The Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean System
The Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean (MiCO) consortium is a group of over 50 organization that seeks to fill a major knowledge gap regarding global migratory routes and connected areas for marine mammal, seabird, sea turtle and fish species. Due to their wide-ranging behaviors, migratory species experience a variety of anthropogenic pressures. Combined with conservation strategies that largely fail to consider spatial connectivity over their life cycle, these threats are resulting in declining populations worldwide. 95% of albatross, 87% of assessed migratory shark species, and 63% of assessed sea turtle subpopulations are listed as Near Threatened or Threatened by the IUCN. Similarly, straddling and highly migratory fish stocks experience twice the rate of overfishing (64% of stocks) as those within a single national jurisdiction. Knowledge on migratory connectivity provided by MiCO will be critical in informing conservation efforts of migratory species in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), particularly via the large number of emerging area-based planning efforts.
Deep-sea Environmental Management
Overview of Duke work on seabed mining regulations
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) establishes the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and directs the ISA to develop the resources of the deep seabed (the sea floor located beneath the High Seas in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction) for the benefit of the “common heritage of mankind” while also protecting the environment. Article 145 of UNCLOS explicitly requires the ISA to ensure that mining of the deep seabed does not interfere with the ecological balance of the marine environment.
Duke faculty are closely involved with the ongoing ISA effort to develop regulations that will govern the mining of the deep seabed in a fashion that protects the marine environment. Faculty are contributing to both the scientific and legal aspects of developing these rules.
Dr. Cindy Van Dover, the Harvey Smith Professor of Biological Oceanography at the Marine Lab, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the ecology and function of sea floor hot springs. She has published widely on the biodiversity of the deep sea, and is a pioneer in the new field of deep-sea environmental management. She participates in ISA-sponsored meetings from Jamaica to Europe to Asia that focus on the UNCLOS requirement to protect the environment of the deep sea in connection with mining, and has provided detailed recommendations for methods to protect particularly important areas of biodiversity and to monitor potential seabed mining impacts.
Steve Roady is Professor of the Practice of Law at the Law School and has been working on ocean conservation legal and policy issues for more than two decades. He is a member of an ISA working group that is developing information on potential approaches to the allocation of liability for damages from deep sea bed mining. He also is a member of a global team of scientists and legal scholars sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts that is providing commentary and suggestions on the proposed ISA regulations. He is assisting the ISA with consideration of specific provisions in the regulations that will help ensure protection of the marine environment, including provisions for public participation, legally-binding standards and guidelines for seabed mining contractors, and an environmental liability trust fund.
Ocean Governance: How do we govern the largest commons in the world?
Since Hugo Grotius’ 1608 document “Mare Liberum”, legal scholars have debated the rights and responsibilities of nations on the high seas. With the development of new technology and rise of the United Nations, new institutions, treaties, and legal principles have come to shape our use of the world’s waters. Duke University researchers, lead by , and , are asking questions about the legal, social, and political infrastructure that help us manage the world’s largest commons.
All questions related to the conservation and management of marine species and ecosystems depend on the availability of information and knowledge on the patterns and processes across spatial and temporal scales. The high seas represent the last frontier of ocean knowledge; its scale, distance from land and dynamism make it a particularly challenging system to study. Duke University has been at the forefront of ocean data and observing systems for decades, in addition to hosting nodes of said systems on Duke’s campus, Duke researchers are shaping the conversation on what future ocean databases and warehouses should look like if we are to address the challenges of tomorrow. Below are some examples of the systems that Duke is part of:
Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the One Belt, One Road initiative is a project announced in 2013 by the Chinese government to connect the Silk Road Economic Belt to the proposed Maritime Silk Road Initiative. China hopes this plan will touch 138 countries and connect China to each of them. It would strengthen hard infrastructure, including ports, pipelines, and railways, and soft infrastructure, including potential trade agreements, within this potentially heavily trafficked route. Understandably, this initiative comes with some potential conflicts. The Belt and Road Initiative has been criticized for damaging local environments. If the Maritime Silk Road Initiative is created, it will have serious impacts on the ocean with the increased traffic. The High Seas are an important part of the belt and road initiative and high seas scientists must start examining potential remedies to upcoming problems.