Although oceans provide critical ecosystem services and support the most abundant populations on earth, the extent of damage impacting oceans and the diversity of strategies to protect them is disconcertingly, and disproportionately, understudied. While conventional modes of conservation have made strides in mitigating impacts of human activities on ocean ecosystems, those strategies alone cannot completely stem the tide of mounting threats. Biotechnology and genomic research should be harnessed and developed within conservation frameworks to foster the persistence of viable ocean ecosystems. This document distills the results of a targeted survey, the Ocean Genomics Horizon Scan, which assessed opportunities to bring novel genetic rescue tools to marine conservation. From this Horizon Scan, we have identified how novel approaches from synthetic biology and genomics can alleviate major marine threats. While ethical frameworks for biotechnological interventions are necessary for effective and responsible practice, here we primarily assessed technological and social factors directly affecting technical development and deployment of biotechnology interventions for marine conservation. Genetic insight can greatly enhance established conservation methods, but the severity of many threats may demand genomic intervention. While intervention is controversial, for many marine areas the cost of inaction is too high to allow controversy to be a barrier to conserving viable ecosystems. Here, we offer a set of recommendations for engagement and program development to deploy genetic rescue safely and responsibly.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited