Ocean wildlife spotting tours don’t necessarily run year-round, instead only going out on the water when the primary species of interest is likely to be in the area. You may go out and see so much wildlife you can barely count, or you may go out and return without seeing anything. If you are a fisher, you may have a number of different spots you fish from, or you may use a ‘fish finder’ that points you to where they are most likely to be. If you could see the smaller critters – the zooplankton, the larval stages of larger marine species (including some that eventually become largely sedentary), you would see that they too move. In the ocean, creatures move. Some move short distances, some may cross the global ocean. The ocean itself is highly dynamic – not just over space, but over time. This variability in turn gives rise to variability in primary production – and this means that the preferred habitat and vital food resources also shift in time and space, giving rise to a patchy distribution of mobile species, like pelagic fishes, zooplankton, and sea turtles.
So, we have an ocean that is dynamic in both time and space. We have species that are dynamic in abundance and distribution across time and space. And we have people, using the ocean differently across time and space. Yet we draw lines in the ocean, managing our use of it as if everything fitted into nice neat little boxes. People like lines. Lines denote boundaries, allowing us to categorise and compartmentalise the natural world neatly. We have our Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) denoting countries territories. We have marine protected areas that can look after key habitats. But when dealing with the ocean we can see that the world doesn’t necessarily fit into such neat little boxes. Management placed in a fixed area can work really well for some things but when dealing with mobile species – and indeed mobile people, we need something else to enhance static spatial management measures. As outlined in a paper lead by Rebecca Lewison of San Diego State University, a team of researchers from around the globe (including myself) dynamic ocean management could be just what we need.