The high seas — also called international waters — comprise 64% of the world’s oceans and 45% of the earth’s surface. They are shared by the world but governed by no one country. That means that the incredible biodiversity of the high seas, from seaweeds to fish to sharks, is not currently protected.
By Colin Thackray, Nereus Fellow at Harvard University
The oceans are very expansive. Their enormous size and distance from where people stay long term presents a challenge for scientists monitoring the oceans. Unlike many atmospheric measurements for meteorology which we can make just outside of cities, often at airports, to get good measurements for ocean science, a journey on the sea is often required. Around the world, there are many ships designed or outfitted specifically for bringing scientists to the ocean – so called Research Vessels (RVs).
The UN Oceans Conference and Sustainable Development Goals: Are partnerships providing the way forward?
The global oceans provide hundreds of millions of people with livelihoods, food and nutritional security, and are crucial for employment, economic development, and export earnings in many countries and coastal communities around the world. The status of these important ecosystems and its fisheries resources are however rapidly declining, following decades of unsustainable exploitation patterns, overcapacity, and unsuccessful governance interventions.
The world is intuitively divided by the existence of recognizable, bounded units of landscape with characteristic climatic regimes and land cover that drives the distribution of existing life on earth. On a global scale, terrestrial ecosystems are grouped into major biomes such as boreal forest, savannah, desert, tundra and grasslands, each with distinct climates, landscapes, species, and vegetation.
Any trip to an aquarium or seafood market reveals the incredible variety of fishes. These fishes not only differ in how they look, but in traits related to life history. Life history traits include maximum body size, longevity, age at maturity, and fecundity – the number of eggs produced. Fishes that have the same phylogeny, or evolutionary history, share similar traits. Conversely, unrelated fishes occasionally evolve similar traits independently.
A meadow under the sea? Not to be confused with seaweeds, seagrasses are land plants that have adapted to living their entire lives submerged in saltwater. They are close relatives of terrestrial grasses, seagrasses are thought to have colonized marine environments several millions of years ago. Different species of seagrass are found in tropic and temperate regions around the world from Southeast Asia to Scandinavia and all around North America. They are known as a “foundation species” because they create important habitat for a wide array of other organisms.
By Richard Caddell, Nereus Program Fellow at Utrecht University
It is increasingly evident that profound changes will be necessary to current fishing practices in order to meet future global demand for seafood. Many fisheries are already operating at or beyond their ecological and economic capacity, while climate change and associated processes are projected to have significant impacts upon the future distribution of fish stocks.
Madingley is a General Ecosystem Model and hopes to indirectly represent all forms of life, terrestrial and marine. Nereus Fellow Phil Underwood works with the Madingley model to validate its use as a policy tool in relation to fisheries, ecosystem health, and food security. He is working to better understand the relationship between oceanic ecosystems and human societies.
We know that fuel use contributes to climate change, but in a vicious circle, climate change could also increase fuel use in fishing. This is due to fish shifting their distributions due to warming waters. With this increased use of fuel and the increasing price, small-scale and artisanal fishers will have a harder time sustaining livelihoods and feeding their families under climate change.
You’ve seen the headlines – tuna is in trouble. “Bleak outlook for sushi favourite as bluefin tuna levels drop 97 per cent,” writes the Telegraph. CBS News says: “Sushi eaters pushing Pacific bluefin tuna to brink of extinction”. Does this mean that you should be putting down those tuna sandwiches and spicy tuna rolls? Not necessarily.