A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba. Credit: Noel Lopez Fernandez
Sharks are recognized by scientists, resource managers and the tourism ministry in Cuba for their critical role in marine ecosystems, as a tourist attraction for divers and as a protein source when caught by fishers. Leaders from various Cuban agencies, looking at how to balance these needs and protect sharks, are now for the first time creating a national plan for shark conservation. This is important not just for Cuba but for the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region where many shark populations travel throughout waters shared by many nations.
Earlier this year I sat in a hotel discoteca in Trinidad, Cuba that was converted into a teaching space for daytime use. Here I watched fishers jump at the chance to correctly identify shark species and prove their skills in front of their peers. This was the second shark and ray identification workshop organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Food (MINAL) and EDF where fishers, boat captains and port employees came together from across the country to learn about Cuba’s efforts to study and conserve sharks.
Because of ongoing concerns over declining shark populations in the region, the Cuban government is making shark conservation a national priority through the development of its first-ever National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Sharks and Rays (NPOA-Sharks). They hope to complete it by the end of the year. Read More
The good news keeps rolling in about the performance of fisheries managed with secure fishing rights – called “catch shares” in the United States.
An important, detailed analysis of all 20 US catch-share fisheries, authored by scientists and economists of NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology and six regional fisheries science centers, was just issued in the journal, Marine Policy.
The bottom line is that the 13 well-studied catch shares show strong performance, with important increases in an index that adds together a wide array of economic productivity elements and that takes into account changes in relative fish abundance. Even in just the first three years, that index gains an average of 22% versus baseline years (see Table 7). For the six longest-established catch shares, the index is an average of 77% higher after the third year, with no increase lower than 14% (see Table 8). Read More
Healthy sponge in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez
Coral reefs seem delicate, but when they are healthy they can take a lot of abuse. I’ve seen corals recover from severe hurricanes and even volcanic eruptions. But coral reefs can also transition suddenly from colorful, vibrant ecosystems to mere shadows of themselves. Decades of scientific investigation have shed a lot of light on this, and in a recent publication, my colleagues and I summarize a lot of the data that have been collected on Caribbean coral reefs to identify where these dangerous “tipping points” are. This work is part of the Ocean Tipping Points project, a collaboration between several institutions aimed at finding tipping points in all kinds of marine ecosystems so that managers can implement measures that will keep these ecosystems well away from the brink. Read More
Fishing boats in Chatham, MA. Photo: Tim Connor
What every fishing port in New England has long feared has now come true: the iconic cod fish is disappearing in our waters. If our shared goal is to rebuild a sustainable fishery for years to come, then we need to better understand what is happening to the fish stocks. This calls for better science, which has been the subject of discussion for years.
A key foundation of better science is better catch monitoring. Inadequate catch data is the Achilles heel of the groundfish fishery in New England – particularly with cod – and the only way to improve this in a cost-effective way is through a comprehensive monitoring system that uses video technology. Read More
Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez
By: Kendra Karr & Rod Fujita
There is a general consensus that transitioning to ecosystem-based fisheries management will result in better outcomes for both marine ecosystems and the people who depend on them. But what exactly does that mean, and how exactly can fisheries management get there?
Ecosystem-based fisheries management has been thoroughly debated and there are many aspects to it. But one thing seems clear. When developing conservation and management goals, the entire ecosystem should be considered rather than just an individual fish population.
To actually achieve such goals, scientists and managers would need to quantify fishing targets and limits and then take actions intended to maintain fisheries and the ecosystem within a “safe operating space” associated with the maintenance of a variety of ecosystem goods and services. In our new publication, we have moved one step closer to identifying these fishing targets and limits for management in multi-species fisheries in coral reefs. Read More
Photo credit: Carlos Aguilera
In an inspired and welcome choice, the Department of State just named Jane Lubchenco as the first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean.
The move reflects both the growing priority of oceans in the Obama Administration and the kind of collaborative approach it takes to restore jobs, communities and biodiversity worldwide.
This huge step comes just in time.
Globally, 40 percent of fisheries are in deep trouble with overfishing being the single biggest cause. Yet, Jane has shown how we can replenish life in the oceans through smart approaches that include better science, more marine protected areas, and stewardship incentives for fishermen. Read More