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How the complexity of the average marine organism life cycle affects MPA efficiency

By Elana Rusnak, SRC masters student

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are the global “National Park System” of the ocean.  There are a variety of protection levels, ranging from multi-use zones where certain activities may only be restricted seasonally, to no take-zones where only non-extractive activities are permitted (i.e. SCUBA diving and mooring a boat), and no-use zones, where there are no activities permitted (Science2action.org, 2015).  They are designed to protect a geographic area whose boundaries encompass everything from the surface of the ocean to the ocean floor, and all organisms that live within its borders.  MPAs are theoretically designed to protect ecosystem structure, function, and integrity, enhance non-consumptive opportunities, improve fisheries, and expand knowledge and understanding of marine systems (Stoner et al., 2012).  These jurisdictions are often put in place to protect the habitat of a certain target species, but yield an additional benefit wherein all of the other organisms that live in that species’ habitat are also protected, as long as they stay within the bounds.  For example, a study by Bond et al. in 2017 showed that the establishment of a marine reserve in Belize helped a Caribbean Reef Shark population go from declining (caused by overfishing), to stable over the course of roughly 10 years.

In terrestrial environments, National Parks/Reserves often encompass the entire geographic distribution of a target species.  For example, Yellowstone National Park was used in 1995 to reintroduce the Gray Wolf (Canis lupis) back into the wild, after being hunted nearly to extinction (Philips & Smith, 1997).  They generally live their entire lives within the park, and as such, their population grew to a sustainable level, and they were subsequently taken off the US Endangered Species List in 2008 (USFWS, 2008).

A Map of the various wolf packs within Yellowstone National park, by Yellowstone_wolfmap.jpg: work of a National Park Service employeederivative work: Rrburke (talk) – Yellowstone_wolfmap.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7770275

Unfortunately, success stories of this magnitude are not often seen in the marine environment for a few different reasons:  MPAs are more difficult to enforce, as they are in a 3D environment where depth is a factor.  This is amplified by the fact that many MPAs are created in countries without the resources to maintain them properly (Bennet & Dearden, 2014).  Moreover, the ocean is an ever-changing environment, with water flow and fluid dynamics having major effects on every ecosystem.  Additionally, a key factor that influences MPA efficacy is the unique life cycle of most marine organisms.  A fundamental difference between organisms on land, and in the ocean, is that marine organisms have larval stages.  Most fish and other marine organisms (corals, invertebrates, etc.) do not give live birth, or hatch their eggs in a stable environment like land animals.  Instead, many reproduce by spawning, which is releasing their millions of eggs and sperm into the water column in hopes they will connect with each other.  Once the eggs are fertilized and the larvae begin developing, they are subject to the forces of nature, and move wherever the current takes them.  They are also more or less microscopic at this point, and are often a food source for larger fish.  Because of this, the larvae of a tuna or blue marlin could be eaten by the very fish that they themselves prey on.  This unique circular pattern, coupled with the fact that larval dispersal can span hundreds of miles in the ocean, makes completely protecting a species in a single MPA very challenging (Cowen et al., 2006).

Queen Conch (Lobatus gigas) by Daniel Neal from Sacramento, CA, US – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41777013

According to a study by Cowen et al. in 2006, larval dispersion of coral is affected by many factors, including how long the larvae stay in the water column before attaching to the substrate, directed horizontal/vertical movement of the larvae in the water column, and the adult spawning strategies themselves.  All of these put together result in larval dispersal distances of anywhere from 10-100km.  This dispersal is also seen in the endangered Queen Conch (Lobatus gigas) in the Bahamas.  The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is an MPA in the Bahamas, and there is a conch population inside the park that has been shown to be slowly dying of old age. This can be attributed to the fact that larvae are not making it into the park because the population that would be supplying them with larvae is outside of the protected area and is being overfished (Stoner et al, 2012; Kough et al. 2017).  The MPA does not cover the entire geographic distribution of the conch, and therefore, it can be seen that this life-cycle complexity is affecting the efficacy of this protected area.  There have been proposals to create MPA-networks that would protect multiple populations, which may increase larval recruitment (larvae reaching an area and settling down there) and consequently, target species survival.  All of this is evidence that shows we need to approach protecting terrestrial and marine species from different angles, since ecosystem type is clearly not the only fundamental difference between them.

 

References

Bennett, N. J., & Dearden, P. (2014). Why local people do not support conservation: community perceptions of marine protected area livelihood impacts, governance and management in Thailand. Marine Policy44, 107-116.

Bond, M. E., Valentin-Albanese, J., Babcock, E. A., Abercrombie, D., Lamb, N. F., Miranda, A., … & Chapman, D. D. (2017). Abundance and size structure of a reef shark population within a marine reserve has remained stable for more than a decade. Marine Ecology Progress Series576, 1-10.

Cowen, R. K., Paris, C. B., & Srinivasan, A. (2006). Scaling of connectivity in marine populations. Science311(5760), 522-527.

Kough, A. S., Cronin, H., Skubel, R., Belak, C. A., & Stoner, A. W. (2017). Efficacy of an established marine protected area at sustaining a queen conch Lobatus gigas population during three decades of monitoring. Marine Ecology Progress Series573, 177-189.

Philips, M. K., Smith, D. W. (1997).  Yellowstone Wolf Project – Biennial Report (1995-1996). National Park service.

Science2action.org, 2015.  Marine Managed Areas: What, Why, and Where. Science to Action.

Stoner, A. W., Davis, M. H., & Booker, C. J. (2012). Abundance and population structure of queen conch inside and outside a marine protected area: repeat surveys show significant declines. Marine Ecology Progress Series460, 101-114.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008.  “Species Profile – Gray Wolf. https://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery/

Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation

By Abby Tinari, SRC intern

Monk seals are warm water species historically residing in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Hawaii. Now only Mediterranean and Hawaiian populations remain, both of which are critically endangered according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (ICUN). Hawaiian monk seals have an estimated 1300 wild individuals living around the Hawaiian archipelago.

Figure 1: A juvenile Hawaiian monk seal at French Frigate Shoals. (MarkSullivan, Wikimedia)

In the early 1800s thousands of these seals were hunted for their meat, skin and oil. At the end of the 19th century and early into the 20th, the species was thought to be close to extinction. In 1958, the first beach count of the species was conducted, and surveyors concluded that the Hawaiian monk seal had made a partial recovery (Schultz, Baker et al. 2011). This was short lived. The population has since declined and is declining 4% per year on some Hawaiian Islands. These declines are due to a low juvenile survival rate because of starvation, shark predation, marine debris entanglement, by catch, sea-level rise and intra-specific male seal aggression (Schultz, Baker et al. (2011) & Norris, Littnan et al. (2017)). These seals have been consistently monitored since the 1980s when they were placed on the endangered species list. Scientists started going to pupping grounds to tag, sample and identify individuals (Baker and Thompson 2007). The Baker and Thompson (2007) study observed that the Hawaiian monk seal population is senescing, or growing older and less reproductive. Females give birth to a single pup after a 10-11 month gestation period. She then nurses the pup for 5-6 weeks. So, reproduction rates are relatively low to begin with, plus a low survival rate in the first 2 years of life is hurting the populations long term growth rate (Baker and Thompson 2007). Norris, Littnan et al. (2017) indicated that one of the main threats to young seals, less than 2 years old, is the lack of available prey.

Figure 2: The Hawaiian Archipelago, with demarcations showing the extent of the Northwestern and main Hawaiian Islands. Place names of most islands and atolls where Hawaiian monk seals (Neomonachus schauinslandi) occur are noted. (Baker, Harting et al. 2017)

With now almost 40 years on the ICUN’s endangered and critically endangered list there have been attempts at conservation. Two of these methods include translocation and vaccination. Translocation was used in the past with mixed results, some seals survived while others unfortunately did not. Schultz, Baker et al 2011 write about using genetics among other factors to see if a population is more likely to have long term success with translocation. If subpopulations have a wide genetic diversity and many genetic differences between them, then translocation may not be the best solution and could potentially produce unfit individuals. On the other hand, less genetically diverse subpopulations would have a higher success rate with fit individuals through translocation. Hawaiian monk seals were thought to have had separate subpopulations throughout the archipelago, due to the spatial distance between the islands. After genetic analysis of over 1800 individuals over 13 years Schultz, Baker et al 2011 found that the subpopulations are genetically not statistically different, they in fact, comprise of a single population. This is good news for translocation, it could be an effective means of conservation if the new location is suitable. Norris, Littnan et al. (2017) supports Schultz’s findings. Weanling seals just learning how to hunt on their own were translocated to a new island that had an abundant amount of food and few seals. The habitat was also ideal, providing adequate depth, and bottom type for both young and adult seals to hunt successfully. There was a small difference between the resident and translocated seal survival into adulthood. This survival rate is an essential marker for a translocation program. Translocation is a great way to increase numbers and repopulate suitable locations, but other conservation methods may be equally, if not more, important to a population’s survival.

Figure 3: Stacie Robinson, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu, vaccinates a Hawaiian monk seal basking on the island of Oahu. (Malakoff 2016)

For the first time ever, a wild population of marine mammals is receiving a vaccine to prevent disease (Malakoff 2016). This has previously occurred in the terrestrial environment mainly to prevent the spreading of rabies in racoons and fox, but never in free-living marine mammals. The lack of genetic diversity, low population, and isolation the Hawaiian monk seal experiences makes it extremely susceptible to infection. But, these factors also make the seals a prime candidate for this vaccine. Scientists are wary of the spread of viruses in the Morbillivirus family. This genus of viruses has killed tens of thousands of seals and porpoises in the Atlantic Ocean. These viruses are easily spread and are possibly carried to the Hawaiian Islands by whales, stray seals and dogs. An outbreak among the monk seals could prove deadly and cause devastating decreases in an already struggling population. The vaccine is targeting the phocine distemper virus (PDV), which needs two shots, a first dose and then a booster 4-6 weeks later. The seals habits of “hauling out”, lying on the beach and rocks, their numbered tags, small population size and unique markings help with the recapture needed to complete the vaccine. Before the vaccines were implemented, model simulations of different scenarios were run to see if preventative vaccination would be worthwhile. Baker, Harting et al. (2017) along with Malakoff (2016) determined that preventative vaccination is the most effective way of protecting these seals from an Morbillivirus outbreak. In 2016, scientists started to vaccinate individuals at the Oahu “haul out”, as this is a midpoint between the subpopulations. 60% of the overall population would need to be vaccinated in order to prevent a local outbreak of PDV. Malakoff (2016) and Baker, Harting et al. (2017) provide some limitations to the vaccines. For future seals to be immune the vaccine will need to be continued and new pups will need to be vaccinated. These vaccines are not always available and are limited in quantity. To get to the seals, scientists must walk through tide pools and over lava rock which can be dangerous especially when dealing with wild animals. The vaccine takes over a month to provide protection which leaves the seals vulnerable. Also, the vaccines currently being used are for a different strain of PDV so this effort could be futile. Either way, this is a milestone for conservation and could be the protection the Hawaiian monk seals need to build a successful future.

Works Cited

Baker, J. D., A. L. Harting, M. M. Barbieri, S. J. Robinson, F. M. D. Gulland and C. L. Littnan (2017). “Modeling a Morbillivirus Outbreak in Hawaiian Monk Seals (Neomonachus Schauinslandi) to Aid in the Design of Mitigation Programs.” J Wildl Dis 53(4): 736-748.
Baker, J. D. and P. M. Thompson (2007). “Temporal and spatial variation in age-specific survival rates of a long-lived mammal, the Hawaiian monk seal.” Proc Biol Sci 274(1608): 407-415.
Malakoff, D. (2016). “CONSERVATION BIOLOGY. A race to vaccinate rare seals.” Science 352(6291): 1265.
Norris, T. A., C. L. Littnan, F. M. D. Gulland, J. D. Baker and J. T. Harvey (2017). “An integrated approach for assessing translocation as an effective conservation tool for Hawaiian monk seals.” Endangered Species Research 32: 103-115.
Schultz, J. K., J. D. Baker, R. J. Toonen, A. L. Harting and B. W. Bowen (2011). “Range-wide genetic connectivity of the Hawaiian monk seal and implications for translocation.” Conserv Biol 25(1): 124-132.

FAD’s and Food Security in the Pacific Islands

By Kevin Reagan, SRC intern

In the countries and territories of the Pacific Islands, the people depend very heavily on fish for food. In Pacific Island countries and territories (PICT’s), 50-90% of the dietary animal protein in coastal communities comes from fish. This is based mostly on small-scale subsistence and commercial fishing for fish mainly associated with coral reefs, as well as some pelagic (open ocean) species (mainly tuna). Consumption of fish here is several times higher than the global average, and tuna is of particular importance and value (Bell et. al 2009).

A map of the Pacific Island region. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pacific_Culture_Areas.jpg

A map of the Pacific Island region. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pacific_Culture_Areas.jpg

As human populations grow, the government is encouraged to provide at least 35 kg of fish per person per year, due to the fact the fish is filled with fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins, and the most promising option for food security in the region. The arable, farmable land is scarce, which makes the level of subsistence provided from small farms scarce as well. It is also a better alternative to nutrient-poor imported foods that are beginning to be consumed in the region and can combat the occurrence of non-communicable diseases in the region (Bell et al. 2015).

The main issue currently is that coral reef fish populations cannot keep up with the growing demand for food, and will not yield the necessary 35 kg/person as the population continues to grow. Bell et. al (2015) propose that PICT’s allocate more of the tuna they catch to local food security, and make fish-aggregating devices (FAD’s) a priority. By 2035, it is estimate that tuna with need to account for 25% of the fish required for food security in the region (Bell et al. 2015).

A yellowfin tuna, the most common species of tuna caught in the Pacific Islands. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Al_mcglashan_tuna.jpg

A yellowfin tuna, the most common species of tuna caught in the Pacific Islands. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Al_mcglashan_tuna.jpg

FAD’s are though to be “one of the most practical vehicles for improving local fish access” in PICT’s (Bell et. al 2015), and are installed nearshore in depths of 300-700 meters. Pelagic fish tend to aggregate at and around floating objects for several days, and therefore FAD’s improve access to these fish. They have been shown to improve supply and consumption in rural areas, and cost-benefit analyses of FAD’s show the value of tuna and other pelagic fish exceeds the cost of the FAD by 3-7 times. The catch per unit effort tends to be higher, the average fuel consumption by the fisherman lower, and the returns on investment are anywhere form 80-180%. Preliminary studies in Micronesia and Vanuata indicate that FAD’s can alleviate fishing pressure on coral reef communities as much as 75% by transferring some of the fishing to oceanic fisheries, i.e. pelagic fish (Bell et al. 2015).

Though FAD’s have many benefits, extensive planning, monitoring, and research will be required for them all to be seen. An important aspect of this is participation and a sense of ownership by the local communities; some FAD’s have been sabotaged and vandalized in the past. Investments will need to be made, and are described in detail in the paper (Bell et al. 2015).

A fish-aggregating device (FAD) with mahi mahi schooling underneath. https://www.flickr.com/photos/landlearnnsw/3017619031

A fish-aggregating device (FAD) with mahi mahi schooling underneath. https://www.flickr.com/photos/landlearnnsw/3017619031

The first necessary investment is to identify priority locations for nearshore FAD’s. This is especially important in rural communities but is also important for urban communities. The community then needs to be engaged so that they can realize the full potential of FAD’s and none will be lost due to vandalism. The effectiveness of exclusion zones for industrial fleets must also be assisted; there are concerns that industrial fleets fishing near the boundaries of exclusion zones affect the number of fish that are then contained within the zone. Next, catches around nearshore FAD’s needs to be monitored and the level of improvement of coral reef management initiatives from FAD’s should be evaluated. Finally, the design and placement of the FAD’s must be improved (Bell et al. 2015).

FAD’s provide path to increase tuna and other pelagic fish availability to rural and urban comm. in Pacific Islands. They are a practical way to allow countries to get the small share of the region’s tuna catch they need to have food security, and are also a positive adaptation to climate change and population growth. Exclusion zone expansion needs to be considered as well if it is shown that industrial fleets are catching tuna marked in the exclusion zone (Bell et al. 2015).

Investments need to be made in FADs as part of food security in PICTs. Current FAD numbers not enough, and infrastructure needs to be maintained post-installation. Damaged FAD’s need to be replaced as soon as possible or momentum will be lost in the community. To do this, communities need large stockpiles of spare parts and access to the vessels and personnel necessary to install new FADs. However, current budgets are not large enough. National governments also need to be committed to and have ownership of FAD programs, and potentially use funds from license revenues from distant fishing nations that use their waters (Bell et al. 2015).

Local governments can also enlist the help of industrial fishing companies that currently deploy anchored FAD’s when fishing to assist in the installations of nearshore FAD’s. Each FAD program within PICT’s needs to be adapted to fit the capabilities of each particular island- the points outlined in paper are a blueprint, not a checklist. Overall, FAD’s are one of the few options that can provide food security, especially in rural coastal areas, and should be seriously considered in the coming years (Bell et al. 2015).

Works Cited

Bell, Johann D., et al. “Optimising the use of nearshore fish aggregating devices for food security in the Pacific Islands.” Marine Policy 56 (2015): 98-105.

Bell, Johann D., et al. “Planning the use of fish for food security in the Pacific.” Marine Policy 33.1 (2009): 64-76.

Science, society, and flagship species: social and political history as keys to conservation outcomes in the Gulf of California

By Cameron Perry, SRC intern

Effective conservation measures must incorporate all stakeholders in the decision making process as well as take into account the social and political atmosphere in which they are created. Conservation measures, even with the best intentions, will fail when they do not take into account these important factors. Montemayer and Vincent (2016) examined a case study from the Gulf of California where a determined conservation lobby and political opportunity led to a rapid establishment of a marine reserve to protect the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and the vaquita (Phocoena sinus). However, lack of community involvement has led to undermined effectiveness, alienation of indigenous people and risk for the species future.

Biologist holding a Totoaba with a Vaquita at his feet.

Biologist holding a Totoaba with a Vaquita at his feet.

The totoaba and the vaquita are both critically endangered species that are endemic to the Gulf of California. The totoaba has suffered from the damming of the Colorado River that greatly reduced freshwater flow since the 1960s. Totoaba are also illegally caught for their highly prized swim bladder which is considered a Chinese delicacy. The vaquita is the world’s most endangered marine mammal and there are only about 60 left in the wild (CIRVA, 2015). This represents a 92% decrease in abundance since 1997. Larger numbers of fishers, versatile gear and boats and open-access conditions have led to overfishing and habitat degradation that has threatened the existence of these species. Currently, there is a reserve established that aims to protect vital habitat for both the vaquita and the totoaba.

Montemayer and Vincent (2016) aimed to study the process that led to the creation of this reserve as well as the socio-political environment in which these actions took place. This research is crucial in order to (1) examine both positive and negative outcomes, and (2) improve future policies.

They found that a series of rapid events with little public involvement in the planning process led to the creation of the reserve in 1993. The reserve was proposed in March 1993 and enacted three months later by a presidential decree. During the second half of the 1990s, an NGO wanted to expand the area of the reserve to protect more habitat for the vaquita and totoaba. Conservation efforts were met with backlash, and this led to a period of socio-political resistance against environmental groups, who were thought to have created a reserve with few benefits and no consultation with local communities. Fishing restrictions were never fully respected by fishers and there are often illegal activities that still occur within the reserve. The lack of incorporating tradition, culture and economic needs of coastal communities has led to unsustainable practices and caused the reserve to not meet its goals.

The Vaquita, endemic to the Gulf of California, has suffered a 92% population decline since 1997. This species is at serious risk of extinction, with only about 60 individuals left in the wild.

The Vaquita, endemic to the Gulf of California, has suffered a 92% population decline since 1997. This species is at serious risk of extinction, with only about 60 individuals left in the wild.

This careful analysis of the actions and political environment in which the reserve was created are important to enhance understanding for successful conservation planning in the future. It stressed that the social and political history and full stakeholder involvement must be recognized before regulations can be enacted. Key characteristics of success were defined which included stakeholder involvement, well-defined goals and objectives, a wide and transparent inclusion of scientific knowledge, ongoing monitoring of outcomes and thoughtful design.

Ecological needs should emerge from scientific processes, but it is crucial to identify stakeholders and include their interests before policy suggestions are presented (Montemayer and Vincent, 2016).

References

CIRVA (Comite Internacional Para la Recuperacion de la Vaquita/International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita). Scientific Reports of: First Meeting, 25–26 January 1997; Second Meeting, 7–11 February 1999; Third Meeting, 18–24 January 2004; Fourth Meeting, 20-23 February 2012; Fifth Meeting, 7-11 July 2014; Sixth Meeting, 22 May 2015.  Available at http://www.iucn-csg.org/index.php/downloads/

Cisneros-Montemayor, Andres and Amanda Vincent. 2016. Science, society, and flagship species: social and political history as keys to conservation outcomes in the Gulf of California. Ecology and Society 21(2)

https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Divisions=PRD&ParentMenuId=678&id=21640

71 Questions: A Guide for Marine Conservation

By James Keegan, RJD Intern

The ocean remains an immense resource for humanity, providing food, economic activity, and cultural roots for many. Although these resources are valuable, it is difficult to effectively protect them because our knowledge of marine ecosystems is lacking. To correct this insufficient understanding of the marine environment, Parsons et al. 2014 conducted two workshops in order to establish a list of important questions that would help direct conservation research.  If conservationists can answer these questions, the community’s ability to conserve and mange the world’s marine resources would substantially improve. With the contributions from participants in the fields of science, conservation, industry, and government, Parsons et al. 2014 identified 71 key questions for the preservation of the marine environment. They then grouped these questions into 8 categories, each associated with an aspect of marine conservation: fisheries, climate change, other anthropogenic (human caused) threats, ecosystems, marine citizenship, policy, societal and cultural considerations, and scientific enterprise. Using these questions as guidelines, funders and researchers can develop programs that can greatly benefit marine conservation.

Because oceans are vast, and their environments difficult to access, marine research is expensive and difficult to undertake. Expensive technologies necessary for accessing marine environments, like submersibles, raise costs beyond those typically incurred by terrestrial, or land-based, studies. Moreover, marine conservation research receives funding at a much lower rate than terrestrial conservation. In order to combat these issues, Parsons et al. 2014 sought out to identify a set of questions that, if answered, would contribute immensely to conserving marine ecosystems on a global scale, thus maximizing the returns of the research programs involved. By prioritizing the most important questions facing marine conservation, conservationists can more effectively protect the marine environment with the funding they receive.

A table showing example questions produced by Parsons et al. 2014 for each of the 8 categories.

A table showing example questions produced by Parsons et al. 2014 for each of the 8 categories.

In order to produce their list of key questions, Parsons et al. 2014 conducted a pair of workshops. In their first workshop, held during the second International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC), 17 participants with varying expertise reviewed an initial list of 631 questions. Parsons et al. 2014 solicited these initial questions from participants at IMCC, professional peer groups, and the Society for Conservation Biology. The 17 participants reduced the number of questions to 316, and Parsons et al. 2014 voted on these remaining questions in their second workshop, ultimately reducing the number to 71. Finally, they grouped these 71 questions into 8 categories: fisheries, climate change, other human produced threats, ecosystems, marine citizenship, policy, societal and cultural considerations, and scientific enterprise.

A flow chart summarizing the steps taken in the workshops. (Parsons et al. 2014)

A flow chart summarizing the steps taken in the workshops. (Parsons et al. 2014)

Each of the 8 categories pose challenges to marine conservationists. Mass extraction of fish and other organisms stress marine ecosystems and can lead to overexploitation. Components of climate change, like warmer waters and ocean acidification, directly affect marine species and indirectly affect ecological interactions. Other human activities negatively impact marine ecosystems, like fertilizer runoff creating oxygen-depleted areas in the ocean, or global shipping routes introducing invasive species into new areas. Because conducting research in the marine environment can be difficult, marine ecosystem processes and population dynamics are poorly understood.  The behavior and lifestyle choices of individual citizen’s significantly impact the health of the marine environment, but the best methods for engaging the public and promoting marine conservation remain illusive. Marine conservation and resource use policy are challenging because marine policy encompasses both the lack of information on marine systems and complex governance issues. Moreover, marine conservation is closely tied with socioeconomic and cultural factors, requiring engagement in such areas with targeted research. Scientific culture itself needs reworking, in that data sharing, collaboration, and funding for fields like taxonomy need to improve. With so many issues facing marine conservation, the questions articulated by Parsons et al. 2014 will help focus the conservation effort.

Past ecological prioritization exercises underemphasized marine issues, so Parsons et al. 2014 highlighted the specific challenges facing marine conservation. Although these questions have not been answered completely, people can, and should, undertake reasonable conservation efforts regarding their subject matter. By serving as a guide for scientific research, these 71 questions, along with evidence-based, participatory, and transparent management, can lead us towards effective marine conservation.

References:

Parsons, E. C. M., Favaro, B., Aguirre, A. A., Bauer, A. L., Blight, L. K., Cigliano, J. A., Coleman, M. A., Côté, I. M., Draheim, M., Fletcher, S., Foley, M. M., Jefferson, R., Jones, M. C., Kelaher, B. P., Lundquist, C. J., McCarthy, J.-B., Nelson, A., Patterson, K., Walsh, L., Wright, A. J. and Sutherland, W. J. (2014), Seventy-One Important Questions for the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 28: 1206–1214. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12303