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The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: We’ve all read about how ocean noise can harm marine mammals. New research reveals that it can have profound impacts on lower trophic levels as well, with likely consequences for marine ecosystems. Catch up on the latest research with this month’s Skimmer.

A little background on sound in the ocean

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Heather Welch is a research associate with the University of California at Santa Cruz and the (US) NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Environmental Research Division. The Skimmer spoke with her about her research, which focuses on understanding and planning for the spatial and temporal dynamics of large-scale marine processes.
 

The Skimmer: We last covered dynamic ocean management and dynamic ocean management tools in 2014. Can you tell us a bit about how the field has progressed since then?

One area of progress is that dynamic ocean management is now better located within the larger field of dynamic management, allowing us to borrow concepts and methodologies from more established disciplines. Weather science has been developing dynamic management tools such as weather forecasts and hurricane forecast tracks for over a century. While on land, established dynamic management tools track floods, wildfires, and disease outbreaks. Understanding the parallels between dynamic ocean management and dynamic management in other realms allows us to leverage lessons learned and avoid reinventing the wheel.

Another area of advancement is that dynamic ocean management tools are moving towards producing forecasts. Initially, tools were producing hindcasts and nowcasts, i.e., predicting where species were last month and where species are today, respectively. Now, dynamic ocean management tools are forecasting species distributions days to seasons in advance. For example, the Atlantic Sturgeon Risk Model predicts Atlantic sturgeon habitat one to three days in advance to help fishers avoid the bycatch of these endangered fish. A seasonal forecasting system in the Great Australia Bight predicts the distribution of Southern bluefin tuna several months into the future to help fishers efficiently locate and harvest their target species. These types of forecasts give end-users time to plan ahead for future conditions.

Lastly, dynamic ocean management is moving from single-species tools to multi-species tools that can address greater proportions of biodiversity. Single-species management was a natural starting point for the field, but established methodologies and technological advances now allow for more complex tools. For example, TurtleWatch helps fishers avoid the bycatch of loggerhead and leatherback turtles. On the US west coast, EcoCast helps fishers maintain their target catch of swordfish while avoiding the bycatch of loggerhead turtles, California sea lions, and blue sharks.
 

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

In case you missed it, last month’s issue of The Skimmer featured original articles:

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

In recent years, stakeholder engagement has been widely recognized as integral to effective marine conservation, marine ecosystem-based management, and marine spatial planning. There are many different definitions of the term ”stakeholder”, but at its most inclusive, it is any “person, organization, or group with an interest (professional or societal) or an influence on the marine environment or who is influenced directly or indirectly by activities and management decisions.” The list of stakeholders engaged in any marine conservation or management process depends on the context of the specific project, but, in practice, typical stakeholders engaged in marine conservation and management processes include local industries, coastal residents, management agencies, and conservation organizations.

The world is changing rapidly though. New information and technologies, new forms of social interaction (often fostered by social media), increases in tourism around the globe, shifting economies, globalization, global climate change, and other factors make it critical to continually reexamine traditional views of who ocean stakeholders are, their relative importance, and how we engage them.

In this issue of The Skimmer, we feature three recent studies that highlight new (or often underrepresented) voices in ocean management processes, as well as thoughts on how these voices can be brought into decision making for marine ecosystems.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: The Slimmer Skimmer is a new feature to give a brief update on a topic critical to marine ecosystem management.

We are starting off our Slimmer Skimmer series with one of fisheries subsidies. The World Trade Organization is currently working to make an end-of-the year deadline (their own, as well as one for the Sustainable Development Goals) to end harmful types of fisheries subsidies. Not all fisheries subsidies are harmful – fisheries management is commonly considered a subsidy, for instance – but the harmful ones encourage overfishing and have substantial negative impacts on marine ecosystems.

Please let us know what you think of this type of feature and if there is anything that you feel we should cover in this format in the future.

So let’s start with a few basics – what are fisheries subsidies?

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.

Imagine a world where:

  • Municipalities proactively restore wetlands and offshore reefs wherever possible to protect their citizens and infrastructure and lower their insurance premiums.
  • Small-scale fishers receive insurance payouts immediately after devastating hurricanes so fisheries-dependent communities can start to recover.
  • The risks of running an illegal fishing operation rise dramatically because it is impossible to get insurance for the ships involved.

Learn about real-life examples where this is happening as well as other ways insurance can promote sustainable marine ecosystems and marine communities.

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.

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