VMEs in North Western Pacific as life-supporting resources – challenges and possible science-based approaches to solutions
The essential question regarding the global change research is how to identify, explain and predict the negative changes in the life-supporting marine ecosystems under the natural and anthropogenic influence forcing? The guidelines elaborated by FAO on Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas aimed to provide tools and guidance on their application, and to facilitate and encourage the efforts of States and RFMO/As towards sustainable use of marine living resources, prevention of significant adverse impacts on deep-sea VMEs, and protection of marine biodiversity that these ecosystems contain. Developing of life-supporting marine ecosystems along the Asia-Pacific coasts, being of high importance for this densely populated region, requires a synthesis of physical and biological data for the science-based management and socio-ecological policy making. Involvement of countries is needed to unite the experience and knowledge of the marine scientists, management specialists and policy makers to synthesize the existing fragmentary data on the physical environments (water quality, currents, etc) and build the high-resolution observational databases that can contribute to filling data gaps. The following stage is to analyze these data together with the information on the biodiversity and reproductive potential of key groups of marine organisms for scientifically based recognition of the risky changes in the coastal marine ecosystems (for instance, coral reefs) and explain their reasons. It allows applying the existing data and expanding our experience to estimate the adaptive capacity and self-restoration potential of VMEs in different NW Pacific areas.
Main points for VMEs survey and research along with Asia-Pacific coasts are the same both in Far East Seas (Russian waters) and in subtropical/tropical areas:
1. How to find VMEs? 2. How to understand the functional structure of VMEs and predict their change in nearest future? 3. How to compare the conservation strategies for VME in shallow waters and deep sea?
This crosscutting research includes a range of sciences – from marine physics and chemistry to biodiversity and reproduction of marine organisms – and implies the development of international collaboration for these multidisciplinary assessments in the region. For instance, the study of large-scale dispersal ways of corals, basic substrata-making inhabitants of VMEs, and other key marine organisms in the NW Pacific would be promising under attention of wide spectrum of scientists and practitioners from all the involved countries. That international cooperation also allows the dissemination of science-based policy options for enhancing of the fishing restriction operation both in High Seas and for national strategy development for the rational use of marine living resources.