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Restoration and Reef Resilience: Your Input is Needed

Coral Restoration photo for survey

Photo © Kemit-Amon Lewis

We are happy to announce that new coral restoration information and resources are coming soon to the Reef Resilience online toolkit and we’d like to hear from you! Please take this short survey and let us know what you need to be more effective in your work on coral restoration.

Because your response is important to us, we are giving away 5 copies of the new National Geographic book ‘Pristine Seas: Journey to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places’ by Enric Sala to participants. You will be prompted to enter into this raffle at the end of the survey.

Thank you for participating in our survey! Take the survey.

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WE ARE 10!!!

Can you believe it? A decade ago, TNC – with the support of partners AROUND THE WORLD– launched the Reef Resilience Network, creating what would grow to become a global network of resource managers sharing ideas, experiences, and expertise to effectively manage our coral reefs and reef fisheries. Curious to see what ten years can do for managers and reefs? Take a look below and here!

RRonline

Special thanks to NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and International Union for Conservation of Nature, whose committed support to the Network has helped managers innovate, accelerate, and leverage solutions for improved global coral reef health and restoration of reef fisheries.

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Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Managing exposure of corals to oxybenzone, a common ingredient found in sunscreen lotions, is critical for managing for coral reef resilience. A new study found that coral planulae exposed to oxybenzone became deformed and sessile, and had an increased rate of bleaching which increased with increasing concentrations, affecting coral recruitment and juvenile survival. Because oxybenzone is a photoxicant, high light levels at or near the surface of the water where planulae of broadcasting species spend 2-4 days before settling may place them at higher risk than was seen in this laboratory study. Water samples were also collected in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii to determine oxybenzone concentrations occurring around swimming beaches. In this study, cell death was seen in seven Indo-Pacific and Caribbean coral species at concentrations similar to the water samples taken. Caribbean species sensitivity to oxybenzone was similar to the model of coral tolerance to other stressors (Gates and Edmunds 1999)—boulder corals and other slow growing species have a higher level of tolerance to stressors. For management, the data from this study can help predict changes to coral reef community structure in places with significant oxybenzone exposure and can be integrated into reef resilience management plans.

Author: Downs, C. A., E. Kramarsky-Winter, R. Segal, J. Fauth, S. Knutson, O. Bronstein, F.R. Ciner, R. Jeger, Y. Lichtenfeld, C.M. Woodley, P. Pennington, K. Cadenas, A. Kushmaro, and Y. Loya
Year: 2015
View Full Article

Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. doi: 10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7

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It’s not loo late for coral reefs

In a new article published today in the world’s leading academic journal, Science, Mark Spalding, Senior Marine Scientist for The Nature Conservancy looks at the broad issues surrounding the current situation of coral reefs and highlights points of hope.

“There is growing concern around coral reefs,” said Spalding. “For decades they have had to survive a growing array of human threats and now climate change has added to this. It’s the new threat on the block and it’s a deep worry, but it is too early to proclaim the end of reefs.”

Many corals are showing some degree of adaptive capacity to both warming and to acidification, more than some scientists were expecting. Spalding notes that such adaptive capacity, alongside the natural resilience of reefs can enable them to recover even from quite severe perturbations. For example, most reefs in the British Indian Ocean Territory and the Seychelles, which lost virturally all their coral in 1998 due to warm-water induced coral “bleaching”, showed good recovery within a decade. Read more.

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Malaysia & Thailand – Disturbance Response


Temporary Reef Site Closures During Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress

Location
Malaysia (Kedah, Terengganu and Pahang states); Thailand (Trang, Satun, Chumphon, Krabi and Phnag Nga provinces)

The Challenge
From March to September 2010, a thermal stress event occurred across Southeast Asia. Satellite-based monitoring tools produced by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch (CRW) program were used to describe thermal stress patterns in the region. These tools were used to help local agencies respond to the potential bleaching. Predicted coral bleaching was confirmed through in situ observations undertaken by the Department of Marine Park Malaysia (DMPM), Thailand’s National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP), university researchers, industry partners, and other stakeholders.

Undertaking practical, timely management actions before and/or during thermal stress events can reduce negative impacts on corals and reef ecosystems. Such actions include restricting potentially stressful activities on the reef such as construction, water sports (e.g., diving, snorkeling), and fishing, before, during, and after a bleaching event. In addition, enhancing overall reef health and condition (resilience) can help corals to resist environmental stress and recover more easily.

Discussing initiatives to support ecological and social resilience, Gili Islands, Indonesia. © James Tan Chun Hong

Discussing initiatives to support ecological and social resilience, Gili Islands, Indonesia. © James Tan Chun Hong

Actions Taken
In Malaysia, initial reports by government, university, NGO, and industry stakeholders confirmed bleaching had affected 60-90% of corals in the region. In response, DMPM closed 12 out of 83 dive sites within Malaysian national marine parks to divers and snorkelers from July 2010 until the close of the tourist season in October 2010. The onset of the monsoon season extended this closure until early 2011. DMPM undertook consultation with key reef stakeholders and press releases by the Director General of DMPM publicly communicated the closures and the reasons for them. These were supported by comments from NGOs (including ReefCheck Malaysia), along with calls for research and action to enhance understanding of and protection for reefs.

In Thailand, thermal stress was greater than in Malaysia, and resulted in over 80% of corals impacted at all sites. In response, and following a recommendation from the Department of Marine & Coastal Resources (DMCR), the DNP closed dive sites in national parks in December 2010. Eighteen popular dive sites within seven of 26 national parks on both sides of the peninsula were closed for 6-18 months to allow coral damaged by bleaching to recover. During this period, public awareness of marine conservation was promoted through local media. In the Gulf of Thailand, bleaching impacts were lower and bleached coral became a tourist attraction which provided additional opportunities for outreach and education. In addition to the site closures, authorities monitored coral status during the closures, increased enforcement, and also increased anchoring sites at locations unaffected by the closures to reduce boats damage to reefs.

How successful has it been?
In Malaysia, DMPM surveys of affected reefs in October 2010 and in the early months of 2011 found that corals had mostly recovered, with only a loss of ~5% of corals. Based on these results, the temporary closures were officially lifted in June 2011 for the usual beginning of the tourist season.

In Thailand, averaged across all reef sites, less than 5% of the damaged coral had recovered by 2011. Site closures were therefore extended to 18 months at some sites. The amount of young coral found suggested that while reef recovery through recruitment was occurring in some areas; it was dependent on the health of upstream reefs which provided the necessary coral larvae for recovery. These results demonstrated the importance of considering the ecological connectivity between healthy and damaged sites to better understand recovery prospects and patterns.

Tourism industry responses to the closures in Thailand were varied. The Phang Nga Tourism Association sought to cooperate with government efforts to protect marine life and to encourage collaboration between government and private tourism operators. Phuket and Andaman diving communities expressed concern that the closures would lead to overcrowding at other popular sites outside marine parks, such as around Phuket. In response, efforts were made in some locations to cap tourist numbers and/or to limit visits to during high tides (to reduce accidental contact with corals). There was also concern regarding follow-on impacts of the closures on the tourism industry, such as reduced accommodation bookings. General consultation with industry partners and stakeholders continued through DMCR and DNP, including through engagement programs such as Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Area Networks (SAMPAN) and in partnership with research organizations (e.g., the Phuket Marine Biological Centre).

Small group reporting on potential management actions during bleaching events. © James Tan Chun Hong

Stakeholder learning workshops were held in multiple locations in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia during 2013 to identify gaps in scientific knowledge and build capacity for supporting social and ecological resilience to future bleaching events. Assessing the effectiveness of closures during coral bleaching events on promoting coral survival and reef recovery was identified as a key future research task through this study. Workshop participants acknowledged that selective site closure or reduction in usage could be beneficial for reefs, but also recommended implementing restrictions other than site closures during bleaching events. Other key responsive actions identified through the workshops included: (i) improving engagement, coordination, and communication between stakeholders about coral reef management issues; (ii) implementing education and outreach programs to raise awareness, particularly for snorkelers and divers; (iii) enforcing existing rules, particularly those related to marine parks and fisheries; (iv) improving communication and coordination during bleaching events by developing and/or socializing Bleaching Response Plans and forming Response Committees; and (v) developing and implementing codes of conduct and certification programs for divers, dive operators, snorkel guides, and tourism businesses.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Establish and maintain effective stakeholder networks. Having these in place prior to disturbance events can establish trust relationships if/when responsive actions become necessary. In the event of mass coral bleaching, coherent and guided actions are needed (e.g., through the Malaysian National Coral Bleaching Action Committee that was established with various stakeholders following the 2010 event or through Thailand’s National Coral Reef Management Plan).
  • Use predicted bleaching conditions from NOAA Coral Reef Watch tools to make proactive management decisions and support communication efforts.
  • Prevent coral damage from snorkeling in the shallow reefs before, during and after disturbance events. This may involve establishing alternative sites or only visiting reefs during high tides.
  • If temporary closure of diving sites is deemed necessary, clear and early communication of actions with industry stakeholders is important. Ongoing communication through any period of closure is also important; this includes informing the public and tourists concerning status of coral bleaching.
  • Reduce sediment load onto coral reefs from coastal development, wastewater discharge from boats and land-based activities.
  • Training and capacity building (e.g., in appropriate coral bleaching survey techniques) is important for local marine park rangers and other specialist monitoring groups.
  • Together with network partners, conduct research and monitoring for coral conservation and restoration. For example, this can inform the success of temporary closures on coral health.
  • Develop effective mechanisms for response project implementation under national coral reef management plans. This may include providing sufficient capacity and funding needs to relevant government agencies for monitoring and enforcement.
  • Support multi-national reef conservation efforts to enhance recovery of disturbed reefs.

Funding Summary
Rapid response assessment (funding sources and partners):
CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship
NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
Australian Government’s Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (now the Department of the Environment)
The Nature Conservancy
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
Prince of Songkla University
Macquarie University

Stakeholder learning workshops (funding sources and partners):
Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research
CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship
NOAA Coral Reef Watch Program
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
Reef Check Malaysia
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
Department of Marine Park Malaysia
Prince of Songkla University
WWF-Thailand
Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Thailand
J.W. Marriott, Phuket, Thailand
Reef Check Indonesia
Coral Reef Alliance
Conservation International Indonesia
Wildlife Conservation Society – Indonesia

Lead Organizations
Department of Marine Park Malaysia
National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Thailand
Department of Marine & Coastal Resources, Thailand
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu

Partners
NOAA Coral Reef Watch
Reef Check Malaysia

Resources
Top dive spots closed due to coral bleaching

Coral bleaching in Thailand: 18 dive sites closed to save coral reefs

Dive sites to remain closed so bleached coral may recover

Building Capacity for Socio-ecological Resilience to Coral Bleaching Events & Climate Change in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand

First observed severe mass bleaching in Malaysia, Greater Coral Triangle

South-East Asia Coral Bleaching Rapid Response (pdf)

Impacts of coral bleaching, recovery and management in Thailand (pdf)

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Minimizing the Short-Term Impacts of Marine Reserves on Fisheries While Meeting Long-Term Goals for Recovery

No-take marine reserves are often proposed as management tools to recover small-scale fisheries, which, if enforced, can improve mid to long-term harvests and profits. However, the short-term losses may prevent fishers from supporting and implementing no-take reserves, resulting in a loss of recovery of fisheries. Trade-offs between short-term loss in profits and long-term benefits to small-scale fisheries were quantified, using a multispecies model of coral reef fisheries for one case study. Impacts of reserves at different time scales depend on the social and management context, but the key to gaining support for marine reserves is to quantify the trade-offs at different time scales for stakeholders and policy makers. Policies for implementing marine reserves that are flexible can offer options with less short-term losses for fisheries that can be more appealing to fishermen, while still reaping the long-term recovery benefits.

Author: Brown, C.J., S. Abdullah, and P.J. Mumby
Year: 2014
View Full Article

Conservation Letters 8(3): 180-189

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We’re excited to announce a new coral reef fisheries module!

Coral reef fishery managers have spoken up, and we heard you! TNC’s Global Fisheries and Reef Resilience have teamed up to bring you the latest coral reef fisheries science and management strategies.

The new Coral Reef Fisheries Module was created through generous funding from partners including WildAid and covers key topics including coral reef fisheries stock assessment methods, tools for managing fisheries, and surveillance and enforcement systems.

You will also find coral reef fisheries case studies describing management challenges and actions taken and helpful summaries on the importance of reef fisheries and what you can do to boost their resilience. Now DIVE IN to explore!

If you are interested in adding a section to the new reef fisheries module, or have comments, questions, or suggestions about Reef Resilience, visit www.reefresilience.org or reach out to the Reef Resilience Team.

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Palau – Fisheries Management


Reforming Palau’s Data-Poor Reef Fisheries through Community-Based Approaches

Location
Babeldaob, Ollei, Palau

Aerial view of Palau known as "70 Mile Islands" as well as the rich coral reef surrounding them. © Ian Shive

Aerial view of Palau known as “70 Mile Islands” as well as the rich coral reef surrounding them. © Ian Shive

The Challenge
Palau is composed of 12 inhabited islands and over 700 islets stretching over 700 km. It has numerous island and reef types, including volcanic and raised limestone islands, atolls, barrier reefs around much of the main island cluster, and fringing reefs in the south. Palau has the most diverse coral fauna of Micronesia, including approximately 400 species of hard corals, 300 species of soft corals, 1400 species of reef fishes, thousands of invertebrates, and Micronesia’s only saltwater crocodiles.

For centuries, Palau’s waters have provided sustenance. The Northern Reefs – the second largest fishing ground in Palau – are depended on by fishers and the surrounding communities for food, livelihoods, and income. In fact, Palauans have some of the highest per capita fish consumption compared to other regions in the Pacific. But modern fishing practices and a growing tourism industry have increased fishing pressures here. Even though Palau has a deeply-rooted conservation ethic and a large network of marine protected areas (MPAs), the increased fishing pressure has not been able to keep stocks sustainable, and there is a growing awareness that protected areas alone are insufficient to maintain viable fish populations.

To manage a fishery sustainably, it is necessary to have information about the stock: how many fish, what species, how quickly they grow and reproduce, and how many can be harvested without putting the fishery in danger of collapse. But traditional stock assessments are so expensive and resource intensive, requiring years of data collected by trained experts at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more per stock, that they are prohibitive for most fisheries, especially those in developing countries. And without the stock data to inform management decisions, data-poor fisheries like those in Palau’s Northern Reefs can easily become overfished, threatening the livelihoods and food security of the people who depend on them.

Mature gonads of an emperor fish caught for the Palau Stock Assessment Project. © Andrew Smith

Mature gonads of an emperor fish caught for the Palau Stock Assessment Project. © Andrew Smith

Actions Taken
In 2012, The Nature Conservancy established a pilot project in the Northern Reefs to assess stock status using data-limited stock assessment techniques, to improve fisheries management through a community-driven approach, and to rebuild fish stocks. From August 2012 to June 2013, trained fishers helped scientists collect data on species, size, and maturity for about 2,800 fish caught in Palau’s waters. They measured their own catch as well as fish for sale at the country’s only fish market, Happy Fish Market. Palauans like to buy their fish whole, so gutting market fish to assess gonads was not initially a welcome idea with the fish sellers at the Happy Fish Market, but a $300 ‘rental’ fee negotiated with the local women sellers gave researchers access to 600 pounds of fish for data collection – a fantastic resource that also provided an opportunity to discuss Palau’s overfishing problem with a broad community of fish sellers and buyers.

The data-poor technique relies on sample size ratios to assess how much spawning is happening and how much is enough. At its most basic, the technique uses two pieces of local data, size of fish and maturity of fish, combined with existing biological information, to produce a ratio of spawning potential. As a general rule, if fish can achieve at least 20% of their natural lifetime spawning, a fishery can sustain itself. Less than that and the fishery will decline. While 20% is the minimum number, scientists hope to see fisheries achieving 30–50% of natural spawning. The findings in Palau were worrisome, showing that 60% of fish catch were juvenile, achieving just 3–5% of their lifetime spawning. The consequences of this were clear: if most fish are not reproducing, in a short time there will be no more fish.

Fishery managers and scientists have been presenting the findings of the pilot project at community meetings across Palau. With the new knowledge provided by the data, Palau’s northern fishing communities have moved quickly toward developing management strategies that could restore fish populations.

Measuring fish length as part of the Palau Stock Assessment Project. © Andrew Smith

Measuring fish length as part of the Palau Stock Assessment Project. © Andrew Smith

How Successful Has It Been?
Everyone involved in the project, from scientists to fishers, are optimistic that Palau’s reefs will soon be on the road to recovery, but management and policy reforms are still needed. Palau is moving in this direction by developing policies that shift fishing access from modern open access to rights-based systems, such as reef assignment. Fishery managers are working to integrate fishery management tools, such as minimum and maximum size limits, protection of key spawning aggregations, and improvements in the design of the nationwide network of protected areas into their fishery management strategy. Stakeholders are striving to establish nationally mandated fishery data collection at key market locations as well as a long-term fishery monitoring program using improved underwater fish monitoring methods that will provide the data needed for data-limited stock assessments.

Finally, the success of any natural resource management depends greatly on enforcement and compliance. In March 2014, The Nature Conservancy and WildAid partnered to design an enforcement system for Palau’s Northern Reefs that is practical, affordable, and feasible to implement over a four-year time frame. The system provides strategic sensor coverage to key fishing areas, MPAs, and access ways. The strategy combines high-power video cameras and a robust VHF marine radio network with the strategic placement of buoys, patrol vessels, and a floating barge to provide a constant presence and fast response capacity throughout both Marine Managed Areas (MMAs).

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Solving the overfishing problem is never easy – there are trade-offs and sacrifices.
  • Management options range from imposing size limits to closing areas for a certain length of time until fish populations can rebound. But these choices, which tend to be contentious and complicated to work out, are much easier to adopt and apply when fishers are part of assessing the problem and are engaged in discussing the solutions.
  • Cooperative effort between scientists and fishers has been key to the success of the project. Palauan fishers’ extensive knowledge and experience helped inform the scientific process and increase community awareness of the problem.

Funding Summary
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Palau Protected Areas Network Fund

Lead Organizations
The Nature Conservancy
WildAid

Partners
Palau International Coral Reef Center
Palau Conservation Society
Bureau of Marine Resources
Palau Protected Areas Network Office
Murdoch University

Resources
Video: A Breakthrough for Data-Poor Fisheries Starts in Palau

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