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Publications 2017

Authors in bold are/were staff or students of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and its founding organization, the Pew Institute for Ocean Science.


Gownaris, N.J., Pikitch, E.K., Aller, J.Y., Kaufman, L.S., Kolding, J., Lwiza, K.M.M., Obiero, K.O., Ojwang, W.O., Malala, J.O., Rountos, K.J. 2017. Fisheries and water level fluctuations in the world's largest desert lake. Echohydrology 10(1).

Abstract

Hydrological regimes are significant drivers of fisheries production in many African Lakes due to their influence on fish habitat and food availability, breeding success, and catchability. Lake Turkana, Kenya, will undergo substantial changes in hydrology due to water regulation and extraction along the Omo River in neighboring Ethiopia, which provides over 90% of its water. The objective of this study was to predict how the lake's fisheries, which provide an important livelihood and protein source in the region, will respond to hydrological change. While variations in fishing effort are poor predictors of fisheries catch in the lake, water levels and their fluctuations strongly influence fisheries production. Seasonal oscillations play a particularly important role, and with complete loss of these oscillations, the lake's predicted fisheries yield will decrease by over two thirds. The fishery is predicted to collapse at a lake level decline of 25 m, regardless of seasonal amplitude magnitude. The lake's total littoral habitat, where fisheries are currently concentrated, will increase in surface area with lake level declines of <25 m. However, the extent of productive, dynamic littoral habitat will decrease with dampening of the lake's seasonal oscillations. The most severe habitat loss will occur in the lake's Turkwel Sector, which hosts the region's highest human population densities, and North Sector, where inter-tribal conflict over resources is common and likely to be exacerbated by lake level decline. The continued ecological functioning of Lake Turkana necessitates immediate efforts to develop and apply a water resource management plan rooted in science.

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Cao, L., Chen, Y., Dong, S., Arthur Hanson, Huang, B., Leadbitter, D., Little, D.C., Pikitch, E.K., Qiu, Y., Sadovy de Mitcheson, Y., Sumaila, U.R., Williams, M., Xue, G., Ye, Y., Zhang, W., Zhou, Y., Zhuang, P., and Naylor, R.L. 2017. Opportunity for marine fisheries reform in China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(3).

Abstract

China's 13th Five-Year Plan, launched in March 2016, provides a sound policy platform for the protection of marine ecosystems and the restoration of capture fisheries within China's exclusive economic zone. What distinguishes China among many other countries striving for marine fisheries reform is its size—accounting for almost one-fifth of global catch volume—and the unique cultural context of its economic and resource management. In this paper, we trace the history of Chinese government priorities, policies, and outcomes related to marine fisheries since the 1978 Economic Reform, and examine how the current leadership's agenda for "ecological civilization" could successfully transform marine resource management in the coming years. We show how China, like many other countries, has experienced a decline in the average trophic level of its capture fisheries during the past few decades, and how its policy design, implementation, and enforcement have influenced the status of its wild fish stocks. To reverse the trend in declining fish stocks, the government is introducing a series of new programs for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, with greater traceability and accountability in marine resource management and area controls on coastal development. As impressive as these new plans are on paper, we conclude that serious institutional reforms will be needed to achieve a true paradigm shift in marine fisheries management in China. In particular, we recommend new institutions for science-based fisheries management, secure fishing access, policy consistency across provinces, educational programs for fisheries managers, and increasing public access to scientific data.

Read the Article in Stanford FSI
Read Fact Sheet by Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force


Bond, M.E., Valentin-Albanese, J., Babcock, E.A., Abercrombie, D., Lamb, N.F., Miranda, A., Pikitch, E.K., Chapman, D.D. 2017. Abundance and size structure of a reef shark population within a marine reserve has remained stable for more than a decade. Marine Ecology 576(1).

Abstract

Marine reserves, areas protected from exploitative anthropogenic processes, are being widely implemented to conserve biodiversity and initiate species recovery. Evidence supports the effectiveness of marine reserves in improving biological attributes such as biodiversity, density, biomass, and body-size for sedentary species or those with r-selected life histories. However, there is limited long-term time series-based information determining the effectiveness of these protected areas for elasmobranchs. Marine reserve effectiveness is commonly evaluated spatially by examining differences in species' biological parameters inside and outside of protective boundaries, which can often mask the occurrence of slow population declines. We used a temporal fishery independent standardized longline survey at Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, Belize, to monitor long-term population trends in the commercially important Caribbean reef shark Carcharhinus perezi for more than a decade. Linear models were performed to examine whether the factors habitat, year, or their interaction had a significant impact on C. perezi catch per unit effort (CPUE) and on catch demographic composition. Only the factor 'habitat' had a significant influence on CPUE with the forereef catch significantly higher than in the lagoon. Our results support that the population of Caribbean reef shark at Glover's Reef Marine Reserve appears stable with no significant decline in CPUE or decrease in mean total length detected. This is evidence that marine reserves can be an effective conservation tool for reef-associated shark species.

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Rountos, K.J., Gobler, C.J., Pikitch, E.K. 2017. Ontogenetic Differences in Swimming Behavior of Fish Exposed to the Harmful Dinoflagellate Cochlodinium polykrikoides. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 146(5): 1081-1091.

Abstract

Blooms of the ichthyotoxic dinoflagellate Cochlodinium polykrikoides present both lethal and sublethal threats to coastal marine organisms. Because prior studies of this harmful algal bloom (HAB) species have focused on its acute toxic effects on fish, there remains a limited understanding of the sublethal effects on the swimming behavior of fish when exposed to these blooms. We conducted a video-based laboratory assessment of the effects of C. polykrikoides exposures on larval and juvenile fish swimming behavior. Juvenile and larval life stages of three forage species common to the U.S. East Coast were examined: wild Atlantic Silversides Menidia menidia, hatchery-reared Inland Silversides M. beryllina, and hatchery-reared Sheepshead Minnow Cyprinodon variegatus. Results showed that juvenile Atlantic Silversides and Inland Silversides exposed to C. polykrikoides concentrations of 102 cells/mL swam significantly further distances in comparison with their baseline (control) behavior. In an ecosystem context, the results of this research support field-based studies demonstrating that when blooms of this HAB species are present, the relative abundance of fish declines (i.e., the fish presumably detect the blooms and swim away after exposure). Conversely, juvenile Sheepshead Minnow exhibited no increased swimming behavior when exposed, supporting previous studies indicating that this species is more resistant to C. polykrikoides toxicity. Importantly, no behavioral changes were found in experiments with larval conspecifics (i.e., Inland Silversides and Sheepshead Minnow), suggesting that younger life stages, which lack developed gills and olfactory systems, may be unable to detect the dinoflagellate. This clear ontogenetic difference implies that for certain fish species, reaching later life stages may provide a refuge to HAB toxicity.

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Cernadas-Martín, S., Suter, E.A., Scranton, M.I., Astor, Y., Taylor, G.T. 2017. Aerobic and anaerobic ammonium oxidizers in the Cariaco Basin: distributions of major taxa and nitrogen species across the redoxcline. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 79(1).

Abstract

Depth distributions of cells and functional gene copies from anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria, aerobic ammonium-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA) in the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela were obtained using FISH and q-PCR assays. These distributions were compared to concentrations of dissolved ammonium (NH4+), nitrite (NO2-), nitrate (NO3-), hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and oxygen (O2) along the redoxcline during 3 cruises. Cell counts of anammox bacteria and copies of their nitrite reductase gene (Scalindua-nirS) were consistently observed in 2 distinct layers: the suboxic zone (≤1.1 × 106 cells l-1) and the upper euxinic zone (≤4.7 × 106 cells l-1). We hypothesize that anammox bacteria vertically organize in response to NO2- sources, with NO2- for the shallower assemblage supplied by nitrification and for the deeper assemblage by denitrification. Peaks in AOA cell abundances (up to 14.8 × 106 cells l-1) consistently coincided with copy numbers of archaeal ammonia monooxygenase subunit A gene (archaeal amoA) in the lower oxic zone. Peak abundances of beta- and gammaproteobacterial AOB cells (up to 24.0 × 106 cells l-1) and one of their ammonia monooxygenase genes (β-amoA) overlapped above the shallow anammox peak. Our results suggest that anammox bacteria AOB, AOA and denitrifiers are metabolically interdependent and ultimately controlled by vertical fluxes of O2, NO3-, NO2-, and NH4+ in the Cariaco Basin.

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