Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation News and Updates

Inside This Issue

Featured Pew Marine Fellows



Evidence That Marine Reserves Enhance Resilience to Climatic Impacts: Fiorenza Micheli ('09), Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo ('11), and Colleagues

Establishing marine protected areas, including fully protected marine reserves, is one of the few management tools available for local communities to combat the deleterious effect that large-scale environmental impacts, including global climate change, have on ocean ecosystems. According to a paper published in the July 18 issue of PLoS ONE by Fiorenza Micheli, associate professor at Stanford University; Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo, director of science at Comunidad y Biodiversidad A.C.; and colleagues.

“Despite the common hope that reserves play this role, empirical evidence of the effectiveness of local protection against global problems is lacking,” they write. “Here we show that marine reserves increase the resilience of marine populations to a mass mortality event possibly caused by climate-driven hypoxia. Despite high and widespread adult mortality of benthic invertebrates in Baja California, Mexico, that affected populations both within and outside marine reserves, juvenile replenishment of the species that supports local economies, the pink abalone (Haliotis corrugata), remained stable within reserves because of large body size and high egg production of the protected adults.

“Thus, local protection provided resilience through greater resistance and faster recovery of protected populations. Moreover, this benefit extended to adjacent unprotected areas through larval spillover across the edges of the reserves. While climate change mitigation is being debated, coastal communities have few tools to slow down negative impacts of global environmental shifts. These results show that marine protected areas can provide such protection.”

Read the paper, Evidence That Marine Reserves Enhance Resilience to Climatic Impacts, on the PLoS One website.

Fiorenza Micheli

Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo  

International Regulation Curbs Illegal Trade of Caviar: Ellen K. Pikitch ('00)

Research that used mitochondrial DNA-based testing to compare the extent of fraudulent labeling of black caviar purchased before and after international protection shows conservation benefits. A team of scientists from the Institute for Conservation Science at Stony Brook University and the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York repeated a market survey of commercially available caviar in the New York City area that had been conducted before the protection was put in place, and the results showed nearly a 50 percent decrease in fraudulently labeled caviar. The paper, published online July 25 in the journal PLoS ONE, compared the results of two market surveys conducted 10 years apart. The previous market survey was conducted from 1995 through 1996, before the listing of the sturgeon by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora came into effect in 1998, and revealed that 19 percent of commercially available caviar in the New York City area was mislabeled with respect to species origin. When sampling the same market from 2006 through 2008, fraudulently labeled caviar occurred in 10 percent of the caviar and only occurred in samples bought online.

“It's encouraging that the extent of illegal trade has diminished in recent years since international trade restrictions have come into force,” said Ellen K. Pikitch, co-author and executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and a professor at Stony Brook University. “Consumers can now be highly confident that what's written on the label accurately describes what's in the tin. However, preventing the extinction of critically endangered species such as the beluga sturgeon requires a full-court press. Importantly, smaller fishing allowances, including bans on fishing in key geographic areas and better enforcement of fishing regulations, are needed to give depleted sturgeon populations a fighting chance to recover.”

Read a news release about the paper on the Institute of Ocean Conservation Science website.

Read the paper, Testing the Effectiveness of an International Conservation Agreement: Marketplace Forensics and CITES Caviar Trade Regulation, on the PLoS One website.

Also see International Regulation Curbs Illegal Trade of Caviar on the e! Science News websit.e

Ellen Pikitch

Beach Forest Species and Mangrove Associates of the Philippines: Jurgenne Primavera ('05) and Colleague

Jurgenne Primavera, scientist emerita at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, and a colleague have published a book, Beach Forest and Mangrove Associates in the Philippines, with support from UNESCO Jakarta, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme, Japan's feed-in tariff, and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center's Aquaculture Department. The 160-page book introduces researchers and the public to 140 beach forest species and mangrove associates (97 species fully described/illustrated and 43 species pictorials). Standard species layouts include technical descriptions and color photos of habits, leaves, flowers, fruits, utilization, and silviculture, and descriptions of their medicinal, traditional, and commercial uses based on recent research and the older, hard-to-access literature. A glossary and references are also provided.

Read an article about the book, Overlooked Paradox, on the Inquirer News websit.e

Jurgenne Primavera

Papuan Bird's Head Seascape: Emerging Threats and Challenges in the Global Center of Marine Biodiversity: Mark Erdmann ('04)

In a paper published in the Aug. 2 issue of Marine Pollution Bulletin, Mark Erdmann, senior adviser to Conservation International's Indonesian Marine Program, and colleagues write: “The Bird's Head Seascape located in eastern Indonesia is the global epicenter of tropical shallow water marine biodiversity with over 600 species of corals and 1,638 species of coral reef fishes. The seascape also includes critical habitats for globally threatened marine species, including sea turtles and cetaceans. Since 2001, the region has undergone rapid development in fisheries, oil and gas extraction, mining, and logging. The expansion of these sectors, combined with illegal activities and poorly planned coastal development, is accelerating deterioration of coastal and marine environments. At the same time, regency governments have expanded their marine protected area networks to cover 3,594,702 ha [hectares] of islands and coastal waters. Low population numbers, relatively healthy natural resources, and a strong tenure system in eastern Indonesia provide an opportunity for government and local communities to collaboratively manage their resources sustainably to ensure long-term food security, while meeting their development aspirations.”

Read the paper, Papuan Bird's Head Seascape: Emerging threats and challenges in the global center of marine biodiversity, on the SciVerse website.

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Mark Erdmann



Pew Marine Fellowship Project Results

Climate Change Threatens to Alter Marine Ecosystem: Thomas A. Okey ('07)

A new report by WWF and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society reveals that the effects of climate change are reducing fish habitat on British Columbia's coast, threatening the province's lucrative groundfish and shellfish fisheries. The study is the first regional synthesis of its kind to document observed and expected impacts of a changing global climate on British Columbia's marine ecosystems and to identify which parts are most vulnerable to climate change. It reports that the Pacific Coast's deep-sea diversity is threatened and that British Columbia is losing two to three meters of deepwater habitat a year from oxygen depletion. “Ocean acidification is already affecting commercial shellfish operations that now have to modify the pH of the ocean water they use to be able to raise shellfish in their tanks. We think that wild shellfish populations are also likely being affected by acidic water and may not be successfully reproducing in some parts of the coast,” said Thomas A. Okey, lead author and adjunct associate professor at the University of Victoria's School of Environmental Studies.

Read the report

Read a news release on the report, on the WWF website.

Read news articles about the report, on the Vancouver Sun and Times Colonist website.

Thomas Okey

‘A Pattern of Dolphins' in Samoa and in the New York Times: Scott Baker ('11)

As part of his fellowship project, “A Pattern of Dolphins” (aPOD), Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute and a professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University, and his doctoral student Renee Albertson, surveyed the waters around the islands of Upolu and Savaii in independent Samoa. The objective was to collect information on species identity, abundance, and habitat use of dolphins by collecting small biopsy samples and photographs. Departing from the capital city of Apia, the team worked and lived aboard a local fishing boat. It was joined by members of the Samoan Ministry of Environment, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, and Baker's daughter, Nevé, a college sophomore at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash.

This survey was chosen for the New York Times' Scientist at Work blog.

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Andrew Baker


Profiles and Outreach

Great White Highway: Barbara Block

On Aug. 16, as part of Shark Week, the Discovery Channel aired “Great White Highway.” The show chronicles the work of Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block, who has used satellite and radio tagging to identify a critical migratory corridor for white sharks and other top marine predators in the Pacific Ocean. “We know where the watering holes are, we know where the highways, are and what we're trying to do is connect people to where these places are,” Block said, adding that television provides a critical megaphone for that work.

View clips from the show.

Read Shark Week at 25 on the Washington Post website.

Barbara Block

Stephen Palumbi ('96) and Nancy Knowlton (Advisory Committee) quoted in New York Times article “Frozen Sperm Offer a Lifeline for Coral”

According to an article published in the July 23 issue of the New York Times Mary Hagedorn, a reproductive physiologist with the Smithsonian Institution, is building what is essentially a sperm bank for the world's corals, She hopes her collection—gathered in recent years from corals in Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Australia—will someday be used to restore and even rebuild damaged reefs. For decades, conservationists have worked to protect reefs with marine reserves, fishing regulations, and other measures. Though Hagedorn supports traditional conservation strategies, she is preparing for their failure. While she freezes coral sperm and eggs for future use, colleagues are refining techniques for raising coral in captivity and for reintroducing young corals to their natural habitats. But she and her colleagues have to struggle to raise money for her efforts, which are often seen as a distraction from the more immediate job of habitat protection. “In an ideal world, we would do both,” said Stephen Palumbi, director of the Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station. “Of course, in an ideal world, there would be no funding constraints.” Still, both strategies may ultimately be necessary.

“Protecting fish communities, making sure water quality is good, all of those efforts can buy decades of time,” said Nancy Knowlton, a prominent coral-reef biologist at the Smithsonian. “But if we continue on this greenhouse-gas-emissions trajectory, the only place we're going to be able to find many corals will be in Mary's freezers.”

To read the article, Frozen Sperm Offer a Lifeline for Coral, on the New York Times website.

Stephen R. Palumbi

Callum Roberts ('00) Answers Questions About New Book

Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation at the University of York in the UK, and author of The Unnatural History of the Sea (2007_ and The Ocean of Life(spring 2012) Responded to five questions from the Smithsonian's Ocean Portal team. They wanted to learn more about why he writes and what we can do for the ocean. Included below is an excerpt from the post. Read the full conversation.

Ocean Portal: What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching your new book, Ocean of Life?

Callum Roberts: The most eye-popping fact I learned concerned the life you cannot see rather than the giant whales and fish that attract most attention. A liter of crystal clear seawater contains 4 billion viruses. If you were to place all the viruses in the ocean side by side, they would form a thread 1/200th the thickness of the finest spider gossamer that would stretch out into space for 200 million light years. It would pass by 60 galaxies and countless millions of stars.

OP: What can someone do to help the ocean, even if they don't live on the coast or interact with it directly on a regular basis?

CR: There are many ways to help. Top of my list would be to learn more about the oceans and what we are doing to them and spread the word. … Alternatively, get involved by volunteering. Make your voice heard. Write to the newspapers, blog, and tweet about the sea. Write to local and national political representatives and put them on the spot. … If you enjoy seafood, find out whether you are making the right choices to minimize the harm done in bringing the food to your plate.  

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Callum Roberts



Marine Conservation Institute Elects Les Watling ('98) to Board of Directors

On Aug. 17, 2012, the Marine Conservation Institute announced the election of three new directors, including Les Watling, professor of biology at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Watling is a world-renowned oceanographer, bio-geographer, and deep-sea coral biologist. He received his doctorate in marine studies from the University of Delaware in 1974. With Marine Conservation Institute founder and chief scientist Elliott Norse ('97), in 1998 Watling authored the scientific analysis in the journal Conservation Biology that catalyzed the worldwide movement to restrict bottom trawling. It is the most-cited paper on trawling impacts.

The two other new directors are John B. Davis, president of Marine Affairs Research and Education and editor of MPA News; and Amy Mathews-Amos, principal of Turnstone Consulting.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Marine Conservation Institute board member Sylvia A. Earle (AC) said: “Of the organizations working to save life in the sea, the Marine Conservation Institute is among the very best. Adding ocean experts such as Les, John, and Amy to the board will make us even better.”

Learn more about the institute.

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Les Watling


Opportunities & Resources

The Ocean Health Index

The Ocean Health Index is the first comprehensive, annual assessment of the benefits that a healthy ocean provides. The index evaluates the condition of marine ecosystems according to 10 human goals, which represent the key ecological, social, and economic benefits to people. The paper reports that the overall global score is 60 out of a sustainable state scored at 100, indicating that the human-ocean relationship is out of balance and unsustainable. The analysis, led by Ben Halpern, a research scientist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, engaged 65 scientists and experts and was released online in Nature on Aug. 15. Country-specific and goal-specific scores as well as a wealth of information on ocean health are provided at

Many Pew Marine Fellows and advisers were involved in this effort, including Andy Rosenberg (AC), Daniel Pauly (AC), Rashid Sumaila ('08), Gregory S. Stone ('97), Sylvia Earle (AC), Enric Sala ('06), Les Kaufman ('90), Larry Crowder (AC), and Steven D. Gaines ('03).

No single entity owns the Ocean Health Index; it is an independent brand. For inquiries, please contact

Read more: 

Global Ocean Health Gets a Passing Grade

Introducing the Ocean Health Index

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