Dynamic Ocean Management
Ocean ecosystems around the world are threatened by overfishing, extensive shipping, energy exploration, pollution and other consequences of ocean-based industry. Data exist that could help protect these vulnerable ecosystems, but current management strategies don’t do enough to quickly incorporate that information. Research in the Lewison lab in collaboration from several other academic, governmental and non-governmental organizations is developing a new approach called dynamic ocean management (for more information, see recent publication)
Dynamic ocean management is at the science: management interface. It captures the best-available science and directs it to meet the needs of resource managers and industry. What’s exciting about this research is that it puts science to work, fundamentally changing the way oceans are managed
Traditional ocean management strategies tend to be static with fixed boundaries in space and time. Unfortunately, there’s often a sizable lag time between what scientists know and when that gets applied to management policies.What is needed is an approach that does a better job incorporating real-time information from satellite data, ocean monitoring arrays, climate fluctuations, and crowd-sourced reports from ocean users into applications that can identify ocean uses that support conservation and sustainable resource use.
Learning from existing programs
Dynamic ocean management often aligns profit goals of industries such as shipping and fishing with conservation goals. For example, scallop fisheries on the U.S. Atlantic coast have a regulated quota for the amount of bycatch—accidentally caught animals—they can catch. Once they hit that quota, they’re required to stop harvesting scallops for the season. They are motivated from a profitability standpoint to avoid bycatch, which also helps protect the ecosystems they work in. Working with university partners, these scallop fisheries have developed a system for reporting where and how much bycatch they bring in, then feeding that information into a map. The next day, scallop fishers receive these maps so they know where they can catch more scallops and less bycatch.
With support from NASA, NOAA and Center for Ocean Solution, the Lewison lab and colleagues are working to develop approaches that help ocean managers and industry work together to use real-time information to better manage resources. Of course, the success of this project will depend on cooperation from the industries that use ocean’s resources—both in terms of contributing data and following the guidelines based on that information.