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
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
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
(c) Jim Patterson Photography, https://jimpattersonphotography.com/
By: Rod Fujita & Kendra Karr
Fisheries management is principally focused on managing fishing pressure, with the goal of keeping individual fish stocks healthy enough to produce good yields. But fisheries also affect the basic processes that keep ocean ecosystems healthy. This is why it is important to understand how many fish need to be in the system to maintain the many important services that an ocean ecosystem can produce — including the maintenance of biodiversity, tourism value, and fisheries — and to manage fisheries so that fish populations remain at about that level.
The evidence that fish are important regulators of ecosystem processes is particularly strong in coral reefs. The abundance and variety of fish is one of the most striking aspects of a healthy coral reef. Some species transport energy and nutrients between seagrass meadows and the reefs. Grazing fish species on a healthy coral reef keep seaweeds that would otherwise over-grow the reef in check. Predators regulate populations of prey species, responding to natural variability by adjusting their feeding rates and numbers. On a healthy reef, many different species occupy each of these niches, and each does their job in a slightly different way. This enables the reef to resist threats and other changes (like hurricanes) and to recover from very storms or human impacts, within limits of course. Read More
A large group of chub (Kyphosus sp.) school under the platform. Photo: Schmahl/FGBNMS (From NOAA)
As I’ve written before, the Rigs to Reefs permitting process of the federal and state agencies in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of “finding ways that work.” This cooperative process enables the owners of oil and gas platforms to use those structures to support artificial reefs. In fact, this means the rigs continue serving as artificial reefs because they have already attracted fish, coral, and other marine life as the rigs produced oil or gas.
Over the past few years, the issue of rig removal has become a heated topic among anglers as the federal government undertook more aggressive measures to remove retired rigs. The officials responsible for safe retirement of end-of-service rigs and the anglers and divers who benefit from the marine life around those rigs have been at odds over the best ways to maintain reef habitats while also providing for other uses of the Gulf. That tension was reduced this week when the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a division of the Department of Interior, issued a new policy addressing several sticking points that arose in recent years. Most of the log jam has been caused by basic questions of process: how many rigs would remain as reef habitat, where would they be placed, and how would they be secured? Read More