Conservation and Highly Migratory Marine Organisms
Overfishing has already reduced marine predator populations worldwide. This has become such an area of concern that in 2015, the National Research Council (USA) identified the role of apex predators as an area of scientific focus for the next decade.1 To conserve these organisms, we certainly must understand where they are. First, however, we must determine how they move.
Many predators are more sedentary, remaining in a restricted area or habitat (known as a “home range”) throughout the entirety of their life spans. These species are often easier to locate, study, and protect. Yet others, such as whales and large sharks, are migratory. Some traverse entire ocean basins throughout the course of a year. Naturally, these species tend to be understudied, because they can be difficult to locate and observe. They are also harder to protect. In many cases the migrations of these organisms traverse several international zones, and multi-national collaboration is necessary for a positive conservation outcome. Furthermore, for highly migratory species this protection is critical, as they likely confront more man-made obstacles as they travel through our oceans. Thus as we turn our attention to the recovery of overfished species, the ability to identify species “hotspots”, or common migration areas, is critical to the establishment of global marine sanctuaries.
In conclusion, the study of animal movement is more than just a scientific field. In the right hands, movement ecology becomes a powerful conservation tool.
Myers, Ransom A., et al. "Cascading effects of the loss of apex predatory sharks from a coastal ocean." Science 315.5820 (2007): 1846-1850.
National Research Council