Part 2, Sec.3C
Sanctuary Management Plan - Research

C. Research

1. General Context for Management

Effective management of the Sanctuary requires a research program which addresses management issues. Understanding the relationships and interactions among system components, and how the system functions as an ecological unit are critical to developing effective solutions to management problems. Research supported by SRD will primarily be directed toward improving understanding of the Sanctuary system, and how Sanctuary resources may be affected by human activities. The general framework for research program activities and the process for preparation of an annual Sanctuary Research Plan are discussed below.

2. Framework for Research Program

The Sanctuary Research Program will consist of three primary project categories:

• baseline studies to determine: features and processes of the environment; abundance, distribution, and interactions among the living resources; and patterns of human activities;

• monitoring studies to document changes in ecology, environmental quality, and human activities in the Sanctuary; and

• predictive studies to assess causes and effects of ecological and environmental changes, and to anticipate management issues.

Initial baseline studies will focus on gaining enhanced knowledge and better understanding of Sanctuary ecology. Cyclic biological productivity levels of the Stellwagen Bank system are subject to changes due to a variety of factors. For example, in recent years, variations in the availability of food sources have contributed to periodic changes in the distribution of cetacean feeding patterns, and may also have contributed to the relative success of commercial fishing efforts. A better understanding of productivity cycles will provide a basis for better understanding of relationships among the Sanctuary's living resources, and the effects of variations in those cycles.

In addition to data bases documenting plant, animal, and non-living components of the Sanctuary, successful management requires knowledge and understanding of long-term changes occurring within the Stellwagen Bank system. Continuing monitoring programs could provide the means to such understanding. Ecological changes and trends may be detected through monitoring data which provide indicators of the relative health of Sanctuary resources.

The monitoring program should include pollution monitoring studies, and studies on species population dynamics as indicators of species' response to natural or human-caused threats to the Bank's resources.

Additional monitoring studies should include fluctuations in cetacean and seabird abundance and relative effects of sport fishing, commercial fishing, and whalewatch activities.

As needed, the Sanctuary research program will also conduct focused predictive studies, analyze the causes and consequences of system changes, and predict the effects on the system of new or increased levels of human activity. For instance, possible areas of predictive study might include: the effects of increased boating traffic on marine mammals.

3. Selection and Management of Research Projects

Sanctuary research projects funded by SRD will address the resolution of management issues and concerns. The Sanctuary Manager and SRD staff will follow research selection procedures established by SRD to ensure that the Sanctuary's research program is consistent with the policies and directions of the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Research selection procedures include: preparing an annual Sanctuary Research Plan (SRP); and monitoring progress on research conducted in the Sanctuary.

a. Annual Sanctuary Research Plan (SRP)

A Sanctuary Research Plan (SRP) will be prepared each year. Annual Research Plans for individual National Marine Sanctuaries are incorporated into a National Research Plan for the overall National Marine Sanctuary Program. The annual research planning process involves the following steps:

(1) Sanctuary management concerns are identified, with supporting evidence or rationales.

(2) Research priorities are established, based upon the identification of management concerns. Research priorities are established by the Sanctuary Manager, in consultation with SRD. Important factors to be considered in establishing research priorities include:

• immediate or evolving management issues which can be resolved through directed research;

• prospects of related research in progress; and

• availability of funding and equipment for research support.

(3) Following the identification of management concerns, a research announcement and request for detailed research proposals is prepared. The announcement and request for proposals discusses the identified management concerns, and summarizes past and current related research. Occasionally research workshops are conducted to facilitate the identification of research problems.

(4) A draft SRP is prepared based on suggestions generated by the announcement, workshops or other means. A list of proposed research projects is presented in the draft SRP, with supporting discussion and rationales.

(5) The draft SRP is forwarded to SRD and circulated for peer review.

(6) A final SRP is prepared, documenting how proposed research projects meet the national selection criteria.

The final SRP is forwarded to SRD; and it is incorporated into the National Marine Sanctuary Program Research Plan. The highest ranking proposed research projects are selected from the National Plan, and procurement schedules are then prepared.

In instances where a research proposal entails activities prohibited by Sanctuary regulations, a research permit may be issued by NOAA upon separate application by the researchers. Alternatively, SRD may determine that all or part of the research should be not conducted inside the Sanctuary's boundary. Research activities involving threatened, endangered, or otherwise protected species may require additional permits from other agencies.

b. Research Project Monitoring Program

As a routine activity, the Sanctuary Manager will monitor the performance of researchers conducting research activities in the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary Manager will also maintain records of all current research, equipment being used on site, frequency of researchers' visits on site, and current progress on each project. Interim progress reports and final reports by the researcher to SRD and the Sanctuary Manager are required to ensure adherence to schedules outlined in the terms of the contract. Final research reports may be reviewed by scientists recognized in the particular field of research, as well as by resource managers before final approval of the report by SRD. Particularly outstanding research reports may be published by SRD in the NOS/SRD Technical Report Series.

4. Information Exchange

SRD encourages Sanctuary research funded by other sources to complement research directly funded by NOAA. To assist in this research exchange effort, SRD will make Sanctuary research data bases derived from past and ongoing research projects available to other agencies and private institutions.

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