The Skimmer & MPA News

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.
The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s Note: For this article, we interviewed Ekaterina Popova, a global ocean modeller with the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, United Kingdom, about her new article "Ecological connectivity between the areas beyond national jurisdiction and coastal waters: Safeguarding interests of coastal communities in developing countries" published in Marine Policy in June 2019. This research found that coastal regions of some least-developed countries (LDCs) are connected to areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) through larval dispersal and the potential dispersal of pollutants. These findings suggest that protecting ‘source’ areas in the ABNJ could help promote sustainable livelihoods for coastal regions that depend on larval supply from these regions (and could prevent pollutants from these source areas reaching coastal regions.) 

The Skimmer: Can you briefly describe some of the connections between source areas in the ABNJ and coastal regions?

Popova: Our study showed that connectivity between the ABNJ and coastal waters of different countries varies considerably. How tight the connectivity is, depends on the prevailing direction, timescale and variability of ocean currents. Sometimes, the shape of the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) also has an effect. The complex ways these various factors interact means that close geographical proximity, or ‘adjacency’, of coastal waters to ABNJ is not always a good indicator of strong connectivity and some countries are much more exposed to the influence of ABNJ than others. The world’s most ABNJ-impacted LDC is the Federal Republic of Somalia. Its strong connectivity is shaped by three powerful currents: the South Equatorial current, the East African coastal current, and the seasonally reversing East Somali current. The most tightly ABNJ-connected stretch of the Somali coastline can be impacted by the upstream ABNJ waters on a time scale of just over a month. In contrast, the Republic of Senegal is one of the world’s least connected LDCs. Its most tightly ABNJ-connected coastline stretch is impacted by upstream ABNJ on a time scale of more than seven months.

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.

To some in conservation and resource management, marketing can seem like a bad word. But marketing is inherently about getting people to change their behavior, whether it is buying a product, recycling, or supporting a new approach to management. Marketing techniques bring together elements of psychology, sociology, economics, and graphic design. Learn from three experts how to use conservation marketing to make marine conservation and management processes more effective.

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.

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