How Have Institutional Barriers Impacted Implementation of Ecosystem Based Fishery Management in the US
Ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM) has been studied for over twenty years, but has rarely been fully utilized in practice. EBFM utilizes multispecies management and ecosystem information, including physical oceanographic information and predator-prey relationships, to better manage fisheries. Regional fishery management councils started incorporating ecosystem information for management on an ad hoc basis in the mid-1990s, and suggestions to use ecosystem information appeared in legislation in 2007 (18 USC § 1882). Since that time, implementation has increased slowly at a national level, and is still virtually unused in some councils. One possible reason for the slow implementation is that institutional barriers have prevented EBFM from being embraced by managers. These barriers can be in the form of legislation and regulation, issues within the regional fishery management councils, judicial challenges, and budgetary or staffing shortages. The legislation has not been much of a barrier to EBFM, but regulations have been more troublesome for some regions. Institutional momentum may be one reason EBFM is not more common in US fisheries as regions face different levels of support for new management schemes due to factors like staffing, budget, and litigation.