Petition: A Call for Coordinated Research to Support the Management of Deep-Sea Marine Protected Areas

Hello everyone,

I am contacting you get your support for a petition to raise awareness of deep-sea marine protected areas. There are vast areas of the deep sea that are encompassed by numerous MPAs, particularly in the Pacific, but the exploratory surveys and baseline information needed to properly manage these resources are lacking. We would like to show a number of different organizations, including the managers of some of the MPAs themselves, that there is broad support for the necessary basic research to support proper management.

Please follow the link below for the complete statement and to sign onto the petition, and please feel free to disseminate this broadly.

Thanks for all that you do,

Erik Cordes
Associate Professor
Department of Biology
Temple University
twitter: @CordesLab

A Call for Coordinated Research to Support the Management of Deep-Sea Marine Protected Areas

Large-scale marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established as a response to the increasing human presence and impacts on the World’s oceans. These MPAs have provided vital protections for fisheries populations and helped to limit the stressors on coral reefs. Although these protected areas were designed to protect shallow-water ecosystems, in fact they protect far more deep-sea benthic habitat and an incredible volume of mid-water habitats. In the Pacific Ocean, marine protected areas encompass 7.5 million square kilometers, with over 90% of their area in the open ocean at depths greater than 200 m. However, we are only beginning to understand the processes and dynamics that govern the function of these ecosystems, and how they are influenced by human activities and climate change.The industrialization of the deep sea is proceeding at an unprecedented pace. Technological advances have led to the expansion of fisheries to deeper and deeper depths, and offshore oil and gas development to the outer continental shelf. Deep-sea mining on seamounts, hydrothermal vents, and in mineral-rich provinces of the abyssal plain are nearing reality via continuing technological developments and pressure to discover new resources. At the same time, our expanding footprint of waste disposal, including anthropogenic carbon emissions, has made its presence felt in the deep sea. All of these activities are taking place in areas that have not yet been explored; that no human eye has yet observed. Therefore, it is impossible to accurately determine the impacts of these activities.

Pacific MPAs lie within the jurisdictions of numerous countries, including Australia, the Cook Islands, France and New Caledonia, Kiribati, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. There are existing agreements between many pairs of these nation-states, but a coordinated network of research and marine spatial planning is needed to provide the basic information required for effective management. Given the importance of the deep sea to the function of the World’s oceans, and the existential threats posed by the continuing industrialization of the deep sea, now is the time to establish the baselines necessary to manage these resources.

We, the undersigned, urge the US Federal Government and international partners (including non-government organizations) to allocate the requisite resources (financial and otherwise), for initiatives in the region to accomplish the following:

1. Develop a coordinated plan for international cooperation
2. Expand the ongoing scientific exploration of the region
3. Promote data access and data sharing
4. Facilitate the application of findings to management deliberations

Together, these actions will lead to the implementation of a foundational science effort that is required to support present and future conservation objectives.

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