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Because the Anthropocene by definition is an epoch during which environmental change is largely anthropogenic and driven by social, economic, psychological and political forces, environmental social scientists can effectively analyse human behaviour and knowledge systems in this context. In this subject review, we summarize key ways in which the environmental social sciences can better inform fisheries management policy and practice and marine conservation in the Anthropocene. We argue that environmental social scientists are particularly well positioned to synergize research to fill the gaps between: (1) local behaviours/needs/worldviews and marine resource management and biological conservation concerns; and (2) large-scale drivers of planetary environmental change (globalization, affluence, technological change, etc.) and local cognitive, socioeconomic, cultural and historical processes that shape human behaviour in the marine environment. To illustrate this, we synthesize the roles of various environmental social science disciplines in better understanding the interaction between humans and tropical marine ecosystems in developing nations where issues arising from human–coastal interactions are particularly pronounced. We focus on: (1) the application of the environmental social sciences in marine resource management and conservation; (2) the development of ‘new’ socially equitable marine conservation; (3) repopulating the seascape; (4) incorporating multi-scale dynamics of marine social–ecological systems; and (5) envisioning the future of marine resource management and conservation for producing policies and projects for comprehensive and successful resource management and conservation in the Anthropocene.
Environmental Conservation: page 1 of 11. C
Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2017. doi:10.1017/S0376892917000431
Marine resource management and conservation in the Anthropocene
1Department of Anthropology and Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science (DIFS), Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa,
2Duke Marine Lab, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA, 3Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine
Ecology, Fahrenheitstrasse 6, D-28359 Bremen, Germany, 4ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville,
QLD 4811, Australia, 5Department of Marine Affairs, Coastal Institute, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA,6School for the
Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287–5603, USA, 7School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and
Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, 3707 Brooklyn Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105-6715, USA and 8Department
of Anthropology and McGill School of Environment, McGill University. Montreal, Canada
Date submitted: 26 October 2016; Date accepted: 25 July 2017
Because the Anthropocene by definition is an epoch
during which environmental change is largely anthro-
pogenic and driven by social, economic, psychological
and political forces, environmental social scientists can
effectively analyse human behaviour and knowledge
systems in this context. In this subject review, we
summarize key ways in which the environmental
social sciences can better inform fisheries management
policy and practice and marine conservation in
the Anthropocene. We argue that environmental
social scientists are particularly well positioned to
synergize research to fill the gaps between: (1) local
behaviours/needs/worldviews and marine resource
management and biological conservation concerns;
and (2) large-scale drivers of planetary environmental
change (globalization, affluence, technological change,
etc.) and local cognitive, socioeconomic, cultural and
historical processes that shape human behaviour in the
marine environment. To illustrate this, we synthesize
the roles of various environmental social science
disciplines in better understanding the interaction
between humans and tropical marine ecosystems in
developing nations where issues arising from human–
coastal interactions are particularly pronounced. We
focus on: (1) the application of the environmental
social sciences in marine resource management and
conservation; (2) the development of ‘new’ socially
equitable marine conservation; (3) repopulating the
seascape; (4) incorporating multi-scale dynamics of
marine social–ecological systems; and (5) envisioning
the future of marine resource management and
conservation for producing policies and projects for
comprehensive and successful resource management
and conservation in the Anthropocene.
Correspondence: Professor Shankar Aswani email: s.aswani@
Keywords: Anthropocene, environmental social science,
marine conservation, social equity, sustainability
The Anthropocene has witnessed humankind becoming a
global force of environmental change (Crutzen 2002). The
debate on whether the Anthropocene started with the arrival
of Homo sapiens, the inception of agriculture, colonialism
or the beginning of industrialization (e.g. Ruddiman 2003;
Smith & Zeder 2013) came to the fore in August 2016
when the scientific community recognized the Anthropocene
as a geological reality ( 2016). While some have
questioned its conceptual utility as a social construct
(Lövbrand et al. 2015) or even its existence as a geological
era (Visconti 2014), others clearly place its beginnings
according to multiple strands of evidence to the mid-20th
century (Waters et al. 2016). Human behaviour is now
having considerable planetary impacts (e.g. Dirzo et al. 2014)
and in the oceans these impacts include decreased ocean
productivity and altered food web dynamics, the extinction
and displacement of many marine species (Gattuso et al.
2015; McCauley et al. 2015), pollution and sedimentation
(Richmond et al. 2007), rising sea temperatures and ocean
acidification (Hoegh-Guldberg et al. 2007).
Environmental social scientists, particularly those who
study human–environmental interactions (in all their
dimensions) and governance systems, are well positioned
to understand human behaviour in the Anthropocene and
to translate it to natural scientists and political decision-
makers. This is because the present epoch is one where
environmental change is largely anthropogenic, driven by
human psychological, social, economic and political processes.
The environmental social sciences are a constellation
of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary scholarship on
past and present human–environmental interactions and
associated cognitive, behavioural, economic, governance,
political and socio-cultural systems. These approaches
present combinations of descriptive, empirically grounded,
quantitative, critical/reflexive and qualitative methodologies
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2Aswani S. et al.
and encompass fields as diverse as human ecology,
political ecology, ethnobiology, environmental psychology,
environmental history, institutional analysis and cultural
ecology. Yet the environmental social sciences are not strictly
a mission-orientated set of approaches to inform biological
conservation or what Bennett et al. (2017) have described as
“conservation social sciences.” Beyond enabling actionable
science for conservation, environmental social scientists
study the role of humans in environmental change and
examine the proximate and ultimate causation mechanisms
of human environmental cognition and behaviour, cross-
scale dynamics, power asymmetries in resource use and
access and approaches to practical environmental solutions
from various theoretical and methodological viewpoints.
These pluralities, which have similarities and differences,
are not well understood or represented in major resource
management and conservation debates in the Anthropocene,
where economic values and approaches have been emphasized
in mainstream management and conservation (e.g. ecosystem
services and payments for them). The multiple dimensions
of environmental social science need to be translated clearly
to conservation practitioners, natural scientists and funders
to enhance the various aspects involved in understanding
human–nature relations theoretically in order to support the
more efficient (and equitable) design of resource management
and conservation programmes (see also Drury et al. 2011;
Cornu et al. 2014; Moon & Blackman 2014; Holmes
In this subject review, we highlight various key ways in
which environmental social science can provide a deeper
understanding of the human role in marine transformations
and provide knowledge to better inform marine and coastal
resource management and conservation policy and practice
in the Anthropocene. We focus on the co-design and
co-implementation of initiatives such as marine protected
areas (MPAs), marine ecosystems-based management, marine
environmental restoration and fisheries regulations at local,
regional and national scales, particularly in developing nations,
where issues arising from human–coastal interactions are
particularly pronounced. The environmental social sciences
are necessary for studying human–marine interactions and
resource use and management and conservation in the marine
environment because humans need to better understand the
past and present human–marine interfaces, as the oceans
cover over 70% of the planet’s surface and most of humanity
lives near the coast. In addition, current and future human
interactions with the oceans are crucial for human well-
being and survival in the Anthropocene, and it will require
serious efforts to manage and conserve the oceans. Thus, we
argue that environmental social scientists are particularly well
positioned to synergize research to fills the gaps between:
(1) local behaviours/needs/worldviews and marine resource
management and conservation concerns; and (2) large-scale
drivers of planetary marine environmental change (resulting
from globalization, affluence, technological change, etc.) and
local psychological, socioeconomic, cultural and historical
processes that shape human behaviour and knowledge
systems. Environmental social scientists, therefore, can scale
up from the local to the global and vice versa. The
broader objective of this paper is to advocate not only for
the involvement of environmental social scientists in co-
designing and implementing marine resource management
and conservation, but also for their role in the co-
production of knowledge, management and governance
systems that are more just and enduring in the context of the
The review synthesizes some key themes in order to
stimulate further debate and discussion about the future of
marine resource management and conservation initiatives,
including: (1) the application of the environmental social
sciences in marine resource management and conservation;
(2) the development of ‘new’ socially equitable marine
conservation; (3) repopulating the seascape; (4) incorporating
multi-scale dynamics of marine social–ecological systems; and
(5) envisioning the future of marine resource management
and conservation in the Anthropocene. The review is based
on cited literature and on our collective experience in co-
learning and co-producing knowledge on marine resource
management and conservation issues, drawing on a wide range
of intellectual perspectives, and diverse geographic regions
around the world. The interrelated examples are not meant to
be exhaustive, but rather a sample of the diverse environmental
social science approaches, theories and methods available for
understanding human–marine interactions (e.g. Vaccaro et al.
2010) and informing and driving marine resource management
and conservation, particularly in coastal areas, where human–
environmental entanglements are profuse.
Although globalization characterizes the Anthropocene,
understanding human–environmental interactions and
resolving many environmental problems require local research
and solutions. Successful policy and appropriate knowledge
for designing resource management and conservation in
a human-dominated biosphere are often best formulated
by scaling down and considering the intricacies of local
resource users and their governance and power dynamics.
This can lead to the production of knowledge that is
different from what is normally applied in the creation and
implementation of management and conservation strategies
in a global context. Given the mixed record of biologically
driven marine conservation policy and projects (e.g. Christie
2004; Lundquist & Granek 2005), it is time to expand
efforts in integrating natural and social sciences in the
design and implementation of policies and projects for
marine conservation and management. Indeed, projects and
policy should be based on sound science (both natural
and social), an understanding of conservation efforts that
are ecologically effective and socially appropriate and the
respectful collaboration between social and natural scientists.
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Marine conservation in the Anthropocene 3
But this implies equal partnership in responsibilities between
social and natural scientists with interdisciplinary training
in collaboration with local communities and regional and
national officials, who may be more worried about human
well-being and development than marine conservation. Such
constellations are rare so far, notwithstanding earlier calls
for the inclusion of social science in terrestrial (e.g. West
& Brechin 1991) and marine conservation (e.g. Mascia et al.
Substantive environmental social science research could
increase the effectiveness of coastal fisheries management and
conservation plans. For instance, human behavioural ecology
has been used as a theoretical framework to understand human
foraging propensities in marine diet breadth (food choices; e.g.
Thomas 2002) and patch choice (habitat selection; e.g. Aswani
1998) to gauge incipient conservation practices (or not) and
their implications in an evolutionary context. It has also been
used to understand how social networks based on kinship and
habitational proximity increase reciprocal exchanges of whale
meat in rural areas of Indonesia (Nolin 2010). This kind of fine-
grained human ecological/behavioural information is rarely
collected or even understood, yet it is important to elucidate
how and why human behaviour is structured in resource
extraction and exchanges (and not just social and cultural
ideas and perceptions). This information is also important
for designing marine resource sustainability and conservation
programmes (Heinen 1992) in many parts of the world.
Other environmental social scientists have acknowledged
that psychological variables are also important in
understanding the attitudes, beliefs and values that impact
human interactions with the marine environment in terms
of conservation-relevant behaviour. For example, cultural
values and beliefs influence attitudes towards conservation-
related behaviour in general or climate change (e.g. Price
et al. 2014). Research has also identified psychological factors
associated with fishers’ behaviour that frequently confounds
fishery management efforts, such as reluctance to leave the
occupation of fishing even when declining stocks result in
sharply decreasing incomes (e.g. Pollnac et al. 2012). Aspects
of job satisfaction among fishers have been identified as causal
factors in this type of response. Attributes of the occupation
such as ‘adventure’, ‘independence’ and ‘being outdoors’,
among others, have been identified as functioning as therapy
for a specific personality type, which is influenced by both
behavioural and cultural factors. In fact, job satisfaction is
the most consistent predictor of well-being among fishers
(e.g. Seara et al. 2017). Today, when human impacts on
fisheries stock declines and climate change pose important
and increasing challenges for fishers and policy-makers alike
in many parts of the world, these psychological aspects of the
occupation must be accounted for.
The environmental social sciences can also focus on
institutional processes. With two-thirds of the global
population living within 100 km of a coast, coastal regions
are hotspots of contemporary anthropogenic change. Higher
population densities, more direct forms of dependence on
nature and more diverse uses in coastal regions (as compared
to purely terrestrial and purely marine regions) take the
tropical coastal belt into the centre of anthropogenic change
processes. Vulnerable tropical coastal ecosystems such as
coral reefs are at the frontline of debates regarding human-
driven change processes today. The better-preserved coral
reefs or ‘bright spots’ are found in areas of the world that
still have strong socio-cultural institutions such as customary
management systems and in which high levels of local
engagement (often with social scientists, among others) in
management are present (Cinner et al. 2016). The study of
local governance institutions (e.g. resource exploitation and
management patterns) and management in these hotspots are
at the core of the type of institutional environmental social
science research outlined here.
Environmental social sciences have uncovered the
attributes of successful decentralized governance systems.
The Caguama turtle project (Baja California Sur) shows
that local governance system studies can empower small-
scale fishermen to improve turtle conservation outcomes
(Peckham & Maldonado 2012). While natural science was
important in understanding loggerhead hotspots, the use
of environmental social science was the driving force in
the direct participation of fishermen in the protection
of loggerhead turtles and fisheries. The community-based
Ostional Egg Harvesting Project (Costa Rica) has for two
decades successfully maintained a stable population of nesting
Olive Ridley turtles, the key being the consideration of
legal and economic aspects as well as the participation of
community members in the design and management of the
reserve (Campbell et al. 2007). In the Indonesian Spermonde
archipelago, the strongest evidence of effective reef MPA
governance was found to be associated with informal, self-
organized island-based institutions (Glaser et al. 2010). The
use of a geographic information system database to geo-
reference governance systems, marine local knowledge and
foraging can help in designing culturally contextualized
MPAs, and has contributed to a mixed measure of biological
and social success in the creation of MPAs in the Western
Solomon Islands, where there is no governmental enforcement
and policing is conducted by local communities themselves
(see Aswani et al. 2017).
In a policy-orientated context, environmental social
scientists can provide fundamental insights. For instance, at
the recent Human Dimensions Think Tank on Large Scale
Marine Protected Areas, involving 125 individuals from 17
countries and 16 universities and supported by 7 international
donors, an applied social science research agenda was jointly
promoted. The idea was that in designing many large MPAs,
the agenda had to be implemented by practitioners and social
scientists (Christie & Lewis 2016). It was decided that focusing
on issues of culture, participatory planning and economic
trade-offs was essential to improved management of these
areas that include 9 million km2of ocean (Big Ocean 2016).
This meeting resulted in a commitment to a ‘community of
practice’ and developed a framework for the inclusion of social
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4Aswani S. et al.
and cultural dimensions in the planning and implementation
of large MPAs (areas over 250 000 km2). The International
Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently
created a Global Economics and Social Science Programme
(GESSP) to further promote and develop the use of the social
sciences in conservation; a Social Science for Conservation
Fellowship Programme has been launched to demonstrate
ways in which social science methods and perspectives can
improve understanding of and address challenges related to
the human dimensions of conservation (Bennet et al. 2017).
Such efforts are prompted by findings that MPAs designed
purely on size and biological characteristics will not succeed
unless “durable management and compliance” parameters are
considered in their design at local and global scales (Jones
2002;Edgardet al. 2014: 216).
For all the potential contributions, however, environmental
social scientists are still underrepresented. An example of
this absence is the United States National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has authority
over ocean issues in the United States and is mandated by
the Magnuson Stevens Act to consider the social impacts of
fisheries plans (and also has jurisdiction over many tropical
coral reefs in various island locations). Of the six line offices
that comprise the NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) has the most social scientists on its staff by
far. Yet of the NMFS’s 1700 employees in Fisheries Science
Centers, only 4% are in social science or human dimensions
staff positions. Of those in social science or human dimensions
staff positions, 68% are economists, while only 11% are
anthropologists, 8% are other social scientists and 11% are in
human dimensions positions that are non-social science (e.g.
journalism) or unclassified positions (NOAA 2017). Social
network analysis of the marine resource management scientific
community at Puget Sound shows that 80% of researchers
are natural scientists, and social science research is only
vaguely integrated into management plans (Hoelting et al.
2014). These examples by comparison hint at the negative
state of social science inclusion in governance elsewhere in the
With the declaration of the Anthropocene and recent calls
for a ‘new’ conservation science (Marvier 2013), biodiversity
conservation is being redefined (e.g. Dirzo et al. 2014).
The debate on the ‘new’ conservation science (Soulé 2013)
continues to revolve around issues of biodiversity versus
human needs. Many, however, argue that conservation can
be effective and ethical only if it accounts for humans and
their institutions as an integrative part of the environment
(Kareiva & Marvier 2012; Sandbrook et al. 2013). We do not
argue here that conservation should exist for the sole purpose
of serving humanitarian or developmental needs, but rather
we assume that all living organisms and associated ecosystems
have an inherent right to exist and to flourish. We do argue,
however, that for conservation to succeed in the longer term,
it must take the ‘people and nature’ approach (Mace 2014)
in a way that is socially and environmentally equitable to
those people whose livelihoods are affected by it. For this, the
meanings, knowledge and interventions pursued must involve
the concerns and voices of many constituents, not just those
of credentialed experts or political–economic elites. Resource
users are more likely to support marine conservation efforts
when their concerns are met, and this is more likely to happen
when planning processes are participatory, transparent and
equitable (e.g. Ferse et al. 2010; Pollnac et al. 2010;Jenkins
2015). When environmental and socioeconomic benefits are
not fairly distributed, elite capture for short-term gains can
lower legitimacy and increase conflict (e.g. Glaser et al. 2010).
Perceived fairness in the distribution of benefits and burdens
not only relates to marine resource management in coastal
communities, but also to the regulation of wider societal
activities affecting the oceans, such as conversion of coastal or
hinterland forests, waste management and carbon emissions
and use of renewable energy (e.g. Dreyer & Walker 2013).
Research in political ecology can address issues between
justice and environmental management at multiple scales
and provide an analysis of the power dynamics between
the different actors (social and institutional) historically
competing in any given sea/landscape for access and control
of its natural resources. Ethnographic studies of this type
are particularly well-suited to identifying the context, causes
and potential solutions to environmental conflict (Bryant &
Bailey 1997). Social survey research and causal inference
programme evaluation research designs can also examine
how relations between local actors, scientists, conservationists,
policy makers and donors affect just and durable conservation
practices. For instance, Sievanen et al. (2013) have used
a political ecology framework for studying asymmetries in
power relations between different stakeholders involved in
marine conservation in Fiji, and this has had benefits for
conceptualizing conservation design and implementation.
In this respect, political ecology offers a powerful means
to ask about why, for whom, by whom and with whom
should marine conservation be implemented in the first place.
Political ecology, then, can offer the intellectual basis for
uncovering how individual and multiple actors conceptualize,
perceive, decide or comply (or not) with the implementation
of marine conservation initiatives in any one location. Political
ecology has also been a tool to identify problems in the way
conservation schemes were developed, helping to develop a
critical conservation biology capable of identifying its impact
on the social and ecological systems (SESs) it attempts to
manage and protect. Sometimes conservation has succeeded
at harmonizing the interactions between local populations,
external socioeconomic pressures and the environment. Other
times, however, it has worsened the power asymmetries
unfolding over the territory and the disenfranchising of
already marginal populations. This can be a particularly
troubling outcome for conservationists who may perceive their
efforts as inherently ethical and laudable.
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Marine conservation in the Anthropocene 5
Marine conservation efforts can unintentionally create
dependency on outside expertise and/or funding while
working to build sustainability (Gurney et al. 2014). It is thus
important to understand how different types of conservation
interventions and political structures interact to create local
dependency or, alternatively, local entrepreneurialism that
benefits human well-being and biodiversity conservation.
Ostrom’s (2005) design principles can be wrongly interpreted
as universal blueprints for success, or a signal of disaster if
absent. Environmental social scientists can offer guidance
on context to understand when and how these design
principles can assist in specific settings and, most importantly,
they can actively research their articulation in a given
location for the production of new knowledge, particularly
for building social–ecological theory (e.g. Campbell 2005;
Partelow 2016). When resource users are actively involved
in governing their resources, improved social and ecological
outcomes are realized (Persha et al. 2011). However, it
remains challenging to discern and implement effective
mixes of rights and responsibilities that local resource
users and external actors (e.g. central governments or non-
governmental organizations) within particular contexts would
need to assume, as well as how they can cooperatively create
opportunities for the sustainable use and management of
oceans. To be successful, such work will need to be based
on interdisciplinary collaborations between conservation
practitioners and environmental social scientists, which not
only engage in conservation for the production of applied
research/actionable science (Palmer 2012), but also for
striving to discover theoretically how humans use and
adapt to changing environments. Indeed, producing context-
independent principles that explain or perfectly predict
behaviour, interests and social processes in ocean governance
may be impossible. However, learning networks that engage
conservation practitioners and environmental social scientists
(and other scientists and constituency groups) in a multi-
level polycentric ocean governance co-design process of
research design and implementation is a powerful tool for
breaking down institutional boundaries (e.g. Pietri et al. 2015).
Principles derived through environmental social science and
practical experience can be brought into such learning
networks to complement other knowledge and to help guide
the application of actionable science and the refinement and
adaptation of conservation best practices.
In sum, some of the fundamental needs for understanding
the social and ecological contexts in which conservation
is implemented are discerning processes such as existing
conflicts among various stakeholders, differential forms of
local resource governance and knowledge (e.g. sea tenure and
ecological knowledge) and the role of resource management
and conservation programmes in enhancing or diminishing
people’s economic prospects. Also important is pinpointing
peoples’ social values and aesthetic perceptions regarding the
environment and analysing how conservation programmes
can empower or alienate coastal communities (e.g. Berkes
et al. 2000;Christie2004). Importantly for interdisciplinary
collaboration, environmental social scientists should not only
promote intellectual relativism in the practice of conservation
(e.g. West & Brockington 2006; Peterson et al. 2010), but
also co-produce and co-implement practical knowledge that
is engaged in situ for the successful implementation of
conservation (e.g. Jenkins et al. 2012). While there are still
some social scientists that reject intervention and prefer to
focus solely on studying or deconstructing social phenomena,
environmental social scientists can only take a co-leadership
role in marine resource management and conservation if they
demonstrate on the ground the effectiveness of projects and
policies that seek a balance between human and ecological
needs. To this end, they also need to demonstrate that resource
management and conservation initiatives do not create or
perpetuate social and environmental injustices for poor and
indigenous minorities.
As seascapes in the Anthropocene become increasingly
humanized, fractional and encroached upon by economic
development, particularly in coastal areas, it is fundamental
to recognize the past peopling of the oceans historically.
The representation of ‘unpeopled seascapes’ is more easily
sustained both because humans live on land and also since
the ocean is often characterized as a vast open-access resource
that humans enter to extract benefits and then leave (e.g.
Shackeroff et al. 2009). Removing people from marine
environments (via MPAs or fisheries closures) is then partly
justified on society being ‘outside’ of the marine realm (and
this becomes more complicated when MPAs are near urban
centres). This is reflected in the paradox of labelling places
with a demonstrated recent history of human habitation
as marine wilderness (e.g. Graham & McClanahan 2013).
Steinberg’s (2001) work challenges these assumptions by
documenting changing historical and contemporary social
‘constructions’ of the ocean in Western society and how these
influence the contradictory ways in which oceans are managed.
In fact, such mental constructions subject the ocean to a highly
utilitarian view of the natural environment by mainstream
society, and therefore the humanization of the ocean (e.g. by
recognizing indigenous territorial rights, oceans as highways
of cultural–genetic past interactions, etc.) in the Anthropocene
is necessary to address this disjuncture.
Again, this utilitarian view that is so pervasive in the
Anthropocene is also reflected in developments in high-
seas fishing and deep-sea mining. As these fall outside
national boundaries, or straddle several of them, they pose
unique and novel challenges to policy and governance.
Where these resources fall outside national boundaries, they
have traditionally been considered as free for all. While
the need for more systematic and concerted approaches to
conservation of the high seas is widely recognized (e.g. Ban
et al. 2014), the discussion again draws largely on natural
science perspectives, such as the migratory nature of some
fish stocks or the extent of marine ecoregions. Perspectives
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6Aswani S. et al.
such as the cultural values attributed to seascapes do not
feature in these considerations. A similar trend is apparent in
the development of ocean renewable energy and technological
mitigation of climate change (e.g. through artificial upwelling
of deep ocean waters or the storage of sequestered carbon
dioxide in the deep sea). The push for these types of
activities is bound to increase greatly in the coming decades.
Again, their implementation views the marine space largely
through a lens of technological feasibility and oceanographic
suitability. Unless different views and perceptions of seascapes
are integrated, conflicts over uses of marine space are likely
to increase in the future. More than anywhere else, the
international policy arena provides a forum for different
views of the natural environment to come into conflict, and
successful governance of transnational issues requires coming
to terms with these often-conflicting views. The ongoing
argument over jurisdiction of parts of the South China Sea,
with contrasting claims by different nations that are based
on contrasting cultural and historical arguments, is one such
example. As the recent ruling by the Permanent Court of
Arbitration on the issue has shown, biophysical facts have
little relevance to the eventual resolution of the disagreements.
Rather, socio-cultural and historical knowledge often holds
the crucial potential to settle such disputes. Environmental
social scientists, and in this case social scientists in general,
are well placed to contribute to the debate by assessing and
translating the different views, including those that place
marine environments as inseparable from identity.
Rich ethnographic documentation of human uses of
seascapes provides tangible examples where community
territory and property rights have extended to the sea and
have helped over generations in the use and sustainable
management of marine resources (e.g. Sopher 1965; Johannes
1978; Ruddle 1989). Although eroded during the colonial
era, in many island nations, efforts to revive and strengthen
traditional marine stewardship are ongoing. A current
example is support for the Pacific Islands Ocean Region
as ‘our sea of islands’ (Pratt & Govan 2010). Even in the
highly industrialized ground fish fisheries of New England,
St Martin (2001) used participatory research methods
combined with analysis of vessel monitoring data to find
and map communities ‘at sea’, and others have shown that
appropriation of the sea is not restricted to indigenous or far-
away rural communities (e.g. Acheson 1988; McCay 1998).
In sum, with the increase in conservationists’ efforts to create
well-defined property rights regimes in marine management
and conservation, it is essential to recognize and account for
the historical rights and the complexity of ways in which
social groups and nations understand, appropriate, use and
make rules for their interactions with the ocean.
Maritime cultures often traverse territorial boundaries to
form fluid and mobile networks with little adherence to
demarcations drawn by administrators or conservationists. To
be successful, marine conservation efforts have to account
for these perspectives and develop ways that enable the
participation of stakeholders that do not conform to spatially
fixed notions of social–environment relations (Pauwelussen
2015). Policy makers not only need to recognize the territorial
rights of coastal peoples and the socio-cultural intricacies
of local property rights, but they also need to be enabled
to match social connectivity (e.g. the distance over which
people communicate and share resources) with biological
connectivity (e.g. the distance over which species function)
(Cumming et al. 2006; Mills et al. 2010). This social
connectivity is even acknowledged in the development of
science-based, large-scale MPAs in the Pacific Islands, where
governments and interested stakeholders involved in the MPA
designation and implementation are taking into account the
historical context of ancient voyaging and trading, the sense
of place that islanders feel for the ocean and customary
managerial claims of islanders to foster interest in and
compliance with implementation (Friedlander et al. 2016).
Yet, notwithstanding this acknowledgement, international
conventions such as Aichi Target 11 of the Convention
on Biological Diversity (CBD), which specifically talks
about MPAs, professes the use of ‘equitable management’
without a proper understanding of what ‘equitable’ entails
(CBD 2011), thus urgently requiring the involvement of
environmental social scientists. While marine spatial planning
and ecosystems-based management have been offered as
platforms to link conservation and societal needs (Douvere
2008), these formal ‘Western’ managerial systems still need
reconciliation with existing local and indigenous systems of
management on the ground (such as Pacific Island customary
management systems or lobster fishermen territoriality in
Maine, USA), and thus require the development of effective,
knowledge-based policy recommendations in marine resource
management and conservation using the types of expertise
outlined in this paper.
Because human–environmental interactions are so inter-
twined in the Anthropocene and landscapes and seascapes are
culturally and physically transformed as a result of millennia
of human environmental manipulation, we can no longer
treat human–environmental relations as uncoupled. In recent
years, authors have emphasized that marine environments are
coupled SESs, which are affected by individual and collective
human activities, and that changes in marine ecosystems affect
human society (e.g. Pollnac et al. 2010; Kittinger et al. 2013).
The concept of SESs can help to highlight interactions and
promote diagnostic thinking, as well as the development of a
common interdisciplinary language in marine conservation
(Basurto et al. 2013). Yet, while social–ecological theory
conceptually bridges the social and natural sciences, some
social scientists have felt uneasy about incorporating this
paradigm into their work and either have ignored or
rejected the concept altogether. This uneasiness emerges from
fundamentally different ways in which natural and social
scientists understand fundamental theoretical principles such
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Marine conservation in the Anthropocene 7
as system boundaries, self-organization (e.g. versus human
agency) and function, among other core concepts of SESs.
In addition, some social scientists feel uncomfortable with
the attempt at unifying natural and social sciences under the
umbrella of SES theory, which is at odds with the pluralism
of social science research more generally (Olsson et al. 2015).
In this respect, environmental social scientists, many of
whom subscribe to and write about SESs, can synergize
social and natural science because they are often trained
to understand and work with ecology and can thus better
reconcile concepts and methods that greatly differ between
natural and social scientists, including concepts such as
agency, conflict, knowledge and power (which are not included
in SES theory). This is particularly relevant in scaling-up
for understanding people’s relationship to the environment
and using this knowledge for marine conservation. Assessing
larger-scale processes can help predict trends in marine
resource use before they manifest at the local level. However,
the study of coupled human–natural systems also needs
to scale down for identifying the drivers of resource
conceptualization, use and governance, power asymmetries
in appropriation and management, among others, in any one
location. Only by doing so are we able to assess the outcomes
of interacting global drivers and place-specific institutions
(Berkes et al. 2006; Glaser et al. 2012). By identifying how
individual actors impact the environment at finer spatial and
temporal scales, the environmental social sciences can add
a crucial missing element to better our understanding of
the interrelated mechanisms that shape and drive changes
in SESs. Harnessing more systematic research traditions
in human ecology, environmental economics and human
geography can help in this endeavour. In sum, a problem-
focused or issue-based approach to defining SESs opens up
options for analysing complex multi-level relationships for
one or several multi-level SESs, which may even share the
same geographical reference territory (Glaser et al. 2012).
Understanding social–ecological systems within their
historical contexts, including drivers and feedback loops over
time, should inform the design of conservation interventions.
For instance, Cinner et al. (2012) have incorporated social
and ecological measures of performance in coral reef systems
and found that market access and users’ dependence on
resources affect resource conditions, while institutional
characteristics (e.g. access restrictions and sanctions) strongly
influence livelihoods and compliance outcomes. Incorporating
these multiple performance measures facilitates identifying
complex relationships and outcomes (Agrawal & Chhatre
2011;Daltonet al. 2015), such as increases in some groups’
human well-being despite declining ecosystem conditions, or
short-term improvements in biological resources as conflicts
among stakeholders emerge. This kind of research can also
assist in assessing social and ecological linkages in the study
of iconic MPAs such as the Galapagos National Park and
the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Fidelman 2014)for
improving their design. In short, by understanding the
dynamics of human–environmental relationships locally as
the outcome of processes on various scales and system levels,
we can improve cross-scale linkages in analyses regarding
continuing social and ecological feedbacks in complex marine
systems. Then we can conceptualize the globalization of
environmental pressure in the Anthropocene in order to
take international action for the conservation of marine and
terrestrial ecosystems alike.
In the context of the Anthropocene, we have argued
that beyond engaging the social sciences and humanities
with the natural sciences in general (Palsson et al.
2013), meaningful engagement with a diverse range of
environmental social science perspectives, insights and
experiences will increase the chances for a better theoretical
understanding of human–environmental interactions and for
successful conservation initiatives. As humans navigate into
the Anthropocene, the next decade offers a frontier of
opportunities for action-based environmental social science
in marine resource management and conservation. Human-
driven changes in marine ecosystems (e.g. climate change)
open ‘new’ opportunities to rethink what ‘territories’ or
‘governance regimes’ are, and offer the potential to imagine
and propose regimes that better take into account marine
resource management and conservation objectives and values.
Oceans are rich as creative spaces for human ingenuity;
they are where the foundations of international law were
developed and where communal property management and
co-management experiments are taking place (e.g. new fisher
unions or community-supported fisheries organizations).
While our discussion has focused on near-shore marine
management and conservation, other marine issues such
as ocean acidification, rising sea levels, plastics, hypoxic
zones, fishing in the high seas, large-scale MPAs or deep-sea
mining are likely to lead the way in terms of transnational
policy development and will require the cooperation of
social and natural scientists with society at large to solve
them. Because marine environments are underwater and
their changes are thus not immediately recognizable, modern
social constructions of seascapes have resulted in de-facto
marine uses that treat marine areas as open-access resources.
A fundamental issue in the Anthropocene is that socially
constructed perceptions of ocean spaces, social–ecological
changes and causality are difficult to align with scientifically
established biophysical causal links. This is because agency
or events occur at multiple scales from the local to the
global, yet the environmental consequences are clearly local
to most people (also because natural and social scientists,
environmentalists and non-scientists often have different
Marine resource management and conservation of seascapes
in the Anthropocene, therefore, must adapt to this overlapping
of varied perceptions and conditions. The analysis of
marine social–ecological systems needs to attend to the
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8Aswani S. et al.
intersection of ecological, behavioural and social processes,
where investigations of the latter move beyond a focus mainly
on economics as the ‘social’ component. Understandings of
psychological and behavioural processes are also essential
to a complete understanding of human behaviour with
regard to marine management and conservation activities.
Multiple methods of analysis (e.g. including cognitive science,
ethnography, participatory research and institutional analysis)
are necessary for increasing the possibility of uncovering
different powers and behavioural dynamics and hence
establishing a participatory decision-making process that
elevates the chances of success via local involvement in marine
conservation. But achieving truly environmental socially
driven and participatory research will require scientists,
donors, conservation practitioners and policy makers to:
(1) stop viewing social and participatory action research as
challenging the primacy of knowledge generation by natural
scientists; (2) consider the possibility of interdisciplinary
participatory research in which environmental social scientists
are involved in all stages of research design, data collection,
analysis, policy recommendation formulation and action
taking (rather than acting as late-coming data gatherers for
natural scientists) (Viseu 2015); (3) recognize the fluidity of
local knowledge systems and avoiding their essentialization
and commoditization (Sillitoe 1998; Gururani & Vandergeest
2014); (4) consider meaningful and practical solutions to
pressing environmental and social problems as important
as robust theory generation; (5) remain open to multiple
solutions and mechanisms to environmental problems rather
than using research in an instrumentalist manner to convince
constituents that a particular solution (e.g. protected areas
or formal fisheries management plans) is the only and ideal
one (in this respect, non-sectarian scenario experiments, in
which participants actively discard their disciplinary biases for
collective agreements on ways forward in marine conservation,
are a good place to start in tackling ‘wicked problems’; see
Le Heron et al. 2016); and (6) consider ‘promoting’ more
environmental social scientists with interdisciplinary training
to equal positions of leadership in conservation programmes,
particularly for projects in coastal communities that are highly
dependent on marine resources. In sum, through a different
kind of knowledge production that has been applied to date in
the creation, production and implementation of conservation
strategies, humanity may find alternative ways of managing
the marine environment.
In conclusion, we argue that a key challenge in integrating
environmental social sciences into marine conservation
practice hinges on recognizing and meaningfully involving
the diversity of interests, values, worldviews, knowledge
and skills of people closely involved with oceans, as
well as of those people whose effects on the oceans
occur more indirectly (e.g. through particular lifestyle
choices). Harnessing such diversity towards imagining new
possibilities and opportunities will help tackle the new
dimensions of the challenges that the Anthropocene entails by
improving human chances at achieving socially equitable and
enduring conservation that benefits both nature and human
Jill Belsky, Kai Lee, Phil Levin and Brian Silliman offered
useful comments on earlier drafts. The University of
Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
financed and hosted the Human Dimensions of the Ocean
workshop. There is no conflict of interests including any
financial, personal or other relationships with other people
or organizations.
This research received no specific grant from any funding
agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
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... Sin embargo, los principios del marco de pueden interpretarse erróneamente si no se tiene en cuenta el contexto social y ecológico. Sí bien son una guía, no pueden entenderse como claves únicas para el éxito, y más bien son una guía que ha sido validada con base en casos de estudio (Aswani et al., 2018;Botto-Barrios y Saavedra-Díaz, 2020;Cox et al., 2010). En contraste, el estado de estos principios puede ser una herramienta útil para establecer un «grado de madurez» de las comunidades para avanzar hacia una estrategia de manejo participativo de los recursos y priorizar acciones que les permita avanzar en este proceso adaptativo (Saavedra-Díaz, 2012). ...
... Oceans are shared spaces subject to competing claims and preferences over use 1 ; since the time of the Roman Empire's Mare Clausum, the oceans have alternately been contested by trade and colonial powers, or framed as global commons 2 . Historical narratives positioning oceans as empty spaces of nature devoid of human life, and frontiers to be discovered, exploited, and conserved 3 , overlook less resourced, less powerful ocean-reliant peoples and their rights and claims 4,5 . ...
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Calls to address social equity in ocean governance are expanding. Yet ‘equity’ is seldom clearly defined. Here we present a framework to support contextually-informed assessment of equity in ocean governance. Guiding questions include: (1) Where and (2) Why is equity being examined? (3) Equity for or amongst Whom? (4) What is being distributed? (5) When is equity considered? And (6) How do governance structures impact equity? The framework supports consistent operationalization of equity, challenges oversimplification, and allows evaluation of progress. It is a step toward securing the equitable ocean governance already reflected in national and international commitments.
... Sin embargo, los principios del marco de pueden interpretarse erróneamente si no se tiene en cuenta el contexto social y ecológico. Sí bien son una guía, no pueden entenderse como claves únicas para el éxito, y más bien son una guía que ha sido validada con base en casos de estudio (Aswani et al., 2018;Botto-Barrios y Saavedra-Díaz, 2020;Cox et al., 2010). En contraste, el estado de estos principios puede ser una herramienta útil para establecer un «grado de madurez» de las comunidades para avanzar hacia una estrategia de manejo participativo de los recursos y priorizar acciones que les permita avanzar en este proceso adaptativo (Saavedra-Díaz, 2012). ...
... 2) Tackling the practical and material problems in planning towards the future world we are building. This role of research towards decolonization is to help solve the many technical and logistical problems that will arise as we cultivate food, health, and resource sovereignty; such research topics involve discerning how to best redesign neighborhoods and dwellings for hurricane resistance and recovery, assessing the effects of past land use and future land plans on soil health, and mapping sites for cultivation and ensuring enough foods, medicines, and resources are being cultivated (Aswani et al., 2018;Gedicks, 1993;Munawar et al., 1990;G. D. Peterson et al., 2003;Pothukuchi & Kaufman, 1999;P. ...
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Puerto Rico’s food systems are dangerously precarious, with the islands importing about 90% of its food, a consequence of five centuries of colonialism prioritizing foreign profit over local welfare. Particularly in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, though, there has been a swelling movement towards food sovereignty on the islands, often aligned with overlapping movements towards the resurgence of Taíno identity and culture. Bringing these movements together, this dissertation focuses on Taíno social-environmental systems, using the recorded Taíno language as the primary vantage point in order to understand the dynamics of pre-colonial social-environmental systems on the islands, the cultures that shaped such systems, and how that can guide us to food and material sovereignty on the islands. This dissertation is grounded in a decolonial research methodology, which I develop and provide as a generalized framework such that other researchers can make use of it as well. Delving into Taíno ecolinguistic ontologies – or the worldviews and relations revealed by the nexus between language and the environment – demonstrates a high degree of naming multiplicity in the Taíno lexicon, particularly for plants and animals with which there was greater intimacy in Taíno cultures. Additionally, redundancy was a prominent feature in pre-colonial Taíno bicultural systems, contributing to socioecological resilience, although there were several categories, especially related to spiritual functions, for which certain biota are simply irreplaceable. Although there are numerous critical barriers obstructing food and material sovereignty for Puerto Rico, the lessons gleaned from Taíno culture, particularly Taíno ecolinguistic ontologies and pre-colonial social-environmental systems, indicate several promising opportunities for cultivating sovereignty: research towards decolonization, mass (re)education, land reclamation, land cultivation & restoration, establishing constellations of care, and building a Pan-Caribbean coalition.
... This implies a planning practice that moves beyond the established concepts of the future as a linear, progressive continuation of the past and the present (Yusoff & Gabrys, 2011). It explicitly engages with the societal processes required for developing trajectories that move beyond unhelpful nature-culture dichotomies (Aswani et al., 2017;Döring et al., 2021). Kon Kam King and Riera (2022) compare examples of how the space and place of sharks and human-shark relations are understood within MSP in the South Pacific. ...
... A natural analog to working landscapes is working seascapes Kremen & Merenlender, 2019). The matrix of marine ecosystems and infrastructure within coastal areas, near-shore and offshore waters, and the open ocean supports wild-caught fisheries, mariculture, energy infrastructure, and recreation, all of which can contribute to sustainable development (Aswani et al., 2018;McCauley et al., 2015). A holistic conservation approach wherein planning and interventions occur across landscapes and seascapes is an essential step toward sustainability, because at this scale, different sectors interact and enhance local actions to serve national and global targets (Reed et al., 2016). ...
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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global blueprint to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet. Progress toward these goals is falling short. Achieving the SDGs requires coordination among government, private industry, and nongovernmental organizations to align the actions of multiple sectors with SDG targets. Adapting an approach used by industry sectors, we mapped the Smithsonian Institution Working Land and Seascapes network to the SDGs. The network of programs aims to foster healthy and productive ecosystems through collaborations with diverse stakeholders. Across the network, we identified clear and measurable contributions to 16 of the 17 SDGs and specifically mapped past and current activities to 76 of the 169 targets, thereby demonstrating how conservation actions can contribute to achieving the SDGs, beyond SDGs 14 and 15. We also identified the need for clear results chain and greater capacity to achieve the SDGs and then provide examples of how different sectors can increase complementarity of their actions. By mapping activities to the SDGs, different sectors can increase alignment and strengthen collective contributions towards common global goals.
... Degradation of productive ocean ecosystems in the last two centuries (particularly the extensive over-exploitation of fish stocks) inspired the sectoral marine management approaches of the 20 th century, the origins of which may be traced back to Feudal European fishing laws. Marine resource law and policy developed in reaction to two major conflicts: the overexploitation of ocean resources, and the tension between coastal nations' rights to resources (Aswani et al., 2018). (Long, 2007). ...
Although there is an increasing call for the integration of Marine Cultural Heritage (MCH) into international integrated management frameworks such as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), there are few examples of successful integration in practice. This thesis aims to build upon the understanding of MCH as a marine resource by conducting an interdisciplinary investigation of the role of MCH within integrated policy frameworks. In doing so, knowledge and methodologies are drawn upon from multiple fields, including cultural heritage management, environmental studies, law and policy, economics, and resource management. A similarly interdisciplinary research strategy is implemented, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Firstly, the issues associated with integrating heritage into environmental policies are introduced and a large-scale network analysis of the research gaps between disciplines is conducted. The results of this Section are developed into three research questions: (1) How does the definition and associated conceptualisation of cultural heritage in integrated frameworks affect the practicality of its management? (2) What is the value of underwater heritage as part of the marine environment? (3) How can underwater heritage be integrated into marine resource management frameworks, and who is responsible for overseeing this process? Three case studies are used to address the above research questions: an analysis of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) provides novel evidence of the power of semantics in practice; a social valuation experiment exemplifies the interdependencies between heritage and the environment; and a comparative case study of the UK and Bulgaria explores the themes of definition, conceptualisation and valuation in integrated legislation in practice. Throughout this work it is argued that a nominal inclusion of cultural services within integrated frameworks is of detriment to the successful management of both the cultural heritage and the environment. To address this, incentive is given for the inclusion of heritage within environmental frameworks. To facilitate integration in practice, valuable lessons are presented from two of the earliest adopters of integrated cultural – natural marine management. Finally, the above information is used to develop proposals and recommendations across multiple levels of governance, including the EU Commission’s MSP Methodology, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, and the UK Government’s recently developed Culture and Heritage Capital Framework. As we enter the Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030), it is essential that MCH is properly understood, protected, and integrated within international, regional, and national marine plans for the sustainable development of the ocean. As such, the findings of this work aim to provide a platform to better facilitate the management of MCH within marine management frameworks, for the benefit of the cultural heritage, the environment, and society.
... Network studies that consider the perception of actual governance structure and their envisioned potential future(s) are still scarce. To support ocean actors in the imagination of radically alternative pathways, sustainability researchers can engage with complexity through phronetic approaches such as scenario-building and net-mapping that stimulates co-production of knowledge and reflexive learning about the past, present, and future of social networks in environmental governance (Aswani et al. 2017;Arbo et al. 2018;Alexander et al. 2019;Glaser and Schröter 2020). ...
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The globally accelerating environmental crisis calls for radical changes in the governance of ocean resources towards a more sustainable and socially equitable world. Transdisciplinary sustainability research and networked knowledge-to-action approaches are critical parts of this change. The effective application of such approaches still puzzles social actors (individuals and networks) willing to act in more transformative ways. We conducted twelve participatory network mapping activities to assess the perception of high-level federal government institutional entrepreneurs on the structure and dynamics of an emerging socio-political arena for marine spatial planning (MSP) in Brazil. Our informants, mostly cognizant of their own intra-governmental structures, anticipate the MSP arena to remain self-enclosed, with changes only occurring within the federal government structures in the coming years. Their perceptions were largely conservative, narrow, and unambitious and therefore unfit to generate regime transformations. The limited awareness of response capacities beyond the federal government potentially leads to the endurement of the low performance already present in the MSP arena. Results from the participatory network mapping informed a five-step functional ocean governability analysis pointing to key potential contributions to support a critical turn in MSP: 1. envision situated interactional narratives to leverage regime shifts; 2. build a shared understanding of and anticipating transformative coevolutionary dynamics; 3. build awareness of the potential synergies among disparate but innovative area-based responses; 4. specify inter-network-based limitations and the necessary changes underpinning potential leaps in performance levels of ocean governance orders; 5. make power asymmetries explicit to stir structurally tailored strategic action by less influential groups. We discuss the potential role of inter-network strategies and actions and how they may confront the symptoms of depoliticized MSP pathways and the risks of it becoming an instrument of further marginalisation and power asymmetry in Brazil. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s40152-021-00250-1.
Cheilinus undulatus, or Napoleon wrasse – though severely vulnerable to extinction - has become a highly sought-after luxury food for certain societies and has intensified its continuous market demand. Overfishing has been the key factor driving the collapse of its populations. Therefore, conservation and management have never been more urgent. This study explores Napoleon wrasse farming in Anambas, Indonesia. Data gathering was conducted through interviews, exploring the farming practices and export trade. The findings are showing the history of overfishing of adult fish, leading to larval capture as the tragedy of the commons in the nursery grounds. Farming practices causing no stocks replenishment. The government supports the promotion of sustainable activities such as spatial protection. LMMA shows the success of community based coral reef rehabilitation, and this bring opportunity to local communities to utilize Napoleon fish other than farming. However, even though spatial protection leads to institutional arrangement to control unsustainable practices, it needs an integration with calculation based on science to determine the sustainable export quota. Unfortunately, the Non Detriment Findings on Napoleon fish trade was not based on biological assessment, so even though the recent export practice is legal, but it cannot be considered as sustainable. It is also important to allocate the benefit of the farming to broader group so the power of the dominant becomes uncentralized. The more benefit earned by the farmers from sustainable fishery, the more easier it is to institutionalize social norms to avoid overfishing and achieve the conservation goals.
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Tropical and subtropical coastal flats are shallow regions of the marine environment at the intersection of land and sea. These regions provide myriad ecological goods and services, including recreational fisheries focused on flats-inhabiting fishes such as bonefish, tarpon, and permit. The cascading effects of climate change have the potential to negatively impact coastal flats around the globe and to reduce their ecological and economic value. In this paper, we consider how the combined effects of climate change, including extremes in temperature and precipitation regimes, sea level rise, and changes in nutrient dynamics, are causing rapid and potentially permanent changes to the structure and function of tropical and subtropical flats ecosystems. We then apply the available science on recreationally targeted fishes to reveal how these changes can cascade through layers of biological organization—from individuals, to populations, to communities—and ultimately impact the coastal systems that depend on them. We identify critical gaps in knowledge related to the extent and severity of these effects, and how such gaps influence the effectiveness of conservation, management, policy, and grassroots stewardship efforts.
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A review and Pacific Islands Regional Policy as endorsed by Pacific Islands' Leaders. Pratt, C. and H. Govan. 2010. Our Sea of Islands, Our Livelihoods, Our Oceania. Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape: a catalyst for implementation of ocean policy. SPREP, Apia, Samoa.
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It has long been claimed that a better understanding of human or social dimensions of environmental issues will improve conservation. The social sciences are one important means through which researchers and practitioners can attain that better understanding. Yet, a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences impedes the conservation community's effective engagement with the human dimensions. This paper examines the scope and purpose of eighteen subfields of classic, interdisciplinary and applied conservation social sciences and articulates ten distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to understanding and improving conservation. In brief, the conservation social sciences can be valuable to conservation for descriptive, diagnostic, disruptive, reflexive, generative, innovative, or instrumental reasons. This review and supporting materials provides a succinct yet comprehensive reference for conservation scientists and practitioners. We contend that the social sciences can help facilitate conservation policies, actions and outcomes that are more legitimate, salient, robust and effective.
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Nations have recently committed to protecting 20–30% of the ocean at various global summits; however, marine protected areas currently cover <3% of the ocean. Large-scale marine protected areas (LSMPAs, >100 000 km2) are a new concept in global marine conservation that offer real hope in achieving global conservation targets. Many of the existing LSMPAs are remote islands in the Pacific that share common natural history, threats, culture, as well as scientific and management needs. As a result of their common ancestry, many Pacific cultures have a long history of collaboration, including sharing resources, information and expertise to ensure the long-term sustainability of their resources. Management, governance and research capacity limitations are magnified in LSMPAs, therefore highlighting the need to return to these prior forms of collaboration to achieve conservation objectives. Several LSMPAs in the Pacific have collaborated to achieve their management and scientific goals, including documented collaborations among the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, the Motu Motiru Hiva Marine Park, the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, and the Cook Islands Marine Park. Collaborations among LSMPAs in the Pacific include bilateral agreements, learning exchanges, as well as research, monitoring and enforcement activities. By working together, Pacific LSMPAs have been able to overcome some of the management and scientific challenges associated with conserving vast areas of the oceans. Copyright
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Ongoing declines in the structure and function of the world's coral reefs require novel approaches to sustain these ecosystems and the millions of people who depend on them. A presently unexplored approach that draws on theory and practice in human health and rural development is to systematically identify and learn from the 'outliers'-places where ecosystems are substantially better ('bright spots') or worse ('dark spots') than expected, given the environmental conditions and socioeconomic drivers they are exposed to. Here we compile data from more than 2,500 reefs worldwide and develop a Bayesian hierarchical model to generate expectations of how standing stocks of reef fish biomass are related to 18 socioeconomic drivers and environmental conditions. We identify 15 bright spots and 35 dark spots among our global survey of coral reefs, defined as sites that have biomass levels more than two standard deviations from expectations. Importantly, bright spots are not simply comprised of remote areas with low fishing pressure; they include localities where human populations and use of ecosystem resources is high, potentially providing insights into how communities have successfully confronted strong drivers of change. Conversely, dark spots are not necessarily the sites with the lowest absolute biomass and even include some remote, uninhabited locations often considered near pristine. We surveyed local experts about social, institutional, and environmental conditions at these sites to reveal that bright spots are characterized by strong sociocultural institutions such as customary taboos and marine tenure, high levels of local engagement in management, high dependence on marine resources, and beneficial environmental conditions such as deep-water refuges. Alternatively, dark spots are characterized by intensive capture and storage technology and a recent history of environmental shocks. Our results suggest that investments in strengthening fisheries governance, particularly aspects such as participation and property rights, could facilitate innovative conservation actions that help communities defy expectations of global reef degradation.
In recent years, Fiji's approach of combining traditional systems of community-based coastal management and modern management systems has become a successful blueprint for marine conservation, particularly the Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) network model. As a result of this success, conservation practitioners have imported the Fiji LMMA model to the Solomon Islands and in Vanuatu in hope of replicating the purported success attained in Fiji. This paper argues that because tenure systems and associated political systems in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are substantially different, one cannot simply extrapolate the more centralized tenurial and political Fiji model to the decentralized tenurial and politically eclectic Solomons and Vanuatu. This paper provides an analysis of some of the various approaches used in these countries to make a case for why socio-political diversity and historical particulars matter to resource management and conservation-in-practice (and for any development interventions). By examining examples of various nested and polycentric governance approaches—family, community, tribal, confederations, local community-based organizations (CBOs), and Church—it elucidates not only some of the differences between Fiji and Solomon Islands/Vanuatu, but also between Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. This provides critical insights into some of the myriad of factors impinging on conservation aspirations in these countries and may offer some alternative ways forward not currently considered by conservation practitioners. Finally, the paper provides some guidelines to how to increase the long-term success of marine conservation programs for fisheries management and community-based management initiatives in the region.
There has been a dramatic increase in recentyears in the number of papers, reports, etc.,which have been published concerning MarineProtected Areas (MPAs). This overview of theobjectives, selection, design and management ofMPAs aims to provide a basis for discussionregarding possible ways forward by identifyingemerging issues, convergences and divergences. Whilst the attributes of the marine environmentmay limit the effectiveness of site-specificinitiatives such as MPAs, it is argued that itwould be defeatist in the extreme to abandonMPAs in the face of these limitations. Ten keyobjectives for MPAs are discussed, includingthat of harvest refugia, and it is argued thatwhilst these objectives may be justifiable froma preservationist perspective, they may beobjected to from a resource exploitationperspective. MPAs generate both internal(between uses) and basic (between use andconservation) conflicts, and it is argued thatthese conflicts may be exacerbated whenscientific arguments for MPAs are motivated bypreservationist concerns. It is reported thata minority of MPAs are achieving theirmanagement objectives, and that for themajority insufficient information was availablefor such effectiveness evaluations. Structureand process-oriented perspectives on marineconservation are discussed. It is argued thatthere are two divergent stances concerningoptimal MPA management approaches: top-down,characterized as being government-led andscience-based, with a greater emphasis onset-aside; and bottom-up, characterized asbeing community-based and science-guided, witha greater emphasis on multiple-use. Given thedivergent values of different stakeholders, thehigh degree of scientific uncertainty, and thehigh marine resource management decisionstakes, it is concluded that a key challenge isto adopt a ``middle-ground'' approach whichcombines top-down and bottom-up approaches, andwhich is consistent with the post-normalscientific approach.