A more holistic approach to fisheries management: including all stakeholders

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Fishing in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry. Its importance is reflected in the historic contributions of American fisheries to maritime culture, and certainly in the many iconic seafood dishes found along America’s coasts. From the frigid waters of Alaska, where groundfish and king crabs thrive, to the shrimp, snapper and grouper fisheries of the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the livelihoods of many U.S. residents depend on sustainability. of these species. While consumers may focus their attention on a particular favorite fish or shellfish, populations of these species do not live in a vacuum. In addition to the direct impacts of fishing, they are subject to the effects of multiple environmental stressors and other uses of the ocean (such as energy, transport and tourism) on their ecologies and habitats, while interacting with other species throughout the food web.

In many ways, an orchestra is a great illustration of a marine ecosystem, all the components of which operate at different levels while being interconnected. Setting a single factor influences the whole and its other parts, including how they blend into the whole system. If a string or reed bends or breaks, or if the timing of a key element is off, not only does this affect the harmony of the same instruments in a given section, but it has major ramifications on the whole full of instruments. All parts must be conducted (or managed) to minimize discrepancies, the functioning of the whole depending on the quality and composition of its parts. These concepts are also considered when cumulatively managing key elements of fisheries systems through ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM).

Thus, EBFM is rapidly becoming the default approach in global fisheries management, with the clarity of its definition and approaches to its implementation becoming more refined every year in US and international jurisdictions. An EBFM policy for the United States is now in effect, with regional implementation plans for all major marine regions in the United States. Fisheries ecosystem plans (FEPs) are also being developed, or have been developed and refined, for all major regions and several sub-regions. Given these recent advances, it has become necessary to assess the progress and assess the effectiveness and impacts of EBFM. The challenge is to objectively and quantitatively determine progress towards EBFM and to ensure broad applicability of the results.

To assess this progress, recent work has illustrated the value of examining an ecosystem through a socio-ecological approach. This approach recognizes that a system’s natural and human environments form the basis for the state, quality and composition of its living marine resources (i.e. fisheries and protected species) and socioeconomics. Marine. Factors such as primary production (the growth of aquatic plants or animals that carry out photosynthesis and serve as the basis of the food web of most marine species) set fundamental limits on the total harvest or economic revenue of a system. of fishing given, which must be taken into account. when managing at the ecosystem level. Environmental and human stressors such as climate change, climate oscillations (e.g. El Niño events), overfishing, coastal and offshore development, ocean location, and many other variables directly affect the future primary production, marine species, coastal communities and their interconnectivity. EBFM considers the effects and interrelationships of these factors within fisheries systems, as well as their trade-offs, to enable more holistic and improved management of living marine resources.

As with the performance of an orchestra, it is important to recognize that when we are out of tune on one factor, it also affects things down the line, on many scales, and can potentially unbalance the system. Understanding these effects and working to maintain (or restore) this balance is a key part of EBFM, especially given the many implications for many components across the ecosystem. Although much remains to be done to implement EBFM, significant progress has been made to better address many of the challenges facing the sustainable management of living marine resources.

Image selected by Kristin Snippe to Unsplash

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