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Access to Marine Genetic Resources (MGR): Raising Awareness of Best-Practice Through a New Agreement for Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

September 12, 2019

Better scientific knowledge of the poorly-known deep sea and areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) is key to its conservation, an urgent need in light of increasing environmental pressures. Access to marine genetic resources (MGR) for the biodiversity research community is essential to allow these environments to be better characterised. Negotiations have commenced under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to develop a new treaty to further the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ. It is timely to consider the relevant issues with the development of the treaty underway. Currently uncertainties surround the legal definition of MGR and scope of related benefit-sharing, against a background of regional and global governance gaps in ABNJ. These complications are mirrored in science, with recent major advances in the field of genomics, but variability in handling of the resulting increasing volumes of data. Here, we attempt to define the concept of MGR from a scientific perspective, review current practices for the generation of and access to MGR from ABNJ in the context of relevant regulations, and illustrate the utility of best-practice with a case study. We contribute recommendations with a view to strengthen best-practice in accessibility of MGR, including: funder recognition of the central importance of taxonomy/biodiversity research; support of museums/collections for long-term sample curation; open access to data; usage and further development of globally recognised data standards and platforms; publishing of datasets via open-access, quality controlled and standardised data systems and open access journals; commitment to best-practice workflows; a global registry of cruises; and lastly development of a clearing house to further centralised access to the above. We argue that commitment to best-practice would allow greater sharing of MGR for research and extensive secondary use including conservation and environmental monitoring, and provide an exemplar for access and benefit-sharing (ABS) to inform the biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) process.

Bot Meets Whale: Best Practices for Mitigating Negative Interactions Between Marine Mammals and MicroROVs

August 21, 2019

Low-cost, portable, observation-class, underwater remotely operated vehicles (microROVs), which can be transported and operated by a single user, are increasingly common tools in scientific, industrial, commercial, and recreational ocean application. Over the last decade, the use of microROVs has boomed; four microROV manufacturers were poised to ship over 10,000 "underwater drones" in 2018 (Thaler, personal observation). This nascent industry provides an affordable underwater observation solution for marine science, conservation, education, and citizen science programs, as well as community groups and other stakeholders wishing to conduct independent marine environmental surveys and provides users with an opportunity to view marine wildlife with minimal disturbance (Figure 1).

Ocean Solutions to Address Climate Change and Its Effects on Marine Ecosystems

October 4, 2018

The Paris Agreement target of limiting global surface warming to 1.5–2∘C compared to pre-industrial levels by 2100 will still heavily impact the ocean. While ambitious mitigation and adaptation are both needed, the ocean provides major opportunities for action to reduce climate change globally and its impacts on vital ecosystems and ecosystem services. A comprehensive and systematic assessment of 13 global- and local-scale, ocean-based measures was performed to help steer the development and implementation of technologies and actions toward a sustainable outcome. We show that (1) all measures have tradeoffs and multiple criteria must be used for a comprehensive assessment of their potential, (2) greatest benefit is derived by combining global and local solutions, some of which could be implemented or scaled-up immediately, (3) some measures are too uncertain to be recommended yet, (4) political consistency must be achieved through effective cross-scale governance mechanisms, (5) scientific effort must focus on effectiveness, co-benefits, disbenefits, and costs of poorly tested as well as new and emerging measures.

Informing Marine Protected Area Designation and Management for Nesting Olive Ridley Sea Turtles Using Satellite Tracking

September 29, 2017

Understanding the horizontal and vertical habitat of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), a threatened species, is critical for determining regions for protection and relevant gear modifications that may effectively reduce bycatch, the largest threat to this species. Satellite transmitters were used to determine the movement and dive behavior of 21 female olive ridley turtles tagged in Pongara National Park, Gabon during the 2012, 2013, and 2015 nesting seasons. A switching state-space model was used to filter the tracking data and categorize the internesting and post-nesting movements. Gridded utilization distribution (UD) home range analysis of tracking data revealed that the entire core habitat occurred in the Komo Estuary during the internesting period. Within the Komo Estuary, 58% of this core UD occurred in shipping lanes. Dive data from the 2015 tagging season revealed that during the internesting period, turtles spent the majority of their time resting on the estuary seabed. Approximately 20% of all dive time was spent on the bottom and all maximum dive depths corresponded to the depth of the seabed, indicating that bottom set gear during the internesting period may pose the greatest potential for fisheries interactions. National parks currently protect many of the nesting sites and the Gabon Bleu initiative has formally designated 10 new marine parks and a network of community and industrial fishing zones; this data was a layer used in determining the park and zone boundaries. Shared use of the estuary by fisheries, shipping, and olive ridley turtles creates a need for management measures to reduce interactions. Thus, the results from this study can further provide detailed information that can be used to support the development of evidence-based management plans.