The Skimmer & MPA News

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

In 2017, MEAM (now The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management) interviewed 17 social science and interdisciplinary researchers from around the world to learn how their work could improve marine conservation and management practice. Since then, the social science of marine management has developed further in these areas and branched out in many other valuable directions. In this issue of The Skimmer and the next, we update our previous coverage by interviewing an ensemble of other social science and interdisciplinary researchers doing innovative social science work with great potential to improve (or a proven track record) of improving marine conservation and management practice. This work ranges from the use of cognitive mapping to create mental models of how fishers in the Caribbean view and organize the world…to testing how “nudges” could cost-effectively increase compliance with conservation regulations…to innovating how communities participate in marine planning processes to reduce feelings of exclusion and suspicion.

Here is the first set of interviews. As with last time, we hope that you find these research and practice profiles as energizing and inspiring for your own work as we found editing them.

 

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: Emma McKinley is a research fellow at Cardiff University in Wales in the United Kingdom. Her work explores the relationships between society and the ocean, and focuses on concepts around ocean literacy, marine citizenship, and public perceptions and attitudes towards marine and coastal systems. Her most recent projects have explored the relationship between ocean literacy and behavior change and coastal community adaptation to climate change in Ireland and Wales. Emma is the founder and chair of the Marine Social Science Network and can be contacted at mckinleye1 [at] cardiff.ac.uk or info [at] marsocsci.net as well as on Twitter @EmmaJMcKinley.

Skimmer: What is the Marine Social Science Network, and how did it get started?

McKinley: The Marine Social Science Network (MarSocSci) started from some informal conversations with colleagues in the UK. These conversations led to a stakeholder workshop in January 2018 that explored whether there was need and scope for a network or community of marine social scientists, initially in the UK, and what this might look like. There was an over-riding sentiment from those of us working within marine social sciences that we felt a bit isolated and that the community was more fragmented than other areas of marine sciences.

At the workshop, we quickly agreed that there was a need for a community or platform for marine social science researchers and practitioners, and that, crucially, this should be an international and interdisciplinary network. And so MarSocSci was born! We started off small with a Twitter profile in May 2018, and then launched officially at the Society and the Sea conference in London, September 2018.

Since then, it feels like the momentum has just continued, and we now have over 600 people signed up to the newsletter and over 3000 following us through social media. Our Committee has also grown, and we now have an amazing team behind MarSocSci, all working voluntarily to support and grow the Network.

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

By Stephanie Wear of The Nature Conservancy

Editor’s note: Stephanie Wear is a senior scientist and strategy advisor at The Nature Conservancy. She is also a visiting scientist at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Duke University Marine Lab. She can be contacted by email at swear [at] tnc.org, on Instagram at oceansewage, and on Twitter @stephwear.

While most of us can recite the top three threats to ocean health (i.e., climate change, overfishing, and pollution), there is a notable disparity in how we allocate our precious time and resources to addressing these three threats. I have worked in marine conservation for over two decades. And what I have seen is that we are doing a lot to address overfishing and a lot to address the impacts of climate change (ranging from tried and true strategies to the novel and perhaps even a little crazy. Desperate times…) However, much less is happening in the non-plastic pollution space. To see if my observations held more broadly, in 2016, I surveyed hundreds of marine resource managers (mostly focused on coral reefs) to see what their big problems are and what they are doing to address them. The results confirmed my personal observations – coastal pollution is a big problem … but very little attention is given to it. Survey respondents cited a lot of valid reasons given for this, none of which will surprise you. They include lack of government mandates, other priorities for funders and stakeholders, and politics. (You can read the full survey findings here.)

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: In 2012, the US state of California formally adopted a statewide network of 124 marine protected areas (MPAs), covering over 16% of state waters. A new book Beyond Polarization: Public Process and the Unlikely Story of California's Marine Protected Areas analyzes what allowed the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to succeed in a time of political polarization and fiscal constraint. We interviewed book author Steven Yaffee and process participant Kaitilin Gaffney to get their perspectives about the MLPA Initiative and how conservation action can be achieved at times of political polarization. Yaffee is a professor of natural resources and environmental policy at the University of Michigan, and Gaffney is director of the Ocean, Coast, and Fisheries Program at the Resources Legacy Fund, which oversaw the MLPA Initiative, a public-private partnership between the state of California and philanthropic donors. She participated in the MLPA Initiative as director of the Pacific Program of Ocean Conservancy.

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

Editor’s note: In our last issue, The Skimmer heard from coastal and marine tourism operators and experts from around the world (including Indonesia, Brazil, the Mediterranean, and the US) about the diverse ways that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting coastal and marine tourism, how it is likely to change coastal and marine tourism in the future, and what impacts this is likely to have on coastal and marine ecosystems. We received comments from additional experts about how the pandemic is affecting other communities such as the surfing community and British Columbia, Canada, and aspects of coastal/marine tourism such as beach management.

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: In this series, The Skimmer is taking a look at the various ways that the pandemic is affecting marine ecosystems and their conservation and management. In April, we took an initial look at the impact of the pandemic on fisheries and aquaculture. In this issue, we cover how the pandemic is impacting coastal and marine tourism and the potential impacts of these changes on coastal and marine ecosystems. In future issues, we will examine the pandemic’s impact on plastic pollution, climate change, and more. We will update previous articles as we are able, so if you see critical aspects that we are missing from this and previous articles, please let us know at skimmer [at] octogroup.org.

In many ways, coastal and marine tourism has become a posterchild for the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the earliest and highest-profile cases of the mass spread of the COVID-19 virus happened aboard passenger cruise ships (here, here). Photos of crowded beaches have become synonymous with inadequate social distancing to prevent the virus’s spread. And photos of empty beaches show the devastating impacts of the pandemic on local economies.

The Skimmer asked coastal and marine tourism operators and experts from around the world (Indonesia, Brazil, the Mediterranean, the United States, and more) about the diverse ways that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting coastal and marine tourism, how it is likely to change coastal and marine tourism in the future, and what impacts this is likely to have on coastal and marine ecosystems. Their responses (below) give reasons for both hope and concern.

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

Editor’s note: Jon Fisher is currently a conservation science officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts where he provides scientific expertise to inform and improve research projects and helps to increase the impact of scientific research. He was formerly a senior conservation scientist at The Nature Conservancy where he led and conducted research as a principal investigator and conducted internal theory of change work. He and co-authors recently published a paper “Improving scientific impact: how to practice science that influences environmental policy and management” in the journal Conservation Science and Practice. Fisher presented a webinar on this research to the OCTO networks (including the EBM Tools Network) in December 2019, and we highly recommend reading the paper and watching the webinar recording.

Skimmer: As you describe in your paper, a lot of scientific research that is intended to be applied isn’t ever used - because decision-makers are unaware of it, aren’t able to access it, don’t understand it, or don’t see it as relevant. Your recent paper outlines practical steps for improving the impact of science on decision making. Could you give us a summary of those steps?

Fisher: Sure, at a high level we recommend four steps:

  1. Identify and understand the audience (e.g., a decision-maker with whom you can partner)
  2. Clarify the need for evidence (i.e., how new information could lead to action)
  3. Gather "just enough" evidence (i.e., so there is enough rigor to be credible without missing key decision-making deadlines or wasting resources on gathering extraneous information)
  4. Share and discuss the evidence (i.e., help people learn about your results and motivate them to act on them).

These are guidelines rather than a strict recipe for success because there are many factors that determine the impact that research has. But following these steps improves the odds of research being influential. In fact, we ourselves have found that not following these steps in past projects has led to disappointing outcomes.

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