, hurricane winds, and earthquakes.
  • Hazard Assessment Tools (www.csc.noaa.gov/hat) help users quickly identify potential hazards for a location. The tool functionality is available in template form and can be set up for any location with the required data and resources.

Most of these tools are also useful for assessing vulnerability to potential climate change impacts. Stay tuned for the next edition of The EBM Toolbox, which will cover additional climate change tools.

(Sarah Carr is coordinator for the EBM Tools Network. Learn more about EBM tools and sign up for Network updates at www.ebmtools.org.)

Scotland passes comprehensive marine law

In February, the Scottish Parliament passed a comprehensive marine bill that calls for establishment of a national marine plan by the government. It also establishes a simpler licensing system for marine uses and outlines processes by which the government may plan and manage new MPAs.

"Our new marine planning system will provide better information to inform investment decisions and help attract additional investment," said Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead. "It is also a vital tool in protecting our marine flora and fauna and historical assets." The Scottish Marine Act 2010 is available at www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/bills/25-MarineScot/b25bs3-aspassed.pdf.

Scotland expects its offshore production of renewable energy - wind, tidal, and wave - to grow significantly in the next decade. The new law aims to facilitate that growth through a streamlined planning and licensing process that reduces bureaucracy. Scotland holds a quarter of Europe's tidal and offshore wind resource and 10% of its potential in wave power. The government estimates that, by 2020, offshore renewables will supply nearly 50% of Scotland's electricity needs, and the development of these resources will attract investment of £30 billion (US $45 million) to the Scottish economy. (In late March, the Scottish government published a marine spatial planning framework and draft locational guidance for wave and tidal energy development in Pentland Firth and waters around the Orkney Islands, in northern Scotland. The framework and draft guidance are at www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/295194/0096884.pdf.)

The new Scottish Marine Act follows passage last November of the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, a similarly comprehensive law for English waters that also established a marine planning system, streamlined licensing, and strengthened environmental protection schemes (MEAM 3:3).

US state of Washington passes marine spatial planning law

The state of Washington in the northwestern continental US has passed a law calling for development and implementation of a marine spatial plan for its state waters, which extend 3 nm from shore. The planning process will be led by an interagency team whose goals will include reducing conflicts between user groups, aligning existing management plans, and improving management of the state's marine resources. The law aligns with federal and regional efforts to advance ocean planning. A similar planning approach for federal waters was initiated last year by US President Barack Obama.

The new Washington law leaves to the discretion of the state director of fish and wildlife what fisheries management provisions will be included in the marine spatial plan. Other activities such as energy production, habitat protection, and regulating other uses that may affect fish populations are considerations that will be included in the plan. "Fisheries management is a particularly sensitive issue in our state with the co-management role of [Native American] tribes and the intense interest among recreational and commercial fishers in any plan provision that may have implications for fisheries management," says state Senator Kevin Ranker, who sponsored the bill. "Management of fisheries generally refers to regulating the time, place, and manner of the harvest of fish. For these activities, it is appropriate to think of the Department of Fish and Wildlife director as responsible for deciding what elements go into the plan."

The Marine Waters Planning and Management Act is available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2009-10/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Law%202010/6350-S.SL.pdf.

US sets roadmap for restoring Gulf Coast ecosystems

US President Barack Obama released a roadmap in March for restoring wetland ecosystems and barrier islands along the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico, with a focus on building resiliency and sustainability. The plan calls for greater federal/state cooperation to eliminate obstacles that have hindered previous restoration efforts, such as inadequate coordination among agencies. According to the roadmap, "The Federal Government and States must work in partnership to recast river and coastal management priorities so that ecosystem restoration and sustainability are considered on a more equal footing with other priorities such as manmade navigation and structural approaches to flood protection and storm risk reduction." The roadmap is available at www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/gulfcoast/roadmap.

Book outlines how economic tools can be applied to EBM

A new book examines the range of economic tools available and relevant to the field of marine ecosystem-based management, and describes how the tools can improve EBM implementation. Economic Analysis for Ecosystem-Based Management: Application to Marine and Coastal Environments introduces readers to how economic models can be used to explain and forecast human uses of marine resources, and to estimate the benefits produced by marine ecosystems. It also offers advice on evaluating tradeoffs among competing uses of ecosystem resources, and quantifying the costs and benefits associated with different policies. An appendix features four case studies on the application of economic tools to EBM as implemented in the US state of Massachusetts.

Authored by four economists, the book aims for an audience that includes non-economists such as resource managers and policymakers. "Through the purposeful balancing of simple concepts with operational details, we hope that this book can provide a useful and broadly applicable introduction to the appropriate use and interpretation of economics to inform ocean and coastal management," write the authors.

Economic Analysis for Ecosystem-Based Management, by Daniel Holland, James Sanchirico, Robert Johnston, and Deepak Joglekar, is available in paperback for US $39.95 at www.rffpress-earthscan-usa.com/Books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=236825.

Three new resources on marine spatial planning

The growing field of marine spatial planning (MSP) has three new information resources:

  • The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a website on MSP, with news on policy developments from around the world and information on basic concepts, data sources, and MSP in practice. It is at www.msp.noaa.gov.
  • A guide on best practices for marine spatial planning has been published by The Nature Conservancy, with a particular focus on MSP programs in the US. The best practices pertain to setting boundaries of the planning area; collecting and managing data; accounting for multiple objectives and uses; and other aspects of MSP. An appendix features 11 brief case studies. Best Practices for Marine Spatial Planning is available at www.nature.org/initiatives/marine/files/msp_best_practices.pdf.
  • A new study that polled stakeholder involvement in marine spatial planning in the US has concluded that most existing MSP programs have been triggered by a single-sector use. "Whether the plan is aimed at ecosystem management for specific marine species of concern or favorability siting for wind energy, all of the interviewees pointed to a single issue around which efforts are galvanized," states the report. Conducted for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the publication presents recommendations for improving stakeholder involvement. The report Marine Spatial Planning Stakeholder Analysis is available at www.csc.noaa.gov/publications/MSP_Stakeholder_Analysis.pdf.

UNEP report: East Asian seas require EBM and improved protection

A report from the UN Environment Programme states the economic future of East Asia will encounter major challenges unless the region's marine environment is managed much better. TheState of the Marine Environment Report for the East Asian Seas 2009 notes that nearly three-quarters of the region's human population depends directly or indirectly on coastal lands and waters. Meanwhile those ecosystems face multiple threats, including insensitive coastal development, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

The report recommends a more systematic, integrated approach to managing coastal and marine issues across the region, as well as improved data management and economic incentives to encourage private sector involvement in environmental protection programs. The publication is available at http://bit.ly/cs18qs.

Book classifies North American marine ecoregions

A new book from the trinational Commission on Environmental Cooperation (Canada, Mexico, and the US) creates a classification system for the oceanic and coastal regions of North America. Dividing the continental waters into 24 discrete ecoregions, the publication catalogs the distinct oceanographic features, habitats, and species assemblages of each one.

"The resultant framework cannot presume to be a complete, all-encompassing product that will be all things to all people," writes Hans Herrmann of the trinational commission in the book's preface. "Rather, its goal was to provide a common starting point, a scalable framework to collect and organize information, encourage further cooperation, and be used as a tool to better understand and manage our North American marine ecosystems." Marine Ecoregions of North America is available for free at www.cec.org/Storage/83/7831_MarineEcoregions-web_en.pdf.

Free magazine issue on sea level rise

The latest issue of Nature Reports Climate Change, an online magazine produced by the publisher of the journal Nature, provides news, features, and comment on the topic of sea level rise. The issue (6 April 2010) is available for free at www.nature.com/climate/2010/1004/pdf/climate.pdf.

2009 annual report available on ocean noise research and policy

The Acoustic Ecology Institute has released its 2009 yearbook on ocean noise, an annual report reviewing international science, policy, and legal developments. It guides the reader through a year's worth of news pertaining to naval active sonars, seismic surveys (by industry and academia), and shipping noise, as well as their impacts on marine ecosystems. The report is available at http://acousticecology.org/docs/AEI_OceanNoise2009.pdf. The Acoustic Ecology Institute is a US-based NGO that provides policymakers and the media with expertise on sound issues.

May 2011: Second International Marine Conservation Congress

The Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology will host the Second International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC2) from 14-18 May 2011 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The conference website is under construction. For more information, e-mail imcc2chair [at] gmail.com.