This learning exchange consisted of two parts: A pre-International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) workshop with 24 participants that focused on solving problems around MPA network design and implementation and a half-day symposium with 120 attendees. This symposium included a presentation of resilience science and application of advances to management decisions.
Large marine protected areas (LMPAs) are an emerging trend and are critical to achieving the Conservation on Biological Diversity’s target to protect 10% of the ocean by 2025. This paper addresses management concerns over LMPAs and calls for a distinct research agenda that examines both biological and social, or ‘human dimensions’, processes and outcomes. The study conducted interviews with LMPA managers, advocates, scientists, and donors along with participant observations at the 2014 World Parks Conference and a literature review.
Gruby et al.’s proposed LMPA social science research agenda consists of four related themes: scoping of human dimensions, governance, politics, and social and economic outcomes. More attention must be given to these four themes at all stages of the LMPA management process. Considering factors such as stakeholder engagement, policy interactions, and equitable distribution of benefits can help to mitigate conflict and increase LMPA effectiveness.
Author: Gruby, R.L., N.J. Gray, L.M. Campbell, and L. Acton
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Conservation Letters May/June 9(3): 153-163. doi: 10.1111/conl.12194
Marine spatial planning (MSP) and ocean zoning is a holistic tool that spatially prioritizes management attention where it is most needed. MSP addresses conflicting uses by establishing clearly defined boundaries. These boundaries coordinate efforts across ecologically appropriate scales to achieve ecological, economic and social goals. This study analyzed demographic data, current and projected trends in climate change and ocean chemistry, and reef and fisheries models to produce expected changes by 2050. The analysis was used to inform best practices for MSP. Results show the effects of anthropogenic stress will not be uniform, and therefore, neither should management.
MSP recommends prioritizing attention to areas farther away from urban centers while integrating other factors such as habitat coverage, biodiversity, ecological connectivity, spawning locations, and areas of human use. Along with prioritization, MSP requires site-specific continued investment in research, monitoring and adaptive management. Communities must also be receptive and willing to engage in broader-scale change of practice. When implemented correctly, MSP can effectively address conservation, fishing, aquaculture, industry, trade and tourism. This tool also has the ability to encourage cross-sector management, capacity-building and leadership, conflict resolution, and efforts toward region-wide sustainability and reef resilience.
Author: Sale, P.F., T. Agardy, C.H. Ainsworth, B.E. Feist, J.D. Bell, P. Christie, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, P.J. Mumby, D.A. Feary, M.I. Saunders, T.M. Daw, S.J. Foale, P.S. Levin, K.C. Lindeman, K. Lorenzen, R.S. Pomeroy, E.H. Allison, R.H. Bradbury, J. Corrin, A.J. Edwards, D.O. Obura, Y.J. Sadovy de Mitcheson, M.A. Samoilys, and C. Sheppard
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Marine Pollution Bulletin 85: 8-23. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.005
Belize Lobster and Conch Fisheries: Collective Impact of Managed Access Program Puts Fisheries on Path to Recovery
Port Honduras and Glover’s Reef, Belize
Acclaimed for its beauty, biodiversity, and economic bounty, Belize’s barrier reef is the impetus behind a transformative rethinking of the country’s fisheries management system. The wild-capture fishery sector contributes significantly to the country’s economy, bringing in approximately $29 million in 2012 and employing 3,000 Belizeans, according to the Belize Fisheries Department. But the open-access system that characterizes fishing in Belize has allowed uncontrolled numbers of fishers with readily obtained licenses to harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish. This has resulted in a threat of overfishing, declining stocks, and fewer economic benefits for fishers over the long term.
To address this challenge, Belize has designed and implemented a coordinated managed access program for its fisheries, including the country’s main seafood exports, lobster and conch, that effectively unites the goals, efforts, and interests of fishers and fishing sector stakeholders with ocean stewardship at two pilot sites, Port Honduras and Glover’s Reef. Based on territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFs), the new paradigm aims to protect the health of the world’s second-largest coral reef ecosystem while ensuring the livelihoods of the fishers and fishing communities that depend on it.
Piloting policy reform: managed access
Starting in 2011, the government of Belize, the Belize Fisheries Department, and partners piloted a rights-based approach for managing fisheries at two of the country’s marine reserves (Glover’s Reef and Port Honduras). The program works to improve the overall health and biomass of the coral reef ecosystem and reverse overfishing and illegal fishing by using harvest controls and replenishment (no-take) zones to rebuild and sustain the lobster and conch populations—two of the country’s most important commercial species. While fishing is prohibited in replenishment zones, licensed fishers are permitted to catch a controlled portion of fishery stocks within designated general-use zones at the two marine reserves. Policy actions have included:
- Using a new area-based fishing licensing system and verification process that ended open access prior to the managed access pilot
- Collecting all catch data from fishermen to monitor total production from the two pilot sites
- An adaptive management framework to assess fisheries and make management decisions based on regularly collected data
Pride campaign fosters sustainability, science-based management
Rare trained four employees of the Belize Fisheries Department as fellows in its signature Pride campaign. The two-year program focuses on leadership, communications, social marketing research, and technical assistance to foster community support for the adoption of sustainable behaviors and conservation strategies among Belize’s diverse peoples. The fellows tapped Langostin the Lobster to serve as the campaign’s lovable mascot, who appears at festivals and other events, spreading key messages to generate widespread support for sustainable fishery habits.
The fellows serve as managed access coordinators for the pilot sites and will play a key role in rapidly scaling the program nationally. They will generate support for the range of fishery management methods, including credible science strategies such as protecting nursery areas and spawning populations, minimum size and weight limit regulations, closed fishing seasons, and inexpensive low-data stock assessment models for calculating catch limits and restoring fish populations.
How successful has it been?
The two pilot sites demonstrated improvements two years after implementation, including the following:
- The sites issued zero licenses to unqualified fishers (as determined by fishers in Community Managed Access committees responsible for making recommendations on license eligibility)
- More than 90 percent of fishers submitted their catch data, which helps determine stock assessments and Total Allowable Catch numbers
- Fishing violations dropped 60 percent
The managed access program has been so successful that Belize will expand it to eight sites (its entire marine reserve network) by 2017 to foster fish stock recovery and reduce fishing pressure. As in the pilot initiative, the Managed Access Working Group, which includes fishers, will develop policy and build support for and compliance with the program among Belize’s nearly 3,000 fishers. Results include the following:
- The majority of the fishing community supports Belize’s new policy
- Fishers feel they have a vested stake in the recovery of the reef and are adopting sustainable practices
- Fishers are stewards for long-term sustainability and play an active role in setting policy and carrying out enforcement
- Fish stocks are recovering
- After one year, fishing violations dropped 60 percent, and the department did not issue any licenses to unqualified fishers
- More than 90 percent of fishers submitted catch data
Belize’s fishery management reform model embraces a stakeholder-centered, participatory process that focuses directly on rebuilding fish populations to support and foster people’s livelihoods and marine resource stewardship. This community of innovative problem solvers is building sustainable and profitable fisheries at the right scale and pace to offer tremendous social, economic, and ecological benefits.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Economic incentives build support
Prior to the implementation of managed access, Belize’s open-access system allowed increasing numbers of people with readily obtained fishing licenses to harvest more fish than the ecosystem could replenish. This resulted in overfishing, declining stocks, and fewer economic benefits for fishers over the long term. Although they made a profit in the short term, fishers had to spend more time at sea to catch more fish while depleting the marine environment they depend on long-term for income and food.
Managed access creates economic incentives for fishers and fishing cooperatives to become better stewards of marine resources. For example, fishers helped enforce fishing limits through active participation in the monitoring and reporting of commercial species catches, resulting in a decline in illegal and unreported fishing. They also developed a new fishing licensing system and verification process, vetting the applications themselves to determine who would receive a managed access license and who would get renewed. “The fishers saw it was making a difference,” says Janet Gibson, WCS country director. “There was no need to race to get out there when the season opened. They were getting better catches in a shorter period of time.”
To succeed, the program must effectively unite the goals, efforts, and interests of fishers and fishing sector stakeholders with marine stewardship. It has already taken action to empower fishers:
- The Managed Access Working Group brings together fishers, fishing communities, government, and NGOs in a collective impact model
- Fishers participate in decision making so they have a vested stake in the recovery of the reef
- Fishers collaborate in the management of the fishery and provide monitoring and enforcement
- Hundreds of meetings with fishers and coastal communities have built relationships and engendered support
- The Belize Fisheries Department’s social marketing campaign fosters community support for the adoption of sustainable behaviors and conservation strategies among Belize’s diverse peoples
Gathering hard data on fishery health, catch, habitat, and so on is critical to scaling the program nationally and generating support for new fishery management methods. Credible science strategies include the following:
- Data-based catch limits and replenishment (no-take) zones rebuild and sustain the lobster and conch populations
- Catch data and fisheries’ independent data help determine stock assessments and total allowable catch (TAC) numbers
- The Belize Fisheries Department oversees efforts such as protecting nursery areas and spawning populations, setting minimum size and weight limit regulations, closing fishing seasons, and creating inexpensive low-data stock assessment models for calculating catch limits and restoring fish populations
New management interventions may cause potential income loss in the short term, and there is the need to generate revenues to cover operating costs of the managed access system and reduce reliance on philanthropic funding mechanisms. Activities include the following:
- A national plan of programs to diversify income sources from fishing and non-fishing activities
- Fostering access to new premium markets to meet international demand for sustainable seafood
- Establishing a local seafood certification brand
50in10 helped foster collaboration among partners and co-funded a market analysis with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Rare to help Belize fishing cooperatives explore options to secure investment capital and access premium, higher-revenue export market opportunities.
Partners in the Managed Access Working Group include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Rare—all active participants in 50in10—along with the government of Belize, local NGOs, fishing organizations, and fishing cooperatives.
Countries around the world are taking actions to promote coral reef conservation and management. For example, many countries are working to expand protection of coral reef habitat by designating Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), one of the most widely used methods for protecting coral reefs. It has been observed that coral reefs rely heavily on ocean currents that provide new recruits from near and far locations. These connections are known to be a key ecological support system for coral reefs and studies suggest that reef connectivity influences community-level biomass, population persistence, resilience, and species diversity. However, since connectivity is typically not incorporated into regional design processes, studies have shown that MPA networks rarely achieve their full potential. A key challenge in the MPA network design process is to identify the appropriate size, spacing, and location of MPAs to secure sufficient connectivity processes that will maintain a healthy functioning ecosystem.
In this study, larval dispersal was modeled across coral reefs in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to identify important reef connections on a regional scale. A spatially explicit connectivity model was used to model coral population connectivity based on a 30-day maximum larval dispersal period across eight spawning events from 2008-2011. This information was then used in the conservation planning software Marxan to identify coral reef priority areas that meet conservation targets while maintaining important connections between reef populations. The results suggest that 77% of coral reefs in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico with a high regional connectivity value are not included in existing MPAs. Researchers quantified and reported larval connectivity data by Exclusive Economic Zones (EZZ) and used the connectivity information in a systematic conservation planning program to design a regional MPA network that includes these important reef connections. The study hopes to promote multilateral cooperation in coral reef protection and management, aiding in disturbance recovery and improving reef resilience by identifying important shared reef connections between marine jurisdictions.
Author: Schill, S.R., G.T. Raber, J.J. Roberts, E.A. Treml, J. Brenner, and P.N. Halpin
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PLoS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0144199
Community Researcher Program Builds Reef Stewardship in Belize
Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Belize
The Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) is a national protected marine reserve in the Toledo district of Belize. It covers 40,470 hectares (100,000 acres) of mangrove and coastal ecosystems, and encompasses over one hundred small, mangrove-fringed cayes, benthic habitats comprising soft-bottom seagrass beds and fringing reefs.
A local nongovernmental organization, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) employs rangers that carry out management and enforcement throughout the reserve, and until recently, had also been primarily responsible for monitoring in the reserve. However, the large area and limited staff resources made monitoring and effective enforcement difficult. The other main challenge is that of building support for the MPA and fisheries regulations among stakeholders. Until the Port Honduras Marine Reserve was founded in 2000 and TIDE and the Fisheries Department began to enforce regulations, local fishers were unaccustomed to being regulated. Fish stocks were, and still are, in a relatively healthy state, making it difficult to convince fishers that regulation is needed. In particular, the ban of gill nets in the reserve is perceived as having had a negative economic impact, increasing conflicts and hindering efforts to build stewardship.
With the logistical challenge of monitoring fisheries, endangered species, ecosystem health and water quality over 100,000 acres of water in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, TIDE began the Community Researcher Program. Through this program, TIDE has trained 15 young people from PHMR’s buffer communities (five per year for three years) to SCUBA dive and conduct environmental monitoring, then employed the best performers to conduct monitoring in PHMR on an on-going basis.
The monitoring activities performed by community researchers include:
- Coral reef health using the MBRS method (specific to the Mesoamerican Reef) and AGGRA method (for comparison with the rest of the Caribbean)
- Seagrass health using the SeagrassNet method
- Mangrove ecosystem productivity using the MBRS method
- Turtle nest monitoring
- Conch and lobster surveys
- Water quality monitoring, including nutrient and sediment analysis
- Fish stock assessment (catch and market surveys)
- Lionfish monitoring and culling
- Collection of fish otoliths and observation of gut contents and gonad development.
As well as the monitoring techniques, community researchers are trained in:
- SCUBA diving (PADI Open Water Diver)
- GPS use and basic GIS analysis
- Emergency first response
- Basic environmental science, including basic coral reef ecology, land-sea interconnectivity and the impact of human activities.
How successful has it been?
The program has been very successful at addressing the challenges of monitoring and building support for the reserve. Zoe Walker, an independent assessor, concluded that “the Community Researcher Programme provides a good model for other organizations, with integration of community researchers into the science programme activities, and capacity-building targeted to ensure reliable data collection.” To date, the main successes of the program are:
Building Stewardship: The initiative has excelled at building passion for conservation in the young participants. Community researcher Willie Caal was studying to be a primary school teacher when he joined. Within six months, he had switched to natural resource management and is excited about a career in conservation. “Being a community researcher can actually change your life. It changed me because I got more chance[s] to be in the ocean. I’m now more interested in conservation, in protecting the environment.” Community researcher Alana Barillas put it this way, “it makes you appreciate the environment more. It makes you see what’s really happening. [For example,] you see what is affecting the sea grass and the benefits that sea grass brings in terms of the nursery and controlling sedimentation. Knowing that makes you want to cherish it.” Those community researchers who are also fishers say they have improved their practices. “I have more commitment to practicing the right things that will benefit the environment,” said one.
The impacts don’t end with the community researchers – they are rippling through the wider community. Fishers now have more confidence in the use of scientific research as a basis for reserve management. One recently commented that he believes TIDE’s research results because his own daughter is involved in the data collection. “I come from a fishing family,” says Willie Caal. “My family loves to see me working in this kind of field. They ask me about the abundance of conch and lobster in the sea. I tell them they are more abundant in the conservation zones and they are reproducing there.” The community researchers are ambassadors for conservation and sustainable management. They communicate with resource-users about human impacts on ecosystems in a way they understand, creating deeper understanding and building stewardship. Fishers are starting to buy in to the idea that resource management is something that should be done by the community, for the community.
Building capacity for conservation: The program has increased TIDE’s research and monitoring capacity greatly by enabling the survey of more sites more often and to a higher standard than before. It is also providing trained personnel for other organizations. For example, our community researchers have done monitoring work for the Healthy Reefs Initiative and collaborated on projects with Blue Ventures and the University of Belize.
Employment opportunities outside of fishing: TIDE is employing up to ten community researchers on a part-time basis. Furthermore, the training is enabling participants to find good salaried positions, for instance in the Belize Coast Guard and at a local dive resort. Over the coming years, we expect more to find jobs with the University of Belize, Fisheries Department and NGOs around the country.
Personal development: The program has created an exciting environment in TIDE’s research and monitoring department. Community researchers are exposed to exciting projects and interact with international volunteers. They like working alongside likeminded people passionate about the environment. With the initial group of community researchers, it was very difficult to get them to do anything without paying them. Now, most of them volunteer for extra duties because they care about the work and the research results, they want to gain experience and they enjoy the work.
A Level 2 TIDE Community Researcher course is being planned, in which participants will be trained in ecology, basic data analysis, laboratory techniques and communications skills and receive PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification. Next steps also include having the community researchers talk at schools about life as a community researcher and what it means to protect the environment. They will also receive media training and act as spokespeople to help build reef stewardship across Belize.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Make an effort to recruit the right people: Having the right people is key and using a widely publicized competitive application process including an application form and interview will maximize your chances of finding good quality candidates. TIDE recruits people who not only represent the community but also have a commitment to the environment and the right aptitudes. To be eligible, candidates must:
- Come from the local community
- Be aged 18+
- Have graduated from high school
- Be able to swim
- Be contactable by phone and email
- Demonstrate an interest in the environment and willingness to learn
Put due effort into training: As with selecting the right participants, this is key. Get the training right and everything that follows will be easier. ‘Continual reinforcement’ is used throughout the training. Provide handouts to avoid note-taking and enable trainees to listen. Most importantly, make the trainees learn by doing. The best way to learn anything is to do it and practical, hands-on training works best for most people. Allow the trainees plenty of time to practice techniques under supervision and be prepared to throw out your initial data as practice runs. Even classroom lessons can be interactive – don’t just state facts, get them to discover concepts for themselves by asking them the right questions.
Save yourself time and resources by using teaching resources from organizations: Find out what monitoring methods other organizations in your area are using. Standardize methods with them and see what they can offer in terms of training – they may be able to provide methods training or at least materials. For example, TIDE’s coral health monitoring methods and protocol for monitoring mangrove productivity were taken straight from the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Survey manual. The Healthy Reefs Initiative has training materials for the AGGRA method and ECOMAR provides training and materials for turtle nest monitoring.
Quality control mechanisms are necessary: To ensure a high quality of data collection and management, quality control checks must be performed at multiple stages. Trainees must pass theoretical and practical exams to qualify as TIDE community researchers and all research and monitoring activities are carried out under the supervision of an experienced marine biologist. The supervisor performs duplicate measurements alongside the community researcher on the first occasion that they use each technique and at random intervals thereafter. Any discrepancies between the results are discussed and problems resolved. All data entry is double-checked and there is an accountability trail for all data (the names of the people who collected, input and checked the data are recorded). Only community researchers who demonstrate competence and reliability continue to be employed.
Ensure high safety standards: Clearly an accident could undo a lot of your good work and so health and safety must be maintained. TIDE’s community researchers are insured for diving (the cost is shared) and they receive training in emergency first response and practice implementing an emergency action plan. The research vessel is equipped with an O2 kit and first aid kit and TIDE ensures that a rescue diver is present on all monitoring trips involving diving and insists that community researchers submit their dive logs before they can get paid.
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE)
This case study was adapted from: Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) 2015. Reef stewardship in Belize: TIDE community researcher program. A case study developed for the Australian Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration.
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
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Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. doi: 10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7