U.S. Fishery Management Councils as Ecosystem-Based Management Policy Takers and Policymakers
The United States has a new national ocean policy that adopts ecosystem-based management (EBM) as its first principle for managing U.S. ocean spaces and marine resources. However, U.S. laws that govern the uses of ocean spaces present a challenging tangle of authorities and mandates that do not easily facilitate ecosystem-based policies. For over 30 years, U.S. marine fisheries management has been guided by eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. Working under the many laws that guide setting stewardship priorities for ocean ecosystems, councils provide the Federal Government with advice on fisheries harvest levels, fish habitat protections, and fishing community needs. Implementing EBM for any ocean ecosystem requires a careful examination of the laws and policy processes that affect human interaction with that ecosystem. This article explores the U.S. perspective on federal ecosystem-based fisheries management, its part in U.S. national ocean policy, and how fishery management councils might position themselves as both EBM policymakers and policy takers for ocean resource management.