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Making Marine Life Count: A New Baseline for Policy

  • Meryl J. Williams mail,

    MerylJWilliams@gmail.com

    Affiliation: Member, Scientific Steering Committee, Census of Marine Life, 17 Agnew Street, Aspley, Qld, 4034 Australia

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  • Jesse Ausubel,

    Affiliation: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, New York, New York, United States of America

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  • Ian Poiner,

    Affiliation: Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Chair, Census of Marine Life Scientific Steering Committee, Townsville, Australia

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  • Serge M. Garcia,

    Affiliation: Member, Scientific Steering Committee, Census of Marine Life, Via Perdasdefogu, 14, 00050 Aranova, Roma, Italy

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  • D. James Baker,

    Affiliation: Member, Scientific Steering Committee, Census of Marine Life, 8031 Seminole Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118, USA

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  • Malcolm R. Clark,

    Affiliation: Principal Scientist (Deepwater Fisheries), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand

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  • Heather Mannix,

    Affiliation: Census of Marine Life International Secretariat, The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Washington DC, United States of America

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  • Kristen Yarincik,

    Affiliation: Census of Marine Life International Secretariat, The Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Washington DC, United States of America

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  • Patrick N. Halpin

    Affiliation: Associate Professor of Marine Geospatial Ecology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America

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  • Published: October 26, 2010
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000531
  • Featured in PLOS Collections

Reader Comments (2)

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No role for taxonomy in the Census of Marine Life?

Posted by nando1 on 06 Nov 2010 at 18:55 GMT

The mission of the CoML is vital, it is very important. The discovery of thousands of new species and of several new genera is praised as the main result of this multimillionaire project, and rightly so. Quoting from the article: "advances in information, communication, genetic, sensory, and acoustic technologies... spurred knowledge of marine life"... If there are spurs, there should be a horse. The horse is taxonomy. I searched the article, but I could find no mention of the science of describing species (and genera, and higher taxa): taxonomy. Those thousands of species (and several genera) have been described by taxonomists, surely not by information and technology specialists, nor by communication specialists, geneticists, sensory and acoustic technologists. Why mentioning them all and forget about taxonomists? I described one of the new genera, and a new species, stemming from the collections of the CoML (Sympagohydra tuuli Piraino, Blum, Gradinger, & Boero, 2008), and seeing that the contribution of taxonomic expertise had been forgotten makes me ask this simple question: How can a census of marine life be made without taxonomists? It is a fact that taxonomy is in severe distress all over the world. It is ironical that this is happening when so huge resources are dedicated to the object of its studies. Maybe this is something to ponder about.

Competing interests declared: Being a taxonomist, having worked for the CoML (I described a new genus and a new species) and having received no financial support for this work, can be considered as a conflict of interest in respect to the statements I made? If so: there is a conflict of interest.

RE: No role for taxonomy in the Census of Marine Life?

MerylJW replied to nando1 on 07 Nov 2010 at 23:57 GMT

Those who know the Census of Marine Life know that taxonomy played the lead and central role. The entire Census of Marine Life was a celebration of taxonomy. The program was developed by leading taxonomists in each field and trained scores more all around the world. From this base, many policy relevant outputs are now being drawn.

Competing interests declared: Lead author of article

RE: RE: No role for taxonomy in the Census of Marine Life?

nando1 replied to MerylJW on 12 Nov 2010 at 14:22 GMT

I thank MerylJW for acknowledging the role of taxonomy in her response to my comment. If taxonomy is so crucial, I wonder why its celebration was forgotten in the article. I searched the file and could not find the word. Probably its importance is given for granted, and is so obvious that it is not necessary to mention it. I hope it will not be forgotten in the policy outputs that will be taken in the future, stemming from the work of the taxonomists who described these thousands of species. Having seen that they were absent from this celebration (the word does not exist in the article) I felt the urge to highlight their role in the project. I am happy to see that the lead author of the article shares my view. Her response to my comment should be incorporated in the article.

No competing interests declared.