Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology

Aaron B Tinker atinker at
Tue Jul 29 21:35:05 EDT 1997

(sorry for any cross-postings)

After the successful completion of the first Symposium on Marine
Conservation Biology, I'd like to share some observations for those who
couldn't attend what one participant called "the Woodstock" of marine
conservation biology. Held at the Society for Conservation Biology's Annual
Meeting at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, June
4-6, and organized by Elliott Norse, President of Marine Conservation
Biology Institute (MCBI), this Symposium represented the largest gathering
of scientific presentations on marine conservation biology ever assembled.
Among the presenters and 1000-plus attendees from at least 30 nations were
premier marine scientists including Bob Paine, Paul Dayton, John Ogden,
Steve Palumbi, Tundi Agardy, Jon Lien, Jeff Levinton, Dick Strathmann,
Stuart Pimm and other stars of marine sciences.

A round of applause is in order for the Society for Conservation Biology
(SCB) for recognizing the need to expand conservation biology research into
the marine realm, and strengthening its commitment to making marine
conservation a significant part of its focus (including its heightened
interest in publishing manuscripts on marine topics in its superb journal
Conservation Biology).  Although this meeting served as the inaugural event
for the new discipline of marine conservation biology, the hundreds of
papers presented demonstrate that marine conservation biologists have
already been looking at crucial marine conservation questions ranging from
the value of marine protected areas to the impacts of harmful algal blooms.
While previous SCB annual meetings have held only two sessions of talks on
marine species and ecosystems, this meeting had 44 marine sessions on a
wide range of marine topics, among them alien species, declining fisheries,
conservation of coral reefs and coastal ecosystems, conservation of
cetaceans, and genetics and conservation of marine organisms.  The meeting
began with a stirring Keynote call to action by marine ecologist Jane
Lubchenco and ended with a sobering Plenary by marine paleoecologist Jeremy

Two central themes emerged from all of the presentations, panel
discussions, speeches, and conversations. The first is that fishing is the
greatest threat to marine ecosystems today. The second is the need for a
dramatic increase in the number and effectiveness of marine protected areas
- including more areas with no take zones to allow populations and habitats
to recover from fishing pressures. This seems consistent with recent calls
by Jane Lubchenco, Past President of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, and others, that 20% of the world's marine waters
be included in marine reserves by the year 2020 -- a bold figure
politically, given the minuscule percent of the sea currently protected and
the weakness of many protections in these areas.  Still, there were many
marine conservation biologists claiming that this would not be enough if we
want to sustain fisheries and protect marine biodiversity.

To express their concern about the decline of marine ecosystems and the
urgent need for citizen and government action to conserve them, over 400
scientists signed onto "Troubled Waters: A Call for Action" which will be
released to the media after more have had a chance to sign on.  MCBI urges
all concerned scientists to read this statement and sign on by contacting
me <Aaron Tinker> at MCBI's Redmond WA office via email at
<atinker at>. The statement will be appearing on this
listserver, and also can be read at MCBI's web page (

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