Just as steelhead trout migrate from saltwater to freshwater and back, Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs)—first developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) for studies in the ocean—have been getting a lot of use in freshwater over the last five years.
This spring, MBARI’s ESP team installed an instrument to collect samples of “environmental DNA” from a coastal creek just north of Monterey Bay. Researchers will use these samples to track populations of threatened steelhead trout, endangered coho salmon, and invasive species in the creek.
In the process, they could help revolutionize environmental monitoring and fisheries management nationwide.
“Of all the environmental progress achieved in recent years, it is particularly important that the one direct line that so many, from a wide variety of different backgrounds and ideologies, have drawn is between the fate of our oceans and our existence, our economic well-being, and the diversity of human cultures around the world. Whether it’s through the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals or the Our Ocean Conferences, which I founded as Secretary of State, or through groundbreaking work in corporations and philanthropies, together the international community has elevated the centrality of the oceans to our global responsibilities.
Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard is a member of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a bipartisan organization of ocean leaders that makes policy recommendations to support continued U.S. leadership in protection of ocean resources. She offers her thoughts on the Initiative’s 2017 Ocean Action Agenda, which was released on March 7.
The health of Earth’s vast ocean system will determine the future prosperity of the human species—and our very survival. Today it’s more urgent than ever for us to invest in the living ocean. That’s why the Aquarium has made it a priority to advance policies here and abroad that will protect critical ocean resources.
We’re bringing sound science to international forums that address big challenges like climate change and ocean acidification. We’re advocating for action on many fronts to advance ocean health and to ensure that the world community manages our ocean in ways that preserve its productivity, now and into the future.
This week, the White House named 12 “Champions of Change for Sustainable Seafood.” The awards recognize the people at the heart of America’s seafood industry—the fishermen, business owners, entrepreneurs, chefs and coastal leaders—who work tirelessly to support both the economic and ecological viability of our nation’s fisheries.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is pleased to count several of the winners and nominees among our Seafood Watch Business and Restaurant Partners, Blue Ribbon Task Force members and other collaborators. Working with Seafood Watch, they help raise consumer awareness about seafood sustainability and push for improvements in the supply chain.
Effective fisheries reform is no pipe dream. It’s happening now, and it works. According to a new study published in the scientific journal Oceanography, this approach is succeeding in the United States and Europe, where fish populations and ecosystems are returning to health. And, say the study’s authors, it can change the lives of small-scale fishermen and coastal communities around the world.
The key to success involves a combination of fishery management reforms, creation of science-based marine reserves and new avenues that give people who fish for a living an economic stake in good management.
It’s an approach that’s worked well in the United States, where overfishing has largely ended. In fact, a mere 2% of federally managed fisheries assessed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program are rated “Avoid,” and the program’s ratings for stock health indicate that U.S. law (the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) is fundamentally succeeding at recovering fisheries.
“Too much of what we hear about the ocean is doom and gloom,” Spring said. “For all the challenges facing the ocean, there’s much to celebrate. We’ve worked for years with many colleagues to protect ocean ecosystems and to support sustainable fisheries management. It’s so gratifying to see that those approaches are making a real difference.”
And, she added, “If other countries embrace the policies that have succeeded so dramatically in the United States, we will see similar results.”
There are already many positive signs.
Just over a year ago, the European Union overhauled its fishery policies to adopt many of the key elements that succeeded in U.S. fisheries. This includes a strong mandate to end overfishing, complete with teeth and timetables; scientifically determined catch limits; significant engagement of people in the fishing industry in the decision-making process; and the option of using rights-based approaches to fishery management, giving fishermen a stake in the future. Rights-based fishery management has been particularly successful, when combined with the first three elements.
“It was a key factor in the rapid turnaround of the West Coast groundfish fishery, which went from economic disaster to Seafood Watch best choice in just 15 years,” Spring said.
Marine protected areas, too, have demonstrated their value in study after study around the world. When there are networks of protected areas – including waters that are off limits to fishing – species inside a reserve become more diverse and more abundant, grow larger and produce more offspring. Some of this increased bounty spills over to areas outside the reserve.
In California, the Aquarium championed creation of a science-based marine protected areas that is beginning to demonstrate these sorts of results, Spring said.