Recently, the role which fisheries play in the provision of marine ecosystem services has been more widely acknowledged, largely as a result in recent years of fisheries management organisations developing and adopting more ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management (EAFM). Accordingly, several important management and science challenges have been identified. We argue that these challenges represent a number of important steps which underpin effective science based fisheries management, and when taken together and integrated, offer a logical framework by which to best achieve an EAFM. The challenges, or steps of the framework, identified and described are, i. defining appropriate spatial management units based upon significant and coherent ecosystem production processes, ii. assessing multi-species stock dynamics, iii. developing mixed fisheries management approaches, and iv. assessing the impacts of fisheries on non-target species and ecosystem components. The paper considers how the knowledge gained from research on these challenges can be applied to a risk-based management framework as an essential step towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 with respect to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for sustainable development.
Ecosystem-based Management (EBM)
A generic framework (FW) for the monitoring and evaluation of spatially managed areas (here defined as marine areas subject to a planning and management regime) was developed and tested in nine marine areas of 13 European countries under the EU funded project MESMA (Monitoring and Evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas). This paper describes the lessons learned in the use of the FW and draws conclusions for its future use and development. The selected case studies represented diverse spatial scales, management status and complexity, ranging from sub-national areas to entire national coastlines, and large offshore regions. The application of the FW consisted of seven steps: starting with (i) context setting and (ii) gathering of relevant ecosystem information, human activities and management goals; it continues with (iii) indicator selection and (iv) risk assessment; and the final steps considers the (v) analysis of findings and (vi) the evaluation of management effectiveness, to end up with (vii) the revision and proposal of adaptation to current management. The lessons learnt through the application of the FW in the case studies have proved the value of the FW. However, difficulties rose due to the diversity of the nature and the different stages of development in planning and management in the case study areas; as well as, limited knowledge on ecosystem functioning needed for its implementation. As a conclusion the FW allowed for a flexible and creative application and provided important gap analyses.
Managing for sustainable development and resource extraction requires an understanding of the feedbacks between ecosystems and humans. These feedbacks are part of complex social-ecological systems (SES), in which resources, actors, and governance systems interact to produce outcomes across these component parts. Qualitative modeling approaches offer ways to assess complex SES dynamics. Loop analysis in particular is useful for examining and identifying potential outcomes from external perturbations and management interventions in data poor systems when very little is known about functional relationships and parameter values. Using a case study of multispecies, multifleet coastal small-scale fisheries, we demonstrate the application of loop analysis to provide predictions regarding SES responses to perturbations and management actions. Specifically, we examine the potential ecological and socioeconomic consequences to coastal fisheries of different governance interventions (e.g., territorial user rights, fisheries closures, market-based incentives, ecotourism subsidies) and environmental changes. Our results indicate that complex feedbacks among biophysical and socioeconomic components can result in counterintuitive and unexpected outcomes. For example, creating new jobs through ecotourism or subsidies might have mixed effects on members of fishing cooperatives vs. nonmembers, highlighting equity issues. Market-based interventions, such as ecolabels, are expected to have overall positive economic effects, assuming a direct effect of ecolabels on market-prices, and a lack of negative biological impacts under most model structures. Our results highlight that integrating ecological and social variables in a unique unit of management can reveal important potential trade-offs between desirable ecological and social outcomes, highlight which user groups might be more vulnerable to external shocks, and identify which interventions should be further tested to identify potential win-win outcomes across the triple-bottom line of the sustainable development paradigm.
A conceptual model was constructed for the functioning the algae-dominated rocky reef ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea. The Ecosystem-Based Quality Index (reef-EBQI) is based upon this model. This index meets the objectives of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. It is based upon (i) the weighting of each compartment, according to its importance in the functioning of the ecosystem; (ii) biological parameters assessing the state of each compartment; (iii) the aggregation of these parameters, assessing the quality of the ecosystem functioning, for each site; (iv) and a Confidence Index measuring the reliability of the index, for each site. The reef-EBQI was used at 40 sites in the northwestern Mediterranean. It constitutes an efficient tool, because it is based upon a wide set of functional compartments, rather than upon just a few species; it is easy and inexpensive to implement, robust and not redundant with regard to already existing indices.
This article presents a case study of the ecosystem-based management model embedded within British Columbia’s Marine Plan Partnership for the Pacific North Coast and the Great Bear Initiative. These are two distinct, yet linked, examples of resource management and economic development that use ecosystem-based management in a way that incorporates indigenous perspectives and aspirations. The model potentially provides a framework that other countries, including Aotearoa (New Zealand), could examine and adapt to their own contexts using new governance structures and working with indigenous perspectives that include traditional ecological knowledge and aspirations. The case study is presented from a Māori perspective that represents both an insider (indigenous) and outsider (non-First Nations) view.
Cold-water coral (CWC) habitats can form complex structures which provide refuge, nursery grounds and physical support for a diversity of other living organisms, but despite their ecological significance, CWCs are still vulnerable to human pressures such as fishing, pollution, ocean acidification and global warming
Providing coherent and representative conservation of vulnerable marine ecosystems including CWCs is one of the aims of the Marine Protected Areas networks being implemented across European seas and oceans under the EC Habitats Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the OSPAR Convention. In order to adequately represent ecosystem diversity these initiatives require a standardised habitat classification that organises the variety of biological assemblages and provides consistent and functional criteria to map them across European Seas (Howell 2010). One such classification system, EUNIS, enables a broad level classification of the deep sea based on abiotic and geomorphological features. More detailed lower biotope-related levels are currently under-developed, particularly with regards deep-water habitats (>200 m depth).
This paper proposes a hierarchical CWC biotope classification scheme that could be incorporated by existing classification schemes such as EUNIS. The scheme was developed within the EU FP7 project CoralFISH to capture the variability of CWC habitats identified using a wealth of seafloor imagery datasets from across European seas and oceans. Depending on the resolution of the imagery being interpreted, this hierarchical scheme allows data to be recorded from broad CWC biotope categories down to detailed taxonomy-based levels, thereby providing a flexible yet valuable information level for management. The CWC biotope classification scheme identifies 81 biotopes and highlights the limitations of the classification framework and guidance provided by EUNIS, the EC Habitats Directive, OSPAR and FAO; with limited categories for identifying and classifying these CWC habitats.
Sustainable development is the framing concept assuring that resources are exploited while maintaining the ability of these natural resources to provide for future generations. With human dependence on marine resources increasing, Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) has been identified as a suitable approach to ensure sustainable development. In order to achieve this, the core principles and elements of EBM should be operational in the maritime/marine spatial planning (MSP) process to ensure that human activities in marine space are ordered to attain ecological, economic and social objectives. However, policies from various states and organizations sometimes do not set a clear precedence for translating principles of EBM and present different and complex approaches to an ecosystem-based marine spatial planning (EB-MSP). Again, a feasible methodology for EBM to be operational in MSP is still vague. This paper therefore presents results from a survey and review of MSP initiatives in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Results showed that essential MSP steps and elements such as adaptive management, setting of planning boundaries, understanding and analysing the ecosystem and future conditions are not fully operational. This paper focuses on a methodology for EB-MSP and gives recommendations on how to ensure that EBM is operational at each stage of an MSP process. It stresses the importance of setting planning boundaries beyond jurisdictional borders to consider bio/eco-regions and cover near-shore waters, the need to have a cross-sector integration, understanding the ecosystem through having an ecosystem service perspective and having a legal framework to ensure that results from monitoring and evaluating of plans are adapted through review and revision.
Resource managers and policy makers have long recognized the importance of considering fisheries in the context of ecosystems; yet, movement towards widespread Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management (EBFM) has been slow. A conceptual reframing of fisheries management is occurring globally, which envisions fisheries as systems with interacting biophysical and human subsystems. This broader view, along with a process for decision making, can facilitate implementation of EBFM. A pathway to achieve these broadened objectives of EBFM in the U.S. is a Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP). The first generation of FEPs was conceived in the late 1990s as voluntary guidance documents that Regional Fishery Management Councils could adopt to develop and guide their ecosystem-based fisheries management decisions, but few of these FEPs took concrete steps to implement EBFM. Here, we emphasize the need for a new generation of FEPs that provide practical mechanisms for putting EBFM into practice in the U.S. We argue that next-generation FEPs can balance environmental, economic, and social objectives—the triple bottom line – to improve long-term planning for fishery systems.
This work provides a formal evaluation of 25 ecological indicators highlighted by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s IEA program as useful for tracking ecosystem components in the Gulf of Mexico. Using an Atlantis ecosystem model as an operating model, we select indicators that are quantifiable using simulation outputs and evaluate their sensitivity to changes in fishing mortality. Indicator behavior was examined using a multivariate ordination. The ordination is used to tell how well each indicator describes variation in ecosystem structure (termed ‘importance’) under different levels of fishing mortality and to reveal redundancies in the information conveyed by indicators. We determine importance using sample data from the operating model, with and without observation error added. Indicators whose importance is diminished least by error are considered robust to observational error. We then quantify the interannual noise of each indicator, where annual variability relates to the required sampling frequency in a management application. Red snapper biomass, King mackerel biomass and Reef fish catch ranked in the top 5 most important without error scenarios, and King mackerel biomass and Species richness were in the top 5 most important even after error was added. Red snapper biomass was consistently found to be the most important and most robust among fishing mortality scenarios tested, and all 4 of these indicators were found to have low levels of interannual noise suggesting that they need to be sampled infrequently. Our results provide insight into the usefulness of these indicators for fisheries managers interested in the impacts of fishing on the ecosystem.
Systematic conservation planning, a widely used approach to identify priority lands and waters, uses efficient, defensible, and transparent methods aimed at conserving biodiversity and ecological systems. Limited financial resources and competing land uses can be major impediments to conservation; therefore, diverse stakeholders must participate in the planning process to address broad-scale threats and challenges of the twenty-first century. While a broad extent is needed to identify core areas and corridors for fish and wildlife populations, a fine scale resolution is needed to manage for multiple, interconnected ecosystems. Here, we developed a conservation plan using a systematic approach to promote landscape-level conservation within the extent of the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Our objective was to identify the highest ranked 30% of lands and waters within the South Atlantic deemed necessary to conserve ecological and cultural integrity for the ten primary ecosystems of the southeastern United States. These environments varied from terrestrial, freshwater aquatic, and marine. The planning process was driven by indicators of ecosystem integrity at a 4-ha resolution. We used the program Zonation and 28 indicators to optimize the identification of lands and waters to meet the stated objective. A novel part of our study was the prioritization of multiple ecosystems, and we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. The evaluation of indicator representation within prioritizations was a useful method to show where improvements could be made; some indicators dictated hotspots, some had a limited extent and were well represented, and others had a limited effect. Overall, we demonstrate that a broad-scale (408,276 km2 of terrestrial and 411,239 km2 of marine environments) conservation plan can be realized at a fine-scale resolution, which will allow implementation of the regional plan at a local level relevant to decision-making.