Cambridge Conservation Seminars: marine talks

identifier2The series is intended to provide a research and social focus for university lecturers, research staff and postgraduate students interested in conservation research. The primary aim is to inform university colleagues of what research is going on in different departments and to bring in high quality outside speakers. Equally, members of conservation organisations are welcome to attend. A key element is the opportunity after each talk to socialise with colleagues from different departments and organisations.

Cambridge Conservation Seminars, the last two of this academic year.
Large Seminar Room, David Attenborough Building, New Museums Site 

Hook, Line and Extinction: Can science save albatrosses from fisheries?
Richard Philips, British Antarctic Survey
Weds 2nd March 17-18
Impact Evaluation of Protected Areas: what do we know about impacts, moderators and mechanisms?
Paul Ferraro, Humanitas Visiting Professor in Sustainability Studies
Wednesday 9th March 17-18.30

Renegade Fishing Trawler Considered the World’s Worst Poacher Stalked for 10,000 Miles by Sea Shepherd Ships

The Thunder, shadowed by the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon in the Sea Shepherd, in February 2015.

As the Thunder, a trawler considered the world’s most notorious fish poacher, began sliding under the sea a couple of hundred miles south of Nigeria, three men scrambled aboard to gather evidence of its crimes. In bumpy footage from their helmet cameras, they can be seen grabbing everything they can over the next 37 minutes — the captain’s logbooks, a laptop computer, charts and a slippery 200-pound fish. The video shows the fishing hold about a quarter full with catch and the Thunder’s engine room almost submerged in murky water. “There is no way to stop it sinking,” the men radioed back to the Bob Barker, which was waiting nearby. Soon after they climbed off, the Thunder vanished below.

It was an unexpected end to an extraordinary chase. For 110 days and more than 10,000 nautical miles across two seas and three oceans, the Bob Barker and a companion ship, both operated by the environmental organization Sea Shepherd, had trailed the trawler, with the three captains close enough to watch one another’s cigarette breaks and on-deck workout routines. In an epic game of cat-and-mouse, the ships maneuvered through an obstacle course of giant ice floes, endured a cyclone-like storm, faced clashes between opposing crews and nearly collided in what became the longest pursuit of an illegal fishing vessel in history.

The Thunder in the moments before it was swallowed by the ocean. Sea Shepherd crew members found signs that it had been intentionally scuttled.

Route from Left to Right

Further Information: NY Times Story 

Five Arctic countries, with Inuit support, sign moratorium on commercial fishing for the Central Arctic Ocean pending sustainable management regime that incorporates Inuit traditional knowledge

This map shows the Arctic Ocean's so-called

This map shows the 2.8-million-square-kilometre area in the central Arctic Ocean that lies beyond the exclusive economic zone of the five Arctic coastal states: Canada, Russia, Norway, the U.S. (Alaska) and Denmark (Greenland.)

By Magdalena A K Muir, Climate Editor

The five Arctic coastal countries (Canada, Russia, United States, Denmark and Norway) have  signed a moratorium on commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean.  Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway reached an interim agreement in February 2014 to work toward protecting Arctic waters beyond the 200-kilometre territorial limit of their respective shores, which is an area of ocean the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

The agreement calls for a moratorium on commercial fishing in international waters that lie beyond the five Arctic coastal states 200-mile (320-kilometre) exclusive economic zones pending further research on fish stocks and the development of a sustainable management regime.  Inuit traditional knowledge will be used in assessing the fish stocks and developing the management regime. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference was represented in discussions that led to this moratorium, providing Inuit perspectives to the five Arctic countries

The agreement will block ships from the five coastal states from dropping their nets in the Central Arctic Ocean until the completion of a full scientific assessment of the fish stocks and how they can be sustainably harvested. While the Arctic countries cannot stop boats from China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union from entering the region, it is hoped that this agreement can set an example, pending a binding international agreement.

Inuit peoples from Canada, Greenland and US have been uniformly supportive:

  • Okalik Eegeesiak, Inuit Circumpolar Conference Chair stated, ICC supports such a precautionary approach and we encourage other nations to follow this lead and sign the agreement.
  • The reduction in multi year ice and longer ice free time in high Arctic waters as a result of climate change have mad this region more accessible to foreign ships and potential environmental damage. We are not saying we oppose commercial fishing but rather we must take a precautionary approach, listen to the Inuit and do the appropriate studies, stated Jimmy Stotts, President, ICC (Alaska).
  •  Healthy and abundant fish stocks are essential to the cultural, nutritional and economic well-being and way of life of the Inuit villages and peoples who live along river drainages and coasts; and the Inuit welcome this announcement and have a great deal of traditional knowledge about these stocks to share, stated Duane Smith, President of ICC (Canada).

Officials from Canada, the U.S., Denmark, representing Greenland, Norway and Russia met in Nuuk, Greenland, Feb. 24-26 to discuss the fishing implications of an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean. Delegates, pictured above, agreed that more scientific research needs to be conducted on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem but felt the need for a management structure to govern this high seas zone was not yet necessary. Scientists predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer within 30 years. (PHOTO COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS)

Officials from Canada, the U.S., Denmark, representing Greenland, Norway and Russia met in Nuuk, Greenland, Feb. 24-26, 2015 to discuss the fishing implications of an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean. Delegates, pictured above, agreed that more scientific research needs to be conducted on the Arctic Ocean ecosystem.

Further information

ICC Applauds Adoption of Central Arctic Ocean Fishing Moratorium  or pdf here Central Arctic Ocean Moratorium

Click to access cao_fisheries_press_release_july_17_2015_ver_2.pdf

Fishing boats become citizen science data platforms in South Devon, UK, using Secchi disk to measure phytoplankton

Research assistant Kevin Arscott taking a Secchi disk reading (Image: Richard Kirby)

Fishermen in South Devon, UK, have turned their boats into “massive data platforms” for a citizen science study

They have become the first commercial fishers to gather data for the Secchi Disk Study, which is gathering data on the state of the oceans’ phytoplankton. To date, there is little scientific information on the health of the tiny marine plants that form the basis of global food chains. The data will also help fishermen manage stocks, a skipper told BBC News. We’ve been working with scientists on-and-off for several years, doing studies on crabs and lobsters, migration patterns and it’s been an easy progression to work with the Secchi disk to measure the plankton because nothing has really been done on the plankton,” explained Alan Steer, a third generation fisherman and skipper of the Superb-Us. “Understanding the plankton has a real relevance to what we do because it is the food source for everything in the sea.”

Mr Steer and other members of the South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen association have been collecting data for the Secchi Disk Study, a citizen science project. Launched in 2014, the project allows sailors and fishermen to download an app to their smartphone that allows them to upload readings taken from their Secchi Disk. The white disk measures 30cm (1ft) in diameter and is lowered into the water on the end of a tape measure. When it is no longer visible from the surface, the reading – known as the Secchi depth – is recorded. “It’s very important to the fishing industry that we know the abundance of phytoplankton in the water because it determined the productivity right the way up through the whole food chain,” explained Richard Kirby, founder and lead scientist of the Secchi Disk Project. “They determine the amount of fish in the sea, the amount of crabs or lobsters on the seabed, even up to the number of polar bears on the ice.”

Superb-Us fishing boat (image: Richard Kirby)
Fishing boats, such as the Superb-Us, are regularly at sea – often in the same locations – and can harvest valuable data for scientists

Further information

BBC News article

WWF Report on Saving the Oceans, the World’s Seventh Largest Economy

Science tells us that we are pushing natural limits on climate, biodiversity, nutrient cycles, freshwater and ocean health. While research has never been clearer on defining planetary boundaries, society has never positioned itself so closely to the edge. There is growing recognition of the state of our natural systems is leading to greater integration of economic, social and environmental principles—as evident in the work to develop a set of global Sustainable Development Goals.
More businesses are implementing responsible practices and there is a lively debate around the green and circular economy. The recent report,Reviving the Ocean Economy, conservatively estimates the ocean’s annual economic output to be US$2.5trn. Compared to national GDPs, this makes the ocean the world’s seventh largest economy. A separate WWF analysis makes the case for investing in marine protected areas by showing that each dollar spent returns at least three.
The steps to be taken are complex but clear. Wasteful and destructive fishing methods must be stopped, overcapacity cut and sustainable management of marine resources incentivised. Marine protected areas and support for sustainable aquaculture are also important. To protect the ocean, pollution and climate change for warming and acidification must be addressed.
Further information

  • Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action – 2015

    PDF 46.16 MB

  • Reviving the Ocean Economy Summary

    PDF 14.08 MB

International Management of Fish Stocks: US Management of Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine cod stocks

Since the 1600s, cod have been central to the US Northeast’s development. The fish were once so abundant that you could almost walk across the ocean on their backs. Since then, Atlantic cod populations have plummeted, and fisheries managers have tried for years to rebuild the population. Attempts to make up for decades of mismanagement and overfishing have ranged from changes in quotas to closures of the fishery. But measures like these take time, and the stock has not yet recovered. In the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, recent estimates place cod at only 3 and 7 percent of their target levels, respectively. And even those targets are much lower than the populations’ former abundance.
Two new proposals by the New England Fishery Management Council, a government body responsible for the fisheries in the region, threaten to undo years of work to protect the Atlantic cod and other New England species,and may deliver a knockout blow to  Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine cod stocks may be the knockout blow. First, the council is preparing to drastically reduce the amount of protected habitat in New England waters, including by nearly 80 percent around the Georges Bank. The plan would allow for expansion of bottom trawling and dredging, two of the most destructive fishing methods, into protected habitats. In addition to reducing habitat protections, the council wants to suspend a program that places observers on fishing vessels to monitor compliance. But without monitoring the numbers of fish being taken out of the ocean, there is no way to accurately determine the health of their populations or ensure that quotas are respected.
The fishing industry had agreed to eventually pay for the monitoring. But as federal funds near expiration, later this year, the industry is trying to renege on its responsibilities by pressuring the council to eliminate the program. When the bank balance is low, it isn’t time to fire the accountant. Pressure for even more change looms. Atlantic scallops are one of the most lucrative parts of the American fishing industry, responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of shellfish every year. Scallop companies have a well-funded industry group, paradoxically named the Fisheries Survival Fund, which spends more than a quarter of a million dollars a year advocating for their interests, often at the expense of other fisheries. Dissatisfied with its current profits, the scallop industry is pushing the council to reopen portions of the most important New England cod habitat on Georges Bank, where the bottom-scraping scallop dredges would destroy any hope of rebuilding cod populations.
Similar pressure is coming from the cod, haddock and flounder industries, which are in a perpetual state of crisis as fishermen work with small catch limits that were set by managers trying to rebuild the populations. In the last two years, the New England fishery was declared a disaster and received more than $30 million in relief funding from the federal government to help with the losses. To stay viable for another year, the industries claim that they need additional access to closed areas.
But as they try to stay in business in the short term, they are risking the long-term existence of their fishery. Closures, however painful, are vital for their survival. Weakening protections will undoubtedly continue the collapse of groundfish stocks, including Atlantic cod.

The Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service have the final say about changes in protections and observer coverage. In particular, the latter has repeatedly stressed that any changes to habitat conservation must show that they will improve rather than degrade habitat conservation. This is a high bar that the current council proposal will have a hard time overcoming.

 The Ocean Prosperity Roadmap, a recent set of studies by a consortium of academic and nonprofit researchers, demonstrated that responsible management practices, including habitat protection, quotas and catch monitoring would have not only lasting environmental benefits but also clear economic advantages. The authors of the study analyzed thousands of fisheries around the world and found that the benefits of sustainable policies outweighed the costs by an average ratio of 10 to 1. The temporary price of protecting habitats and monitoring and enforcing quotas should be seen as an investment in the future. It may take years to begin to fully appreciate the returns on these investments, but anything less would be irresponsible, and ultimately far more painful to the people who depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods.
Further information:.

A Knockout Blow for American Fish Stocks

Europe’s seas: productive, but not healthy or clean

Source: EEA

The European Union’s Blue Growth agenda aims to harness further the potential of Europe’s oceans, seas and coasts for jobs, economic value and sustainability. A new report published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that, despite some improvements, the way we use our seas remains unsustainable and threatens not only the productivity of our seas, but also our wellbeing. Human activities and climate change are increasingly putting a number of pressures on Europe’s seas, the cumulative effects of which threaten the functioning and resilience of marine ecosystems.

In line with the development of the European Union’s (EU) Blue Growth objectives, which aspire to greater and sustainable use of the seas’ potential, the EEA’s new ‘State of Europe’s seas’ report examines whether the EU is meeting its policy goals for the quality of the marine environment.

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