Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution
Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia
Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
James Cook University researchers say a new global database will lead to better marine parks by helping to bridge critical gaps in marine conservation planning.
Dr Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at JCU led a study that looked at marine conservation planning worldwide.
“For this study, we developed a database to document conservation planning and analysed all marine studies available in the scientific literature. It clearly shows deficiencies in the present system,” he said.
Dr Álvarez-Romero said systematic conservation planning studies, used to determine which areas would be most useful in conserving marine biodiversity, are growing very quickly.
“Despite this, there is no structured or reliable way of finding information on methods, trends and progress. There is little evidence of input from stakeholders. There are important gaps in geographic coverage and not enough work done on the areas most threatened,” he said.
“We know the number and total extent of protected areas will increase significantly during the next few decades. The challenge is making this expansion count in terms of biodiversity conservation,” he said.
JCU’s Distinguished Professor Bob Pressey, Chief Investigator at Coral CoE and co-leader of the study, said researchers from five countries led most studies, with Australia forging the way in global marine conservation planning.
“Australian organisations have contributed significantly to developing methods and tools that are widely used in conservation planning,” he said.
“Despite these advances, the varying quality and detail in documentation of the studies limits opportunities to develop and apply best-practice principles,” said Professor Pressey.
Dr Morena Mills, conservation scientist at Imperial College London and co-leader of The Conservation Planning Database project, said a global database to track development, implementation and impact of conservation planning is urgently needed, along with a closer analysis of the literature, and continuous and comprehensive documentation of conservation planning exercises.
“The new database is a move towards a centralised repository of information of planning exercises and can advance conservation theory and practice,” she said.
Professor Heather Leslie, an international leader in marine conservation science and Director of the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center, said “With this database in hand, donors and non-government organisations can identify regions and topical areas needing further work, and scientists, practitioners and policy-makers can learn from previous plans.”
“In addition, it gives the scientific community – including peer reviewers – a means of assessing trends in conservation planning methods and applications, so that we can learn from our previous work and shape our new work accordingly,” she said.
The paper “Research advances and gaps in marine planning: towards a global database in systematic conservation planning” is published in this week’s online edition of the journal Biological Conservation (doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.06.027), and is available now through JCU ResearchOnline.
For more information, please check out the Conservation Planning Group blog here.
Citation: Álvarez-Romero, J. G., et al. (2018) Research advances and gaps in marine planning: towards a global database in systematic conservation planning. Biological Conservation doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.06.027
Dr Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero (Jorge works at JCU’s Townsville campus)
M: +61 04 1546 5712
P: +61 07 4781 6517
Dr Morena Mills (Morena is Senior Lecturer in Conservation Science at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park), Imperial College London, UK)
M: +44 7933 729847
Professor Heather Leslie (Heather is Director of the Darling Marine Center & Libra Associate Professor at The University of Maine, Walpole, ME, USA)
M: +001 207 350 2713
P: +001 207 563 8299
Conservation scientists say there needs to be a new approach to protecting offshore marine reserves.
Illegal fishing in marine reserves will be a major focus at the IUCN World Parks Congress, which has opened in Sydney.
Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University, who are attending the conference, have found a way to predict illegal fishing activities to help authorities better protect marine reserves.
Marine reserves are the most common strategy used to protect and maintain marine ecosystems around the world.
The International Convention of Biological Diversity aims to have 10 per cent of the world’s marine areas protected by 2020.
Many countries are contributing to this target by protecting remote, offshore areas. For example, the United States recently created the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, covering almost 1.27 million square kilometres in the central Pacific Ocean.
But scientists are concerned that while a great deal of effort is being made to create reserves, many countries are simply not able to enforce the laws that are supposed to protect them.
The majority of fishers obey the law, but some don’t.
“The success of protected areas depends on whether people comply with the regulations,” says Professor Joshua Cinner from Coral CoE.
“Enforcement and compliance issues for large off-shore marine parks are fundamentally different to near-shore protected areas,” Professor Cinner says.
He explains that the biggest problems facing countries trying to enforce offshore marine reserves is their distance from land and the difficulty and cost of patrolling large tracts of ocean.
“The distances to these areas can be very large. They are a long way from prying eyes and quite often the regulations are such that you have to actually catch people illegally fishing to prosecute them,” Professor Cinner says.
“It can be extremely difficult for authorities to catch illegal fishers in the act.”
In a bid to combat the problem, researchers at Coral CoE examined five years’ worth of data collected from the World Heritage-listed Cocos Island National Park, a unique marine protected area in the Pacific Ocean about 500 kilometres off the west coast of Costa Rica.
From the records they were able identify illegal fishing patterns and predict both when and where illegal fishing was likely to happen.
They found that illegal fishing was concentrated in a few ‘hotspots’ and really ramped up during specific lunar phases of some months.
Professor Bob Pressey, also from Coral CoE, says authorities could use this knowledge to match patrols to the time and place when illegal fishers are most likely to be in action.
“Using a targeted approach helps authorities catch and deter illegal fishers, while saving money on patrols,” Professor Pressey says.
“Rather than just hoping you can catch illegal fishers effectively by random patrols, we have used previous patrols to look for patterns which tell us when and where people fish illegally,” adds Professor Cinner.
Study lead author, Coral CoE PhD candidate, Adrian Arias says the model of predicting illegal patterns from old records can be used to increase the success of patrols in other locations.
“Our research in Costa Rica showed how a systematic and periodic analysis of patrol records can help to increase the probability of catching illegal fishers. This could be done pretty much anywhere that patrol data are available,” he says.
Professor Cinner adds that by better targeting limited resources, authorities have a greater chance of successfully protecting marine parks.
“Targeting resources is particularly important for developing countries such as Costa Rica, which have taken on the conservation challenge but don’t have the same funding to ensure compliance as a country such as Australia.”
Optimizing enforcement and compliance in offshore marine protected areas: a case study from Cocos Islands, Costa Rica by Adrian Arias, Robert L. Pressey, Rhondda E. Jones, Jorge G Alvarez-Romero and Joshua E. Cinner is published in the journal, Oryx. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605314000337
Professor Josh Cinner, Coral CoE – +61 7 4781 6751, Joshua.email@example.com
Professor Bob Pressey, Coral CoE – +61 7 4781619, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eleanor Gregory, Communications Manager, Coral CoE – +61 (0) 428 785 895,
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia
Phone: 61 7 4781 4000