Author Archive

Connect communities to conservation – US Fish & Wildlife/NOAA

The richness in biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine, is characteristic of our region. Hence, conservation of our mangrove coastlines, seagrasses, coral reefs, and fishes are essential to sustaining our ecosystems. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries are federal agencies that aim to conserve and provide services to Puerto Rico’s natural reserves and local communities. On August 26, 2010, UPR Sea Grant spoke with representatives of these agencies on the research and information needed for improving marine and coastal management and conservation in Puerto Rico.

In general, most participants agreed that more emphasis should be given to characterizing reserves that are economically and socially important to local communities and developing passive recreational activities that encourage conservation. The group also emphasized the need to assess critical areas that may suffer from climate change and how to deal with the impacts. The need for education and outreach efforts was also expressed and we (UPR-Sea Grant) encouraged the group to maintain communication with us for future activities with the local schools and community.  NOAA Fisheries stressed need to unite Sea Grant efforts with other NOAA efforts through the Coral Reef Conservation Program, for instance, that examined coral reef ecosystem conservation and mapping and monitoring priorities in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Regarding short- and long-term research, the participants suggested various projects:

  • Inventory and habitat mapping (landscape ecology) on endangered species and those being considered for potential listing (terrestrial and marine) to provide better measures for protection.
  • Ecosystem restoration projects – consistent and in-depth monitoring of habitats and their ability to adapt to changes in the environment with focuses on the impact of sediment processes. Providing nesting areas for certain animals (e.g., birds), etc.
  • Studies on strategic conservation planning and its effectiveness.
  • Accurate and up-to-date quantitative modeling of sediment transport by rivers to nearshore marine habitats.
  • Accurate and up-to-date modeling of habitats.
  • Studies on impacts of sea level rise on the hypersaline lagoons of Cabo Rojo and coastal lagoons.
  • Assessments on what is the best approach to change the perceptions and attitudes of local communities regarding environmental conservation and integrating sociologists and psychologists in developing the most effective strategy for educating about conservation.
  • Identifying local species that will be highly impacted by climate change (e.g., turtle nesting beaches). Assessments on whether acquiring more lands for mitigation purposes is necessary in order to deal with these changes.
  • Compilation of historical data from local lagoons, particularly to determine changes in habitat due to coastal erosion and to identify important species in the area – these data would help to make better decisions in prevention/prediction and will make us more aware of the changes that need to be addressed

For more details, please download our full report here.

Notwithstanding, obstacles that delay research and assessments that could improve marine and coastal management are constantly encountered. Here are some listed by this particular group:

  • Lack of studies that are applicable to management
  • Scientific data needs to be translated into layman’s terms in order to transmit the information effectively to policy makers and general public
  • Availability of information to the local community and more emphasis on educating the community and making them more aware of conserving our natural resources.
  • Lack of law enforcement and enforcement by local agencies
  • Lack of unity (particularly with funds) among organization/institutions/agencies to continuously educate the community about conservation of natural resources

More information:

US Fish & Wildlife Service – Caribbean Islands

NOAA Fisheries Service – Southeast Regional Office

Video – US Fish & Wildlife Service: Wildlife without Borders – Connecting People & Nature in the Americas

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NSPS Specialists request more Land-use and Island Planning

Non-point source pollution (NSPS) managers and researchers from the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico met on May 6-7 for the 10th NSPS Conference“Changing Direction and Directing Change: Solutions to NSPS” at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas, USVI ( The conference was also open to the participation of local students in several workshops aimed to bring about awareness regarding environmental issues and their impact on our ecosystems.

Topics presented during the meeting include habitat impact and remediation, coastal and watershed management, land-use and island planning, and the importance of education and outreach. One of the main focuses was to encourage people to act responsibly when developing and constructing. Special emphasis was also given to attempting a more aggressive approach to increase public awareness by educating young students about the effects of NSPS and getting them more involved in community activities that encourage monitoring local areas prone to NSPS. Innovative strategies for public participation in NSPS management were also proposed to better the public’s knowledge about these environmental issues and their impact. However, most admitted that, in general, bad habits are hard to break.

During the conference, we asked several experts and researchers (n=16) to answer a few questions regarding the short- and long-term studies needed to improve management of NSPS and the obstacles that are often encountered. Of the participants, 94% stated over 6 years of experience in the field and, of these, 38% possessed more than 16 years (Fig. 1). More than half of those questioned are or have been employed by the government (56%), whereas 38% are associated with a non-governmental institution (Fig. 2). Land-use and island planning was most frequently identified as a short-term research need for NSPS, with watershed management as the second most recurrent need selected (Fig. 3). Long-term research needs varied widely including the importance of linking ecosystem assessments to public health, the effects of public awareness, baseline data on physical-chemical-biological parameters of NSPS, impacts of climate change, impacts of wastewater treatment on local farms in small islands, and soil nutrient budgets. Obstacles that are commonly found include the failure to apply research information in resource management and conservation, and the lack of participation of local resource users in management processes (Fig. 4). Not enough skilled and trained personnel was also considered a major concern.

Figure 1. Percentage of participants that are or have been employed by the government.

Figure 2. Years of experience by participants in an NSPS-associated field.

Figure 3. Short-term studies needed for improving NSPS management.

Figure 4. Obstacles that hinder effective NSPS management.

Sea Grant Puerto Rico would like to thank those that participated in our survey and we will be disseminating this information to National Sea Grant and NOAA. We expect that some of our sponsored research projects will help address these issues of main concern regarding NSPS management.

More information about NSPS management:

What is nonpoint source pollution? Basic Information (EPA)

Video – What is nonpoint source pollution?

An Overview of Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution (UNEP-CEP)

“Greening” Storm Water with Rain Gardens – Virgin Islands RC&D Success Story (USDA NRCS)

Plan para el control de la contaminación  por fuentes dispersas en la zona costanera de Puerto Rico (PR DRNA)

Photo: Sea Grant Archive

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PR-DNER emphasizes Adaptive/Ecosystem-Based Management

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PR-DNER) is a well-established governmental agency that regulates and manages the use of terrestrial, marine and coastal environments with the main purpose of protecting and conserving these resources. Presently, DNER consists of several components that promote education, management, scientific research, projects associated with public interests, legal permits and representation, among others. This particular governmental entity has a major influential role in conservation and management in the island of Puerto Rico and adjacent islands (Vieques and Culebra).

On March 31, 2010, UPRSG CRA’s team met with four important members of PR-DNER directly involved in marine and coastal management (these include fisheries, coastal processes and coral reefs). Based on their expertise, we asked them the following crucial questions regarding research and information that is needed to improve conservation and management:

  • What type of research or information is needed by DNER on a short (less than 5 years) or long (more than 5 years) term for effective management and conservation?
  • What obstacles are presently hindering the development of research needed for the effective management and conservation?

Their responses were diverse and covered several areas regarding resource management:

  • Identification and selection of species (particularly fish) that have a critical role in marine, coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Several important species were mentioned by the group; however, a special emphasis was made on the need for an assessment on the populations of these species and the socio-economic impact they may have on local communities.
  • Applied sciences that help to better understand the impact of anthropogenic activities (especially sedimentation processes and coastal development) on coastal ecosystems. Non-point source pollution and sediment excavation are major concerns due to their effects along the Puerto Rican coastline.
  • Identification of essential and critical habitats. No information currently exists on the habitats of important coral reef species, such as Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis, in the surrounding waters of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
  • Research that evaluates the human ecological aspect (social and economical) with regard to the status of certain species, particularly those belonging to recreational fisheries. The resilience capacity or the limit of adaptive change of communities frequently visited by tourists and fishermen also needs to be evaluated.
  • Studies on improving ways of effectively and appropriately disseminating information to the general public in order to encourage conservation of our natural resources. This requires open communications among the local community and resource managers, which also entails a certain level of trust among the parties.
  • Evaluations to determine effective strategies of management. Several measures taken to conserve and manage certain coastal regions should be assessed to ascertain the methods used and address those strategies that did not result in any improvement.

In general, this particular group emphasized research that incorporates an adaptive and ecosystem-based management approach. They also encouraged studies that helped characterize our ecosystems, notwithstanding the human component that directly affect these environments. Effectively disseminating information and learning from good-management skills was also considered essential for successful strategies in management and conservation.

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Carrying Capacity an Interest for Surfrider

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organization that has been helping to protect local beaches nation-wide for over 20 years. The Rincón Chapter  ( helps to maintain the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve (TPMR), created in 2004, at Rincón, PR. On March 4, 2010, we met with the executive committee (Chairperson – Wess Merten) to inquire about the type of studies and/or information needed for better management and conservation of TPMR.

Their response was the following:

  • Need more information regarding the age of maturity for fishes, particularly female, in order to effectively manage catches.
  • Provide mandatory educational courses for local fishermen (e.g., needed for licence renewal) to obligate their participation in workshops regarding about overfishing. Use the media (signs, stickers, etc.) to get local fishermen to cooperate in better fisheries management.
  • Consistent monitoring of water quality. Surfrider measured water quality for several months; however, they are currently looking for extra funds to continue this project due to frequent visitors to TPMR. Presently, there is no data from the USGS for this particular area.
  • Studies on the flux of visitors (PR residents and tourists) in order to determine socio-economic impacts (e.g., surf and scuba economics) and carrying capacity of the area. This information would help to establish a baseline of the amount of people visiting TPMR and how many visitors the area is able to accommodate.
  • Studies on the impacts of climate change and how this will affect TPMR. Encourage local communities to take an active role in recycling activities.
  • Develop mechanisms to better enforce laws that protect public beach access.

You can check out the latest activities on the local chapter’s blog at

More information about Tres Palmas, Rincón:

Salva Tres Palmas – The Film (from Vimeo)

Salvemos a Tres Palmas (YouTube)

Photo courtesy: Surfrider – Rincón Chapter

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Ecosystem Connectivity is Key for JBNERR

The National Estuarine Research Reserve (JBNERR) in Jobos Bay is the second largest estuarine in Puerto Rico and is representative of an estuarine area that consists of a complex ecological system in the Caribbean region. The Reserve focuses mostly on environmental monitoring, coastal training and educating local communities.

On February 24, 2010, we carried out a discussion session with the staff of JBNERR ( This activity took place at the Visitors Center with six participants that specialize in coastal research/monitoring and outreach/education. During this session, we asked questions regarding the research and information needs specific for improving the management and conservation of the reserve:

  • What type of research or information is needed on a short (less than 5 years) or long (more than 5 years) term for effective management and conservation of the JBNERR?
  • What obstacles are presently hindering the development of research needed for the effective management and conservation of the JBNERR?

With regard to research needed on a short or long-term, one of their main concerns is developing a large-scale management program that includes the harmful effects caused by the use of adjacent lands and coasts. A strategic plan for better management was also recommended, but requires the development of accurate models with critical areas identified. To date, there is no critical analysis on the status of JBNERR. Studies on the connectivity among adjacent areas were heavily emphasized, including the condition and management of adjacent bays, particularly on the eastern side of the Reserve. Hydrologic studies, specifically water budget, are needed to determine the water flow from the north to the bay. Little importance has been given to the impact of nearby lands, bays and coral reefs associated with the area. Information on the carrying capacity of the area and the influence of tourism is also absent and should be evaluated due to the flow of visitors and local resource users (e.g., fishermen). Studies on the socio-economic benefit of the Estuarine and the socio-economic impact of the local resource users are needed to complement the development of accurate models of JBNERR.

Visitor’s Center at the National Estuarine Research Reserve (JBNERR) in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico.

Outreach and education is an important component of the JBNERR, which receives frequent on-site visits and inquiries from local schools and communities about the estuaries’ ecosystem. These visitors are shown the importance of managing and conserving the bay and how they can contribute to its conservation. However, studies on the benefits of resource management within JBNERR that may provide a socio-economic value to the area have not been made. Another major concern is community resilience to climate change, which is presently lacking in preparation to deal with the impacts.

Video clip about JBNERR Aventureros del Mar (Sea Grant Puerto Rico) (Spanish audio with English subtitles)

Obstacles that are impeding the development of research included the lack of communication between users and managers in layman’s terms, limited skilled and trained personnel resulting in insufficient time to work on research projects, the lack of application of research to resource management and how it would benefit managers, the lack of a multidisciplinary approach in management regarding planning and development, the lack of teaching students about management and conservation in local universities, and the lack of easy-to-read, user-friendly maps and tools.

Each participant was also encouraged to recommend three (3) research projects that they considered urgent and that would improve management and conservation of the Bay. These included:

  • Prepare local communities surrounding JBNERR to understand the impacts of climate change on an economic, social and environmental level. In other words, evaluate community resilience.
  • Studies on health effects brought about consumption of contaminated fish and the possible association with local industries (active and non-operating such as thermoelectric, sugar cane and coal plants).
  • The effect of recreational activities on the coral reefs of JBNERR. How can user’s attitudes about resource conservation be changed (such as inappropriate use of boats and the destruction of seagrasses, mangroves and corals)?
  • Environmental education tools and resources to encourage changes in user’s attitudes towards coastal resources.
  • Determine socio-economic impacts on the local community based on the co-management of the Reserve and adjacent ecosystems.
  • Determine the level of knowledge regarding aquaculture and pesticides, particularly their impacts on the Reserve.
  • Integrated hydrologic management plan that identifies land use and changes, different water sources, water discharge zones, and possible contaminant agents that reach the Reserve.
  • Studies about fisheries using heuristic information and the actual status of the fisheries industry, which includes contemplating alternatives such as species restoration and/or mariculture as a sustainable source. Possible re-introduction of keystone species.
  • Monitoring studies on seagrasses and their restoration, including an educational aspect dedicated to minimizing the impact of recreational activities, while identifying areas for this particular use and protecting more sensitive areas. Controlling the amount of invasive and/or exotic species. Long-term monitoring of temperature, acidification, migratory species, water quality and socio-economic impacts.
  • Habitat restoration and reforestation including seagrasses, wetlands, hydrographic basins, maritime and terrestrial zone.
  • Co-management and dissemination of information among the major reserves in PR. Promoting projects that encourage communication among the local communities and managers.

Photos courtesy of: JBNERR Photo Gallery

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New, Free Online Training Course for Reef Managers (TNC)

As posted in Coral-List on March 11, 2010 (

The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with NOAA and with support from MacArthur Foundation, is offering a new virtual training program on Reef Resilience to provide coral reef managers, trainers, and policymakers guidance on building resilience to climate change into the design of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and daily management activities.

The course incorporates the new science, lessons learned, case studies, and practices that have been included in the on-line Reef Resilience toolkit and is designed to accelerate the knowledge and facilitate access to essential information and tools needed to incorporate resilience principles into management strategies.

While the focus of this course is on the problem of coral bleaching and actions that managers can take to address this problem, specifically in the context of Marine Protected Areas, the recommendations and tools can be applied to most threats that coral reefs face today. The program includes key aspects such as:

  • An introduction to mass coral bleaching and the ecological and social impacts
  • Description of the four main principles of resilience and how to identify factors of resilience
  • Recommendations on the design and management of resilient MPAs

This course is free and open to anyone interested in learning about Reef Resilience.

How to enroll in the course:

This free online course is available for you to work through at your own pace. Here are the steps to begin the training:

  1. Navigate to <http://home.tnc/workingattnc/learningattnc/development/>
  2. If you have not already done so, create an account on ConservationTraining <> by clicking the ‘Create new account’ link
  3. Once your account is created and confirmed, log into ConservationTraining <> and click ‘Reef Resilience – Self-paced’ course
  4. Enter the course and begin by reading the course description and syllabus

If you’d like more information about Reef Resilience and/or the online course, please email

CRA’s Comment:

As part of the CRA project, we encourage reef managers in the Caribbean to use this free resource to improve their knowledge and skills in the management of coral reef ecosystems.

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Funds and Baselines – Major Concerns for Caribbean FMC

The Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC;, a regional agency involved in establishing important regulations on commercial and recreational fisheries in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, held its last regular general meeting on December 15-16, 2009 at El Conquistador Hotel in Fajardo, PR. Approximately 30 attendees from public and private sectors participated. Among these were included the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, US Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources – Fish and Wildlife Divisions, various consultants and local fishermen from the US Virgin Islands. Establishing annual catch limits (ACLs) by groups of fish or by specific species was largely debated because of the lack of data on the exact number of species caught (according to one source, >50% are unreported catch) and catches are not accurately identified. Identification of fish species is one of the problems encountered by most fishermen and is a major concern when establishing fishing regulations. With this in mind, Sea Grant PR has considered making efforts to help local fishermen with identifying fish species using posters and information sheets. However, a major limitation when determining ACLs is the scarce amount of data presently available, especially those from recreational activities.

Using this meeting as an opportunity for networking and given that several fishery experts were present, we conducted a brief survey consisting of three questions about research and information needs for fisheries management (click here to view our questionnaire). Of these questions, we asked participants about the type of research that is presently required on short (<5 years) and long (5-10 years) terms in order to deal with fisheries management effectively. We also inquired about the obstacles that are presently hindering research/assessments that can help improve fisheries management. More than 50% of the attendees (n=20) participated in our survey. Results showed that 80% of those that answered our questions have more than 16 years of experience in fisheries and 58% presently work for a government agency/institution. Establishing baselines and development of fisheries management policy tools were most frequently chosen as the short-term research presently needed. Critical information that is needed for long-term research varied, but the most frequently mentioned was better data collection of species-specific catches and ages. Lack of funding was the obstacle most frequently selected among our participants along with insufficiently trained and skilled personnel.

Sea Grant Puerto Rico would like to thank the CFMC members and attendees for participating in our survey and we will be disseminating this information to National Sea Grant and NOAA. We expect that some of our sponsored research projects will help address these issues of main concern among the fisheries community.

Contributed by J. Seda

Suggested reading:

Barnes, C. and K. W. McFadden. “Marine ecosystem approaches to management: challenges and lessons in the United States.” Marine Policy 32.3 (2008): 387-92. (Free full text in our database)

Dhoray, Shanta and Sonja Sabita Teelucksingh. “The implications of ecosystem dynamics for fisheries management: A case study of selected fisheries in the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad.” Journal of Environmental Management 85.2 (2007): 415-28. (Free full text in our database)


Sea Grant Puerto Rico – Efforts for orientating local fishermen about the EEZ (Elusive Economic Zone) in the US Caribbean . (Audio in Spanish only).

The Endless Voyage: Introduction to Oceanography – Focus on fisheries management, mostly on overfishing and maintaining a sustainable use of our marine resources.


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Enhancing Products and Services – CaRA

On December 1, 2009, we participated in the General Assembly “Coastal data and information, a vital need in our islands” sponsored by the Caribbean Regional Association (CaRA,  at the Nautical Club in San Juan, PR. Several speakers were invited to present updates on products and services to CaRA members and participants, which approximated 50 attendees from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The status and future development of the CariCOOS (Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System), including facilities and services for direct observations of coastal conditions and forecasting abilities, were presented along with the establishment of a Products & Services Committee that represents different sectors of coastal data users. This committee consists of several groups that will evaluate the system’s ability to attend to the data needs of that particular sector and will educate other sectors on the products and services available through CaRA. In addition, identifying frequent users and their information needs in order to address these issues is also contemplated.

Observational and forecast needs most frequently solicited by users include data on coastal winds, waves, currents, inundation, water quality, bathymetry, temperature, salinity, and benthic habitats. Several implementation strategies were presented by Prof. Julio Morell, principal investigator, including the minimization of infrastructure deployment and maintenance (i.e., sparse network of real-time sensors complemented by higher spatial resolution), installing observing assets (e.g., buoys, radars, remote sensing) located in critical representative areas, and developing numerical model assets.

During the assembly, most of the members/participants expressed their concern about installing cameras in specific areas (e.g., beaches) for improving vigilance and safety, installing buoys and developing models for USVI and increasing the resolution of the data provided by the system. A major interest by users is the development of tutorials on how to use and interpret the data provided by the system, which may be directed towards helping specific users (e.g., divers, shipping companies, surfers, coastal managers). UPRSG is currently integrated in the Outreach & Education subcommittee headed by Dr. Yasmín Detrés and will be participating in efforts to educate CaRA users on how to efficiently utilize the online products and services.

coosbuoy_compressedThe first CariCOOS coastal data buoy, weighing approximately 6,000 pounds, for the US Caribbean region was deployed on June 9, 2009 on the south coast of the Puerto Rico insular shelf break off Caja Muertos Island. The buoy was anchored at a depth of 55 feet. Measurements of wind, air temperature, atmospheric pressure, waves, near-surface water temperature, salinity and ocean currents  throughout the water column are obtained in real-time. Buoys similar to this one will be deployed in the northern coast of Puerto Rico during March 2010 and in a region between St. Croix and St. Thomas sometime during this year.

Photo: CariCOOS coastal data buoy,

Contributed by J. Seda

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Ecological Restoration: History, services and rebuilding

A number of government agencies and conservation institutions around the world are underscoring the importance of restoration as a tool to protect habitats and ecosystems, and perhaps bring them to an acceptable functioning condition that resembles a previous historical condition.  Restoration requires science, experimentation, political will, funding and societal participation in the design and implementation of restoration programs and projects.  In the United States, agencies (e.g., NOAA) support local stewardship efforts in restoring habitats.  In July 2009, Science published a special issue (vol. 325, no. 5940) on restoration ecology that deserves our attention.  As quoted from the authors, “restoration ecology is a relatively new science…. But in its short life it assumed a major role in sustainable development efforts across the globe.” In relation to our endeavors in identifying the best science for the conservation of marine and coastal resources in the Caribbean, we recommend two articles for further reading from this special issue: Ecological Restoration in the Light of Ecological History by S.T. Jackson and R.J. Hobbs; Restoration of Ecosystems Services for Environmental Markets by M.A. Palmer and S. Filoso.  On a similar note, we also suggest reading Rebuilding Global Fisheries (Science, vol. 325, p. 578), which was written by a number of scientists led by Boris Worm and Ray Hilborn.

Jackson and Hobbs argue on the importance of the historical perspective on ecosystems and the need for paleoecological and paleoenvironmental studies in understanding “existing and historical ecosystems, determining the circumstances under which they arose, gauging the range of environmental variability they have experienced, and identifying different levels of intervention” (2009:568). These authors are cautious, but firm in their view of the need for a historical analysis of ecosystems, prior to a deliberation on how to restore them.  Their model and recommendations are straightforward; however, they fail to mention the human component. In many cases, historical ecosystems and paleoenvironments show evidence of the human footprint in varying degrees.  Namely, restoration must also consider archaeological and paleoecological factors (which are often worked in tandem) in order to create a more precise view of past ecosystems.

Palmer and Filoso provide a short and precise discussion on ecosystem services and environmental markets, and their role in restoration.  The authors warn the reader on the many interpretations of restoration that are not ecologically sound.  If restoration is defined, in its purest form, as “returning an ecosystem to an undisturbed or historic state”, then one must be cautious with projects that propose the “creation” of a stream or a wetland in an area where there was none in the past. Furthermore, many projects are based on the structural characteristics of the ecosystem (e.g., developing a salt flat or a wooded area), but ecological processes are disregarded.  In addition, the difference between a service and a process are underscored: the former should be based on the scientific analysis of how is the ecosystem performing, while the latter delivers a service, such as “clean water to humans” (2009:575).

Rebuilding Global Fisheries (Worm et al. 2009) provides a worldwide panorama of the status of the stocks and starts, based on many scientific papers and data, with overfishing as the main culprit for its decline.  The article also reviews the status of fisheries science and the assessment of stocks on a global scale. Information on single species predominates, mostly in temperate regions and continental areas, where industrial fishing fleets operate with the most advanced technologies.  The authors acknowledge that, the “information … for small-scale artisanal and recreational fisheries is scarcer, less accessible, and more difficult to interpret. This is because small-scale fisheries are harder to track… ” (2009:581). The lack of enforcement and poor reporting make management difficult for small-scale fisheries, and thus, rebuilding (restoration) continues to be a major challenge. While this study offers important recommendations for the science of restoration and the rebuilding of stocks (“still a poorly understood process”), a poor understanding and treatment of the human factor remains, except for a handful of broad remarks on the socioeconomic factors shaping small-scale and industrial fisheries. Nevertheless, the overall analysis is top-notch and those interested in ecosystem restoration and stock rebuilding should further explore by reading this article.

Contribued by M. Valdés Pizzini

Sea Grant and CIEL

NOAA Restoration Center

Society for Ecological Restoration International

Global Restoration Network

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NOAA’s Efforts for Ecosystem Management

McFadden, K. W. and Barnes, C. (2009). The implementation of an ecosystem approach to management within a federal government agency. Marine Policy 33: 156-163.


The implementation of ecosystem management of marine natural resources is considered a challenge despite the overall consensus that it is essential to understand the complexity of these ecosystems at both ecologic and socioeconomic scales. Katherine McFadden and Cassandra Barnes (2009) report on the endeavors made by the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to execute and modify its strategies to incorporate an active ecosystem approach to management (EAM). Survey responses from nine programs associated with ecosystem science and management within NOAA from eight eco-regions (Northeast US Continental Shelf, Southeast Continental Shelf, Gulf of Mexico, California current, Alaska ecosystem complex, Pacific Islands, Great Lakes, and the Caribbean ecosystem) were analyzed. Initially, NOAA’s efforts began with its participation in the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force (IEMTF) in 1993. However, the implementation of EAM presented a significant change in the agency’s method of managing marine resources and its collaboration with other organizations. The United States Ocean Action Plan (USOAP) helped renew NOAA’s efforts for EAM with its integration in the 2004 Strategic Plan.

According to McFadden and Barnes (2009), 66 regional activities were identified, with the Gulf of Mexico contributing the largest number of EAM initiatives followed by the Northeast (although this may be due to specific mandates in these particular areas). Most EAM projects began approximately 7 years ago and vary widely in spatial scales. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was considered the major organization that had the largest number of EAM-related projects and the greatest portion of NOAA’s 2005 total budget for ecosystem-related research (58%). A statistical analysis showed no particular geographic region as the sole focus of NOAA’s efforts for EAM. Collaborative efforts with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, and partnerships reached up to 70%, of which most were within other NOAA divisions and programs.

Survey responses were categorized into successful intents of EAM projects that concentrated on “collaborations, multidisciplinary approaches and identifying common priorities”. Partnerships with different organizations and agencies are considered essential to achieve an ample amount of information needed for better management strategies. Incorporating multiple disciplines from several areas of scientific knowledge (e.g., environmental sciences, psychology, and social sciences) are needed to assess needs and concerns that require alternatives/solutions based on an ecosystem approach. Being able to identify common priorities can help minimize the timeliness in recognizing problems and focus efforts on improving commitments between NOAA and local stakeholders.

The authors acknowledge that not all programs associated with EAM projects responded to this study and is not considered an “entirely comprehensive analysis”. However, the results obtained from this survey provided insight on how ecosystem management is perceived by most of the individuals involved in EAM activities and the extent of NOAA’s progress in executing this type of management as a large multidisciplinary agency.

To read more on this week’s Featured Article, check out our CRA Publication Database.

Dr. Ken Sherman (Director, U.S. Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) Program) – What criteria is used to name a LME?

CRA’s Comment

NOAA’s attitude towards marine resource management has been gradually changing in order to implement an ecosystem approach. However, integrating different forms of science, encouraging collaborations, lack of financial funds, and the need for a “big picture” view have been identified as being major challenges in improving the cooperation and understanding of EAM within NOAA (Barnes and McFadden, 2008)[1]. Interestingly, one of the strategies considered for a successful EAM is establishing collaborations with other organizations, agencies and the local community. CRA’s preliminary assessments of marine resource managers, experts and users in the Caribbean are in agreement for increasing collaborations and partnerships of governmental agencies and local stakeholders (see a detailed report of the scoping session at the 2008 Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Annual Meeting). We concur entirely with the authors in the sharing of information among partners outside and inside of NOAA, which foments the development of a comprehensive database that can be consistently updated with the latest data (McFadden and Barnes, 2009).

Contributed by J. Seda

NOAA Ecosystems Goal Team

National Coastal Development Center (Ecosystem Observation Program)

Large Marine Ecosystems of the World (Dr. Ken Sherman) –

[1] Barnes, C. and McFadden, K.W. (2008). Marine ecosystem approaches to management: challenges and lessons in the United States. Marine Policy 32: 387-392. (Free full text available here)

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