Where reefs are restaurants, challenge is keeping them stocked

Hawaii fisherman (© Troy K Shinn/ www.troyshinn.com)

Hawaii’s coral reefs are more than just a picturesque tourist destination — for local communities, they’re a critical source of food.

The challenge? Ensuring that they continue to remain so.

In a scientific paper published earlier this week in the open-access journal PeerJ, scientists David Delaney of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Jack Kittinger of Conservation International made the case for getting communities themselves involved in protecting these fisheries.

Doing so requires sufficient information on how much is being caught and where — information that few local anglers are willing to give up so easily. But by compiling catch data, the scientists were able to develop the clearest picture of shore-based fishing in Hawai‘i yet obtained — revealing fishing patterns in a place where fishing is a way of life.

CI science adviser, Eva Schemmel, sat down with Delaney and Kittinger to discuss their findings.

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Head for the mountains: Three stories you should read

Mountains are nature’s oldest temple (© Conservation International/photo by Edgardo Ochoa)

Mountains can see the way that humans are treating the Earth – and they’re not happy.

Humans used to climb mountain peaks to seek enlightenment, but now they only take what they want.

Mountains provide the water that people drink from their streams, and the wood that people use from their forests. In this Nature is Speaking video, Lee Pace, an Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominated actor, gives voice to the mountains.

Watch the video here.

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Clinton to conservationists: Despite setbacks, ‘you’re winning’

Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan presents Bill Clinton with the organization’s Global Visionary Award (© Valerie Caviness Photography)

NEW YORK — Speaking before 400 conservationists at Conservation International’s annual New York gala, former U.S. President Bill Clinton defended his 1996 decision to protect Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as the right decision for the economy and the environment.

Describing himself as “somewhere in between mystified and heartbroken,” Clinton criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent move to cut protections for the Utah park by half.

Clinton recalled discussions with Utahns in years following the designation. “They started saying, ‘You were right. We were wrong. We have more jobs, more economic activity. We’re preserving our heritage. We’re overrun with eco-tourists, and we don’t have those coal trucks going back and forth over those precious beds 24 hours a day,’” Clinton said.

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On World Soil Day, the future of Earth’s thin ‘skin’ is bleak

Soil sample in Rwanda (© Benjamin Drummond)

Without soil, humans could not exist — but we treat it like dirt.

On World Soil Day, consider this: Humans have diminished soil to less than half of what it used to be 100 years ago.

Soil is the planet’s skin and is responsible for the organisms that grow food. In this Nature is Speaking video, Edward Norton, American actor and filmmaker, brings attention to the fact that soil is turning to unusable dust, which could have far-reaching impacts on the food we eat.

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Why national monument protection matters

The proposed reductions to Bears Ears National Monument are the largest cuts to a national monument in U.S. history (© James Watkins/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s Note: Editor’s note: An update to this story: On December 4, 2017, Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International (CI), reacted to President Trump’s announcement to cut land from national monuments in Utah on Monday. Here are three stories you need to read about the affects of reducing America’s national monuments. 

  1. White House to shrink Utah monuments

When Trump visits Utah on Monday, he will announce plans to cut Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly by half, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The downsizing of these monuments follows a broader pattern of PADDD events. PADDD, which stands for protected area downgrading, downsizing and degazettement, are events that make legal changes to protected area laws and regulations that relax the rules governing use of resources, shrink park boundaries or eliminate the protected area entirely. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, encouraged Trump to consider allowing mining on Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Read the full story here.

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White House to shrink Utah monuments

Citadel Ruin at Bears Ears National Monument (© Jeremy Marshall/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: An update to this story: On December 4, 2017, Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International (CI), reacted to President Trump’s announcement to cut land from national monuments in Utah. 

U.S. President Donald Trump announced his plans to downsize Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, during his visit to the state on Monday.

Trump plans to cut Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly by half, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. These reductions would shrink the overall size of Bears Ears from 1.35 million acres to 201,397 acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante from nearly 1.9 million acres to 997,490 acres.

The five tribes that make up the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe — said that they plan to seek legal action to stop any changes from being made to the monuments.

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For Colombia’s fishers, embracing sustainability brings better pay

Fisherman shows off locally caught fish in Colombia (© Conservation International/photo by Jhana Young)

Editor’s note: What does it take for a fish to reach your dinner plate? More steps than you might think.

In restaurants across Colombia, diners now have access to sustainably caught fish thanks to EcoGourmet, a program that connects small-scale fishers directly with local restaurants. In this piece, María Claudia Díazgranados, director of marine and community incentives for CI Colombia, explains how EcoGourmet is boosting income for local fishers while ensuring restaurants (and diners) get a steady supply of fish.

For many of us, our connection to food comes mainly through buying groceries at the closest market, without requiring an understanding of the steps that make that purchase possible. But what does it take for fish that we buy, for example, to get from boat to market to plate?  Continue reading

In a country racked by climate change, farming must change, too

Blue Lake. Nimba County. (© Conservation International/photo by Bailey Evans)

Editor’s note: For many developing countries, nature is life and livelihoods — and climate change threatens them all. Liberia is no exception. The small West African country, emerging from years of civil war and unrest, faces steep obstacles to its development that climate change is only complicating.

In a country where livelihoods are dominated by forests and farms, climate change is affecting different areas in different ways, says Peter Mulbah, deputy country director of Conservation International’s Liberia office and a climate change adviser to the Liberian government. This presents challenges for policymakers and conservationists seeking to build climate resilience in Liberia.

Following the conclusion of the U.N. climate conference in Germany last week, Human Nature sat down with Mulbah to talk about some of the issues his country faces. An edited transcript follows.

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Camera traps capture snapshots of conservation success in Sumatra

Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae). (© BTNBG and CI)

This post was co-authored by Agnes Batuara.

Sumatra’s biodiversity is at a critical juncture — widespread forest clearing, wildlife poaching and land-use intensification has put much of the island’s astonishing flora and fauna under considerable threat.

Batang Gadis National Park sits in the heart of the Island. This 72,803-hectare national park is a critical refuge for biodiversity, being identified both as an Endemic Bird Area and Key Biodiversity Area. These recognize it as the highest priority for global conservation efforts. The national park also forms part of a larger block of connected forest that extends some 400,000 hectares. Conservation International through its Sustainable Landscapes Partnership initiative is collaborating with the national park’s management authority to conduct wildlife monitoring and introduce a range of practical conservation tools. As a result of this partnership, Batang Gadis National Park has now become one of the most effective protected areas in the country.

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The Bonn climate talks are over — what now?

Woman on Kiribati

For this woman and her family living on the island of Kiribati, on the coast of a former freshwater pond that is now flooded with sea water, high tides pose a serious problem. The impact of climate change on island nations was a key topic addressed at COP23. (© Ciril Jazbec)

Editor’s note: The U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, concluded last week, to make progress on the implementation of the Paris Agreement to confront climate change. Conservation International climate experts Maggie Comstock and Shyla Raghav, who were part of the negotiations, share their observations on the challenges and outcomes you need to know about.

Question: How was this COP different from previous years?

Maggie Comstock (MC): This is the first time that a Pacific Island nation — in this case, Fiji — has led the UN climate negotiations. This provided a critical opportunity to highlight the connections between oceans and climate change, the unique climate challenges faced by the countries in this region, as well as the leadership and innovation to drive solutions appropriate for islands and coastal communities.

This COP also marked the halfway mark of the two-year process to develop the details needed to make the Paris Agreement fully operational. Countries have been developing these details into a comprehensive “Paris Rulebook.” While countries have made moderate progress on key agenda items, a great deal of work remains before the implementation guidelines are to be finalized by December 2018.

Q: What were some of the major hurdles during negotiations?

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