Management of Ocean Resources under Shifting Expectations:
bringing the historical perspective into marine mammal conservation
We live in a human dominated planet, and the oceans are no exception. Through a combination of a growing population, our mounting consumption and waste, and our increasingly sophisticated technologies, human activities now impact all marine ecosystems, from deep-sea to coral reefs, to remote islands to the open ocean. Whereas these changes are accelerating, significant human impact on marine systems started millennia ago. Yet because such change took place gradually and with little recorded evidence, the full scale of the cumulative human impact on marine systems has only recently began to be understood, as anecdotal historical records showed evidence of past seas of spectacular abundance. This case of collective amnesia by the progressive adjustment to increasingly impoverished ecosystems has been termed the ‘shifting baseline’. It affects not only our scientific and popular perception of what natural ecosystems look like in terms of species composition and abundance, it also narrows our perception of the options available for the future.
In this project we investigate the extent to which the introduction of an historical perspective affects perceptions of past human impact, projections of future change, the goals, targets and options considered, and ultimately the recommendations for conservation and management of marine natural resources. We do this through the lens of marine mammals, a particularly interesting group given their strong and long relationship with humans, from millennia-old cave-art, to the near-obliteration of some species through commercial exploitation, to the emotional attachment felt even by many who never been in direct contact with these species. Furthermore, some of these species have important roles in shaping ecosystems, and despite their charisma many remain very poorly known.
Image source: Wikimedia commons.
MORSE is a three-year project (2011-2014) funded by the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, ANR), under the 2011 call "Changements Environnementaux Planétaires et Sociétés" (CEP&S 2011).
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