The swimways Initiative
The status of many endangered migratory marine species has continued to deteriorate over the last twenty years despite regulatory measures and the creation of marine protected areas. The Swimways Initiative, or MigraVias as they are called in Spanish, aims to reverse these trends by providing tangible protection for species that move along predictable routes and building resilience to climate change. MigraMar is working with national governments to identify and protect Swimways that link Marine Protected Areas across the Eastern Pacific region. This initiative involves transboundary collaboration in data collection, analysis, management, enforcement, and sustainable and equitable use of the benefits generated.
What they are
The Swimways are a set of connectivity conservation projects that create linkages and marine corridors between protected areas and other patches of habitats, such as seamounts and underwater ridges, increasing the mobility and range of many species and allowing them to move across the seascape so that gene flow and diversity are maintained between local populations.
How they help
By linking populations throughout the seascape, there is a lower chance for extinction and a much greater support for species richness, and populations resilience against climate change.
The process to propose a Migravía comprises
A biological and ecological evaluation
To determine the relevance of an area as a marine corridor, a strong scientific analysis is carried out to assess if it provides of structural and functional connectivity to two or more areas of conservation concern. In the structural connectivity, an analysis of the geological and oceanographic characteristic is carried out to detect conditions providing of a continuum habitat that could allow or promote migratory species to aggregate and migrate through it. In the functional connectivity, an in-depth analysis of the behavioral, population and conservation ecology of marine migratory and non-migratory species inhabiting the study site.
A legal feasibility analysis
The Swimway proposal must contemplate adequate marine spatial planning, ordering and use. Sub-areas with total and partial restrictions for fisheries use are analyzed with both spatial and temporal considerations.
A socio-economic analysis
To determine the economic and social value of an area, an analysis of the main actors, the ecosystem services (with focus on direct use services and resource use conflicts), and the demographics of an area is carried out. This is critical to characterize the current and future management and conservation scenarios that could be adopted.
A changin ocean, a changing habitat for migratory species
Climate oscillations normally occur in ocean systems, and thus species have developed a capacity to adapt, by shifting their distribution to nearby stable domains. Large marine predators such as tunas and sharks are particularly fit to this, roaming large areas to find their preferred habitat conditions or prey. Some of these highly migratory species are also important target or by-catch species of industrial and artisanal fisheries. However, the current exacerbated rate of climate change compared to previous natural changes, and the increased human pressure on marine resources already threatening many predatory fish populations, have raised concerns about the long-term resilience of these species, the ecosystem adaptability to buffer and recover from changing oceanographic conditions, and the economic sustainability of the fishing industry.
A call for generating a predictive strategy to anticipate and mitigate the potentially severe conservation and socio-economic impacts of expected changes due to climate change thus becomes pressing. This is underscored by projections of global climate change over the 21st century – which single out the eastern Equatorial Pacific as one the areas of most pronounced warming on Earth, and indicate that the frequency and severity of regional climate extremes (largely associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation) will increase as the planet warms.
Our project therefore aims i) to model the response of commercial and threatened migratory species to changes in oceanographic conditions in and around the GMR upwelling system, and ii) to generate freely accessible, transparent and interactive tools to inform the various management scenarios of climate change and fishing effort distribution on both commercial and threatened migratory species. By evaluating different management scenarios to mitigate climate change effect on these species, our proposed project outcomes will better inform managers and authorities of the countries in the ETPO, how to maintain the economic sustainability of people relying on artisanal and industrial fishing operations while improving the conservation of commercially and ecologically important migratory species in the region.
Shark Nursery grounds
The ultimate goal of this 3-year project is to implement conservation strategies in key nursery sites for hammerhead sharks in four countries of the Eastern Pacific. The hammerhead shark, listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) (Baum et al. 2009) requires adequate management in their different life stages, this project focuses in protecting their nursery grounds. Some potential nursery grounds have been identified within coastal habitats spanning from Mexico to Peru. There is a need to establish whether these areas can be defined as nursery grounds, in order to develop a community-based conservation approach.
Goals of the first year of the project include the identification of at least three nursery sites in Ecuador, both in Galapagos and in the mainland, define and share a standardized monitoring methodology with other Eastern Pacific countries and start conservation strategies with local fishermen in Ecuador through an outreach and environmental education campaign that highlights direct benefits to communities associated with nursery ground conservation.
Read more about our projects latest results: