MEAM

Vol. 7, No. 2: October - November 2013
(For this issue in PDF format, click here.)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Are marine conservation and sustainable food production on a collision course?: Experts respond

Tundi's Take: Can we have our fish and eat them, too?

Ocean Health Index to release first regional scores

Are ecosystem services valuations actually being used in policy-making?

Notes & News: New Zealand - Cultural ecosystem services - Ocean acidification management options - Impact of rising ocean temperatures - Ocean planning handbook - Ocean zoning


Did you miss the recent OpenChannels events on ecosystem services and large no-take areas? Transcripts are available

Two recent live events on OpenChannels.org are available now in transcript form:

Office Hour: Live Q&A on Marine Ecosystem Services - Linwood Pendleton of the Marine Ecosystem Services Partnership Will Answer Your Questions (2 October)
Transcript at http://openchannels.org/node/4151

Online Debate: Large no-take areas - Is their total environmental impact positive or negative? With Callum Roberts and Ray Hilborn (8 October)
Transcript at http://openchannels.org/node/4410

Note: The debate on large no-take areas was so popular (with more than 700 audience members packing into the virtual space) that it nearly crashed the server! Despite some technical difficulties as a result, the debate was highly productive, and a thriving parallel discussion occurred within the audience. (The entire audience discussion is also captured in the transcript.) We thank our guests and audience for sticking with us through the hour, and we are improving our chat/debate feature to better accommodate large audiences like this in the future.

OpenChannels.org was created by Marine Ecosystems and Management and MPA News as your forum for knowledge on sustainable ocean planning and management. Since its launch in August 2012, the site has served more than 23,000 ocean professionals through live chats with experts, news, an extensive literature library, job listings, and much more. Come join us!

John B. Davis
MEAM Editor / OpenChannels Supervisor

OpenChannels is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.



ARE MARINE CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION ON A COLLISION COURSE?: EXPERTS RESPOND

In the previous edition of MEAM, Jake Rice, Chief Scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, presented a bold argument. He suggested there is an "inseparable tripod of issues" facing marine resource management -

•  Aquatic biodiversity conservation;
•  Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; and
•  Poverty alleviation and food security amid a changing climate

- and that these issues are effectively on a collision course (Letter to the Editor, MEAM 7:1).

The strict harvest reductions that are needed to rebuild fisheries, said Rice, will be devastating for global communities dependent on fish protein and fishing income.  At the same time, pressures from population growth and climate change will lead to even greater dependence on protein from capture fisheries and aquaculture.  As a result, social and business pressure against biodiversity conservation efforts like MPAs may increase.  According to Rice, painful choices are going to need to be made among these issues, and discussion of those choices has been lacking to this point.

At MEAM, we agree this issue needs serious dialogue.  We asked a diverse group of marine experts whether they agreed with Jake Rice, and if they did, what policies they would suggest implementing to address the conflict.  (If they did not agree, we asked them to explain why.)  The responses were provocative and highlighted a variety of facets of this issue, including the increasing importance of aquaculture to global food sustainability and the relationship between conservation and food security. While there are no quick fixes to this issue, the respondents suggested several possible policy solutions and next steps. Their responses follow:

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Need, greed, and speed: We have to face the reality of human systems

By Meryl Williams, Director, AsiaPacific-FishWatch (asiapacfish.org)

Jake Rice is essentially correct. As he implies, the conservation movement tends to promote desirable win-win solutions where resources, biodiversity, and people's needs are all met by magic bullet interventions, such as marine protected areas, or using poles and lines rather than fish aggregating devices. In reality, trade-offs may be more the norm than win-win.

But even if we did have a good set of win-win options, the crisis would still exist. At the heart of the problems of sustainable food production and marine conservation is not just the increasing human population, but the other drivers of exploitation with which conservation has to battle or work. If we only wanted enough fish to eat and to make a reasonable living fishing or fish farming, then we might have more win-win scenarios. However, the drivers of marine resource exploitation are more complex than these simple basic needs, and have been so for millennia.

I caricature the drivers as need, greed, and speed (www.slideshare.net/Genderaquafish/need-greed-and-speed-what-history-tells-us-about-fisheries-and-aquaculture). "Need" includes the demand for food, employment, income, tax, rent, and social and moral status. "Greed" includes wants, market demand, profits, and market control. "Speed" can refer to competition for resources and technology innovation that increases harvest rates, productivity, and economic efficiency. Sustainability and conservation are relatively more recent drivers, sometimes protected by government, community and company norms, and typically advocated by activists and scientists on the basis of principle and knowledge.

The conservation movement must look more deeply at the human drivers and the human systems within which they work. Advocacy and public education will only go so far. Exploitation and policy-making respond much more to the need, greed, and speed drivers than to future sustainability visions.

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Increase investment in spatial marine protection/management and the collaborative process

By Katherine Short, Principal, F.L.O.W Collaborative, a sustainable fisheries organization in New Zealand

Dr. Rice highlights several critical challenges, and I agree with his concluding "inseparability of: poverty alleviation and food security in a changing climate; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; and aquatic biodiversity conservation." Further I agree there are no easy solutions and many hard choices.

I take issue, though, with the subtle undermining of those promoting spatial marine protection (NGOs) and how his letter appears to create divisiveness where none need, and in many cases does not, exist. In fact, many of the international policy-makers (government) and planners to whom Dr. Rice refers strive to overcome these divides through compromise and adaptability that enable progress and workable outcomes. For example, fisheries entering Marine Stewardship Council assessments are in a standardized process, but the many models of fisheries improvement leading to that require huge stakeholder adaptability.

Dr. Rice is a long-standing, influential, senior, government, fisheries scientist who has seen - too often no doubt - the negative impacts of "us and them". As I have written about ecosystem-based management frameworks, there are commonalities throughout that are important to identify to deliver wins for the marine environment and associated communities, including increasing aquatic protein. To achieve these multiple results, increased investment in the full range of measures, including both spatial protection and management, and in the underpinning collaborative process is essential. However, Western definitions determining optimal fishery economics can undermine decision-making by those most directly associated with fisheries, particularly in developing countries. Although mistakes are made, we all have to consciously learn from them. Surely this is one way that the painful decisions mentioned can be addressed?

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Excerpt from comments of Christophe Béné, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (www.ids.ac.uk).

See his full response at http://openchannels.org/node/4226

In his analysis, J. Rice stressed some important points that are worth reiterating. First, the over-simplistic narrative according to which food security is ultimately a resource conservation issue. As we all know, marine resource sustainability is a necessary but far-from-sufficient condition to ensure food security. Other critical aspects related to distribution and governance are also essential, a point that big philanthropic conservation organizations too often choose to ignore. It is indeed (politically) easier to fight for the protection of fish resources than to address the reasons why the rent generated by the exploitation of these resources does not benefit the local population who initially depended on these resources for their livelihood and food security.

Second, he recalls that fisheries governance reforms have so far been generally justified from an economic and ecological perspective, but failed to account for the social dimension that is again often conveniently eluded in these documents by sentences like, "It will be important to analyze potential impacts of policy change and to identify mitigating measures as necessary" - see discussion in Institute of Development Studies Policy Brief 40 (http://bit.ly/idsbrief40). Yet as we showed in a recent study (http://bit.ly/NotByRentAlone), the social costs of implementing these global reforms would far exceed the economic benefits that one could (in theory) expect to generate from unconditionally implementing these reforms.

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Open ocean aquaculture can fill the void

By Neil Anthony Sims, Co-founder/CEO, Kampachi Farms (www.kampachifarm.com) and President, Ocean Stewards Institute (oceanstewards.org)

Dr. Jake Rice laments the incompatibility of marine conservation and sustainable food production. Well, that holds true only if you consider seafood production as an extractive industry. Think of it as nurture, and the possibilities are manifold. 

As Dr. Rice says, we face challenges from climate change, declines in grain production, and resulting limitations on the practice of livestock farming.  If we are concerned about the former two issues, then we shouldn't even want the latter. Terrestrial livestock is an inefficient use of agricultural proteins and oils, and adds greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. Conservation International's Blue Frontiers study (2012; www.conservation.org/publications/Pages/blue_frontiers_aquaculture.aspx) had it right: aquaculture should not just meet the shortfall, but must instead start to supplant terrestrial animal proteins.

Our company - and other researchers - have recently been able to culture high-value marine fish on zero-fishmeal diets. Monitoring and modeling demonstrate that further offshore, in deeper water, aquaculture's impacts on water quality or substrate health are literally undetectable. New robust mesh materials on net pens now reduce to de minimus escapement or entanglement concerns.

Open ocean aquaculture can also be a conservation tool, providing structure and nutrients that stimulate productivity and foster biodiversity in the blue desert. Responsible aquaculture could have synergies with marine protected areas and supplant Dr. Rice's feared lost seafood production and "economic displacement"‚ from the fishing "harvest reductions needed for rebuilding."

And once geneticists turn their attention to gene-splicing E.coli to bio-digest macroalgae, then ocean afforestation could become commercially viable - providing food, feed and fuels, and countering ocean acidification naturally.  This would use the twin engines of the profit motive and primary productivity to pull CO2 out of surface waters.

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Expand participation in this discussion and look for truly creative solutions

By Bonnie McCay, Professor, Rutgers University, US

The "inseparable tripod" described by Jake Rice and supported by several global-scale studies calls for difficult, indeed painful, choices among sustainable production, food security and livelihoods, and biodiversity conservation. Deliberations at the level of the UN, nation-states, even MEAM are needed. But we should not forget how essential it is to expand participation in these discussions to fisherfolk and others on the front line, and to seek a larger and more diverse set of approaches to the problem.

Just one example comes to mind: how can local fishers accept the need for cutbacks in catches of overfished or threatened species as a tradeoff for future improvements in harvests, when they lack secure rights to future harvests? The only "standard" answer to this question now in marine economics is privatization of fishing rights, through individual transferable quotas. However, that solution can jeopardize the futures of poorer and smaller-scale fishers, the ones for whom livelihoods and food security are most at stake. What alternatives can they, and we, come up with? Some sort of community-based tenure might be an answer. But the general point is the need for truly creative and participatory deliberations on this most serious set of questions.

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Fish aggregating devices and marine spatial planning offer opportunities to reconcile agendas

By Johann Bell, Principal Fisheries Scientist - Climate Change, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (www.spc.int)

I agree with Jake Rice! We must reconcile the agendas for food security and biodiversity conservation. Compromises will be needed on both sides - the challenge will be to minimize these compromises.

As populations grow, we will need new systems for managing coastal ecosystems. We will have to intervene in the management and allocation of natural resources on unprecedented scales, and in ways that are resilient to, or preferably enhanced by, climate change.

The use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) anchored in deep water close to shore in many Pacific Island nations is a potent example of such "win-win" interventions. Inshore FADs increase the access of rapidly growing coastal communities to the rich tuna resources of the region (projected to become more abundant around some islands as the climate changes), thereby creating the opportunity to increase fish supply while reducing fishing pressure on coral reefs.

Expanding the vision for marine spatial planning (MSP) promises to be the most powerful way of reconciling the agendas for food security and biodiversity conservation. Practical zoning schemes are needed to allocate the use of coastal waters for both purposes. MSP must strive to reduce any effects of land use on coastal ecosystems, limit negative interactions between zones allocated for different purposes and capitalize on potential synergies between activities in different zones. It is also clear that zoning schemes need to match national needs and will differ among countries - more space will need to be allocated to food production in developing than in developed nations.

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Intensify investment in sustainable aquaculture

By Mark J. Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation (www.oceanfdn.org)

Fish are the last wild animals that we humans hunt at a global commercial scale. Those who believe we can both maintain global scale commercial catch of wild fish and sustain marine biodiversity are sadly mistaken. We, the broader marine fishing, philanthropic, and non-profit communities, need to be realistic about the real choices we face, including about the 15% of the world's population that depends on seafood to meet its protein needs. 

Marine fishery management schemes have an uneven, mostly poor, track record, ignoring science at the expense of long-term fishery sustainability. The recent World Bank Sunken Billions report (http://bit.ly/SunkenBillions) implies that reducing waste in wild fisheries catch could meet more of the need - an admirable strategy, but dependent both on smoke and mirrors. The global fishing industry is overcapitalized and way over capacity. There is no real political will to implement any kind of moratorium at a scale that allows the ocean's biomass to recover.

Aquaculture now provides more than half the seafood consumed globally. UN FAO says aquaculture must grow by 10% a year just to keep up with population growth, which does not consider the need to balance the negative effect on wild fisheries of changing ocean temperatures, chemistry, and depth.

Food security underpins all other security.  Decentralized aquaculture production reduces vulnerability to multiple stressors from climate change and other instability. We must intensify our investment in technologies with which even wild fishery-dependent communities can produce some fish on land sustainably. For those of us with a choice, the aquaculture choice can and should be made today. Healthy ocean animal populations should be the goal for our legacy, not a temporary solution for human food security.

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Good governance can maintain fisheries, and aquaculture can meet increasing demand

By Modadugu V. Gupta, World Food Prize Laureate and Former Assistant Director General, WorldFish Center

I do agree with Jake Rice with respect to the situation as it exists and is laid out by him, but I am not as pessimistic as he is. We need to think of a way that will not further exacerbate the loss of biodiversity or alleviation of poverty and food security. We may not be able to restore stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yields by 2015 as suggested by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 - that would imply substantial reduction in fishing pressure and/or banning fishing during certain seasons or geographical areas. In spite of the alarming situation not only with regard to marine but also freshwater stocks, some progress is being made in reducing fishing pressure and restoration of over-exploited stocks (such as implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, etc.).  

In India, for example, there are indications of recovery of inshore stocks to some extent with the implementation of a ban in recent years on fishing inshore areas for a period of 45 days coinciding with the breeding period of fish. With needed policy implementation and strong political commitment and good governance at local, national and regional level, it should be possible to maintain at least the present level of about 80 million tons from marine capture.

Production from aquaculture, which is increasing at a faster rate than human population growth, should be able to meet the demand from increasing population in the near and medium term. More data/information is needed on the impact of climate change on marine fisheries.

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Conserving biodiversity promotes adaptive capacity

By Tim McClanahan, Senior Conservation Zoologist, Wildlife Conservation Society (www.wcs.org)

Social and ecological adaptive capacity needs to become the emerging management paradigm to navigate the coming collision of food security and biodiversity conservation. Diversity is a key element of adaptive capacity and supports food security particularly when the climate is changing - diversity creates the portfolio for adaptation. Increasing climate uncertainty and risk require the potential to respond, provided by a fully diversified portfolio of social and biodiversity assets. Social and ecological adaptive capacity contains the elements of assets, organization, learning, and flexibility. Ecological diversity is also linked to social assets, in that it provides flexibility and even the ability to learn as people find uses and rely on ecological services as conditions change. Consequently, human food security requires biodiversity.

A recent study of social and ecological adaptive capacity in Kenyan fishing communities showed reduced vulnerability to climate change among communities living adjacent to national and community closures (www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0074321). So while there is a potential collision, their reconciliation is critical for adaptation. Communities that make the sensible choices to protect biodiversity are going to reduce their vulnerability and fare best as climate change creates new risks and challenges. Those not recognizing how climate change requires adaptation and the management of a full adaptive capacity portfolio will find the future more challenging to navigate.

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No-take marine reserves are effective tools for fisheries management and conservation

By Angel C. Alcala, Chairman, Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research & Environmental Management (Philippines) and Garry Russ, Professor, James Cook University (Australia)

We disagree with Jake that food production and marine biodiversity conservation are on a collision course. Our long-term studies of two Philippine islands, Sumilon and Apo, show that no-take marine reserves are effective tools for both fisheries management and biodiversity conservation in developing countries heavily dependent on reef fisheries (Alcala and Russ, 2006, "No-take marine reserves and reef fisheries management in the Philippines: a new people power revolution," Ambio 35(5):245-254).

Through sustained protection from fishing by empowered local governments and local communities over the years, the biomass of targeted fish in the no-take marine reserves (25% of Sumilon fishing area and 10% of Apo fishing area) was enhanced significantly. A parallel trend of increasing fisheries catch outside of reserves was seen at Sumilon but not at Apo, which showed a stable fish catch over 18 years. Areas outside of no-take reserves were fished using traditional, non-destructive fishing gears and were also protected from physical disturbance.

The mechanism we proposed to explain the increased or maintained catch levels outside these reserves in 2005 and 2006 was spillover of adult fish from reserve to fished areas. We have recently been able to show a second mechanism of positive connection between no-take reserves and fished areas in the southern Philippines - export of larval fish, with subsequent potential increases in recruitment to reef fisheries caused by no-take reserves. However, typhoons occasionally hitting the two islands could negatively affect food production at the islands. One of them (Apo) was affected by a typhoon in 2012, destroying the no-take marine reserve. Post-typhoon observations indicate that some reef fish moved to areas of the island unaffected by the typhoon.

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How much biodiversity is enough?

By Ian Perry, Research Scientist, Fisheries & Oceans Canada

Jake Rice correctly identifies three critical challenges for marine ecosystems and their management: human food security; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; and the conservation of biodiversity. He further notes that these intersecting challenges will be made more severe as a result of climate change. A theoretical optimum for the supply of fish to ensure food security, the amount of fishing to ensure sustainable fisheries/aquaculture, and the amount of biodiversity to ensure production of ecosystem goods and services, can probably be calculated (e.g., for terrestrial systems, see http://predicts.org.uk).

But what Dr. Rice has pointed out is the (likely very large) gap between achieving such an optimum at some point in the future versus the need for people to feed their families today. This is a problem of intergenerational discounting, in which today's needs outweigh future needs. In short, these three critical issues are approaching us on different time scales: food today versus consequences of biodiversity loss in the future. This is a social-ecological systems problem, which requires a solution that goes beyond ecosystem-based management thinking to fully involve people. Hard choices will need to be made.

However, if today's world leaders cannot agree on goals to mitigate the (perhaps more obvious) threats of climate change, then human food security and marine biodiversity conservation are indeed on a collision course, in particular when the question of "How much biodiversity is enough?" is not resolved. This is an issue that should be addressed by the new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (www.ipbes.net).

To comment on this article:
http://openchannels.org/node/4544



TUNDI'S TAKE: CAN WE HAVE OUR FISH AND EAT THEM, TOO?

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email: tundiagardy@earthlink.net

It was so good to see Jake Rice's candid letter in the last MEAM. Anything that sparks dialogue about motivations for, expectations of, and limitations inherent in EBM is good for our community, disquieting as it may be to have to put all of our cards on the table. 

Fundamentally I think the scenario that Jake provocatively posed (a collision of biodiversity conservation and food security) is a false one. Because if we undermine nature, we will have no way to feed ourselves, hence biodiversity conservation and food security go hand in hand.  But Jake does force us into an uncomfortable but necessary reality check. Without very clear communications about the intentions of policy and management, marine managers delude the public and may be haunted by the consequences.

This is why the visioning phase of EBM is so crucial. Many of us disdain this step as unscientific - a politically correct box to check off in a log frame, a paragraph to insert in a final grant report. And I think it is fair to say that many government agencies view visioning as "here's our vision, and this is why you should like it."  We need to be much more robust about goal-setting, making it truly participatory, and we need to be much clearer and more honest about what EBM could, and cannot, achieve.

If we take visioning seriously and enter into future planning with a commitment to honesty, we will have to keep two adages in the back of our minds. The first: "You can't please all of the people all of the time."  Anyone who casts EBM as a universal win-win is a liar, a politician, or a naive idealist - and has no business being a planner or manager.  And second: "Be careful what you wish for."  Unless we grow up and think through the future consequences of our interventions, and state what we know clearly and without hesitation, we may be in for some nasty surprises - such as a future without fish, or a productive ocean that lies helpless in supporting our burgeoning masses.

To comment on Tundi's Take:
http://openchannels.org/node/4545



OCEAN HEALTH INDEX TO RELEASE FIRST REGIONAL SCORES

In 2012 the Ocean Health Index project - comprising dozens of marine scientists from around the world - created a system to distill the overall ocean health indicators for every coastal nation to a single number, from 0 to 100 (www.oceanhealthindex.org). The nations with high numbers have relatively healthy oceans; the nations with low numbers have unhealthy ones. Aimed at spurring improvements to ocean governance and health, the Ocean Health Index (OHI) establishes reference points for sustainable use of the ocean in 10 areas representing the range of benefits that a healthy ocean can provide (e.g., food provision, carbon storage, biodiversity, coastal livelihoods and economies).

Published last year, OHI scores by country and territory ranged from a high of 86 (Jarvis Island, a US territory) to a low of 36 (Sierra Leone). Global OHI scores have just been updated - the second annual assessment - and will launch on 15 October. As of that day, the full list of updated scores will be available at www.oceanhealthindex.org/Countries

The Ocean Health Index collaborative will release its first regional indices in the coming months - for Brazil, Fiji, and the US West Coast. These regional indices use local data for more precise assessments. The collaborative will also release a toolbox to make the computational framework for the Index available to scientists and policy-makers around the world - allowing institutions to create their own local and regional indices.

Ben Halpern from the University of California at Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analysis is the lead scientist for OHI. We spoke with him about applying the Index at the local and regional level.

MEAM: Can you give some examples of how the regional indices could be used in policy-making?

Halpern: Several countries have efforts underway to develop their own national Index with sub-national scores, with the intent to use the results to help guide decisions about how to alter ocean management in those regions. The UN's World Ocean Assessment will be using the Index in its assessments. We are also exploring collaborations with several of the regional planning processes in the US, which are emerging as part of the US National Ocean Policy, to develop and use the Index to inform regional planning and decision-making.

We see a lot of potential for agencies, organizations, corporations, and even individuals to use the Index to raise awareness about the multi-dimensional nature of ocean health, how all the pieces fit together, and how their actions (or inaction) can affect overall ocean health beyond the direct impact of those actions. With guidance from policy and decision-makers about realistic management options, the new Toolbox will allow a wide variety of users to explore the potential outcomes of different management scenarios.

MEAM: Did you encounter any challenges in creating these regional indices?

Halpern: The number one challenge for calculating the Index, at any scale, is data gaps. Even on the US West Coast, which is one of the best studied and measured regions on the planet, we encountered many data gaps. But the Index is flexible on these data challenges. It allows use of best available proxy measures and can adapt how goals are measured based on the data and knowledge that exist in a region.

For more information:

Ben Halpern, National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analysis, Santa Barbara, US. E-mail: halpern@bren.ucsb.edu

To comment on this article:
http://openchannels.org/node/4546



ARE ECOSYSTEM SERVICES VALUATIONS ACTUALLY BEING USED IN POLICY-MAKING?

Ecosystem services valuation applies an economic value to environmental goods and services. The valuation of a healthy mangrove forest, for example, might calculate the monetary value of the protection it provides against storm surges, or its role as nursery habitat for commercially targeted fish.  Such valuations are generally promoted as a way to put the environment on an equal footing as other considerations in policy-making and decision-making. The monetary value of the mangrove forest, for instance, can be compared to the monetary value of a coastal development plan that seeks to chop down the forest.

The literature on ecosystem services valuation is growing rapidly: there are now more than 700 references in the scientific and gray literature. But are these valuation results actually being used in real decision- and policy-making? Raphaël Billé, Biodiversity Programme Director at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI, Paris), recently coordinated a project examining this issue. His team's main finding: there is very little evidence that ecosystem services valuations are finding their way into actual policies. 

Billé discusses the findings below. The project results are described in detail in two policy briefs - at http://bit.ly/ValuationWithoutAction and http://bit.ly/Catskills (the latter is in French) - and two journal articles. See the full list of project outputs at www.MEAM.net/ESV.htm

MEAM: Your project's literature review of hundreds of journal articles on ecosystem services valuation (ESV) found that cases of such valuations being used in actual decision-making are very rare, at least in the literature. Were you surprised by this?

Raphaël Billé: We started our research on whether economic valuations of biodiversity and ecosystem services are actually used for decision-making by looking for specific cases, marine or terrestrial, local or global. Informally, we asked our colleagues if they had a case in mind where they thought an ESV had made a difference. Most of them smiled and said that was a good question. Those most familiar with the current fashion for economic valuation usually came up with a few cases. But these were almost always the same half-dozen.

So we looked into those few cases, and what we found was our first surprise. A typical example: the case that came up most often was New York City paying to protect the Catskills watershed. As the story goes, this was done after an economic valuation showed that it would be cheaper than letting the watershed degrade and building a sophisticated water-treatment plant. There is evidence, however, that the decision was made first, and that an economic valuation was commissioned later to strengthen its legitimacy.

Then we conducted a systematic, quantitative review of peer-reviewed scientific literature - the first of its kind - and we were really stunned by its results. Of the several hundred papers we selected based on a keyword search, a mere 2% described, through a case study, how a specific ESV had played a role in a decision.

MEAM: In your study, you provide several hypotheses for what is going on.  These range from, basically, "ESVs are not being used in policy-making" to "Perhaps they are being used but researchers are not studying that use yet." In your opinion, which of your hypotheses seem the most likely to be true?

Billé: The hypotheses we developed to explain the discrepancy between expectations and available information on the use of ESV are all potentially valid in some cases. Two hypotheses about a potential bias in the selected literature are important for researchers: 1) Use of ESVs may be difficult to observe, and 2) Use may not yet be on the research agenda.

Other hypotheses revolve around the idea that use of ESV falls short of expectations in practice. Four hypotheses in particular pertain to how the use of ESV may be hampered: 1) ESV may contain fundamental inadequacies; 2) The cost of ESVs may restrict their use; 3) Regulatory frameworks may not be conducive to ESV; and 4) ESV, by enhancing transparency, may hamper political strategies that require a certain opacity or ambiguity.

MEAM: Are you willing to conclude that there simply are not many real-life instances of ESV being a decisive element in decision-making?

Billé: Certainly. What we confirm is that decision-making is hardly ever the result of a calculation. It is a complex socio-political process in which economic valuations may play a role, together with many other considerations.

MEAM: Along that line, you propose a distinction in the ways in which how ESVs can be used in policy-making. Can you explain?

Billé: Another result of our literature review was to propose three clusters of ESV use:

•  "Decisive" use of ESV (for a specific decision): Here ESV, incorporated into a cost-benefit analysis, informs decision-makers on the opportunity of a project/policy and its economic consequences with regard to ecosystem services.

•  "Technical" use of ESV: Here ESV is applied after the choice of a policy or project, to adjust the economic instrument that will implement the decision (e.g., a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme).

•  "Informative" use of ESV: Here ESV's influence on decision-making is indirect. It contributes to discussions, progressively modifies viewpoints, or makes some arguments impossible to hold.

While the "decisive use" appears more often in the literature, it may be less important in practice than "informative use". This has several implications:

One, it is more difficult to trace informative use than decisive use. Hence precautions are needed before concluding that ESVs are not used just because their use is not reported.

Two, since we do not need the same ESV for different uses, it is essential that those who commission ESVs know how they want to use them, and demand methodologies that are in accordance. It is time to have a demand-driven approach to ESV.

Three, if informative use of ESV is the most widespread, this limits both the practical potential of ESVs (e.g., to change the course of key policies, to generate market-based mechanisms) and its risks (e.g., commodification of nature).

For more information:

Raphaël Billé, Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, Paris, France. E-mail: raphael.bille@iddri.org

To comment on this article:
http://openchannels.org/node/4547



NOTES & NEWS

To comment on any of the following Notes & News items:     
http://openchannels.org/node/4548

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MSP process launched for NZ's Hauraki Gulf

In September 2013, New Zealand launched a project (Sea Change) to develop a marine spatial plan for the Hauraki Gulf, a 12,000-km2 body of water adjacent to the city of Auckland. To be delivered in 2015, the plan will address problems such as increasing user conflicts, declining fish stocks, sedimentation, and water contamination in the gulf. Although the plan will not be legally binding, it is expected to be used to modify a wide range of marine and coastal policies, rules, and regulations, including for land use. The Sea Change website is www.seachange.org.nz

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Analyzing the cultural ecosystem services that oceans provide

In marine spatial planning processes, it is common to focus on the economic values provided by the sea: fishing, offshore wind farming, shipping, etc. But what is the value of aesthetic, spiritual, or recreational services the sea provides? A new report analyzes ways of increasing the visibility of such cultural values in the MSP process, with the goal of improving the identification and mapping of culturally significant ocean areas. The report represents outcomes from a June 2013 workshop that was convened by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an intergovernmental organization that provides scientific advice for the management of Northeast Atlantic marine resources. The report is at http://bit.ly/CulturalEcosystemServices

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Review of management and policy options for ocean acidification

A recent study in the journal Environmental Management reviews management and policy options for ocean acidification. It investigates the assumption that managing for acidification is mainly about reducing CO2 emissions, and explores how ocean acidification may interact with other environmental issues. The study reviews four categories of management responses (preventing ocean acidification; strengthening ecosystem resilience; adapting human activities; and repairing damages) and classifies them according to their potential and feasibility. The abstract of the article "Taking action against ocean acidification: a review of management and policy options" is at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00267-013-0132-7 

An associated policy brief on this topic is available at www.iddri.org/Publications/Collections/Syntheses/PB1712_RB%20et%20al._ocean%20acidification.pdf

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Two studies on how changing ocean temperatures are affecting marine life

Two recent studies by US government fisheries scientists show that rising ocean temperatures are impacting ocean ecosystems, causing marine species to shift in distribution. The first study is a meta-analysis of all previous studies on how marine life is responding to climate change. The second study focuses on a specific case - the Gulf of Maine on the North Atlantic coast of North America - and shows that the food web there is shifting in ways that could make recovery of Atlantic cod stocks more difficult. For more information, go to www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2013/09/9_30_13two_takes_on_climate_change_in_ocean.html

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US Ocean Council releases planning handbook

The US National Ocean Council has released a handbook on establishing regional planning bodies and developing marine plans. It serves as a more detailed supplement to the discussion of marine planning in the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, which was released in April 2013 (MEAM 6:5). The handbook walks readers through common planning elements such as providing opportunities for public input. The Marine Planning Handbook is at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/final_marine_planning_handbook.pdf

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New book on ocean zoning in the United States

A new book, Zoning the Oceans: The Next Big Step in Coastal Zone Management, provides a legal overview of marine spatial planning approaches at the state and federal levels in the US. In particular, it details the development, design, and implementation of the state of Rhode Island's Ocean Special Area Management Plan - the first state-level marine spatial plan to receive federal approval. Published by the American Bar Association, the book also addresses recent federal initiatives in the implementation of a National Ocean Policy. It is available for purchase for US $109.95 at http://ambar.org/zoning 



Editor: John B. Davis

Contributing Editor: Tundi Agardy

Associate Editor: Sarah Carr

OpenChannels Manager: Nick Wehner

EDITORIAL BOARD:
Chair - David Fluharty, University of Washington
Sarah Carr, EBM Tools Network
Kevern Cochrane, Rhodes University
Jon Day, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Mark Erdmann, Conservation International
Ben Halpern, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
Karen McLeod, Oregon State University
Jake Rice, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada
Kristin Sherwood, The Nature Conservancy
Kevin Stokes, Fisheries consultant

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