Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2030: not enough oxygen in Oceans to sustain marine life.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said that by 2030 the ocean will possibly have an alarming level of depleted oxygen, which could affect the marine life and human resources as well. Again, climate change is behind this news.
CREDIT : Image courtesy Joe Raedle

Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of climate change, and a major threat to marine life. According to a study published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, "a warming climate can be expected to gradually sap the ocean of oxygen, leaving fish, crabs, squid, sea stars, and other marine life struggling to breathe".

CREDIT: Image courtesy Matthew Long, NCAR

Fish and other marine animals survive underwater because of the presence of oxygen, with reduced oxygen their potential to thrive will be compromised. Besides, the oxygen level is important to regulate metabolic and biogeochemical processes that happen in the ocean.

As our ever-warming atmosphere heats the surface of the ocean, the oxygen content starts to fall. Also, as water warms, it expands and gets lighter. This makes oxygen less likely to sink, which in turn reduces the transport of oxygen from the atmosphere into the deep ocean. Therefore, marine life in deeper waters will be threatened as well.

There are plenty of reasons for us to try and curb climate change, but lets just add the very serious risk of compromising the entire marine life to this list. If such predictions do happen by 2030, they won't just affect marine life but the natural cycle in life. Imagine how a dead ocean ecosystem will affect our livelihood and all the direct and indirect resources we extract from the oceans.

Title: Finding forced trends in oceanic oxygen
Authors: Matthew C. Long, Curtis Deutsch,and Taka ItoJournal: Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Friday, May 6, 2016

Social Dimension: An Urgent Need for Fisheries Management

It´s about time to discuss in this blog the role that people play in fisheries management, after all, it is impossible to untangle fisheries from their human context: fisheries have substantial social and economic importance. Fish is one of the most important renewable natural resources supporting human well-being and food security.
Unfortunately, as discussed previously here and in multiple of our previous posts, global fisheries are currently under-performing by the combined impacts of overfishing, degradation of ecosystems, pollution and climate change. It is easy to see that humans are the main, if not the sole cause of losses in our fish stocks. We behave as if we could take whatever we wanted out of the oceans, returning everything we do not need anymore without limits. Such destructive interaction only grows with an increasing population of consumers.
However, if we depend heavily on fisheries resources, how smart are we to be using them in such an unsustainable way? If we are so good at destroying, could we be of any good at restoring and protecting what is left of our fishing resources? Yes, we know, scientists know a lot about how to restore and protect things. But sometimes decision-makers simply do not listen to them. Or, when they do listen, users do not, and users are the ones getting all of this fish out of the oceans. It seems then that we need to understand the users as well, or else we may be missing an important link between the social and the ecological systems
Scientists have come up with many strategies to preserve the biodiversity and marine ecosystems, such as protected areas, quotas, gear restrictions, closed periods, among others. In general, these strategies are based on studies about maximum sustainable yields for fishing stocks and lists of endangered fish species. But, in reality, how do these strategies perform? The answer to this question depends on multiple factors, one of them being where and under what conditions such strategies are implemented. For instance, the poor performance of an area subjected to fisheries management may be the outcome of inadequate governance for a given socioeconomic context, or lack of knowledge on resource users’ behavior and their attitudes. Taking the social dimension into account is likely very necessary for a better management performance.

Photo by: Monalisa Silva

There are, however, many examples of successful fisheries management worldwide that included people (users) in the decision-making. Such shared arrangements are called co-management. Among these, there are the co-management of Pirarucu fishery in the Brazilian Amazon and the Chilean coastal TURFS (Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries). Co-management is an arrangement that can bring together governments, non-profits, scientists and resource users, who share knowledge, responsibilities and a a learning-by-doing process. A recent research about knowledge partnership in small-scale fishery shows that the information provided by fishers can complement current and past information on target species and on fisheries in general (see Damasio et al. 2015). Besides, establishing and maintaining participative arrangements is critical for the management efficacy because by involving the community we can increase the cooperation with possible positive effects on monitoring and enforcement of management rules.

Photo by: Lorena Andrade

Photo by: Monalisa Silva

With this in mind, we must remember that people are different in their values, knowledge, motivations, attitudes and perceptions. These characteristics can be affected by their livelihood, age stratus, and cultural background. Understanding and accepting that we have to deal with a plethora of attitudes and motivations by users might put us a step closer to proposing successful management initiatives. That, at least, seems to be part of the successful recipe implemented in the Amazon and in Chile. The inclusion of social knowledge in the management process represents a new era of natural resource management. Perhaps we will finally walk the path that leads us to fishermen's compliance with legitimate rules, which in turn may ensure the success of conservation strategies.

Silva, M. R., & Lopes, P. F. (2015). Each fisherman is different: Taking the environmental perception of small-scale fishermen into account to manage marine protected areas. Marine Policy, 51, 347-355.
Damasio, L. D. M. A., Lopes, P. F., Guariento, R. D., & Carvalho, A. R. (2015). Matching Fishers’ Knowledge and Landing Data to Overcome Data Missing in Small-Scale Fisheries. PloS one, 10(7), e0133122.

by Monalisa Silva