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The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

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

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

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.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

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 Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Anthropogenic noise in the ocean – from ships, sonar, construction, oil wells, windfarms, seismic surveys, and other activities – harms marine animals ranging from marine mammals to fish to invertebrates. Ocean noise has been documented to:

As the Skimmer is covering various way that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted marine ecosystems and communities, a likely reduction in ocean noise is one possible bright spot. As we collected news and research articles on this topic, however, almost all reports that we found related to ocean noise and marine mammals off the West Coasts of the U.S. and Canada in the first half of 2020. To help broaden our understanding, we asked scientists from Applied Ocean Sciences, a collective of ocean consultants with expertise in ocean acoustics, to share what they have learned about noise trajectories over a longer timescale and in other areas of the world. Below is our Skimmer-style summary of news and research articles and an interview with Chris Verlinden, a senior scientist and chief technology officer at Applied Ocean Solutions.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Climate change is the greatest threat to the health of marine ecosystems worldwide, and the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to alter the world’s climate change trajectory, for better or for worse. Numerous, diverse relationships between the two crises have arisen. These relationships have proven enormously changeable over the course of the pandemic and by location, and the net impact of the pandemic on climate change and society remains to be seen. This article briefly characterizes a number of the diverse intersections and parallels between the two crises.

Do you have updated information or a new or different perspective? We would love to get your thoughts and additions. You can add them to the Comments section below or send to The Skimmer editor at skimmer [at]

#1: Greenhouse gas emissions went down in 2020, but not by as much as initially expected, not for all that long, and not for the “right” reasons. Without systemic changes, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to have a significant long-term impact on global emission trajectories.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management
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.

As professionals in the marine conservation and management field, Skimmer readers are hyperaware of large scale and global changes to marine ecosystems. Research is now examining the emotional and psychological toll that these changes are having on people. This article synthesizes the seminal research on “ecological grief” and how society can address it at both policy and personal levels.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

It has been a long four years for those in the environmental field here in the US four years filled with rampant attempts by the Trump administration to remove, weaken, or circumvent environmental protections; promotion of climate science denialism; and obstruction of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This amplified the relentless, global march of climate change and its associated natural disasters and was all topped off by a worldwide pandemic and recession.

The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris promises a significant shift in policies in many areas, including ocean management – but what exactly needs to be done and how likely are changes to occur? We hear from eight US ocean policy experts about what they expect and/or hope for in terms of US ocean management under the incoming Biden-Harris administration.