Publications Watch: Marine Conservation on Paper

4 Oct 2014 - 10:00

A few days ago, my attention was drawn to this article, Marine Conservation on Paper, published in Conservation Biology in 2007. It was written by an Italian Biologist who had, at the time, spent over 20 years researching dolphons in the Mediterranean. The article is in part a lament on the lack of progress in improving the state of our oceans, with particularly emphasis on Cetaceans, and in part a call to action to all of us working in Marine Biology and Conservation to get our message out there. The article tells about how, despite over 20 years of work to understand and reverse the loss of the dolphins in the Mediterranean, these charismatic animals continue to decline today. This is in the face of reasonable explanations for low cetacean densities, declining population trends, or excessive mortality from a wealth of studies, it is despite conducting a number of meetings and workshops on the problems and their solutions and despite convincing national and international governments and oragnisations to sign up to formal action plans.

The author concludes that conservation on paper is simply not enough: "colossal work is needed to set the stage for a newand widespread appreciation of nature. Only major changes in values and sensibilities will bring about the kind of political will and commitment that is implied in most action plans and workshop reports. What the marine environment needs is a mass of people who value and care about it."

The full text of the article can be read here and a new article expressing very similar sentiments from terrestrial conservation (on Orangutans) can be access here. I'm sure these are stories that will be familiar to many of you and the parallels with the case of seabirds here in South Africa is striking to me.

Remember communication to the public must go hand-in-hand with good science, resource management or conservation action. In the words of Margaret Mead, quoted in the feature article: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Photo: Protected Resouces Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California. Thanks to Ralph Vanstreels for pointing out this article.