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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.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

The Skimmer’s new Tools page is now fully operational, and you can use it to find information on tools that deal with:

The new Tools page pulls together journal articles, reports, MEAM/Skimmer articles, and other resources that provide information about a range of tools for these and other marine management and conservation tasks. Please let us know what you think!

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Several new papers have examined the feasibility and advisability of applying different management and conservation measures at different depths of the water column (aka ‘vertical zoning’). In this issue, with help from a couple of experts, The Skimmer takes a quick look at the history of vertical zoning and current thinking on where it can and should go next.

Why would we want to do vertical zoning? Isn’t 2D[1] conservation and management complicated enough?

  • As The Skimmer readers are well aware, the marine environment (temperature, pressure, salinity, light, nutrients, oxygen, currents, physical structures, etc.) and the species that inhabit it vary dramatically with depth. One just has to read the latest articles about fascinating new creatures discovered in the deep ocean to get a sense of this.
     
  • This variability means that entirely different communities of organisms with different human uses, vulnerabilities, and conservation needs exist at different depths at the same latitude/longitude. This variability creates complexity for conservation and management but also opportunity. Most conservation and management actions essentially treat the ocean as 2D. Allowing different suites of human activities at different depths, however, could potentially reduce restrictions on human activities in the marine environment (potentially increasing public support for conservation and management activities) while affording the same level of ecosystem protection as vertically homogenous management. We catch up with the latest thinking on the soundness of this approach and our ability to implement it below.
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

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