Technical workshop for establishing a regular process for the global assessment of the marine environment

GEF Support to Country-Driven Implementation of Chapter 17

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GEF Support to Country-Driven Implementation of Chapter 17

Developing country officials responsible for coastal and marine resources have understood the ramifications of the declining trends in their natural resources. Across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Eastern Europe, country officials have been experimenting through assistance from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with strategies for reversing the decline of their marine ecosystems, restoring once abundant biomass for sustaining growing populations of coastal communities, and conserving highly fluctuating systems to ensure continued benefits for future generations. Since the early 1990s, these nations have approached the GEF and its implementing agencies (the UN Development Programme, UN Environment Programme, and World Bank) and executing agencies like the UN Industrial Development Organization, for assistance in its international waters focal area to restore and protect their coastal and marine ecosystems.

The GEF Operational Strategy provides guidance on addressing these issues within the framework of sustainable development. GEF recommends the use of Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) and their contributing freshwater basins as the geographic area for integrating changes in sectoral economic activities. This place-based assistance with initial interventions through participative, multi-country processes of setting priorities and adopting commitment to action are helping countries make the transition to ecosystem-based management of these transboundary systems that encompass two or more coastal nations.
One of the two principal processes used to engage the science community in each of the participating countries for establishing ecosystem-based priorities for transboundary issues is the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA). The other process, known as the Strategic Action Programme (SAP), enables cooperating nations to jointly determine what policy/legal/institutional reforms and investments they need to make to address the TDA priorities. Once such country-driven commitments to actions are established, the GEF may also fund incremental costs of implementing the action programme or SAP to accelerate adoption of management regimes based on the concept of adaptive management for the LMEs as a whole rather than the management of specific sector by sector issues in isolation.
The five-module approach to LMEs (described below) that has proven useful in other settings is essentially customized to fit the situation within the context of the TDA process and the SAP process for particular groups of nations sharing an LME based on available information and capacity. These processes are critical to integrate science into management and this concept is being demonstrated in eight funded projects, four known as Comprehensive LME Demonstrations and to a lesser extent in four other LMEs based on country interests in certain transboundary issues. This demonstrates flexibility of the LME approach. For example, where GPA concerns prevail such as eutrophication in the Black Sea, a series of GEF projects for the basins (Danube) and the states of the Black Sea LME constituted an integrated approach to reduce nitrogen loadings from the 17 contributing nations along with development of a fisheries convention for the 6 Black Sea states.

New Momentum Created in Over 120 Countries

The 8 approved GEF-LME projects involve 60 developing nations or those in economic transition as well as another 17 OECD countries since the living resources, the pollution loading, or the critical habitats have transboundary implications. (Table 1) With the inclusion of the Western Pacific Warm Water Pool Ecosystem project funded by GEF for 14 Pacific SIDS, a total of 74 developing or transitional countries are participating in the LME restoration effort. An additional 7 LME projects under preparation involve 76 nations (65 of them developing countries). This growing number of country-driven commitments to change as fostered by the GEF, and the global imperative to change because of the degraded condition of the global coastal oceans provides an unprecedented opportunity for accelerating the transition to the sustainable use, conservation, and development of coastal and marine ecosystems. The costs of inaction in supporting the fledgling efforts of over 120 countries trying to do their part in implementing Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 by focusing on LMEs are much too high. Momentum must not be lost because the result may be irreversible damage to coastal and marine ecosystems, the poor communities depending on them, and the economy of coastal nations.

Five Module LME Approach

Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) are regions of ocean space encompassing coastal areas from river basins and estuaries to the seaward boundaries of continental shelves and the outer margins of the major current systems. They are relatively large regions on the order of 200,000 km2 or greater, characterized by distinct: (1) bathymetry, (2) hydrography, (3) productivity, and (4) trophically dependent populations. (Annex 1) On a global scale, 64 LMEs produce 95 percent of the world's annual marine fishery biomass yields. Within their waters, most of the global ocean pollution, overexploitation, and coastal habitat alteration occur. For 33 of the 64 LMEs, studies have been conducted of the principal driving forces affecting changes in biomass yields. They have been peer-reviewed and published in nine volumes.

The Ecological Society of America Committee on the Scientific Basis for Ecosystem Management concluded that the overarching principle for guiding ecosystem management is to ensure the intergenerational sustainability of ecosystem goods (e.g. fish, trees, petroleum) and ecosystem services or processes including productivity cycles and hydrological cycles. More recent reports add support to the principle expressed by the ESA Committee. From a fish and fisheries perspective, the National Research Council (U.S.) concludes that sustaining fishery yields will require sustaining the ecosystems that produce the fish. This approach represents a paradigm shift from the highly focused short-term sector-by-sector resource assessment and management approach in general practice today by natural resource stewardship agencies, to the broader more encompassing ecosystem approach that moves spatially from smaller to larger scales, and from short-term to longer-term management practice. Included in the new paradigm is a movement from the management of commodities to the sustainability of the productive potential for ecosystem goods and services.
This approach builds on an earlier application of “an ecosystem approach” to management of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, and more recent efforts in developing an ecosystem assessment approach for the management of the North Sea, the Northeast Shelf of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, the Baltic Sea, and the Yellow Sea. The ecosystem approach recognizes humankind and economic/social systems as being integral parts of the ecosystem. The Great Lakes approach led to agreements between the U.S. and Canada to follow longer-term pathways for sustainable use of ecological resources. The two decades of experience in struggling to operationalize this ecosystem approach has resulted in management programs to reverse the trend in coastal degradation.
Based on lessons learned from the LME case studies, a five module strategy has been developed to provide science-based information for the monitoring, assessment, and management of LMEs. The modules are focused on LME: (1) productivity, (2) fish and fisheries, (3) pollution and health, (4) socioeconomics, and (5) governance.
Productivity Module

Productivity can be related to the carrying capacity of an ecosystem for supporting fish resources. Recently, scientists have reported that the maximum global level of primary productivity for supporting the average annual world catch of fisheries has been reached, and further large-scale “unmanaged” increases in fisheries yields from marine ecosystems are likely to be at trophic levels below fish in the marine food chain. Evidence of this effect appears to be corroborated by recent changes in the species composition of the fisheries catches from the East China Sea LME. Measuring ecosystem productivity also can serve as a useful indication of the growing problem of coastal eutrophication. In several LMEs, excessive nutrient loadings of coastal waters have been related to algal blooms implicated in mass mortalities of living resources, emergence of pathogens (e.g., cholera, vibrios, red tides, paralytic shellfish toxins), and explosive growth of nonindigenous species.

The ecosystem parameters measured in the productivity module are zooplankton biodiversity and information on species composition, zooplankton biomass, water column structure, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), transparency, chlorophyll-a, NO2, NO3, and primary production. Plankton of LMEs have been measured by deploying Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) systems monthly across ecosystems from commercial vessels of opportunity over decadal time scales. Advanced plankton recorders can be fitted with sensors for temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, nitrate/nitrite, petroleum, hydrocarbons, light, bioluminescence, and primary productivity, providing the means to monitor changes in phytoplankton, zooplankton, primary productivity, species composition and dominance, and long-term changes in the physical and nutrient characteristics of the LME and in the biofeedback of plankton to the stress of environmental change.
Fish and fisheries module
Changes in biodiversity among the dominant species within fish communities of LMEs have resulted from: (1) excessive exploitation, (2) naturally occurring environmental shifts in climate regime, or (3) coastal pollution. Changes in the biodiversity of a fish community can generate cascading effects up the food chain to apex predators and down the food chain to plankton components of the ecosystem. These three sources of variability in fisheries yield are operable in most LMEs. They can be described as primary, secondary, and tertiary driving forces in fisheries yields, contingent on the ecosystem under investigation. For example, in the Humboldt Current, Benguela Current, and California Current LMEs, the primary driving force influencing variability in fisheries yield is the influence of changes in upwelling strength; fishing and pollution effects are secondary and tertiary effects on fisheries yields. In continental shelf LMEs, including the Yellow Sea and Northeast United States Shelf, excessive fisheries effort has caused large-scale declines in catch and changes in the biodiversity and dominance in the fish community. In these ecosystems, pollution and environmental perturbation are of secondary and tertiary influence. In contrast, significant coastal pollution and eutrophication have been the principal factors driving changes in fisheries yields of the Northwest Adriatic, Black Sea, and near-coastal areas of the Baltic Sea. Overexploitation and natural environmental changes are of secondary and tertiary importance. Consideration of the driving forces of change in biomass yield based on multi-year time-series data is important when developing options for management of living marine resources for long-term sustainability.
The Fish and Fisheries module includes fisheries-independent bottom-trawl surveys and acoustic surveys for pelagic species to obtain time-series information about changes in fish biodiversity and abundance levels. Standardized sampling procedures, when deployed from small calibrated trawlers, can provide important information on diverse changes in fish species. Fish catch provides biological samples for stock assessments, stomach analyses, age, growth, fecundity, and size comparisons; data for clarifying and quantifying multispecies trophic relationships; and the collection of samples for monitoring coastal pollution. Samples of trawl-caught fish can be used to monitor pathological conditions that may be associated with coastal pollution. Trawlers also can be used as platforms for obtaining water, sediment, and benthic samples for monitoring harmful algal blooms, virus vectors of disease, eutrophication, anoxia, and changes in benthic communities.

Pollution and ecosystem health module
In several LMEs, pollution has been a principal driving force in changes of biomass yields. Assessing the changing status of pollution and health of the entire LME is scientifically challenging. Ecosystem “health” is a concept of wide interest for which a single precise scientific definition is problematical. Methods to assess the health of LMEs are being developed from modifications to a series of indicators and indices described by several investigators. The overriding objective is to monitor changes in health from an ecosystem perspective as a measure of the overall performance of a complex system. The health paradigm is based on multiple-state comparisons of ecosystem resilience and stability and is an evolving concept.
To be healthy and sustainable, an ecosystem must maintain its metabolic activity level and its internal structure and organization, and must resist external stress over time and space scales relevant to the ecosystem. These concepts were discussed by panels of experts at two NOAA workshops convened in 1992. Five of the indices discussed by the participants are being considered as experimental measures of changing ecosystem states and health: (1) biodiversity; (2) stability; (3) yields; (4) productivity; and (5) resilience. Data from which to derive the experimental indices are obtained from time-series monitoring of key ecosystem parameters. The ecosystem sampling strategy is focused on parameters relating to resources at risk of overexploitation, species protected by legislative authority (marine mammals), and other key biological and physical components at the lower end of the food chain (plankton, nutrients, hydrography).
Fish, benthic invertebrates, and other biological indicator species are used in the Pollution and Ecosystem Health module to measure pollution effects on the ecosystem, including the bivalve monitoring strategy of “Mussel-Watch;” the pathobiological examination of fish; and the estuarine and nearshore monitoring of contaminants and contaminant effects in the water column, substrate, and in selected groups of organisms. The routes of bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of contaminants are assessed, and critical life history stages and selected food chain organisms are examined for parameters that indicate exposure to, and effects of, contaminants. Effects of impaired reproductive capacity, organ disease, and impaired growth from contaminants are measured. Assessments are made of contaminant impacts at the individual species and population levels. Implementation of protocols to assess the frequency and effect of harmful algal blooms, emergent diseases and multiple marine ecological disturbances are included in the pollution module.

Socioeconomic module
This module is characterized by its emphasis on practical applications of its scientific findings in managing an LME and on the explicit integration of economic analysis with science-based assessments to assure that prospective management measures are cost-effective. Economists and policy analysts will need to work closely with ecologists and other scientists to identify and evaluate management options that are both scientifically credible and economically practical with regard to the use of ecosystem goods and services.
Designed to respond adaptively to enhanced scientific information, socioeconomic considerations must be closely integrated with science. This component of the LME approach to marine resources management has recently been described as the human dimensions of LMEs. A framework has been developed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island for monitoring and assessment of the human dimensions of an LME and the socioeconomic considerations important to the implementation of an adaptive management approach for an LME. One of the more critical considerations, a methodology for considering economic valuations of LME goods and services has been developed around the use of interaction matrices for describing the relationships between ecological state and the economic consequences of change.
Governance module
The Governance module is evolving based on demonstrations now underway among ecosystems to be managed from a more holistic perspective than generally practiced in the past. In projects supported by GEF- for the Yellow Sea ecosystem, the Guinea Current LME, and the Benguela LME - agreements have been reached among the environmental ministers of the countries bordering these LMEs to enter into joint resource assessment and management activities. Among other LMEs, the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem is being managed from an holistic ecosystems perspective along with the Northwest Australian Continental Shelf ecosystem being managed by the state and federal governments of Australia. The Antarctic marine ecosystem is being managed from an ecosystem perspective under the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and its 21-nation membership. Movement toward ecosystems management is emerging for the North Sea, Barents Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. In essence, the 5 modules and the TDA-SAP processes foster an adaptive management approach to joint governance based on iterative assessments of indicator parameters as part of establishing and reviewing progress in Monitoring and Evaluation indicators for GEF purposes. These processes help to integrate science into the management regime. Recent reports from the University of Rhode Island examine options for improving linkages between the science-based productivity, fish and fisheries, and pollution-ecosystem health modules and the socioeconomic and governance modules, including the use of governance profiles.

LME Stress and Recovery
Results from LME case studies support the need for nations to adopt an ecosystem-based assessment and management approach to recover depleted biomass and sustain long-term yields of fisheries while conserving biodiversity. Three principal driving forces are described in 11 of the LME case studies as root causes of decadal changes in biodiversity dominance and biomass yields: (1) overfishing (U.S. Northeast Shelf, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, Iceland Shelf (2) climate regime shifts (Humboldt Current, Benguela Current, Iberian Coastal, Guinea Current, Canary Current, California Current); and (3) pollution and eutrophication (Black Sea).
The LMEs are also under stress from land-based, riverine inputs of persistent organic pollutants and sewage, excessive loadings of nitrogen from fertilizers and livestock associated with the "Green Revolution" as well as atmospheric deposition that have degraded a number of LMEs. Excessive inputs of N (500Gg/area/year) can markedly alter marine ecosystems causing increases in eutrophication, changes in trophic linkages, increases in hypoxia, emergence of pathogens, and mass mortalities of living resources. Increases in eutrophication and hypoxia, when coupled with habitat and nursery area loss, pose a threat to the livelihoods of poor communities in developing nations and their access to inexpensive protein for survival.
Recent carefully controlled ecosystem-based management actions in two LMEs are serving to reverse multidecadal declines in biomass yields. Since 1994, reductions in fishing effort increased the spawning stock biomass (ssb) levels of cod on the Icelandic Shelf ecosystem, and haddock, yellowtail flounder, and other species in the U.S. Northeast Shelf ecosystem. The ssb of herring and mackerel in the Northeast Shelf ecosystem was increased from 600 000 mt following U.S. quota limitations imposed in 1975 on foreign fishing effort to 3.5 million mt in 1999. The quota limitations were implemented in both ecosystems before irreversible loss occurred.

Lessons For Sustaining Renewed Commitments
While many of the 16 country-driven LME initiatives supported with GEF grant funding have just started, and in others the national and regional reforms in progress will take several years to achieve, a number of lessons are becoming evident for the world community to consider in reversing the decline of its coastal oceans. As noted in the paper presented at this meeting, a geographic approach, based on the LMEs of the world and their linked coastal areas and freshwater contributing basins(where linkage is needed), is more appropriate than a thematic approach (e.g. fisheries, sewage, sediment, contaminants). In this manner, all the different stresses can be addressed jointly through integrated, collective processes and in integrated, collective national actions carried forward in the different economic sectors to deal with the priorities. Processes such as the TDA and SAP are needed to foster multi-stakeholder dialogue, inter-ministerial dialogue, and a discourse with the science community in unraveling complex situations so they can be divided into priority pieces for management. If everything environmental is a priority, little will get done---a focus on priorities is essential. The iterative assessment and management cycle fosters an adaptive management approach through establishment of indicators for the GEF that are periodically measured and are to be tracked over time by the nations as Monitoring and Evaluation indicators.

The LME geographic approach then allows all levels of institutions (multi-country, national-interministerial, and local government/communities) to participate for buy-in and adoption of reforms; themes which are not place-based can not garner real commitments for change by stakeholders in economic sectors. The national interministerial committee established in each country to operationalize and carry forward program actions is particularly important. This approach is far more effective than just the well-intentioned capacity building of environment ministries and isolated local, community-based approaches. The policy/ legal/institutional reforms and key investments are needed in the economic sectors if action is to be effective and sustained and institution-building supported by governments.

The multi-country institution and its regime for assessing and managing LMEs is also critical to address the priorities. Without such joint visions for reform and commitments to action, no ad hoc actions will be sustainable. This makes the socio-economic and governance modules critical to the decisions for reform so that the overfished stocks may recover, the wasted by-catch reduced, critical habitats conserved, and joint management institutions developed. The processes of jointly producing a SAP ensure country-drivenness and the availability of incremental cost-based grant finance can provide an incentive for countries to take that next steps. As shown by completed SAPs, programs of action and reforms are needed, not just one-off projects if reversing the decline is to be successful. Competing global programs, competing interests of donors, competing priorities of international finance institutions also should be reconsidered and harmonized so that they support in a coordinated and sequenced manner the reforms leveraged by these action programs and work in unison to support participating countries as they implement these difficult reforms.

Perhaps most importantly, the GEF-LME projects are illustrating that holistic, ecosystem-based approaches to managing LMEs are critical for providing a platform to focus on multiple benefits under multiple global instruments. Instead of establishing competing programs with inefficiencies and duplication, which is the norm now, the LME projects foster action on priority transboundary issues ACROSS instruments in an holistic manner—across UNCLOS, the Jakarta Mandate of the CBD, the GPA and its pollution loading reductions, and in dealing with inevitable adaptation issues under UNFCCC. In fact, this ecosystem-based approach, centered around LMEs and participative processes for countries to undertake for building political commitment and interministerial buy-in, is intended as the way ahead consistent with Chapter 17. The adaptive management framework resulting from iterative application of the GEF Operational Strategy allows for sequential capacity building, technology introduction, and investments to an ecosystem-based group of nations by the world community so that this collective response to global conventions and other instruments can be accomplished in a practical manner. The 5 modules ensure that management institutions are engaged with the science community in joint efforts developed in conjunction with stakeholders. In this way, ecological surprises of the future that will be generated by fluctuating climate can be more effectively handled by the joint institutions then at present, and will have a better chance to insulate from disasters the poor communities that are the first to suffer adverse effects of inadequate and inappropriate management efforts.

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