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By Seerat Chabba
Mauritius has asked Japan to pay close to 3.6 billion yen (€28.5 billion, $34 million) in order to support local fishermen whose livelihoods were adversely impacted by an oil leak last month, according to a Mauritian government document accessed by Japanese news agency Kyodo News.
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When Cosimo Di Biasi, 66, decides it's the right day to fish, he begins at 5 p.m. He drives 4 miles to the port of Torre Santa Sabina, boards Nonno Ugo, his 21-foot fiberglass boat, and navigates south for a half-hour to reach a marine reserve in Puglia, in southern Italy.
Historic Exploitation<p>Alessandro Ciccolella, the director of Consorzio di Gestione Torre Guaceto, the management entity of the natural reserve, says that before they took over in 2001, this stretch of coast was a no-man's-land. Organized crime had a stronghold in the area, using the shores of Torre Guaceto as a port for tobacco and drug smuggling.</p><p>"Ciccolella would tell us that one day Torre Guaceto would be a reserve. But we didn't believe him, and we didn't care," Di Biasi says.</p><p>Fishers would detonate homemade bombs underwater, harvesting the dead fish that floated to the surface. In the process, though, they were killing marine life, destroying the reef, and risking their lives. Plus most of the kill went to the seafloor, while clouds of dust filled the waters. According to Ciccolella, fishers thought they were plowing the sea for good.</p><p>The area was so worn out that in 2001 the Consorzio, formed by World Wildlife Fund and the nearby cities of Brindisi and Carovigno, decided to close the waters of the reserve for five years to let it recover from the past exploitation.</p><p>"They took away a piece of the sea from us. We used to keep our boats there, and the tower was the place where we cooked and hung out," De Biasi says. "From one day to the other, we couldn't fish anymore."</p><p>Friction arose between the fishers and the management of the reserve escalating to slashed tires and broken car windows. The local fishers kept fishing illegally at night, to make a point, even if they still had the rest of the sea to fish. The coast guard occasionally caught them, confiscated their boats, and gave hefty fines.</p><p>"We needed to know what was underwater and let it recover," Ciccolella says, explaining the fishing ban. "We were able to do it because the area was not too big, and it was easier to reason with fewer people. But the benefits of a small reserve are way larger than you can think of."</p>
Restoring Abundance<p>Paolo Guidetti, a professor of Ecology at Nice University in France, played a crucial role in developing the reserve's sustainable fishing model. He says it wasn't easy to start a dialogue with the fishers, but it turned out to be crucial to the reserve's success. In 2005, after five years of the fishing ban, the fishers were allowed in for a fishing trial.</p><p>"We met God's abundance," Di Biasi says. Catches were fivefold compared to the outside area, and fish were bigger and of higher value.</p><p>The Consorzio teamed up with Guidetti and Marcello Longo, president of <a href="https://www.slowfood.com/" target="_blank">Slow Food</a><a href="https://www.slowfood.com/" target="_blank"> </a><a href="https://www.slowfood.com/" target="_blank">Puglia</a>, a local chapter of an international movement that fights the disappearance of local food cultures around the world. They organized meetings with the bewildered fishers to create a protocol to start fishing again while preserving the biodiversity of the area.</p><p>"The fishers themselves proposed to fish just once a week," Guidetti says with excitement. Fishers would also use shorter nets—0.75 miles long instead of 2.5 miles—and larger mesh size to free smaller and juvenile fish.</p>
Expanding Protections<p>The biggest problem for a Marine Protected Area seems to be control and management. Many projects similar to Torre Guaceto fail because of the absence of precise control of the territory. Now, after years of struggling, Torre Guaceto can count on the rigorous vigilance of the Italian Coast Guard and of the fishers. But even with such control, some illegal fishing still happens at night.</p><p>Today an unlikely event is happening: Fishers are the ones asking for the protection for the sea. "We requested the director to enlarge the marine reserve," Di Biasi says. The request is now under examination by the Ministry of Environment. In the meantime, 10 other fishers from nearby towns have already started fishing with shorter nets and wider mesh sizes, hoping the reserve will be extended to include their coastlines soon.</p><p>Now Di Biasi goes to elementary schools to explain the importance of sustainable fishing. He also goes to fishing communities in other Mediterranean countries to tell incredulous fishers that it is possible to make more money while preserving the sea.</p><p>"We hope they will follow our example and create a marine reserve," Di Biasi says. "It took us time to learn this, but now we hope that others will do [it] too."</p>
<div id="7eb49" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="83819841e380a7072ec66d3186c160e8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291705003984510977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨RESPONSE to #Mauritius #OILSpill 🚨 “Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the #ClimateCrisis, as well as… https://t.co/PBLioZat6X</div> — Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa)<a href="https://twitter.com/Greenpeaceafric/statuses/1291705003984510977">1596801446.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"There is no guaranteed safe way to extract, transport and store fossil fuel products. This oil leak is not a twist of fate, but the choice of our twisted addiction to fossil fuels. We must react by accelerating our withdrawal from fossil fuels," Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager Happy Khambule said in a <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/press/11864/greenpeace-africa-response-to-mauritius-oil-spill/?utm_campaign=oil&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=post&utm_content=single-image&utm_term=mauritius-oil-spill-reactive" target="_blank">statement Friday</a>. "Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis" target="_self">climate crisis</a>, as well as devastating oceans and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/biodiversity" target="_self">biodiversity</a> and threatening local livelihoods around some of Africa's most precious lagoons."</p>
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What do you get when you cross an American paddlefish with a Russian sturgeon?
<div id="53457" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e195fc4dae3b7b981420f0d518811cd"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281680411043811329" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">WAIT WHAT??!!! Crossing two different FAMILIES? Sturgeon x Paddlefish 🤯 https://t.co/CenvkCnm1U</div> — Dr. Solomon David (@Dr. Solomon David)<a href="https://twitter.com/SolomonRDavid/statuses/1281680411043811329">1594411397.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
Illegal fishing appeared to spike during the Philippines' lockdown period as commercial fishers took advantage of reduced patrols to ply coastal waters that they're prohibited from fishing in, satellite tracking data indicate.
Satellite data record illegal fishing vessels, appearing as red dots, encroaching within municipal waters, shown as blue lines, from May 16 to 22, 2020. Karagatan Patrol
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Along many tropical shorelines, swampy mangrove forests create habitat for fish and buffer the impact of heavy waves.
A healthy coral reef is a noisy place.
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By Tara Lohan
Most of us have never been to the world's immense last wilderness and never will. It's beyond the horizon and often past the limits of our imaginations. It contains towering underwater mountain ranges, ancient corals, mysterious, unknown forms of life and the largest seagrass meadow in the world.
The Need for Protection<p>We're all connected to the high seas, even if we never actually see them, says Morgan Visalli, a project scientist at Benioff Ocean Initiative at U.C. Santa Barbara. "It's incredibly important for helping to regulate the climate, for providing oxygen, food and jobs."</p><p>Even on land we depend on a healthy ocean. Phytoplankton in the ocean <a href="https://therevelator.org/phytoplankton-climate-change/" target="_blank">generate half our oxygen</a>, and the ocean plays a key role in mitigating climate change — absorbing 25 percent of our CO2 emissions and 90 percent of heat related to those emissions. It's also home to a rich diversity of species, some of which we're still discovering.</p><p>But marine ecosystems face grave threats from an onslaught of abuses: chemical, plastic and noise pollution; deep seabed mining and other kinds of resource extraction; increased shipping; overfishing and illegal fishing; and <a href="https://therevelator.org/ocean-climate-change/" target="_blank">climate change</a>, which is altering both the temperature and chemistry of the waters.</p>
Cargo ship at sea. Bernard Spragg / public domain<p>Numerous strategies are needed to tackle these problems, including the bedrock component of reducing greenhouse gases.</p><p>But a key tool that scientists have identified to help restore biodiversity is establishing reserves, often referred to as ocean parks or marine protected areas.</p><p>We know pretty well how to do this in national waters — there are <a href="https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/02/22/how-much-of-the-ocean-is-really-protected" target="_blank">more than 15,000</a> of them already in places like Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Florida Keys. But few such protected areas exist in the high seas because there is no international framework to guide the process. One such effort to establish a marine protected area in Antarctica's Ross Sea took years of research and diplomacy to implement.</p><p>It's simply not feasible to scale the process — especially in the time we'd need to do it. That's why creating such a framework for marine protected areas in waters outside of national waters is a key part of the new high-seas treaty negotiations.</p><p>And that fits into a larger global vision.</p><p>The participant nations in another international treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity, are set to convene this fall. The agenda includes a goal of enacting an international framework to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030.</p><p>It's a goal that scientists call a bare minimum. And it's one that may be impossible to meet without the high-seas treaty.</p><p>"The science is clear, if we're going to sustain a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem, we need to be protecting at least 30% of the world's oceans," said Liz Karan, who leads <a href="https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/protecting-ocean-life-on-the-high-seas" target="_blank">efforts to protect the high seas</a> for Pew Charitable Trusts, a member of the High Seas Alliance.</p><p>In anticipation of the treaty's passage, scientists like Visalli and McCauley have already started modeling how new <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X19309194#!" target="_blank">priority areas could be identified</a>.</p>
The Challenges<p>Of course the devil is in the details.</p><p>While thousands of marine protected areas already exist, they come with varying levels of protections — much like we see with public lands. Some can be very restrictive, like national parks, or continue to allow extractive activities, such as in national forests.</p><p>Current marine protected areas range from no-take reserves that ban all extraction to areas allowing multiple uses — the latter are more common. Not surprisingly, though, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/icesjms/article/75/3/1166/4098821" target="_blank">scientific studies</a> have shown that the no-take reserves do a much better job at protecting and restoring biodiversity.</p><p>Whether the treaty will be a landmark conservation effort or enshrine the status quo has yet to be determined, said Karan. "Both potential pathways are currently reflected in the draft treaty text" at this time.</p><p>From a scientific standpoint, McCauley says, marine protected areas should actually protect the wild character of the area and that means no activities — like mining or bottom trawling — that would disturb habitat. And the protections need to extend down from the ocean's surface, through the water column, to the seafloor.</p>
A kelp forest in a marine protected area off the coast of California. Camille Pagniello / CC BY 2.0<p>To do that means figuring out how the new treaty would fit with a tangle of more than 20 existing governance organizations that regulate seabed mining, fisheries management and shipping regulations.</p><p>"One of our hopes is that this treaty would knit those pieces together and provide a little bit more coherence and compatibility with those issues, particularly with regards to conservation and sustainable use," said Karan.</p><p>There would also need to be a process for scientifically evaluating areas proposed for protections, and how the established reserves would be managed, and the restrictions enforced.</p><p>"The whole process, the whole vision and opportunity to think about doing something smarter and better — for the ocean, for biodiversity, for us — ends if we don't get strong language in the treaty and get that treaty to pass," said McCauley. "There's historical potential for the oceans, but we need to make sure people on the outside are watching the people on the inside [at the United Nations] in New York."</p>