EDFish

Selected tag(s): Coral Reefs

New research quantifies growing threat plastics pose to coral reefs

Alamy Richard Whitcombe

Plastic waste in the ocean poses a wholly unexpected and serious threat to coral reefs.  The results from new research published in Science are sobering, but there is hope if we act now to mitigate the most significant threats facing corals and the vulnerable communities who depend on healthy coastal ecosystems for food and livelihoods.

As one of the co-authors, I was greatly surprised at the elevated risk of disease to corals caused by plastic: from 4% in corals without plastic, to 89% in corals with plastic.  Given that the study estimated that there are already more than 11 billion plastic items on reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, and that plastic loads in the ocean are expected to grow radically, this is bad news indeed. Read More »

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Science, warnings and the plight of coral reefs

A tragedy is unfolding on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living organism on the planet.  The non-Hollywood ending is a surprise to many, but it was clearly foreshadowed decades ago by a small group of scientists who were criticized as false prophets of doom and dismissed.

Large sections of the reef are dead.  The reef has been remarkably resilient over the last 8000 years, weathering devastating outbreaks of voracious crown-of-thorns starfish, pollution, fishing and coral bleaching.  The establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority no doubt contributed to that resilience, reducing impacts from some of these threats, especially land-based pollution and fishing pressure.  Recent research by EDF and others shows that managing fisheries is crucial for maintaining healthy coral reefs. Read More »

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Brazilian Fisheries: Big, Beautiful and Complex

Fishing shack along a mangrove channel, Brazil

Fishing shack along a mangrove channel, Brazil

I recently visited Brazil for the first time to work with our partners in Fish Forever to choose sites to work in over the next several years, with the goal of turning fisheries with declining yields and profits into success stories for fishermen, their communities, and the environment. Fish Forever is a partnership between Rare, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Brazil’s 300,000 square mile shelf produced about 550,000 tons of seafood in 2011, worth over $US 1.5 billion, and employs about 1 million people according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Read More »

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At The Brink: Ocean Tipping Points

Healthy Coral in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

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 »

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Exploring opportunities for ecosystem-based management of U.S. nearshore tropical reef fisheries

Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

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 »

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Cuba and New England share marine conservation experiences

Ptown group shot2 - crop (2) President Obama recently announced momentous changes in the United States policy toward Cuba.  The implications of this sea-change are wide-ranging, including the potential for enhanced scientific collaborations, and more effective and cooperative environmental management.  EDF has a long and diverse history of productive partnerships in Cuba, which have shown us quite clearly this potential.

A recent example involved a delegation of seven Cuban fishery managers, scientists and industry leaders joining four EDF staff and two partners from the Mexican organization COBI at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the very end of Cape Cod.  There, the group had wide-ranging discussions of experiences, challenges and successes in improving management of marine resources.  The workshop had a particular focus on better use and integration of spatially-explicit science and management tools.  These include protected areas, area-based allocation systems (e.g., territorial user rights for fishing, or TURFs), and multi-use planning zones.  We also paid close attention to the governance structures needed to ensure effective, responsive and participatory management. Read More »

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