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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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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
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Conservation Letters 8(3): 180-189

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U.S. Virgin Islands – Fisheries Management


Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative – A Market-Driven Approach to a Sustainable Seafood Industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Location
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

The Challenge
Together, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, are one of the top three stressors to coral reefs throughout the Caribbean, and have contributed to dramatic declines in coral abundance, distribution and health.  The overharvest of “pot fish” (a term that locally refers to a number of fish species – many of which are herbivorous coral reef inhabitants), and the die-off of the herbivorous long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) have caused coral reefs in the Caribbean to shift to algal-dominated reefs. The introduction of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish, a fish without natural predators in the region, has also increased stress on reefs in the region. These fish may over-populate local reefs, removing important coral reef fish species, and further compromise the ability for coral reefs to remain resilient.

The Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s mission is to establish and support a sustainable seafood industry in the US Virgin Islands. © TNC

Actions Taken
In an effort to reduce the stress on coral reefs from overfishing and harmful fishing practices, the Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative was developed with the goal to encourage alternatives for consumption to important coral reef fishes.

The Initiative is comprised of the following four main components:

  1. Development and maintenance of a list of sustainably harvested food fishes and invertebrates of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).
  2. Education and engagement of commercial fishers on fisheries regulations and the importance of healthy reefs to fisheries.
  3. The Reef Responsible Restaurant Certification to empower restaurants to support local commercial fishers through purchasing and serving sustainably harvested seafood.
  4. The Reef Responsible Awareness Campaign to help consumers make informed decisions about the seafood purchase.

Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don’t Eat Seafood List for the U.S. Virgin Islands
The first step for the Initiative was to form an advisory group to guide and develop activities. Fisheries staff from territorial (USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife—DPNR) and federal regulatory agencies (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA) in the region, were recruited as advisory group members. Representatives from local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the University of the Virgin Islands working on fisheries issues were also selected. The group then worked to compile and agree on a list of sustainably harvested food fishes and invertebrates for the US Virgin Islands. The resulting Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don’t Eat Seafood List for the US Virgin Islands was developed based on current USVI local and US federal fisheries regulations. The list provides information on commercially important fish and invertebrate species caught in local U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. federal waters and uses the following three easy to understand categories to inform decisions about the seafood purchase:

After the list was developed work began to engage and educate fishers, restaurant owners and consumers on sustainable seafood options.

Education and Engagement of Commercial Fishers
In partnership with local and federal fisheries management agencies DPNR and NOAA fisheries, reef responsible training information has been integrated in to the annual process for fishing and vessel registration. Trainings are given as part of the registration process each year and are designed to increase participants’ understanding of fisheries regulations including seasonal closures, gear restrictions, and size limits. Trainings also deliver information on how catching seafood according to regulations can support the future of the USVI commercial fishery. Fishers are also connected to local restaurants that express interest in purchasing locally harvested sustainable seafood. As a result of this partnership a new program activity is underway to work with the Fisheries Advisory Council and the local and federal fisheries agencies to develop criteria for certification of sustainable seafood fishers.

Sustainable Seafood 11 Restaurant Owners and Caterers Attend Workshop

Restaurant, owners, chefs and wait staff undergo comprehensive training to become Reef Responsible Certified. © TNC

Reef Responsible Restaurant Certification
The Reef Responsible Restaurant Certification was developed to empower restaurants to support local commercial fishers through purchasing and serving sustainably harvested seafood. To become a certified Reef Responsible Certified Restaurant, owners, chefs and wait staff undergo comprehensive training. The trainings are designed to increase participant understanding of how purchasing, serving and consuming locally harvested seafood can positively influence the future of the USVI commercial fishery and coral reefs. Participants are provided with outreach materials with information based on the best available science and are briefed on the negative impacts from the overharvest of herbivorous fishes, which play an important role to remove algae from reefs and provide space for corals to thrive. They also learn about seasonal closures and receive calendars with closure and catch size information. Participants are also introduced to the Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don’t Eat seafood list. Additionally, cooking demonstrations are provided on how to prepare “good choice” fish like invasive lionfish.

Sustainable Seafood Chef Mike preparing

Chef Mike from Savant prepares a Reef Responsible dish. © TNC

The Reef Responsible Restaurant Certification program is voluntary and after the training participating restaurants must commit: 1) to support local fishers, 2) to purchase and serve fish that adhere to size limits and seasonal closure rules, 3) not to purchase or serve fish on the “Don’t Eat” portion of the Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don’t Eat Seafood List for the USVI and 4) to spread awareness of Reef Responsible information through restaurant staff and patrons. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) staff and partners visit the restaurants throughout the year to check menus and specials making sure that the fish being served meets the Reef Responsible guidance listed above.

Restaurants are required to have participation at the training of staff members responsible for purchasing seafood. They are also encouraged to have wait staff attend trainings so they better understand and communicate Reef Responsible seafood options with restaurant patrons. If wait staff of an interested restaurant cannot attend the training it is requested that certified restaurant owners provide training information to staff.

Hostess Sarah with the Reef Responsible plaque at restaurant Savant, a certified Reef Responsible Restaurant on St. Croix. © TNC

Once the training is completed, the restaurant is certified as a Reef Responsible Restaurant, receives a plaque to showcase in the restaurant and is celebrated for their commitment through free advertising supported by TNC program staff. Newspaper, radio, special event and social media coverage is used to promote certified restaurants. Connections have also been made with the department of tourism to list certified restaurants on their website. The program has formed a successful partnership with the Taste of St. Croix, a premier food and wine event on the island. Reef Responsible Certified Restaurants are acknowledged at the event to further encourage community patronage. At the event the program also has a booth to provide information for interested restaurants on the program and holds lionfish cooking demonstrations. Interested restaurants are then invited to participate in Reef Responsible training workshops. See an example of the workshop invitation here.

The following outreach materials were developed to support the Training and Certification:

  • Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don’t Eat Seafood List for the USVI
  • Seasonal Closures Calendar
  • USVI Fish Fact Cards
  • Reef Responsible Certified Restaurant Plaque

Reef Responsible Awareness Campaign
The Reef Responsible Awareness Campaign was designed to create community support for the Reef Responsible certified restaurants and the overall awareness objectives of the Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative. The campaign targets seafood consumers through newspaper articles, advertisements, radio talk shows, social media and events (such as A Taste of St. Croix and St. Croix ReefJam) to share information about the importance of healthy reefs and how purchasing locally, sustainably sourced seafood can help support reef recovery. Through the campaign, we also encourage people to ask questions and learn more about the seafood that they purchase and consume, whether it’s from a restaurant or directly from a commercial fisher.

How Successful has it been?
By engaging multiple stakeholders, promoting reef responsible seafood alternatives (i.e. lionfish), and highlighting the benefits to people and reefs of sustainable seafood, this Initiative has the promise to reduce fishery-related stressors, helping to build the resiliency of USVI coral reefs. The Reef Responsible Restaurant Certification was launched in April 2014 at A Taste of St. Croix where nine initial certified restaurants were announced. Since then an additional 5 restaurants have been certified as Reef Responsible restaurants making the new total 14. One of the originally certified restaurants closed in 2015. To date all certified restaurants have successfully followed through on their Reef Responsible commitments. The 14 certified restaurants are celebrated for their commitment to a sustainable seafood industry for the U.S. Virgin Islands. They have also applauded TNC and the Sustainable Seafood Initiative partners for leading the development and implementation of this program, and are excited to be better connected to local fishers. Training participants have also been helping to encourage other restaurant owners and staff to become certified. The USVI Department of Tourism has expressed interest in the expansion of the Reef Responsible Restaurant Certification to St. Thomas and St. John as well as interests to replicate this program in the British Virgin Islands and in the Bahamas. Based on information gathered in follow up visits to certified restaurants, to date all have successfully followed through on their Reef Responsible commitments.

Current Certified Restaurants include: Savant, Dashi, Café Christine, Twin City Coffee House, The Mermaid, Empress Fresh Foods, eat @ cane bay, Rhythms at Rainbow, Above the Cliff, Ital In Paradise, Zion Modern Kitchen, Shoreline at Chenay, La Riene Chicken Shack, and Kendrick’s at Buccaneer.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
The Reef Responsible Sustainable Seafood Initiative has received support from a diverse group of stakeholders including, fishers, private sector restaurants, fisheries managers and NGOs. This is likely a result of the transparent and inclusive processes for development and implementation of Initiative activities.

Important lessons include:

  • When developing seafood lists, seasonal closure calendars, and other outreach materials it is critical to use the best available science and current local fisheries rules and regulations.
  • Develop professional outreach materials. Restaurants are profit- and consumer- driven and will appreciate polished materials. If possible solicit communications expertise for the development of materials and media products. This will help ensure they join the program.
  • Support a group of restaurants certifying at the same time. This creates a peer group of restaurants and helps increase excitement and support for certification.
  • The support and buy-in of local fishers to the Good Choice, Go Slow, and Don’t Eat Seafood List was very important. If the fishers and fisheries council had not supported the list we would not have proceeded with the certification effort. Their support for the list gave it and the Reef Responsible activities increased credibility.
  • Use a transparent process to develop sustainable seafood lists. Share information with all stakeholders on how the list was developed.
  • Use the best available science and regulations to develop the list and training materials.
  • Be flexible and make sure that the times of trainings or meetings are convenient for your target audience. For example the restaurant workers often cannot meet on evenings or weekends. Fishers as well cannot often attend meetings during normal business hours.
  • Plan for capacity to support communications for certified restaurants. Do not underestimate the time or expertise it takes to support this aspect of the activities.
  • The use of YouTube videos to share how to breakdown and prepare lionfish were very useful and expanded the reach and accessibility of trainings. These videos could be used and shared by participants outside of official trainings.

Funding Summary
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Conservation Program

Lead Organizations
The Nature Conservancy
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration USVI Fisheries Liaison

Partners
The Reef Responsible Program is a collaborative effort among:

The Nature Conservancy US Virgin Islands
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program
NOAA Fisheries
USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife
The Marine Education and Outreach USVI Style’s Initiative – Don’t Stop Talking Fish Project
Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service
St. Croix Reef Jam

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The Micronesia Challenge: Assessing The Relative Contribution Of Stressors On Coral Reefs To Facilitate Science-To-Management Feedback

The Micronesia Challenge is an international conservation strategy initiated by the political leaders of 6 tropical island nations to conserve at least 30% of marine resources by 2020. Growing population and a shift towards cash-based economies have started to erode the traditional sources of sustainable reef management and have increased pressure upon marine resources. This study examined the effects of human populations on the diversity, function and status of coral reef ecosystems across Micronesia by assessing ecosystem condition to evaluate conservation goals of the Challenge, examining the distribution and variance of ecosystem condition as indicators of ecological stability and looking at the role of two stressors – fishing and pollution – in driving ecosystem metrics. Results showed that fishing pressure was a primary determinant of ecosystem condition across the majority of locations studied. Reef habitats that were most impacted by localized stressors also had the least stable ecosystem condition scores. In conclusion, habitats close to urban centers may require more management effort and may show less of a positive response to management than distant sites. Also, fish assemblages appeared to have a hierarchical influence upon coral-reef ecosystems compared with localized pollution. Prioritizing management upon herbivore size and diversity may best preserve the trophic relationships responsible for ecosystem services that coral reefs provide to the Micronesian island nations.

Author: Houk, P., R. Camacho, S. Johnson, M. McLean, S. Maxin, J. Anson, E. Joseph, O. Nedlic, M. Luckymis, K. Adams, D. Hess, E. Kabua, A. Yaon, E. Buthung, C. Graham, T. Leberer, B. Taylor, and R. van Woesik
Year: 2015
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PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130823/ doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130823

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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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Evaluating Taboo Trade-Offs In Ecosystems Services And Human Well-Being

In a new paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed the various trade-offs involved when fisheries managers in Kenya make decisions about the sustainability of coral reef fisheries. The authors suggest that resource managers typically focus on ‘win-wins’, such as the gains in profitability and conservation that can be achieved by reducing overfishing, but may overlook the tradeoffs with human wellbeing, especially of the poor. The paper explores the challenge of including ‘taboo tradeoffs’ in conservation decision-making and planning. Such tradeoffs include the impact on the livelihoods of poor women who earn a living as fish traders. For example, women who rely on the cheap fish produced by heavy fishing pressure may lose out if conservation strategies were implemented that required the fishery to produce larger, more valuable fish. Although the strategies would improve fishery profits, the impacts to these women were ignored by decision makers. The authors found that despite an apparent win-win between conservation and profitability at the aggregate scale, food production, employment, and well-being of marginalized stakeholders were differentially influenced by management decisions leading to trade-offs. These tradeoffs may result in the exclusion of key issues from decision-making, which can result in difficulties implementing policies and management strategies. The authors call for a new approach that explicitly recognizes the different values and hidden tradeoffs involved in decision-making for conservation and resource management. They suggest that a participatory modeling and scenarios approach has the potential to increase awareness of such trade-offs, promote discussion of what is acceptable, and potentially identify and reduce obstacles to management compliance

Author: Daw, T.M. , S. Coulthard, W.W. L. Cheung, K. Brown, C. Abunge, D. Galafassi, G.D. Peterson, T.R. McClanahan, J.O. Omukoto, and L. Munyi
Year: 2015
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PNAS 112(22): 6949–6954. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1414900112

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Evaluating The Relative Conservation Value Of Fully And Partially Protected Marine Areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) offer various states of protection and are often viewed as a conflict between conservation and fishing. This study synthesized research that compared partially protected areas (PPAs), no-take reserves (NTRs) and open access areas (Open), to assess the potential benefits of different levels of protections of fish populations. Response to protection was examined in relation to MPA parameters and the exploitation status of fish. 40 relevant studies were included in the meta-analysis. The results suggested that PPAs significantly enhance density and biomass of fish relative to Open areas. NTRs yielded significantly higher biomass of fish within their boundaries relative to PPAs. The authors conclude that MPAs with partial protection confer advantages, such as enhanced density and biomass of fish, compared to areas with no restrictions. The strongest responses occurred for areas with total exclusion. MPAs with a combination of protection levels are a valuable spatial management tool especially in regions where stopping all activities is not politically and socio-economically viable.

Author: Sciberras, M., S.R. Jenkins, R. Mant, M.J. Kaiser, S.J. Hawkins, and A.S. Pullin
Year: 2015
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Fish and Fisheries 16: 58-77. doi: 10.1111/faf.12044

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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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Papua New Guinea – Fisheries Management


Shared Benefits of Protecting Fish Spawning Aggregations Lead to Cooperative Management

Location
Manus Province, Papua New Guinea

Healthy Hard Coral Reef with Anthias and Coral Grouper at Killibob's Knob dive site in Kimbe Bay of Papua New Guinea. The Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all known coral species, shelters 40 percent of the world’s reef fish species and provides for 126 million people. © Jeff Yonover

Healthy Hard Coral Reef with Anthias and Coral Grouper at Killibob’s Knob dive site in Kimbe Bay of Papua New Guinea. The Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all known coral species, shelters 40 percent of the world’s reef fish species and provides for 126 million people. © Jeff Yonover

The Challenge
The coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are among the most species-diverse in the world and an important source of food and income for communities. The 40,000 km2 of coral reefs form an extensive resource that is exploited almost exclusively by small-scale artisanal and subsistence fishers. On a national level, harvests are thought to be well below the maximum sustainable yield. Despite the overall health of the PNG fishery, local over-exploitation has been noted, particularly in fisheries with access to cash markets. Fish spawning aggregations are particularly vulnerable even to light fishing pressure, which can have a profound impact on the reproductive population over a brief period and substantially reduce reproductive output.

As in many other tropical nations, fishery management in Papua New Guinea requires a community-based approach because small customary marine tenure (CMT) areas define the spatial scale of management. However, the fate of larvae originating from a fish spawning aggregation in a community’s CMT area is unknown, and thus the degree to which a community can expect their management actions to replenish the fisheries within their CMT is unclear. Therefore, information on larval dispersion is important: if larvae disperse in large numbers across tenure areas, this can provide a strong impetus for cooperative management between adjacent communities.

Conservancy marine scientist, Alison Green surveying coral during a rapid ecological assessment (REA) in the area of Manus Province, North Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea. The coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are among the most species-diverse in the world and an important source of food and income for communities. © Louise Goggin

Conservancy marine scientist, Alison Green surveying coral during a rapid ecological assessment (REA) in the area of Manus Province, North Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea. The coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are among the most species-diverse in the world and an important source of food and income for communities. © Louise Goggin

Actions Taken
To better understand the dispersal dynamics of fish larvae, The Australian Research Council (ARC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) conducted a genetic analysis to measure larval dispersal from a single fish spawning aggregation (FSA) of squaretail coralgrouper (Plectropomus areolatus) at Manus, Papua New Guinea. In 2004, to replenish local fish stocks, fishers within a single CMT area established a marine protected area (MPA) protecting 13% of their fishing grounds, including the studied FSA. Researchers and local fishers sampled this FSA over 2 weeks in May 2010 and collected tissue samples from, and externally tagged, 416 adult coralgroupers, which represented an estimated 43% of the FSA population.

Over 6 weeks (November–December 2010), 782 juvenile coralgroupers from 66 reefs were collected from within the CMT area and four other surrounding CMT areas up to 33 km from the sampled FSA. The analysis identified 76 juveniles from 25 reefs that were the offspring of adults sampled at the FSA.

Researchers quantified how larvae dispersing from the coralgrouper FSA contribute to recruitment in the surrounding CMT area and four adjacent CMT areas. They found that 17–25% of recruitment to the CMT area that contains the sampled FSA came from that same FSA and that in each of the four adjacent CMT areas, 6–17% of recruitment was also from the sampled FSA. Finally, the dispersal models based on these data predict that 50% of larvae will settle within 13 km and 95% within 33 km of the FSA.

Location and abundance of sampled and assigned juveniles: spatial patterns of coral grouper (A) juvenile sample collection and (B) juvenile parentage assignments. Green (A) and yellow (B) circles are scaled to the number of juveniles. Adults were sampled from a single fish spawning aggregation (red cross), and juveniles were collected from 66 individual reefs (green circles in A). White dashed lines show the customary marine tenure boundaries of the five communities, with the name of each community in white (A). Land is black, coral reefs are gray, and water is blue (Almany et al. 2013).

Location and abundance of sampled and assigned juveniles: spatial patterns of coral grouper (A) juvenile sample collection and (B) juvenile parentage assignments. Green (A) and yellow (B) circles are scaled to the number of juveniles. Adults were sampled from a single fish spawning aggregation (red cross), and juveniles were collected from 66 individual reefs (green circles in A). White dashed lines show the customary marine tenure boundaries of the five communities, with the name of each community in white (A). Land is black, coral reefs are gray, and water is blue (Almany et al. 2013).

How Successful Has It Been?
The final results and recommendations of this study were presented in November 2011 to all five communities that participated in the research as well as in Mbuke, the largest community among the offshore islands to the south of the study area. The three main conclusions from this work are:

  • Small, managed areas that protect FSAs can help rebuild and sustain a community’s coralgrouper fishery because many larvae stay close to the FSA.
  • The coralgrouper fishery represents one large stock that would be better managed collectively because some larvae and fish travel across CMT boundaries.
  • The results of the coralgrouper study are similar to results from other studies on both fishery and non-fishery species, all of which suggest that some larvae only travel short distances from their parents.

These results suggest that community-based management can definitely provide local benefits for some fishery species, and possibly for a wide range of fishery species.

At the time of the study, there was no formal framework in place to support collective management. Communities had traditionally made independent decisions about the fisheries within their CMT area. However, many community members immediately saw the value in collective community-based fisheries management after the results of this study were presented. Those communities in support of collective management, which consisted of eight Titan tribal areas including the five CMT areas that participated in the coralgrouper study, sent 70 leaders to a gathering in June 2013 to officially establish the Manus Endras Asi Resource Development Network.

Island fishing boats and children in the area of Manus Province, North Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea. © Louise Goggin

Island fishing boats and children in the area of Manus Province, North Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea. © Louise Goggin

The eight tribal areas of the network contain more than 10,000 people spread across approximately a third of Manus province (~73,000 km2 of ocean). The network was established around existing sociocultural boundaries, with all members sharing a common language (Titan), common religion (Wind Nation), and a maritime culture. Some strategies the network used for achieving its mission include: advocating for and supporting equitable and sustainable development to improve livelihoods; preservation of cultural heritage; developing a learning forum to share experiences among network members to build local capacity; improving communities’ resilience to climate change through community-based projects; supporting research partnerships between communities and scientists that benefit communities; and establishing a network of managed and protected areas.

Since its inception in June 2013, the network has crafted and signed an official charter establishing itself as a registered business, developed and agreed on a strategic plan, and established a formal relationship with the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to coordinate fisheries management activities. A recent outcome of this link with NFA has been a pledge from NFA to provide shallow water fish aggregating devices (FADs) to each community in the network to reduce fishing pressure on reefs.

At the September 2014 network meeting, the Tribal Council of Chiefs, acting as representatives of their tribal areas, approved the establishment of a comprehensive system of managed and protected areas across the entire area under the network’s jurisdiction. The two main goals of this system of managed and protected areas are to ensure the sustainability of a range of fishery resources and to protect cultural heritage sites. Next steps include a participatory planning workshop to integrate community priorities and conservation targets, local knowledge, and scientific data into a comprehensive spatial management plan for the area.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Increased cooperation between communities in managing their fisheries benefits both fish populations and communities.
  • Actions taken by one community will influence its neighbors, and cooperation among communities in managing a fishery is likely to enhance both fisheries sustainability and the long-term persistence of fish meta-populations.
  • The strength of connectivity between coral reefs will decline as the distance between them increases, and localized larvae dispersal is common in coral reef fishes.
  • Resolving larval dispersal patterns and their relationship to recruitment may provide a compelling argument for cooperative management.
  • Fisheries management decisions on the size and spacing of marine protected areas may provide benefits to a range of species simultaneously.

Funding Summary
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
The Nature Conservancy’s Rodney Johnson/Katherine Ordway Stewardship Endowment
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Lead Organizations
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
The Nature Conservancy

Partners
James Cook University
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
The University of Hawaii at Hilo
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Resources
Video: Larval dispersal and its influence on fisheries management

Local Benefits of Community-based Management: Using Small Managed Areas to Rebuild and Sustain Some Coastal Fisheries (pdf)

Dispersal of Grouper Larvae Drives Local Resource Sharing in a Coral Reef Fishery (pdf)

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Ecuador – Fisheries Management


Patrolling Paradise: The Evolution of Enforcement in the Galapagos

Location
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Enforcement map

The Galapagos Marine Reserve and Respective Economic Exclusive Zone. © Google Earth

The Challenge
The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is the fourth-largest marine reserve in the world at approximately 133,000 km2. The GMR was formally created in 1998 via the Special Law for the Sustainable Development and Conservation of the Province of Galapagos (LOREG) and extends 40 nautical miles from its baseline around the islands. The islands have unique geographic and geological characteristics and are situated at the intersection of four oceanic currents. This helped produce the unique biodiversity that is found there today, earning them the reputation of a ‘living laboratory of evolution’ among scientists and researchers. Today, the combination of growing tourism and fishing industries, which support the livelihoods of the islands’ inhabitants, also threatens their isolation and biodiversity.

The sheer size of the marine reserve, a thriving year-round population of 28,000 inhabitants, and over 200,000 tourists a year pose numerous challenges to the conservation of the archipelago. The primary conservation and management challenges facing the Galapagos marine environment are illustrated by the following:

  • The artisanal fishing sector that resides within the archipelago includes 1,000 fishers and a total of 355 vessels. Key fisheries include lobster, sea cucumber, tuna, and several species of whitefish.
  • The national fishing fleet is the largest tuna fleet in the South Pacific. Key fisheries include tuna and whitefish.
  • International fishing vessels come from Colombia and Costa Rica. Key fisheries include tuna, sharks, and whitefish.
  • 85 liveaboards and more than 20 day-tour and inter-island vessels circulate throughout the archipelago.
  • Cargo and petroleum tankers arrive weekly to three key ports.

Seventeen years after the establishment of the GMR, important advances in fisheries regulations and enforcement have been made in terms of patrol fleet size, infrastructure, human resources, and institutional development. The management of marine resources, however, is still a complicated matter, especially due to the constant pressure placed on resources and the need for technical and human coordination in the maintenance of the patrol fleet.

Actions Taken
WildAid, in cooperation with partners, is working to make the GMR one of the best-protected marine areas in the developing world. Their ongoing project aims to stop illegal fishing and improve the fisheries management capacity of the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS). Effective management of the GMR cannot succeed without effective law enforcement and compliance efforts. There is no one ‘silver bullet’ approach to monitoring. WildAid has strengthened the surveillance and interdiction capacity of the GNPS by introducing cutting-edge technology systems while ensuring fast response capacity to intercept illegal fishers once they are identified by the system. The aim is to institutionalize the operation of these systems and establish core operating procedures for all departments involved in the control and vigilance of the GMR.

Patrol Asset Accumulation
Prior to 1998 and the promulgation of LOREG, the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) focused only on the management of terrestrial areas and did not have capacity for marine enforcement. It is also important to note that prior to the LOREG, the Ecuadorian tuna fleet had complete access to the archipelago, while after 1998 the industrial fleet no longer had access to one of their primary fishing grounds. Since the creation of the GMR in 1998, initial enforcement efforts focused on the procurement of patrol vessels and equipment, the construction of a marine resources office, and the training of marine park wardens. By 2005, the GNPS procured and received numerous donations for an impressive list of assets: 11 patrol vessels, one floating base, a terrestrial base, and a four-seat patrol plane. GNPS maintenance capacity was not able to keep pace with asset acquisitions, and by 2006 most vessels were in disrepair. The asset accumulation also resulted in more personnel, fuel, lubricants, and per diems required to maintain operations. In order to address some of these issues, WildAid and Conservation International (CI) focused on developing the local maintenance capacity of the GNPS fleet to ensure uninterrupted patrolling of the GMR and on supplying technology to help reduce surveillance costs. Examples of the technologies employed are described below.

Technology Options for Surveillance and Interdiction

In 2009, WildAid helped implement a Satellite Vessel Monitoring System (SVMS) to track the exact position and speed of all large vessels traveling within the reserve on an hourly basis. In the first year, 32 vessels were apprehended using SVMS and the Rapid Response Patrol Fleet. © WildAid

In 2009, WildAid helped implement a Satellite Vessel Monitoring System (SVMS) to track the exact position and speed of all large vessels traveling within the reserve on an hourly basis. In the first year, 32 vessels were apprehended using SVMS and the Rapid Response Patrol Fleet. © WildAid

Collaborative monitoring systems require active location transceivers on board of vessels. Location messages include information such as: vessel name, latitude, longitude, course, and speed. A specific regulatory law must be promulgated to obligate vessel owners to purchase and activate on-board transceivers. If the location device is disconnected, the shore stations and control centers will not see the vessel’s position. As law violators tend to deactivate transceivers, regulations must consider stiff penalties for opportunistic tampering by stakeholders. A major drawback of these systems is that they will not detect fishers from other areas or countries which do not employ transceivers.

  • Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) for Monitoring the National Commercial Fleet. WildAid and partners worked with the Navy and environmental authorities to promulgate a law in March 2009 requiring all vessels above 20 GT to use VMS. Stiff penalties were included for transceiver deactivation and violators lost access to subsidized fuel. VMS transceiver signal frequency was set to hourly for Ecuadorian vessels, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) standard is 6 hours. The vessel owners were required to pay for the monthly service. This was a 3-year process initiated in 2006, and both the Navy and the GNPS shared access to data and received control centers to monitor vessel movement.
  • Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) for Monitoring Commercial and Artisanal Vessels. Shore-based infrastructure supporting AIS was also donated and installed throughout the archipelago in 2012; however, it has been largely ineffective as there is no legislation to date mandating the use of AIS transceivers.

Non-collaborative monitoring systems are the best equipment option when detecting vessels that are intentionally carrying out illegal activities in specific geographic areas or in the absence of collaborative systems. Systems are often layered to make up for the deficiencies of one particular technology by using the strengths of another. For example, radar systems often complement AIS systems in order to detect foreign vessels or vessels that have intentionally deactivated their transceivers.

  • Patrol Plane for the Surveillance of Commercial and Artisanal Vessels. Given the vast expanse of the GMR, the GNPS procured a four-seat airplane with the help of USAID. Given the high cost of vessel operations, the patrol plane was first thought to be an excellent surveillance tool; however, over time it has become quite expensive, as all parts must be imported and the plane requires insurance, special fuel, a full-time mechanic, and pilot. This has also been complicated by the fact that the plane manufacturer shut down in 2009.
  • Vigilance Posts for Monitoring Artisanal Sea Cucumber and Lobster Fisheries. Given that many of these highly productive fisheries are concentrated in specific areas, the GNPS set up vigilance posts at key sites where fishing pressure is strongest. The physical presence of park rangers with binoculars and VHF marine radios has been the most effective system for specific geographic areas.
  • High Power Video Cameras and Radars for the Surveillance of all Vessel Activity at Ports. WildAid, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and CI completed the installation of harbor surveillance radars and video cameras at three key ports in November 2013. The additional sensors are extremely useful tools for both GNPS and Coast Guard authorities in the enforcement of local fishing, tourism, and maritime trafficking regulations. The cameras have been especially helpful for infractions such as fuel contraband, illegal fishing, overloaded inter-island passenger boats, and the cleaning of fish at port among others. Both the port captain and the GNPS control center coordinate with a staffed zodiac in the bay, which is able to respond swiftly as violations are identified. The radar is specifically useful for identifying vessels entering and leaving the bays with illegal contraband and with location transceivers deliberately turned off.

Institutionalizing Operating Procedures and the Maintenance of Vessels
WildAid and partners aim to institutionalize the operation of these systems and establish core operating procedures for all departments involved in the control and vigilance of the GMR. This is very important because the technology and the systems are only as useful as those who are trained to operate and maintain them. Activities include:

    • Developing control center, patrol, and boarding standard operating protocols with the GNPS Marine Resource Department.
    • Providing technical support to the GNPS IT Department for the development of software to systematize all field patrolling activities and provide the information to the Maintenance Department. The software generates reports with respect to vessel hours navigated, crew hours, patrol tracks, findings, spare parts required, and follow-up on maintenance orders.
    • Establishing a baseline for the state of the patrol fleet that includes operational and maintenance costs. Based on this information, the GNPS began prioritizing its maintenance strategy, additionally carrying out periodic third party technical audits to monitor maintenance plan execution.
    • Periodic training programs on engine and electrical maintenance for personnel operating the vessels of the park service.
    • Developing a protocol for handling each of the environmental and constitutional criminal proceedings carried out by the GNPS legal department in all their stages to expedite the handling of GMR administrative and criminal cases. Given high levels of lawyer turnover with the GNPS, the database and protocols are key in helping maintain continuity and ensuring the rule of law.

How Successful Has It Been?
The GNPS currently possesses one of the most sophisticated electronic monitoring systems in the developing world and a fleet of fast response vessels to intercept illegal fishers once they are identified by the system. However, improvement has not been linear. Given the political nature of the GNPS, periods of progress have been rolled back due to turnover of directors and key employees. Despite these setbacks, the enforcement of the GMR has improved substantially. As shown on the map, most commercial fishing vessels respect the 40 nautical mile marine reserve. There is not full compliance, however, as some commercial fishers circumvent satellite detection by towing small fiberglass vessels so they can enter the GMR undetected. Regardless of all the technological innovations, vessels are still needed for interdiction. WildAid and partners continue to work with the GNPS to improve vessel readiness, optimize resource allocation, and institutionalize key protocols for efficient operations. Eventually, the GNPS will possess robust systems and highly trained personnel to execute an effective compliance program that ensures the sustainable harvesting of marine resources.

30 Day Time Lapse Image of the Galapagos Marine Reserve as Seen from the GNPS Control Center. © GNPS

30 Day Time Lapse Image of the Galapagos Marine Reserve as Seen from the GNPS Control Center. © GNPS

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Political will, particularly in terms of the enforcement of laws and regulations by authorities, is the most important factor for enforcing regulations and MPA management. Political will can come from many sources, such as the public, law makers, NGOs, the authorities, and other stakeholders.
  • Without appropriate legislation, collaborative system technology is largely ineffective for vessel monitoring. In addition, there must be penalties/incentives for proper use and to avoid deactivation.
  • All asset acquisitions must be performance driven and not dictated by donors. The GNPS received patrol vessels and other assets from donors who had the best of intentions; however, their maintenance proved too costly and resulted in a drain on their operating budget.
  • Technology is only a tool. Institutional capacity and human resources must be invested in to operate and maintain the systems and ultimately enforce rules and regulations.
  • Given high staff turnover, the elaboration of standard operating protocols for key maritime vigilance processes is crucial for ensuring continuity and preventing informal interpretations of rules and regulations.
  • The elaboration of simple measures such as vessel logs, checklists, and job aides help ensure predictive maintenance vs. costly corrective repairs.
  • The physical presence of an authority (boats in the water) still remains one of the best deterrents to illegal fishing within the GMR.

Funding Summary
WildAid: $2M
Conservation International: $2M
World Wildlife Fund and Sea Shepherd: $2.5M
USAID: $1.5M

Lead Organizations
WildAid
Conservation International
World Wildlife Fund

Partners
Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS)
Ecuadorian Navy

Resources
WildAid Marine Protection

This case study was provided by WildAid. For further information please contact: Marcel Bigue at bigue@wildaid.org or click here.

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