Moving the ecosystem-based fisheries management mountain begins by shifting small stones: A critical analysis of EBFM on the U.S. West Coast
Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) has emerged as an important paradigm in fisheries management, yet implementation of EBFM has lagged. Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) have emerged as a means to implement EBFM. Here, a critical, in depth analysis of the FEP for the U.S. west coast is conducted, with the goal of highlighting lessons learned, and to further develop the FEP framework. This was accomplished by first benchmarking the contents of the FEP against recent guidance from the Lenfest Ocean Program entitled “Building Effective Fishery Ecosystem Plans: A Report from the Lenfest Fishery Ecosystem Task Force”. Subsequently, to gain a deeper understanding of the FEP's successes and challenges, semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants involved either in the creation of the FEP or its subsequent use. Results from the benchmarking show that this FEP has been successful in providing a strong conceptual foundation for EBFM, but, generally, is weaker in areas that promote the movement of knowledge to action. In contrast, our interviews revealed a general sense of success. Underlying this result is a strong focus of the FEP on process-oriented objectives that have established institutional processes that are a precursor of the transition from conventional to ecosystem-based fisheries management. Given the substantial repercussions regarding human and ecological well-being that fisheries actions can have, the incremental processes employed in this region may, in the long-term, facilitate the implementation of EBFM in this region.