Science Outreach

Managing migrating fish populations under a changing climate

Fish migrations represent some of the most fascinating animal movement patterns on the planet. Individuals are able to move between multiple ecosystem types (e.g. lakes, rivers, coastal ecosystems and open oceans), potentially playing a key role in nutrient transport as they travel, and acting as predators, competitors and prey to other species on the way. In a recent review published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Tamario and colleagues describe the threats currently faced by migrating fishes, and how the sustainable utilisation and protection of these species and their ecosystems can be achieved through informed management solutions.

Migrating salmon are able to transport nutrients from resource rich habitats in the ocean to less productive rivers

Habitat modification, fragmentation and destruction of spawning and nursery habitats, pollution, and overexploitation are listed as primary threats to migrating fishes, and the authors discuss how each may impact the eco-evolutionary processes and diversity of these animals. Furthermore, Tamario and colleagues discuss the influence of environmental conditions on whether, why, where and when fishes migrate, and the potential for these behavioural patterns to vary under a shifting climate. Pressures arising from environmental makeovers (e.g. damming), management actions (e.g. the construction of fishways), as well as captive breeding and aquaculture are also considered.

By discussing the aforementioned threats facing migrating fishes across genetic, individual, population and ecosystem levels, the authors are able to succinctly outline promising future directions for research in this emerging field, and provide recommendations for the development of management strategies for migrating fishes in the face of current uncertainties.

South Africa’s sardine run. Photo © Lakshmi Sawitri CC
Project Update

Upcoming special issue: Animal Borne Sensor Applications in Sensors

A satellite tagged ribbon seal. Photo © jomilo75 CC

Next year, the journal Sensors will be publishing a special issue titled “Animal Borne Sensor Applications”, which will be co-edited by MMMAP Core Researcher, Dr Michele Thums.

The special issue aims to showcase new advances, methodologies, hardware, modalities, frontiers and more, in the field of animal-borne sensing, and
manuscript submissions are now open
with a deadline of April 15 2020.

More information about the special issue, including submission requirements and scope, can be found here:

An acoustically tagged turtle hatchling is released back into the ocean. Photo © Dr Michele Thums

Workshop to include marine megafauna tracking data in ocean observing systems

Dr Ana Sequeira and other members of the MMMAP Team recently hosted the Marine Megafauna Task Team workshop in Waikiki, Hawaii, in the lead up to the decadal OceanObs’19 conference. The working group assembled was tasked to kick-start a global initiative to coordinate and integrate marine megafauna data in ocean observing systems. Twenty-eight attendees, representing a vast array of organisations, institutions and tagging networks, participated in the event, aiming to deliver coordinated, sustained observations of marine animals and their environment at scales that meet the needs of governments and citizens.

The working group looks forward to sharing the outcomes of the discussions with the wider scientific community, and continuing their mission to continue the presence of marine megafauna and their role in marine ecosystems for future generations. Stay tuned for updates!

Thanks to the Office of Naval Research and the UWA Oceans Institute and School of Biological Sciences for sponsoring the workshop.

The Marine Megafauna Task Team Workshop. September 14-15 2019, Waikiki, Hawaii.
Science Outreach

The future of ocean observations

Sustained ocean time series data provide a means to monitor our oceans, and to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic occurrences. In a recent review published in Frontiers in Marine Science this July, Benway and colleagues outline four major themes that are viewed as important areas for the development and improvement of ocean observations in the coming decade.

Alongside strengthening our capacity to observe the ocean by leveraging shipboard, autonomous and satellite-based assets, the authors highlight the importance of coordination and collaboration between data generators and modelers in streamlining data accessibility and processing. The potential to increase the applications and number of end-users of time series data in the context of global collaboration and networking is also discussed.

This review is one of 125 Community White Papers that are part of the upcoming Ocean Observations conference; a decadal event with a mission to progress ocean observing networks and to chart innovative solutions to society’s growing needs for ocean information. OceanObs’19 is being hosted next week in Hawaii. Stay tuned for updates about the contributions of MMMAP Team members to this important meeting.

Project Update

Success at CITES for sharks and rays!

Shortfin mako shark. Photo © Patrick Doll CC

Eighteen species of sharks and rays have just been listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) following the Conference of the Parties (CoP) held this August in Geneva, Switzerland.

The new listings include six species of guitarfish, ten species of wedgefish and two species of mako sharks, and represent a significant step forward given the recent findings of the susceptibility of pelagic sharks to fishing pressures in the high seas.

As work continues to develop rapid species identification tools for use in illegal fish markets, the listing of these elasmobranchs within the CITES legislation will aid in regulating the trade of these vulnerable species.

A guitarfish cruises along the sandy sea floor. Photo © Matt D. Potenski CC
Science Outreach

Threats to seabirds: a global assessment

Bermuda Petrels.
Photo – Richard Crossley CC

A new review, published in Biological Conservation this month by Dias and colleagues, collated data from over 900 publications to identify the main threats being faced by hundreds of millions of seabirds around the world.

Topping the list of threats are invasive alien species, bycatch and climate change, which collectively impact about two-thirds of the 359 recognised species of seabirds worldwide. Overfishing, as well as hunting, trapping and disturbance, are also listed as threats for these animals.

Given that seabirds play a key role in marine ecosystems and are regarded to be good indicators of their health, addressing these key threats will be paramount to ensuring the conservation of seabird populations moving into the future.

Bycatch in fisheries represents one of the major threats to global seabird populations
Project Update

The many mysteries of the megamouth shark

Despite being the third largest species of shark in the world, very little is known about the distribution, body size and biology of the megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios).

Preserved megamouth shark specimen.
Photo © Gordon Makryllos CC

In a recent review, published in the Journal of Fish Biology, Dr Watanabe and Asst Prof Papastamatiou compiled all 117 historical records of the species collected between 1976 and 2018 in an attempt to reveal some of the secrets of this elusive planktivore.

Three encounter hot-spots were identified in the waters of Philippines, Japan and Taiwan, with female sharks dominating the records for the latter two locations. Catch frequencies also indicated the potential for megamouth sharks to perform latitudinal, seasonal migrations to moderate the impact of changes in water temperature and varying prey availability. Despite these insights, however, questions as simple as “how do these animals feed?” still remain.

Satellite tags and animal-borne cameras could be promising tools to expand our understanding of the movement and feeding ecology of megamouth sharks moving into the future, but for now, these animals remain one of the largest mysteries our oceans!