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Everyone knows the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Alps-the towering geographical features that take up entire horizons and tower over even the tallest cities. Less known, though, are their underwater counterparts that rise from the ocean floor: the seamounts. A seamount is, essentially, a mountain under the sea. Often remnants of extinct volcanoes, these underwater mountains can form ranges or stand alone. They rise from the ocean floor and must stand at least 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) above the surrounding seafloor to be classified as a seamount, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their submerged peaks do not reach the surface of the water-those that do are classified as islands. RELATED: Drink These Beers and Save the Planet at the Same Time These underwater fixtures cover more land than any other single land-based habitat on the planet: About 11 million square miles. Scientists estimate that there are more than 100,000 seamounts in the oceans of the world, with more than 30,000 of them in the Pacific Ocean alone. They can be found in all of Earth’s major ocean basins and are often home to a greater variety of marine species-including rare and endangered species-than the seafloor. Only an estimated one-tenth of a percent (.1 percent) have been explored, but it is already clear to scientists that these seamounts offer critical marine habitats. For that reason, there are widespread efforts to protect these underwater spots. In 2016, President Obama designated almost 5,000 square miles off the New England coast as a new marine national monument-the first in the Atlantic Ocean-called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. This area of ocean, 130 miles off the southeast coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is home to several species of deep-sea coral, sharks, sea turtles, beaked whales, and more. Its seamounts rise as much as 7,700 feet above the ocean floor, and its new designation means it-and its ecological resources and species-are protected and preserved from commercial fishing and activities like seabed mining. An act that would do the same for the seamounts off the coast of California has been introduced to the House of Representatives. The California Seamounts and Ridges National Marine Conservation Area Designation and Management Act seeks to protect these underwater peaks 45 to 185 miles off the coast as National Marine Conservation Areas. This would protect them from oil drilling, mining, and other industries while protecting recreational and charter boat fishing opportunities and other activities that don’t damage the fragile ecosystem, which is home to 500-year-old corals, deep-water sponges, and endangered sperm whales and sea turtles. Visit CaliforniaSeamounts.org for more information on efforts to pass this act, championed by Wildcoast, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Marine Conservation Institute with other grassroots supporters. Currently, only one percent of California’s deep-sea habitats are permanently protected, and efforts to protect the state’s seamounts seek to change that before they’re damaged beyond repair. RELATED: Learn More About the Surfrider Foundation

Domeier M.L.,Marine Conservation Institute | Nasby-Lucas N.,Marine Conservation Institute
Animal Biotelemetry | Year: 2013

Background: Satellite tagging programs have provided detailed information about the migratory patterns of northeastern Pacific white sharks, revealing a seasonal migration between a vast offshore region and coastal aggregation sites. Although adult males undergo annual round-trip migrations, photo-identification programs have noted that sexually mature females may only visit coastal aggregation sites once every 2 years, a behavior that is presumably linked to an estimated 18-month gestation period. The whereabouts of females during their full 2-year migration were previously unknown, because of the limited battery capacity of satellite pop-up tags. Results: Through the use of satellite-linked radio-telemetry tags with multi-year tracking capability, we describe the 2-year migratory pattern for four mature female white sharks tagged at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. The 2-year migration comprised four phases: 1) an Offshore Gestation Phase (which had an average duration of 15.5 months; 2) a Pupping Phase, which occurred along the Mexican coast between the months of April and August; 3) a Pre-Aggregation Phase (when the females were in transition between the Pupping Phase and Guadalupe Island and 4) the Guadalupe Island Aggregation Phase, which began when the mature females arrived at Guadalupe Island between late September and early October. Conclusions: Long-term satellite tracking of mature female white sharks highlighted the connectivity between a single presumed mating site at Guadalupe Island, and two widely separated pupping sites along the Mexican coast. The Offshore Gestation Phase provided evidence that the females remained offshore for up to 16 months during their 2-year migration cycle. The Pupping Phase along the Mexican coast coincided with the seasonal presence of young-of-the-year white sharks along the coast of North America, and with a presumed gestation period of 18 months, this placed mating between October and January, during the period when white sharks are known to be at Guadalupe Island. Tracking data during the time sharks were offshore showed that mature males and females are spatially segregated, except for their concurrent seasonal presence at Guadalupe Island. These discoveries provide important new details about the complete life history of northeastern Pacific white sharks while identifying crucial regions in which young-of-the-year, juveniles and adult females are most vulnerable. © 2013 2013 Domeier and Nasby-Lucas; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

News Article | October 23, 2015
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

This story has been updated. The Pacific island nation of Palau’s announced Thursday that it is designating a 193,000-square-mile fully protected marine reserve that would be the sixth largest such area in the world and would help protect over a thousand species of fish and some 700 species of coral. The news is even more momentous given that plans to set aside over 1 million square miles of highly protected ocean have now been announced in 2015 alone, more than during any prior year, according to figures provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts. That is an area bigger than Alaska and Texas combined. “When you think about it from the perspective of the planet, the last 12 or 13 months, there’s been more of the planet protected than at any time in our history,” said Matt Rand, Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy project director. Palau’s new reserve joins the single largest marine reserve ever dedicated — the Pitcairn Island Marine Reserve, at 332,000 square miles and dedicated by Britain earlier this year — as well as New Zealand’s Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary (239,000 square miles), and Chile’s Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park (115,000 square miles) and proposed Easter Island reserve (244,000 square miles). All were announced in 2015. The Easter Island reserve remains in a “proposed” status because, although proposed by Easter Island’s indigenous Rapa Nui people and recently announced by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, it has not yet been finalized. If you dip back further into 2014 and the months following the historic first Our Oceans conference in June of 2014, then Pew calculates that more than 1.5 million square miles of ocean have been fully protected, which is 62 percent of the total fully protected areas that exist. Following the event, in September 2014, President Obama expanded the already existing Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument, greatly increasing the fully protected areas around Wake Atoll, Johnston Atoll, and Jarvis Island from some 87,000 square miles to over 490,000. Taken as a whole, the United States has designated more fully protected ocean area than any other country, according to Pew. A fully protected marine reserve is the “gold standard” for ocean conversation, said Rand, and means that the areas are off limits to fishing, drilling, dumping and other uses. In many ways, the flurry of new announcements marks the culmination of more than a decade of work by a handful of conservation groups, including Pew, National Geographic Society, the Marine Conservation Institute, Conservation International and Oceana — to put the most biologically-significant marine areas off limits to exploitation. At the same time conservationists have been pushing for new ocean reserves, marine scientists have documented that fully protecting large areas can have spillover effects by boosting fish populations. Some fish travel outside these areas and can be caught, making these restrictions more politically-palatable to local residents. National Geographic explorer in residence Enric Sala, author of the new book “Pristine Seas: Journeys to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places,” calls these regions “fish banks,” in which fishing operators can draw down the interest without depleting the capital. According to a 2009 study published by a group of researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Oregon State University and the National Marine Fisheries Service, no-take reserves on average produce four times as much fish and these fish are 25 percent larger. Larger fish produce many more offspring, which in turn migrate to neighboring areas where fishing can take place. “There is clearly momentum. There is implicit peer pressure” among world leaders, Sala said in an interview Thursday. Now that there’s an annual global ocean conference, he added, “People don’t to be the ones who didn’t announce anything.” [A man on a mission: protecting the last wild oceans on Earth] Some nations, such as Palau, see these reserves as a way to boost tourism. The protections ensure visitors can see some of the prized species remote islands are known for, and provide a branding opportunity in the same way UNESCO’s World Heritage sites have done for many countries. Elliott Norse, founder and chief scientist of the Marine Conservation Institute, started championing the idea of a global competition among world leaders to designate marine reserves in 2004. In an interview Wednesday, he said heads of states are now willing to act on researchers’ advice because “What the smartest most creative people had been saying, that protecting places in the ocean really works, is now demonstrable with such a high degree of certainty.” The first world leader to respond to this lobbying effort was an unlikely target: George W. Bush, who designated the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a national monument in 2006. In 2008, shortly before leaving office, Bush put a large swath of the Pacific off limits to development when he declared three national marine monuments there. Despite the recent flurry of designations, only 1.9 percent of the ocean is currently under the strictest protections. Many scientists and conservation groups advocate putting 30 percent of the ocean under full protection. Advocates are pressing the leaders of several nations to put more of the sea off limits. Other potential reserves include Clipperton Island, an uninhabited island in the eastern Pacific Ocean under France’s control, and part of the area surrounding Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. In the U.S., ocean activists have pushed the Obama administration to consider protecting a couple of zones in New England, including Cashes Ledge, and in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska. The new announcement by Palau has several unique aspects to it: The country is protecting fully 80 percent of its waters, a remarkably high percentage. The remaining 20 percent will be a zone reserved only for local fishing and some other relatively small scale or non-industrial fishing. Palau has also launched a number of other conservation initiatives including the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009. For the island nation, protecting its natural resources makes a great deal of sense — tourism to the islands is one of the primary sources of economic revenue, especially for diving. And it has now added a protected area bigger than California. Palua, located in the Western Pacific ocean off the Philippines, was formerly a “trust territory” of the United States — it became independent in 1994. “The scale of protection on the oceans far exceeds what takes place on the land,” said Pew’s Rand. “These marine reserves are massive in size, and really, just a few of the marine reserves together is larger than our whole national parks system.” Even with these recent designations, the task of protecting these areas remains unfinished. Some critics have questioned how countries will protect these large areas, given the fact that many nations lack the capacity to mount regular patrols. While most are remote, large fishing vessels with an economic incentive to extract their resources can still travel there, though some groups are working to monitor the vessels’ movements through satellite imagery.

Domeier M.L.,Marine Conservation Institute | Speare P.,Australian Institute of Marine Science
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The black marlin (Istiompax indica) is one of the largest bony fishes in the world with females capable of reaching a mass of over 700 kg. This highly migratory predator occurs in the tropical regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is the target of regional recreational and commercial fisheries. Through the sampling of ichthyoplankton and ovaries we provide evidence that the relatively high seasonal abundance of black marlin off the Great Barrier Reef is, in fact, a spawning aggregation. Furthermore, through the tracking of individual black marlin via satellite popup tags, we document the dispersal of adult black marlin away from the spawning aggregation, thereby identifying the catchment area for this spawning stock. Although tag shedding is an issue when studying billfish, we tentatively identify the catchment area for this stock of black marlin to extend throughout the Coral Sea, including the waters of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tuvalu and Nauru. © 2012 Domeier, Speare.

Chapman D.D.,Marine Conservation Institute | Feldheim K.A.,Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution | Papastamatiou Y.P.,University of St. Andrews | Hueter R.E.,Center for Shark Research
Annual Review of Marine Science | Year: 2015

The overexploitation of sharks has become a global environmental issue in need of a comprehensive and multifaceted management response. Tracking studies are beginning to elucidate how shark movements shape the internal dynamics and structure of populations, which determine the most appropriate scale of these management efforts. Tracked sharks frequently either remain in a restricted geographic area for an extended period of time (residency) or return to a previously resided-in area after making long-distance movements (site fidelity). Genetic studies have shown that some individuals of certain species preferentially return to their exact birthplaces (natal philopatry) or birth regions (regional philopatry) for either parturition or mating, even though they make long-distance movements that would allow them to breed elsewhere. More than 80 peer-reviewed articles, constituting the majority of published shark tracking and population genetic studies, provide evidence of at least one of these behaviors in a combined 31 shark species from six of the eight extant orders. Residency, site fidelity, and philopatry can alone or in combination structure many coastal shark populations on finer geographic scales than expected based on their potential for dispersal. This information should therefore be used to scale and inform assessment, management, and conservation activities intended to restore depleted shark populations. Copyright © 2015 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.

Norse E.A.,Marine Conservation Institute
Bulletin of Marine Science | Year: 2010

In a 2009 paper by Worm et al., fisheries biologists and conservation biologists found common ground in recommending spatial planning to benefit marine fisheries and biodiversity. Frontiers on land and in the ocean have few users relative to resources; as this ratio increases, governance suitable to the frontier no longer works because people's interests collide and biodiversity is lost. Increasing ocean uses and troubled fisheries are reasons to shift to ecosystem-based marine spatial planning and management, which reflect patterns and processes of both fish and people. protecting places can eliminate fragmentation, spatial and temporal mismatches caused by "siloed" sectoral management, where agencies that regulate different sectors in the same places largely ignore the needs of other sectors. Modern fishery management does not reflect the heterogeneity of fish populations and human uses. By reducing fishing mortality to zero, one spatial tool, marine reserves, restores large female fishes, which produce more eggs, and aids recovery of species in which females become males at larger sizes. Reserves can also maintain fishes' genetic structure. Australia created the "gold standard" for marine spatial planning in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a mosaic of ecosystems with differing availability to fishing. Other nations are adopting this approach. Even the best spatial plans will have problems that cross ecosystem boundaries, but advantages accrue to fishermen who stay within designated areas and let fish come to them. Areas can be deliberately configured to improve both biodiversity conservation and fishery yields and to save on fishermen's fuel costs. © 2010 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami.

Davies A.J.,Bangor University | Guinotte J.M.,Marine Conservation Institute
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Predictive habitat models are increasingly being used by conservationists, researchers and governmental bodies to identify vulnerable ecosystems and species' distributions in areas that have not been sampled. However, in the deep sea, several limitations have restricted the widespread utilisation of this approach. These range from issues with the accuracy of species presences, the lack of reliable absence data and the limited spatial resolution of environmental factors known or thought to control deep-sea species' distributions. To address these problems, global habitat suitability models have been generated for five species of framework-forming scleractinian corals by taking the best available data and using a novel approach to generate high resolution maps of seafloor conditions. High-resolution global bathymetry was used to resample gridded data from sources such as World Ocean Atlas to produce continuous 30-arc second (~1 km2) global grids for environmental, chemical and physical data of the world's oceans. The increased area and resolution of the environmental variables resulted in a greater number of coral presence records being incorporated into habitat models and higher accuracy of model predictions. The most important factors in determining cold-water coral habitat suitability were depth, temperature, aragonite saturation state and salinity. Model outputs indicated the majority of suitable coral habitat is likely to occur on the continental shelves and slopes of the Atlantic, South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The North Pacific has very little suitable scleractinian coral habitat. Numerous small scale features (i.e., seamounts), which have not been sampled or identified as having a high probability of supporting cold-water coral habitat were identified in all ocean basins. Field validation of newly identified areas is needed to determine the accuracy of model results, assess the utility of modelling efforts to identify vulnerable marine ecosystems for inclusion in future marine protected areas and reduce coral bycatch by commercial fisheries. © 2011 Davies, Guinotte.

Sagarin R.,Marine Conservation Institute | Pauchard A.,University of Concepción | Pauchard A.,Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment | Year: 2010

Ecology has entered into a dynamic period, driven by both the urgency of large-scale ecological problems and startling new ecological findings that are being shared broadly beyond the scientific community. Both of these factors are well represented by observational approaches to ecology, which are re-emerging after a long period of deference to manipulative experimental approaches. These approaches examine ecological patterns and processes through data gathered in situations where nature has not been purposefully manipulated. The use of unmanipulated observational data reflects on the work of early naturalists, but is greatly enhanced by technological advances in remote sensing, microscopy, genetics, animal-borne sensors, and computing. Once dismissed as merely "exploratory", strictly observational approaches to ecology have demonstrated capability in testing hypotheses by correlating variables, comparing observed patterns to output from existing models, exploiting natural experiments, and simulating experiments within large datasets. These approaches can be used in a stand-alone fashion, but are strengthened when reconciled with experimental manipulations to isolate fine-scale ecological mechanisms. © The Ecological Society of America.

Vierod A.D.T.,Bangor University | Guinotte J.M.,Marine Conservation Institute | Davies A.J.,Bangor University
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography | Year: 2014

In 2006 the United Nations called on states to implement measures to prevent significant adverse impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the deep sea. It has been widely recognised that a major limitation to the effective application of these measures to date is uncertainty regarding the distribution of VMEs. Conservationists, researchers, resource managers and governmental bodies are increasingly turning to predictive species distribution models (SDMs) to identify the potential presence of species in areas that have not been sampled. In particular, the development of robust 'presence-background' model algorithms has accelerated the application of these techniques for working with presence-only species data. This has allowed scientists to exploit the large amounts of species data held in global biogeographic databases. Despite improvements in model algorithms, environmental data and species presences, there are still limitations to the reliability of these techniques, especially in poorly studied areas such as the deep sea. Recent studies have begun to address a key limitation, the quality of data, by using multibeam echosounder surveys and species data from video surveys to acquire high-resolution data. Whilst these data are often amongst the very best that can be acquired, the surveys are highly localised, often targeted towards known VME-containing areas, are very expensive and time consuming. It is financially prohibitive to survey whole regions or ocean basins using these techniques, so alternative cost-effective approaches are required. Here, we review 'presence-background' SDMs in the context of those studies conducted in the deep sea. The issues of sampling bias, spatial autocorrelation, spatial scale, model evaluation and validation are considered in detail, and reference is made to recent developments in species distribution modelling literature. Further information is provided on how these approaches are being used to influence ocean management, and best practises are outlined to aid the effective adoption of these techniques in the future. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

News Article | September 11, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Ocean conservation efforts took a significant step forward on Friday when a measure to protect 30 percent of the world's oceans by 2030 passed during a major meeting in Hawaii. The resolution, which is non-binding, garnered widespread support from the governments and global organizations gathered in Honolulu for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress. Marine scientists say expanding Marine Protected Areas is essential in order to spare oceans from further destruction and ensure that ecosystems stay healthy enough to adapt to human-caused climate change. SEE ALSO: Obama visits remote Midway Atoll to highlight climate change threats "Marine reserves are also climate reserves, and protecting 30 percent of the ocean will ensure local communities are more resilient to climate change," Seth Horstmeyer, a director with The Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Ocean Legacy project, said in a statement after the vote. The world's oceans produce around half the Earth's oxygen, store about 90 percent of the world's carbon dioxide and encompass a whopping 95 percent of the planet's living space. Yet marine ecosystems are increasingly at risk because of human activities — from industrial fishing and coastal development to dumping toxic waste, plastics pollution and ocean acidification. "If we don't ensure the biosphere is intact and well-protected, then we put ourselves at risk over the long-term," Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation at the University of York in England, said by phone. Danny Auron, a campaign director at the non-profit advocacy organization Avaaz, told Mashable the 30-percent target is not only "ambitious and inspiring" but also "the minimum that scientists say we need to survive as a species." The 30-percent ocean protection goal is a drastic jump from today's levels, and marks a new achievement for a growing movement to guard against further degradation of marine ecosystems. The move comes less than a week before the World Oceans Conference in Washington, where U.S. President Barack Obama will give an address. Less than 4 percent of oceans currently fall within a Marine Protected Area — even with Obama's expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northern Hawaiian Islands. On Aug. 26, Obama quadrupled the size of the monument to nearly 583,000 square miles, making it the largest protected area of any kind — marine or terrestrial — in the world. Countries previously set a target to protect 10 percent of oceans by 2012 during the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity. They later revised the deadline to 2020 after it was clear the world would miss its original goal. Proponents of stronger protection measures say the 10-percent target was largely based on politics: It sounded ambitious enough for countries to get behind, but wasn't actually rooted in science. "We are entirely unrealistic to think that nature can cope with the protection of 10 percent the seas," Roberts, the marine conservation professor, told Mashable.  Roberts and his colleagues reviewed 144 studies to determine whether the 10-percent target was enough to protect global fish populations and keep ecosystems healthy. The average value of those studies was 37 percent of oceans, the researchers said in an April paper published in the journal Conservation Letters. "What that says is, you have to protect a very significant area of ocean in order to contribute meaningfully to conservation and fisheries management objectives," Roberts told Mashable.  "We're just way out of scale with those targets right now," he said. Countries have a host of economic and strategic reasons for not wanting to rope off their sovereign waters. Japan, for instance, exports around 1.4 trillion yen ($11.6 billion) worth of seafood each year. New Zealand's offshore oil and gas fields contribute billions of dollars to its economy and tax income. China's controversial artificial islands in the South China Sea bolster its military presence in the region. But governments' reluctance to establish Marine Protected Areas isn't the biggest challenge to actually achieving the 30 percent by 2030 target. IUCN Members Assembly: Vote 'YES' On Motion 53 To Support Protection For 30% Of The Ocean! #Protect30 #IUCNCongress pic.twitter.com/wX0C17hohR The largest hurdle will be deciding how to manage protected zones in the so-called high seas — the swaths of ocean that don't fall under the control of state or national governments. Around 65 percent of the oceans falls into this category. "At some point, you start to run out of waters in the jurisdiction of nations," Horstmeyer said in an interview. "Ultimately we'll also have to look at the high seas." While various councils under the United Nations oversee global fishing, mining and shipping activities, no such body exists to manage Marine Protected Areas in the high seas. "There's no effective means of protecting this common heritage," Lance Morgan, president of the Marine Conservation Institute, told Mashable by phone from the Honolulu summit.  The U.N. last year launched a diplomatic process to resolve such thorny questions as: Who can propose a protected area in the high seas? Who is responsible for managing them, and who would foot the bill? Should the U.N. create a new agency just for Marine Protected Areas? Morgan said that, if all goes to plan, the process should wrap up in 2018, giving countries about 12 years to establish conservation zones before the 2030 deadline. "That's a pretty good time frame to start doing bigger and more important things," he said.  "With more than 60 percent of the ocean in the high seas, it will be virtually impossible to hit that 30-percent target without a treaty in place to negotiate that." Despite the deep well of bureaucracy and politics surrounding the new marine conservation target, participants in Hawaii last week said they had felt optimistic — in large part because of the success surrounding the Paris climate change agreement. Leaders from nearly 200 nations signed a global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, relative to preindustrial levels by 2100.  With the U.S. and China formally signing on this month, the agreement may enter into force by the end of this year. "There's a feeling that ambitious goals are possible to achieve, and governments are coming to the realization that it's time to actually start moving on these things," said Auron, the Avaaz campaign director.

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