Coastal News from the Field: Considering the Human Well-Being Impacts of Marine Protected Areas

By Ellis Kalaidjian

A comprehensive approach to sustainable development considers social impacts in environmental management and policy decisions. In practice, this requires decision-makers to have a nuanced understanding of how the services afforded by natural environments contribute to the livelihoods and well-being (generally understood as a measure of quality of life) of individuals and communities adjacent to them. The relationships between communities and their surrounding environments are dynamic and often place-specific. This month’s edition of the Coastal News from the Field series features a timely study by researchers from the University of St. Andrews, who explore the livelihood and well-being impacts of the Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, a marine protected area (MPA) in Kenya, on nearby communities. The article was recently published in Coastal Management.

Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve (WMNPR) was designated as a protected area in 1968 and as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1979. The MPA comprises over 40 km2 of coral reef, seagrass, mangrove, and sandflat habitats. Nearby villages are supported by key ecological and economic services provided by this habitat complex. The MPA’s offshore reefs provide coastal protection and, along with the mangrove and seagrass habitats, serve as important spawning ground habitat for fish species. Various livelihoods, including fishing, tourism-based activities, fuelwood harvesting and beekeeping, are also supported by the MPA. Yet, land-use changes and other anthropogenic stressors have degraded the ecosystems upon which the coastal Kenyan region heavily relies.

A map of the WMNPR and its regional setting (source: Kenya Wildlife Service, 2016)

The research team investigated how the presence of the WMNPR has impacted the livelihoods of those in proximity to it and, in turn, three dimensions—material, relational, and subjective—of such individuals’ well-being. Researchers surveyed 308 inhabitants of two towns, Uyombo and Mida, that differed socio-demographically and in their geographic proximities to the MPA. Uyombo is closer to the MPA than Mida yet is more removed from the economic activities and tourism associated with it. Through various statistical analyses of survey responses, the study offered several key findings:

  1. As anticipated, primary livelihoods differed significantly by town; owning a small business (selling clothes, fruit, etc.) was the most frequently reported livelihood in Uyombo, whereas crop farming was most engaged in by respondents from Mida. Yet, differences in levels of dependence on the WMNPR between the two villages could not be confirmed.
  2. Two key benefits were cited most often by survey respondents: (1) the MPA has contributed to improvements in their health, and (2) the MPA has allowed them to enjoy a healthy coastal ecosystem. By contrast, the most often reported disbenefits of the MPA were a decrease in natural resource management participation, as well as increased conflict and social tension.
  3. The benefits and disbenefits reported captured all three dimensions of well-being.

The authors conclude that their findings have significant implications for both research and the management of the WMNPR. The direct influence of WMNPR on the livelihoods of residents in Uyombo and Mida may be smaller than previously believed. For researchers, this suggests that trades such as fishing, which are overstudied in investigations of the communities that are impacted by MPAs, should be considered more evenly alongside others to ensure that vulnerable demographics are not overlooked. The finding that respondents were often dissatisfied with their decreased participation in the management of the areas comprising the WMNPR suggests that its governance needs to further promote bottom-up approaches that will comprehensively address the identified disbenefits. Moving forward, continued research about the dynamics of communities’ relationships with MPAs will help further inform management that adequately weighs well-being considerations.

Citation: Harker, A. L., Stojanovic, T. A., Majalia, A. M., Jackson, C., Baya, S., & Tsiganyiu, K. D. (2022). Relationships between Livelihoods, Well-Being, and Marine Protected Areas: Evidence from a Community Survey, Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, Kenya. Coastal Management, 1-24. DOI: 10.1080/08920753.2022.2126266

Disclaimer: This post does not serve as an endorsement of the author’s opinion, nor does it express the views of the Coastal Society.

TCS Members in the Spotlight during the 2021 Coastal Connections Series

By Steven MacLeod and Ashley Gordon

The Coastal Society (TCS) hosted three Professional Spotlight sessions featuring TCS members in 2021. Each Spotlight session features seasoned TCS professionals who share their career paths and provide career tips to students and young professional members. These events also serve as an opportunity for members to connect and network. The Professional Spotlight events are hosted as part of the Coastal Connections series to benefit TCS members. The video sessions were recorded via Zoom; TCS members may request a link to these recordings by sending an email here. To receive invitations for future Professional Spotlight sessions, please be sure your TCS membership is current. Join or renew at Membership – The Coastal Society. You can also read more about the Coastal Connections series on the TCS website.  

Kristen Fletcher (J.D.), Faculty Associate at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, was our guest speaker during the session held on Monday, May 10, 2021. Kristen provided an overview of her professional journey, stemming from law degrees at Notre Dame and Lewis and Clark Law School. This included working for NOAA Sea Grant for 10 years at the University of Mississippi and Roger Williams University. She then took the role of Executive Director of the Coastal States Organization. During this time, she became involved with TCS and served a term as TCS President.

Kristen and her family later moved to California, where she explored several employment options (such as founding her own environmental consulting firm) before joining the NPS. At the NPS, she has helped lead the development of the NPS Climate and Security Network. Kristen noted several professional lessons learned, including being open to change (whether you choose it or not!) and being generous with your time to connect with others. She encouraged participants to ask for support from their professional network.

Discussion following Kristen’s presentation focused on topics such as facilitating multiple ocean uses through marine spatial planning, balancing multiple professional interests in your career, and the value of identifying metrics to track your professional accomplishments (e.g., percent growth of your organization). View Kristen’s presentation HERE.

Michael Orbach (PhD), Professor Emeritus of the Practice of Marine Affairs and Policy at Duke University, was our guest speaker during the session held on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Mike discussed his educational background leading to a Ph.D. in Anthropology from U.C. San Diego. He then took a position with NOAA as a social science advisor before returning to academic roles at UC Santa Cruz, East Carolina University, and Duke University. He has served on numerous boards and commissions, including a role as President of The Coastal Society in the mid-1990s and a current position as chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Offshore Science and Assessment which advises the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Mike’s research has focused on domestic and international fishery management and social science applications in coastal management and policy. He advised young professionals to be creative and willing to make a change to do something out of the ordinary. Mike also stressed the importance of developing a network of contacts, noting that this was key to his own career transitions and led to a relatively unique position as a “professor of practice”.

Following Mike’s presentation, discussion with participants included a “bottom-up” approach to stakeholder engagement, whereby Mike observed that we cannot “force a solution” and expect to achieve consensus. He suggested that while research and advocacy were important in achieving a conservation goal, most of the work relates to facilitating the coordination and implementation of ideas. Mike also offered tips for pursuing international jobs. View Mike’s presentation HERE.

Rebekah Padgett was our guest speaker for the session on Thursday, December 15, 2021. Rebekah is the 401/CZM Federal Permit Manager for the Washington (State) Department of Ecology (DOE) responsible for water quality certification and coastal consistency reviews, a role she has held since 2004. She outlined her educational background leading to a Master’s in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. She noted brief roles with the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a consulting firm before joining DOE. In 2019 and 2020, she was on sabbatical, performing marine debris research for the Centre for Action Environment Science Society (CARESS) in Tamil Nadu, India.

Rebekah emphasized the importance of building lasting, reciprocal relationships and seeking different perspectives. She also spoke on the value of continuous learning, being flexible, staying open to new opportunities, and volunteering. Rebekah previously served on the Board of Directors for TCS and is currently volunteering with Ecologists Without Borders as their representative to Global Partnership on Marine Litter.

Rebekah’s presentation was followed by a discussion that covered exploring fellowship opportunities as a student, building a network with others in your field, how to highlight skills developed through diverse experiences when applying for a new job, and how regulatory/permitting positions can provide exposure to diverse types of projects.

We thank all our guest speakers for taking time to share their stories! 

TCS Coastal Connections Discusses Coastal Storms and Community Resilience

By Ellis Kalaidjian and Ashley Gordon

Coastal communities are experiencing more intense storms under a changing climate—this past Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active in recorded history, hosting one of the five costliest hurricanes to impact the US. Future storm impacts are predicted to be exacerbated by continued sea-level rise and population growth along coastlines, combined with climatic changes breeding favorable environmental conditions for the development of more frequent intense storms. Building coastal community resilience is thus continually placed on local, state, and federal agendas, and it served as the subject of the Coastal Society’s (TCS) Coastal Connections session, held on October, 21, 2021. A recording of the session is available here.

TCS President, Steve MacLeod, initiated the session by familiarizing attendants with TCS and the Coastal Connections web series and then inviting attending Board Members to introduce themselves. The session was moderated by Kim Grubert, Project Consultant on the Sustainability, Energy, and Climate Change team at WSP USA, Inc. and TCS Chapters Committee Co-Chair. Presentations were then given by the following panelists: Erik Heden, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Newport/Morehead City, NC, and Jill Gambill, Coastal Resilience Specialist at University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Erik Heden provided an overview of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) extensive community outreach initiatives. NWS organizes hurricane outlook talks with core partners that provide information on potential hurricane impacts. During Hurricane Preparedness Week in May, NWS conducts outreach that includes messaging related to developing an evacuation plan, assembling a disaster supply kit, and getting flood insurance (more information is available at https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness). NWS also organizes outreach talks for schools and community groups that offer safety information related to rip currents, floods, lightning, and hurricanes. Mr. Heden also touched on the efforts of the NWS Newport/Morehead City office, which coordinates with NC Sea Grant to provide information related to sea-level rise and potential impacts. Specific outreach requests include providing talks for military professionals related to hurricane preparedness and outreach booths at community events. New outreach efforts include NWS hurricane community forums (in-person and virtual) that focus on sharing key preparedness messages and the Weather Ready Nation Ambassador program to support community engagement. NWS Tropical SKYWARN and Integrated Warning Team training are also available. For more information on flood risk and outreach efforts, visit weather.gov.

Jill Gambill discussed NOAA Georgia Sea Grant’s efforts related to coastal resilience planning for coastal storms and sea level rise. In coastal Georgia, more than 10 inches of sea-level rise has been measured at the NOAA Fort Pulaski tide gauge since 1935. Tide gauge data supports that the frequency and magnitude of flooding in coastal Georgia are increasing, and the regional rate of sea level rise is accelerating. Sea Grant is working to increase community capacity and mitigate risk to natural hazards. Current Georgia Sea Grant efforts include diversifying their workforce, progressing equitable access to resources and decision-making processes, and seeking community input on communicating flood risk. Georgia Sea Grant, with funding from NOAA’s Weather Program Office and in collaboration with the NWS, is developing virtual reality simulations of structural flooding from storm surge. The platform also provides methods to explore the benefits of different mitigation measures, such as elevating a home or purchasing flood insurance. Ms. Gambill also highlighted the importance of considering environmental, economic, and social benefits of community projects and provided an example of urban tree restoration efforts in Savannah that have multiple benefits of flood reduction, heat reduction, workforce development, and youth engagement.

To continue the TCS discussion of climate change challenges for coastal communities, our next Coastal Connections session will be focused on sea level rise. The Coastal Connections discussion will be held on Wednesday. March 30th from 3-4pm Eastern. Join us to learn about trends in sea level rise, considering recent data in comparison to the geological record, and participate in a discussion about sea level rise impacts on coastal resources and general mitigation approaches. Featured speakers include:

  • John Englander, Oceanographer/Author
  • Molly Mitchell, PhD, Research Assistant Professor at Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Following presentations, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their own expertise in a moderated discussion. To participate in this free event, please register on Eventbrite at the following link: https://tcs-coastal-connections-web-meeting11.eventbrite.com

Recent TCS Partnership Seeks to Diversify the Ocean and Coastal Science Career Space

By Elise Mason

The COVID-19 pandemic not only shuttered our shared work and study spaces, but it also coincided with nationally palpable social unrest that highlighted ongoing social justice issues within higher education, and governmental and corporate institutions, regarding bias and discrimination faced by many students and professional scientists of color. The unfortunate truth is not something that has occurred by happenstance: a lack of diversity breeds discriminatory behaviors which often drive people of color out of positions in the coastal, ocean, and marine (COM) sciences or keep them from entering in the first place (Berhe et al., 2021). All Americans have supposedly been afforded equal rights since The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (or Juneteenth in 1865, depending on whom you ask), and yet Black Americans often were not allowed to partake in marine science endeavors alongside White Americans until nearly 40 years ago—over a decade after the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the beginnings of integrating the segregated public school system following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme court decision in 19541. For instance, Evan B. Ford was the first Black scientist to participate in research dives aboard a deep-sea submersible in 19792.

Over the past nine months, The Coastal Society (TCS) has partnered with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Education and Outreach group on a unique diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) effort that fits within the paradigm of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) one-year grant, supported TCS in co-organizing a series of free, virtual career development events for faculty and underrepresented minorities (URM) in the COM sciences fields at federally designated minority serving institutions (MSIs)3. The effort is in response to mounting anecdotal and empirical evidence of the underrepresentation of Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities within the COM fields relative to other demographic groups in the United States (NSF & NCSES, 2017). Although racial and ethnic minority representation is similarly scarce in other spaces of higher education, the lack of diversity in the COM science disciplines is particularly persistent (Bernard & Cooperdock, 2018) and the effects are visible in the academic and non-academic workforce.

COM sciences are interdisciplinary which can translate to ill-defined career paths; opportunities extend across biological sciences, engineering, math and technology, economics, and social science sectors. Jobs and “the workforce” are vital institutional structures that impact survival, well-being and public health outcomes, and social status. A career path that exemplifies one’s individual passions, values, and skills is important for all, including people of color. It is NSF’s stance that a robust STEM workforce is a national priority4, and a strong national workforce is a diverse one. Professional societies like TCS can expand their support to a diverse ocean and coastal workforce of researchers, educators, practitioners, and government officials. TCS has begun to strengthen this diversity within its membership, both through its collaboration with NCAR and the newly developed 5-year DEI Strategic Plan.

The TCS-NCAR partnership proposed two main goals: (1) retain and support undergraduate and graduate students in pursuing careers in these fields; and (2) build faculty and staff capacity at MSIs to provide students with career development training. This was to be accomplished through a set of virtual outreach activities, which developed over the course of the project. The challenge was to address these ambitious goals within a short timeframe. What objectives would realistically be feasible given our resources and how could they be achieved?

The project team of three painstakingly collected contact information of COM faculty from online directories at 16 MSIs with relevant curricula. We arranged informal small group meetings with faculty at seven of the 16 schools and it became apparent from these conversations that the second goal—to build faculty and staff capacity at MSIs—did not align with the capacity of the faculty at these institutions. Nevertheless, the majority remained open to communicating suggestions that would create professional opportunities for their students during and after their formal education. 

By the conclusion of the project, four free public career development workshop events and one faculty forum were hosted through Zoom and Google Meet platforms. Designating events as Zoom meetings rather than webinars created a more intimate setting for the events. Through this format, participants could see each other and speak live directly to the group. All events were offered between September 2021 and February 2022 and were around 75 minutes in duration. The workshops attracted both graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at MSIs and those who were not. The faculty forum allowed for an informal dialogue about career development projects undertaken by different departments and an opportunity to expand inter-institutional networks. 

The feedback received from attendees was limited yet positive and supportive of the endeavor. Students reported interest in, “[m]ore networking opportunities for both as a scientist and for people of color, URM in these fields,” and appreciated that, “panelists were very candid and sincere about their experiences.” One student remarked that, “The advice I really appreciated was opening my eyes to the fact I did not need to solely rely on loans for grad school and that I could be picky about my options.” Another participant shared in the virtual chat, “The opportunity to ask questions regarding grad school really made my decision much more clear to start working towards a future in grad school”5

It is my hope that these meaningful programmatic events continue to be incorporated at TCS. The experience of co-facilitating this project has been invaluable to me, one of many emerging professional scientists of color working outside academia. I recommend that future DEI efforts work toward smaller, more easily measurable goals, that projects and opportunities for students of color are designed with students, faculty, and professionals of color, and that those projects are reflective and mutually beneficial for all participants.

Disclaimer: This post does not serve as an endorsement of the author’s opinion, nor does it express the views of the Coastal Society.

References and Further Reading:

  1. Berhe, A. A., Barnes, R. T., Hastings, M. G., Mattheis, A., Schneider, B., Williams, B. M., & Marín-Spiotta, E. (2022). Scientists from historically excluded groups face a hostile obstacle course. Nature Geoscience, 15(1), 2-4.
  2. Bernard, R. E., & Cooperdock, E. H. (2018). No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nature Geoscience, 11(5), 292-295.
  3. Gasman, M., Nguyen, T. H., & Conrad, C. F. (2015). Lives intertwined: A primer on the history and emergence of minority serving institutions. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 8(2), 120.
  4. National Science Foundation, & National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. (2017). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17–310. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/.

TCS Continues Successful Shift to Virtual Coastal Career Workshops in 2021

By Jeff Flood, Tom Bigford, Adrian Laufer, & Lisa Kim

Following a successful series of Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Coastal Career Workshops in 2020, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, TCS has refined its processes for planning and conducting virtual events while also broadening its approach to include more speakers from diverse backgrounds and tailoring workshop topics to the interests and regional characteristics of the hosting institutions. Workshop formats also varied to meet the needs of attendees and reflected the creative thinking of TCS MAD Coastal Career Development Committee (welcoming two new members). The result was five successful workshops, described in more detail below.

Atlantic Estuarine Research Society

On April 27, 2021, TCS partnered with the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) to host a half-day workshop in conjunction with their joint spring meeting with the New England Estuarine Research Society (NERRS). This event marked the fourth consecutive virtual workshop during the pandemic and demonstrated continued success in recruiting speakers of diverse backgrounds and utilizing virtual breakout sessions to promote more interaction by attendees. MAD Committee co-chair Tom Bigford led the planning team effort with support from MAD Committee co-chair Jeff Flood and TCS Members Cassie Wilson and Trystan Sill.

University of Rhode Island

Current leadership and recent graduates of the University of Rhode Island’s TCS student chapter hosted a half-day event on May 18, 2021 focused on broad topics such as jobs in international ocean policy and marine industry opportunities and technical advice on virtual networking, applying for Federal agency jobs, and crafting diversity statements for job applications and organizations once you’re hired. Jeff led the planning team effort with support from Tom, Cassie, Trystan, and URI Chapter President Courtney Milley as well as recent URI graduates Joe Dwyer and Eric Kretsch.

Oregon Sea Grant

On June 29 and 30, 2021, former NOAA Coastal Management Fellow (and current TCS Board Member) Adrian Laufer collaborated with Oregon Sea Grant to sponsor and host a West Coast workshop for graduate-level fellows. Adrian worked directly with current Oregon Sea Grant graduate fellows, leveraging their Community of Practice to engage with other graduate fellows in Oregon, California, Washington, Alaska, Hawai’i, and Pacific Islands. Oregon graduate fellows played a role in determining the workshop topics, The workshop reached a total of 56 attendees: five from Alaska; eight from California; four from Hawai’i and the Pacific; 19 from Oregon; nine from Washington; and eight with no west coast Sea Grant affiliation. The planning team also coordinated an ocean and coastal themed trivia event, hosted by the Surfrider Foundation, to follow the last day of the workshop, as a means of facilitating community building across west coast fellows. The workshop was incredibly well-received, with 100% of attendees reporting that they are inclined to participate in more TCS events or become TCS members. In addition, the TCS planning team members made valuable regional connections, establishing a solid foundation to bring more resources to enhance student and young professionals’ experience in this area.

Michigan Sea Grant

TCS designed a hybrid in-person and virtual full-day MAD workshop on November 16, 2021 to meet the specific needs of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The event was sponsored by the College’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department, easing participation by 22 graduate students. The program featured plenary sessions on the shifting employment landscape and careers outside academia and offered content on six professional skills needed to launch a rewarding career, including mentors, networks, virtual and in-person interviews, working in public and private sectors, and work-life balance. This workshop was a return to the full-day program TCS has missed since switching to a virtual format. Tom led the workshop effort with assistance from Jeff and new MAD Committee Member Lisa Kim.

Duke University

Despite a busy semester, the Duke student chapter showed tremendous leadership and resolve in planning and hosting a workshop on December 3, 2021 that featured several Duke alumni and was characterized by a more free-flowing discussion between participants and speakers than in previous workshops. In addition to being an outstanding experience for all those involved, the new agenda format provided yet another example of how the TCS planning team can learn a great deal from the host institution. Duke Chapter Vice President Kara Nunnally led the planning team with assistance from Chapter officers and TCS MAD Committee Members Jeff, Tom, Lisa, and Kelly Dobroski.

At each of the 2021 workshops, skilled speakers representing many sectors and perspectives shared their personal stories and tips for how to be successful in a coastal career. Nearly all registrants (90% average) felt the workshops were a good use of their time and most (75%) thought the nominal registration fee was appropriate.

Since December of 2018, TCS has hosted 16 MAD Coastal Career Workshops. TCS is currently planning the rest of its 2022 calendar and anticipates partnering with The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to host a workshop in conjunction with Capitol Hill Oceans Week in early June, working with west coast Sea Grant offices to host another west coast graduate fellow workshop in early summer, and continuing to coordinate with TCS student chapters to tailor events to fit their need. The MAD Committee continues to coordinate with the DEIJ Working Group to reach historically underserved communities while also looking to access new geographic regions such as the Gulf Coast and Florida. Learn more about this workshop series and check back for updates to the schedule as events are finalized at: https://thecoastalsociety.org/margaret-a-davidson-coastal-career-development-program/   

Coastal News from the Field: Rethinking the Future of Coastal Management

By Ellis Kalaidjian

The year 2021 is over. As we begin 2022 and reflect on 2021, coastal hazards continue to escalate under a changing climate. This past Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active ever recorded and hosted one of the five costliest hurricanes to impact the US, for example. Coastal communities are experiencing more intense storms and planning for sea-level rise to build community resiliency (recording available on this topic from the last TCS Coastal Connections session). Needless to say, the challenges facing coastal management communities are numerous and mounting. As we approach the new year, we must ask ourselves: “How, if at all, are we adapting our coastal management institutions and approaches to meet the constantly-evolving problems we face?”. Duke University’s Dr. Michael Orbach and the University of Washington’s Dr. Marc Miller explore this prudent question in their essay, entitled How Have the U.S. Coasts Changed (and How Are They Going to Change) as Cultural and Policy Spaces? An Example from California, published in December 2021 in the Journal of Coastal Management.

This essay first explores the theoretical concepts of policy and cultural spaces that exist within the coastal zone. As the authors explain, a policy space is a space (geographical, temporal, historical) where societal actions and behaviors are structured by legislation and political activities that directly reflect the values of policymakers and their constituents. A cultural space is a space that is structured by people who are members of a culture—which is defined in terms of shared knowledge and values and “consists of what it is that people know to [coexist with one another]” (p. 4)—in a way that reflects that culture. Both spaces are dynamic; they have lifespans; they are controlled by, among other things, the environment and politics; and they influence each other in often unpredictable ways.

To illustrate these concepts and their interrelatedness, the authors examine the policy and cultural spaces of coastal California over the last 50 years. Prior to World War II, Californian coastal cultures were made up of small, financially modest populations, and existed within intimate, “cozy” landscapes. The authors describe Californian coastal life as slower-paced and “…driven by sea- and coast-dependent industries and interests such as fishing, coastal recreation and tourism, and notably…the proto-typical ‘California Lifestyle’.” (p. 6), which the authors view as being influenced by the “cool, laid-back and casual and free-wheeling” (p. 6) surf culture of the 60s. However, massive economic development and human settlement following WWII changed the cultural space to one that was “…much more dependent on leisure-tourism and other industries such as major universities, aero-space and high-tech.” (p. 6) and inhabited by a more cosmopolitan population.

Changes in coastal Californian political spaces followed in response to the development pressures of the Post-WWII period. The 1970s witnessed a proliferation of federal environmental legislation, such as the passage of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), which induced the birth of state coastal management agencies such as the California Coastal Commission and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the Coastal Management Conference and The Coastal Society. Yet, today, development and political pressures have stymied coastal management in California (and other coastal states) and have overwhelmed the limited resources of coastal public policy and management entities. In the authors’ words: “The special policy space of coastal policy and management as a profession—as with the special cultural space of the coast—has become overshadowed by and submerged in other events and processes.” (p. 8). Corresponding changes in the coastal zone have resulted—for example, the amount of armored coastline in California increased from 26 miles in 1971 to 146 miles in 2018.

The authors conclude the essay with an assessment of future coastal management challenges presented by climate change hazards such as sea-level rise, increasingly frequent severe storms, and so forth. Encroaching sea levels will render certain coastal locales inhabitable, requiring communities and governments to engage in adaptation and planned retreat activities, which will signal the reinvention of coastal cultures and policies. New coastal cultures and management policies will be in a constant state of change and development with continued sea-level rise, which presents uncertainty and challenges unlike the cultural forces at play during the post-WWII period (economic expansion and the environmental movement). In closing, the authors offer coastal management practitioners the following recommendations:

  1. Climate change solutions should draw on expertise beyond that of the usual natural and social sciences, planning, and engineering—for example, the ideas of the humanities, such as environmental philosophy, and professional fields, such as business and activism;
  2. Adaptive management and conflict management strategies in coastal zone management should be revised to include more robust stakeholder engagement and a commitment to social equity and environmental justice; and
  3. Coastal management activities of monitoring natural and social systems and predicting future human impacts should incorporate insights from architects, engineers, and urban designers regarding the planning and future design requirements of adaptation.

Citation:

Orbach, M. K., & Miller, M. L. (2021). How Have the U.S. Coasts Changed (and How Are They Going to Change) as Cultural and Policy Spaces? An Example from California. Coastal Management, doi:10.1080/08920753.2022.2006873.

Disclaimer: This post does not serve as an endorsement of the author’s opinion, nor does it express the views of the Coastal Society.

Coastal News from the Field: Evaluating the Public’s View of the Offshore Aquaculture Industry

By Paul Zajicek

Changing climactic conditions, advanced harvesting technologies, and population increases have collectively stressed the United States seafood stock. Offshore aquaculture shows prospect as an avenue to a future with sustainable seafood, yet the public’s enthusiasm for this industry has waned as a result of a variety of longstanding and inaccurate myths and assumptions directed at offshore aquaculture farming and its regulation. In response to this dilemma, a team of authors with combined marine aquaculture regulatory and/or production experience exceeding 120 years, has published in Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture a paper,  entitled “Refuting Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms, and Assumptions”.  The paper is available as open access.  To read or download, click here.

Maine farmers began producing Atlantic Salmon in the 1970s using net pens in coastal waters.

The authors discuss sustainable domestic aquaculture development as a critical component to achieving greater U.S. seafood security in the future, yet detrimental allegations have corrupted public support. This paper refutes the most prevalent critiques by reviewing current policies, regulations, research, and industry production practices. These criticisms include: inadequate regulatory oversight; portrayal of farms as being high density factories unconcerned by feed waste, untreated discharge, use of antibiotic and antifungal treatments; entanglement of marine mammals; impacts on wild stocks and habitats; use of feed additives to pigment fish flesh; unsustainable use of fish meal in feed formulations; potential market disruption by producing cheap, low quality products; and commercial farms and commercial fishers cannot coexist as for-profit businesses.

Shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops) are tended by farmers in all of the 23 U.S. coastal states using a variety of gear.

Like other industries striving to mitigate future resource insecurities, marine aquaculture is not risk-free in terms of potential environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts–and challenges remain to achieve a sustainable industry. Nevertheless, these challenges are well known and addressable by the U.S. and global research community.

The authors conclude that current offshore farming realities bode well for the future:

  1. There is a clear global imperative to sustainably produce more seafood to meet growing demand. The U.S. has the marine resources to become a major exporter, so long as U.S. law can be amended to grant offshore farmers a property right or security of tenure for sites in federal waters;
  2. U.S. ocean farmers work within a very complex and effective legal, regulatory, science-driven environment to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts;
  3. Farm level management decisions and federal and state regulatory frameworks have worked together to bring about environmentally friendly siting, operational, and production outcomes; and,
  4. The farming community and its advocates in government, universities, and industry recognize it is essential to reach out to decision-makers and the interested public, as well as critics, with the latest research and empirical results to present an accurate picture of risks and rewards to development.

Citation: Zajicek, P., Corbin, J., Belle, S., & Rheault, R. (2021). Refuting Marine Aquaculture Myths, Unfounded Criticisms, and Assumptions. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, 1-28.

Disclaimer: This post does not serve as an endorsement of the author’s opinion, nor does it express the views of the Coastal Society.

Coastal News from the Field: Integrating Blue Carbon Considerations in Coastal Management

By Ellis Kalaidjian

Global interest in “blue carbon” ecosystems, referring to the world’s carbon-sequestering ocean and coastal habitats, is rooted in their potential to mitigate climate change while achieving myriad co-benefits, such as coastal protection and fisheries enhancement. A substantial body of research paints a grim outlook on the future of blue carbon ecosystems, which has prompted international efforts to protect and sustainably manage them. Yet, a paucity of research on blue carbon ecosystem management exists, which limits our understanding of how coastal plans can effectively integrate “blue carbon” concepts into municipal-level coastal ecosystem management. This month’s blog highlights a Philippines-based study that addresses this key research gap. The study, titled “Are Municipalities Ready for Integrating Blue Carbon Concepts?: Content Analysis of Coastal Management Plans in the Philippines”, is available through the Journal of Coastal Management.

Researchers conducted content analyses of existing coastal management plans of four Philippine municipalities: Lawaan and Salcedo in Eastern Samar province; Batan and Kalibo in Aklan province. Content analysis is a research tool that can be used to quantify and analyze the presence of certain words, themes, or concepts within qualitative data—in the case of this study, the text of the management plans. Researchers used nine coding keywords, including “ecosystem services,” “carbon sequestration,” “tourism,” and “anthropogenic threats,” to determine the extent to which blue carbon ecosystems are accounted for in the provinces’ management schemes. Though several habitats fall under the category of blue carbon ecosystems, this study focused on the management of mangrove forests and seagrass habitats.

Mangrove forest in Bakhawan Eco-park, Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines (source: Paolobon140, 2013)

The research team presents important findings regarding the relative emphasis given to specific aspects of blue carbon ecosystem management and to specific ecosystem types. The study found that management activities—such as reforestation, coastal clean-ups, and planting—was the most frequently discussed topic in the four plans, followed by anthropogenic threats. In general, current directives toward resource management in the four provinces included assessment of coastal habitats, implementation of local ordinances and policies, and a list of possible conservation and protection services. Conversely, the topics of tourism and carbon sequestration—important co-benefits of blue carbon ecosystems—lacked visibility.

The researchers also discovered a greater focus on mangrove ecosystems than seagrass habitats across the four plans. The team attributed this discrepancy to the lack of research on seagrass ecosystems in the Philippines relative to mangrove ecosystems, as well as the greater emphasis placed on the coastal protection services of mangroves, given the country’s exposure to typhoons. While discussion of the anthropogenic and natural impacts to seagrasses is present in the plans, there were, generally, minimal actions set forth to address these stressors; meanwhile, mangrove ecosystems were significantly accounted for in legal frameworks, laws, policies, and local ordinances. To address this disconnect, the researchers recommend that Philippine national agencies should invest more in educational campaigns and capacity building for local government agencies and stakeholders to engage in seagrass habitat assessment, planning, protection, and monitoring.

This work highlights an existing gap in blue carbon management strategies at the local scale. By applying the content analysis approach to local management plans, this study offers a methodology to capture existing implementation of management protocols and provide appropriate recommendations for integrated coastal management practices. This study also serves as a basis for formulating coastal plans to effectively encapsulate blue carbon ecosystems and integrate them into existing management strategies. Moving forward, similar approaches as those presented in this work will be necessary to investigate the factors that facilitate best management practices and policies in different local contexts to strategically promote blue carbon ecosystem management beyond the scale of one nation.

Citation:
Quevedo, J. M. D., Uchiyama, Y., Lukman, K. M., & Kohsaka, R. (2021). Are municipalities ready for integrating blue carbon concepts?: Content analysis of coastal management plans in the Philippines. Coastal Management, 1-22.

Coastal News from the Field: Adaptive Management of the Indian River Lagoon, Florida

By Ellis Kalaidjian

This blog post is the first of a new monthly series, tentatively titled “Coastal News from the Field,” which highlights new coastal management/conservation-themed research that makes us tick. We are excited about this new development for the blog and encourage our readers to reach out to admin@thecoastalsociety.org with any research or topics they would like to see featured in this series.

This month, we highlight a study from a research team in Florida, titled “Adaptation Actions to Reduce Impairment of Indian River Lagoon Water Quality Caused by Climate Change, Florida, USA,” as published in February 2021 in the Journal of Coastal Management. The motivation for this work comes from the increasing vulnerability of estuaries to climate change impacts of salt-water intrusion from rising sea levels, hydrological regime changes, water temperature increases, and so forth. The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) was designated as an Estuary of National Significance by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1990 and, more recently, a Climate Ready Estuary in 2008, following a collaboration between the EPA and National Estuary Program in the form of the Climate Ready Estuaries Program.

Map of the IRL watershed (Source: EPA, 2004)
Aerial view of the IRL (Source: US Fish & Wildlife Service, 2006)

The core objective of this research was to assess the vulnerability of the IRL’s management program to climate change and prescribe adaptive actions designed to improve the program’s efficacy and protect the estuary from further climate-change-induced impairment. The research team first compiled and reviewed a list of the program goals (e.g., “water quality” or “healthy communities”) within the IRL’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that were most likely at risk from climate change and the associated climate stressors jeopardizing those goals. The team then weighted each risk in a matrix based on parameters of consequence, likelihood, spatial scale, and timeline. A total of 472 risks were identified. Of those, 50% were associated with impacts to impaired waters, wastewater, and surface water. Nearly all (97%) of these risks were induced by three prevalent climate change stressors of altered precipitation regimes, increasing storminess, and sea-level rise.

From here, the research team was able to identify nine adaptation actions to mitigate water quality impairment caused by climate change. Each action focused on mitigating the major sources of elevated pollutant loadings anticipated to accompany climate change, including wastewater treatment plants, on-site treatment and disposal systems, and surface water storage and conveyance infrastructure; for example, one action was to create a GIS-based inventory of vulnerable infrastructure supporting the three systems. In addition, the team devised a five-step action plan that could be used to achieve each of the nine adaptation actions and proposed an integrated management regime based on the existing symbiosis between the state of Florida and the IRL National Estuary Program.

In the face of the emerging circumstances presented by climate change, it is paramount that we continually review and adapt the programs that we have instituted to protect our coastal resources. The research highlighted in this article showcases how adaptive management—a concept based in theory—can be operationalized to satisfy long-term conservation agendas. The study also demonstrates how vulnerability assessments can be used to prioritize and continually monitor program action areas that harmonize mutual interests of a diverse stakeholder network. Most importantly, the deliverables of this applied research have direct utility for future policymaking, community engagement initiatives, program financing, and other efforts that may otherwise have been hindered without recognition of the future management challenges posed by climate change.

Citation:
Parkinson, R. W., Seidel, V., Henderson, C., & De Freese, D. (2021). Adaptation Actions to Reduce Impairment of Indian River Lagoon Water Quality Caused by Climate Change, Florida, USA. Coastal Management, 49(2), 215-232.

Benefits and Challenges of U.S. Offshore Wind Development for our Coastal Communities: A Coastal Connections Discussion

By Ashley Gordon, Melanie Perello, and Steven MacLeod

While only two small-scale offshore wind projects are currently operational along the East Coast, the U.S. offshore wind market is quickly expanding. In the coming decades, as much as 26 GW of wind power could be generated within existing offshore leases between Rhode Island and Virginia. To consider how this may affect coastal communities, The Coastal Society’s Coastal Connections session, held on February 26, 2021, focused on the benefits and challenges of offshore wind development. Moderated by Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island and Director of Extension with Rhode Island Sea Grant, a panel of experts highlighted the planning, economic, and environmental considerations associated with offshore wind project development for coastal communities, focusing on recent development along the East Coast.

Our panel of experts held a lively discussion, addressing questions about renewable energy and carbon emission life cycles, capacity building for supply chain and job creation, impacts to fisheries, benefits of regional partnership and marine spatial planning, and challenges for offshore wind development in other regions of the U.S.

You can watch a recording of the panel here, and highlights from each of the panelists’ presentations are provided below.

Mike Snyder, Ocean and Great Lakes Program Manager for the NY Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure

Mike Snyder provided an overview of the various types and scales of communities involved in offshore wind development. He recognized multiple challenges and opportunities that are nested across different scales related to fisheries, marine navigation, carbon emissions reductions, rate impacts to local taxpayers, recreation/public access, equity issues, and aesthetic impacts. In the state of New York, technical working groups have been created to address environmental, commercial, and recreational fishing, maritime, and jobs and supply chain considerations. Mike also emphasized the importance of an evolutionary approach to offshore wind development. (Presentation available here)

Matt Smith, Director of Offshore Wind for the Hampton Roads Alliance

Matt Smith discussed economic development opportunities associated with offshore wind. While the majority of the current supply chain capacity for offshore wind is in Europe, the Hampton Roads Alliance is focused on building a supply chain in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Matt reviewed the multi-year process for U.S. offshore wind projects, which includes siting and development, design and manufacture, construction and installation, and operations and maintenance. Two offshore wind projects, Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia project and Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk project, will be serviced by the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. These two projects combined are anticipated to provide power to 1.4 million homes, avoid about 10 million tons of CO2 emissions, and provide a $1.43 billion direct economic impact from construction alone on the regional economy. (Presentation is available here)

Laurie Kutina, Environmental Scientist at WSP

Laurie Kutina reviewed the environmental considerations associated with offshore wind development and the U.S. agencies and regulations involved, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She provided examples from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, which charted a course to the procurement of an initial 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity for the state. Anticipated environmental benefits to New York include 5 million tons of greenhouse gas reduction and air quality improvements, particularly in New York City and Long Island. Laurie also discussed wind turbine visibility considerations. In New York, the turbines of the closest planned wind farms would be located roughly 14 miles offshore and would be barely visible. Laurie highlighted opportunities that exist to engage in the offshore wind development process, including the NYSERDA offshore wind outreach webpage. (Presentation is available here)

For more information on previous and future sessions, visit the TCS Coastal Connections webpage. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the Coastal Connections series, please contact us at TCSConnections@thecoastalsociety.org.