Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute

MCBI Hosted 3 Symposia at 2008 AAAS Meeting

MCBI attended the 2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Boston and organized the following symposia:

Dragnet - Bottom Trawling, the World’s Most Severe and Extensive Seafloor Disturbance

2008 AAAS Annual Meeting
Organizer: Elliott Norse, Marine Conservation Biology Institute & Les Watling, University of Hawaii at Manoa

NWHI seabird

Untrawled and trawled seafloor, Tasmanian seamount corals, Australia. Photos: Tony Koslow, CSIRO

NWHI seabird

Untrawled and trawled seafloor, deep Oculina Reefs, Florida. Photos: R.Grant Gilmore, Dynamac Corperation, Lance Horn, UNC Wilmington.

New technologies and scientific assessments confirm that bottom trawling, a method by which the fishing industry drags weighted nets across the seafloor to catch Atlantic cod, Pacific rockfishes,

shrimps, and many other demersal species, is the world’s most destructive human-caused seafloor disturbance. Trawl effects became a global environmental issue in 1998, when a cover paper in Conservation Biology first estimated the extent of bottom trawling worldwide. Since then, new tools, including remotely operated underwater vehicles and Earth-orbiting satellites, have shown that trawling effects on the composition, structure, and functioning of marine ecosystems are not merely localized problems but are so ubiquitous and cause such severe damage that they constitute a global environmental problem exceeding forest clear-cutting. The collapse of many fisheries worldwide and the prospect of the melting of permanent Arctic pack ice

raises the possibility that bottom trawling will soon spread into the last untrawled area on Earth. As a result, in the last several years, governments and intergovernmental institutions around the world have begun closing very large areas to bottom trawling, and a global moratorium on bottom trawling on the high seas is being debated in the United Nations. The speakers in Part III will show startling new images and data on the effects of bottom trawling, thereby providing new understanding and adding to the fast-growing discussion of policy remedies.


Download a video comparing trawled and untrawled habitats, shown at the 2008 AAAS meeting:
Habitats and Fishing in the Gulf of Maine: A Tale of Two Cities



From Denial to Common Wisdom: The Science of Bottom Trawling Impacts

Les Watling, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

Comparative Analysis of Collateral Damage from Various Fishing Gears Used in Canada
Susanna Fuller, Dalhousie University, Canada

New Satellite Imagery of the Sea Reveals Widespread, Long-Lasting Bottom Trawl Plumes
John Amaos, Skytruth, USA


View the Press Release: PDF

Ocean Iron Fertilization and Carbon Sequestration:
Can the Oceans Save the Planet?

2008 AAAS Annual Meeting
Organizers: Larissa Sano & John Guinotte, Marine Conservation Biology Institute

Over the past decade, the issue of global climate change has moved from a scientific possibility to a political reality.  As scientific evidence of climate change has mounted, so has the political pressure to consider approaches to help mitigate the magnitude and rate of change and to reduce the scale of environmental impacts.  One generally held option with respect to climate change mitigation is to use the oceans to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide, either through iron fertilization or via direct injection into oil wells, deep ocean water, or the sea bed.  Although the oceans were first proposed as a potential reservoir for anthropogenic carbon as far back as the 1980s, interest in the topic has been gaining increasing momentum as scientists, policymakers, and politicians search for possible solutions to the CO2 problem.  In this session we will summarize the state of the science with respect to carbon sequestration in the oceans, including addressing the capacity of the oceans to absorb additional carbon dioxide, highlighting recent advances in carbon dioxide injection technology, and addressing the broad ethical implications of geoengineering the Earth’s climate. 



Advances in Our Understanding of Iron Fertilization in the Oceans: What comes next?
Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, USA

Engineered Storage on the Abyssal Plain: Prospects for a new approach to ocean carbon storage, and some thoughts about geoengineering
David Keith, University of Calgary, Canada

Even If We Can Do It, Should We?:
Ethical implications of geoengineering the climate

Dale Jamieson, New York University, USA

Panel speaker:
David Freestone, The World Bank
Brief overview of the international legal issues related to ocean iron fertilization and ocean carbon sequestration


View the Press Release: PDF

Will Too Few Jaws Take Too Big a Bite ? The Importance of Sharks to Ocean Ecosystems

2008 AAAS Annual Meeting
Organizer: Lance Morgan, Marine Conservation Biology Institute

The world’s apex predator sharks are disappearing just as a growing number of studies are documenting the roles of large predators in maintaining healthy and resilient ecosystems. The repercussions are alterations in the composition, structure and functioning of ecosystems. The loss of large sharks from the coastal areas of the southeast United States has allowed an increase in smaller sharks and rays which, in turn, has led to increased predation on lower trophic level species such as scallops.  In many parts of the world we know little about the role sharks might play in their ecosystems. Some of the poorest-known sharks are those that in the deep-sea but they are also likely important predators. The World Conservation Union-IUCN Shark Specialist Group concluded that many of these poorly known deep-sea sharks are at risk. 

At the same time as we are just documenting the role of sharks as apex predators, we are also gaining better understanding of shark migration.  With recent advancements in tagging technology are allowing scientists to understand their seascape-level relationships of large sharks to their environment. This symposium brings together experts from different disciplines to discuss the importance of sharks in structuring ecosystems, and how their movements are being used to develop conservation strategies.



Cascading effects of the loss of apex predatory sharks from a coastal ocean

Dr. Julia Baum, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA

Deepwater sharks: diversity, vulnerability and status
Dr.  Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University, Australia

Seasonal Migration and Site Fidelity of White Sharks in the Eastern Pacific
Dr.  Salvador Jorgenson, Hopkins Marine Station, USA

Tracking of Pelagic Sharks at Seamounts and Islands and Establishment of Marine Reserves
Dr.  Pete Klimley, University of California - Davis, USA


View the Press Release: PDF




MCBI Organized Symposia:

- Bottom Trawling

- Carbon Sequestration

- Sharks

Press Releases:

- Bottom Trawling

- Carbon Sequestration

- Sharks