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The emperor penguin - Vulnerable to projected rates of warming and sea ice loss

October 8, 2019

We argue the need to improve climate change forecasting for ecology, and importantly, how to relate long-term projections to conservation. As an example, we discuss the need for effective management of one species, the emperor penguin, Aptenodyptes forsteri. This species is unique amongst birds in that its breeding habit is critically dependent upon seasonal fast ice. Here, we review its vulnerability to ongoing and projected climate change, given that sea ice is susceptible to changes in winds and temperatures. We consider published projections of future emperor penguin population status in response to changing environments. Furthermore, we evaluate the current IUCN Red List status for the species, and recommend that its status be changed to Vulnerable, based on different modelling projections of population decrease of ≥50% over the current century, and the specific traits of the species. We conclude that current conservation measures are inadequate to protect the species under future projected scenarios. Only a reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will reduce threats to the emperor penguin from altered wind regimes, rising temperatures and melting sea ice; until such time, other conservation actions are necessary, including increased spatial protection at breeding sites and foraging locations. The designation of large-scale marine spatial protection across its range would benefit the species, particularly in areas that have a high probability of becoming future climate change refugia. We also recommend that the emperor penguin is listed by the Antarctic Treaty as an Antarctic Specially Protected Species, with development of a species Action Plan.

Using harmonized historical catch data to infer the expansion of global tuna fisheries

September 13, 2019

Despite worldwide demand for tuna products and considerable conservation interest by civil society, no single global dataset exists capturing the spatial extent of all catches from fisheries for large pelagic species across all ocean basins. Efforts to spatially quantify the historical catch of global tuna fisheries have been restricted to the few taxa of major economic interest, creating a truncated view of the true extent of the fisheries for tuna and other large pelagic fishes. Individual Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have given varying degrees of attention to minor taxa and non-target species only in more recent years. Here, we compiled and harmonized public datasets of nominal landed catches, as well as spatial data on reported catches of large pelagic taxa reported for the industrial tuna and large pelagic fisheries by tuna RFMOs for the last 60+ years. Furthermore, we provide a preliminary estimate of marine finfishes discarded by these fisheries. We spatialized these data to create a publicly available, comprehensive dataset presenting the historical reported landed catches plus preliminary discards of these species in space for 1950–2016. Our findings suggest that current public reporting efforts are insufficient to fully and transparently document the global historical extent of fisheries for tuna and other large pelagic fishes. Further harmonization of our findings with data from small-scale tuna fisheries could contribute to a fuller picture of global tuna and large pelagic fisheries.

A Rising Tide: California's Ongoing Commitment to Monitoring, Managing and Enforcing its Marine Protected Areas

August 29, 2019

In 2012, California completed its marine protected area (MPA) planning and designation process, yielding a network of 124 MPAs from the Mexican border to Oregon. The management effort that has followed is comprehensive and strategic, with a focus on scientific monitoring, interagency coordination, public education and outreach, and enforcement. Initial monitoring results show more and bigger fish, especially in older MPAs where the benefits of limiting fishing have had longer to accrue. Today, California state agencies increasingly acknowledge and contemplate MPA protections in their permitting decisions, as regional and statewide outreach and education efforts enhance public awareness, social capital and stewardship. While enforcement remains challenging in a marine region as large and populous as California, the state has taken important steps to promote compliance with new MPA regulations and—with the support of the state legislature—has strengthened laws to address poaching. As new MPAs are established throughout the world in accordance with global targets, California's post-designation efforts provide a valuable and educational case study for local, national and international MPA managers.