The new president of the European Union recently appointed a whole new team of commissioners, including the appointment of the Maltese politician, Karmenu Vella, as the new EU Commissioner for the Environment and Maritime and Fisheries posts (see Joan Edward's blog on this), but is the environment already sinking down his agenda?
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Further to the recent blog about how coal scuttles coral hopes, see this ABC News Program about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) and Abbot Point dredging impacts. The program features MPAG case study contributor Jon Day criticizing the Australian government's misrepresentation of the scientific advice of the GBRMP Authority, from which he recently resigned.
By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Waitt Foundation
On August 12th, Barbuda Council signed into law a sweeping set of new ocean management regulations that zone their coastal waters, strengthen fisheries management, and establish a network of marine sanctuaries. This comes after seventeen months of extensive community consultation and scientific research supported by the Waitt Institute. With these new policies, the small island of Barbuda has become a Caribbean ocean conservation leader and global role model. The regulations establish five marine sanctuaries, collectively protecting 33% (139 km2) of the coastal area, to enable fish populations to rebuild and habitats to recover. To restore the coral reefs, catching parrotfish and sea urchins has been completely prohibited, as those herbivores are critical to keeping algae levels on reefs low so coral can thrive. Barbuda is the first Caribbean island to put either of these bold and important measures in place. “This will definitely benefit the people of Barbuda, and Antigua as well. No part of this is meant to hurt fishers. It’s the reverse – ensuring that they have a livelihood that will last in perpetuity,” said Arthur Nibbs, Chairman of the Barbuda Council and Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Fisheries.
By Lauren Wenzel, Acting Director, NOAA Marine Protected Areas Center, Silver Spring, Maryland
Maybe it’s all those summer reading lists that draw me in every summer to distant places and terrific characters. But it seems like a good time to appreciate some of the many great novels that are set in and around our nation’s marine protected areas. Social scientists are now documenting what writers have known for centuries – telling a compelling story is the best way to help people understand and engage in an issue.
Not that these stories preach about marine conservation. Fortunately, these authors know that’s not the way to get our attention. Rather, they show us how individuals interact with specific places – and how these places work their way into our memories and hearts.
Here are a few suggestions for summer reading --- we’d love to hear your ideas and comments too.
By Sean Cosgrove, Conservation Law Foundation, SCosgrove [at] clf [dot] org
There is a big opportunity to extend and improve ocean habitat protections in the Omnibus Habitat Amendment (OHA) now under consideration at the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). The big question is whether the NEFMC will bury its collective head in the practices and politics of the past, or look towards the very real needs of the present and future.
Report Useful for Policy-Makers and Summer Beach-Goers Alike; California Remains the Frontrunner, But Strongly Protecting Only 5% is Not Enough
Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in protecting marine biodiversity, today released a report that will be of interest to U.S. policy-makers and beach-goers this summer. Called SeaStates 2014: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters?, this second annual report reveals that most states and territories are failing to safeguard our nation’s marine life, seafood and coasts. California, the frontrunner of all the states, strongly protects over 5% of their waters in no-take reserves. However, all of the states and territories, including California, fall far below the 20% level that is needed for productive ecosystems and only a few are making any progress whatsoever. Strongly protected marine areas are needed to ensure the abundance and resilience of our oceans, not only in U.S. waters, but worldwide.
By Sue Wells
The MCZ process has been criticised from many angles and the often negative press has resulted in an international perception that it has not been successful so far. Although not perfect, some of us consider that it has been no worse than the efforts of other countries, and certainly far more deserving of support. Nick Wehner recently highlighted the report of the British Government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the MPA list but based his comments on a briefing produced by a law firm (Bond Dickinson).
The EAC, however, is a cross-party group of MPs (Members of Parliament) and their role is “to consider the extent to which the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development, and to audit their performance against sustainable development and environmental protection targets.” Their report, published in June 2014 and resulting from interviews with and written witness statements from stakeholders and other interested parties, provides more detail and the necessary context to understand the recommendations.
By Dr Peter JS Jones, Dept of Geography, University College London (P [dot] J [dot] Jones [at] ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk)
It is increasingly recognised that marine ecosystems that have a higher diversity of species are more resilient to impacts from non-native species, climate change, etc., but why is there a link between diversity and resilience and how can marine protected areas (MPAs) be made more effective in building resilience?
Species provide a variety of functional roles in ecosystems, such as nutrient recycling, population control, etc. The higher the diversity of functional groups and the higher the diversity of species and the population sizes within each functional group, the more resilient the ecosystem is, in that it can remain stable in the face of factors that could otherwise perturb it. This is because one species can replace the role of another species in the same functional group if that species is depleted by disease, over-harvesting, etc. Also, if environmental conditions change, a species that previously appeared to be redundant, in that it has no apparent functional role, can be better adapted to the new conditions and thereby is able to adopt a functional role, replacing the role of a species which is less well adapted to the new conditions. In these ways the ecosystem is able to remain in a relatively stable state, including the capacity to adapt to changing conditions. This capacity for resilience is increasingly recognised as being important, as the pressures related to human activities which can perturb marine ecosystems, e.g. greenhouse gas emissions and species introductions, increase, potentially shifting ecosystems to alternative states that provide fewer ecosystem services, e.g. food production, greenhouse gas sinks, genetic resources and tourism value.
By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Waitt Foundation; and Jacob James, Waitt Foundation
Ocean conservation is in need of action, not talk, but the Our Ocean Conference, hosted by Secretary John Kerry and the U.S. Department of State last week was not just hot air. Rather, it was worth its carbon footprint, and we were honored to attend.
All in attendance seemed to agree on the key challenges: sustainable management of fishing, the need for creation of marine reserves, reduction in greenhouse gases, and reducing ocean pollution. So the question quickly became: What steps can we take today and tomorrow to tackle these challenges?
The Our Ocean Conference provided a much-needed platform for governments, scientists, corporations, non-profit organizations, and philanthropists to collectively address this question.
By Matt Brookhart, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Our nation’s system of national marine sanctuaries protect some of America’s most significant marine and Great Lakes assets – from vibrant coral reefs and kelp forests to historic shipwrecks and extraordinarily productive fishing grounds. In doing so, NOAA economists estimate that across all our sanctuaries, about $6 billion is generated each year in local coastal and ocean-dependent activities, such as diving, tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, and research. This demonstrates that sanctuaries are an essential component of our coastal economies, as well as the long-term conservation of our oceans.
Throughout the 1990s, several new national marine sanctuaries were designated either by NOAA or by Congress; so many, in fact, that NOAA decided to put a hold on the consideration of new sanctuaries so that we could focus on best managing the growing sanctuary system within our limited resources.