Marine resource management is shifting from optimizing single species yield to redefining sustainable fisheries within the context of managing ocean use and ecosystem health. In this introductory article to the theme set, “Plugging spatial ecology into ecosystem-based management (EBM)” we conduct an informal horizon scan with leaders in EBM research to identify three rapidly evolving areas that will be game changers in integrating spatial ecology into EBM. These are: (1) new data streams from fishers, genomics, and technological advances in remote sensing and bio-logging; (2) increased analytical power through “Big Data” and artificial intelligence; and (3) better integration of social dimensions into management. We address each of these areas by first imagining capacity in 20 years from now, and then highlighting emerging efforts to get us there, drawing on articles in this theme set, other scientific literature, and presentations/discussions from the symposium on “Linkages between spatial ecology and sustainable fisheries” held at the ICES Annual Science Conference in September 2017.
Ecosystem-based Management (EBM)
The intensive harvest of wild populations for food can pose a risk to food security and to conservation goals. While ecosystem approaches to management offer a potential means to balance those risks, they require a method of assessment that is commensurate across multiple objectives. A major challenge is conducting these assessments in a way that considers the priorities and knowledge of stakeholders. In this study, we co-developed an ecological risk assessment (ERA) for fisheries in California (USA) with scientists, managers, and stakeholders. This ERA was intended to meet the requirements of existing policy mandates in the state of California and provide a systematic, efficient, and transparent approach to prioritize fisheries for additional management actions, including the development of fisheries management plans fully compliant with California laws. We assessed the relative risk posed to target species, bycatch, and habitats from nine state-managed fisheries and found risk to target species was not necessarily similar to risks to bycatch and habitat groups. In addition, no single fishery consistently presented the greatest risk for all bycatch or habitat groups. However, considered in combination, the greatest risk for target species, bycatch groups, and habitats emerged from two commercial fisheries for California halibut. The participatory process used to generate these results offers the potential to increase stakeholders' trust in the assessment and therefore its application in management. We suggest that adopting similar processes in other management contexts and jurisdictions will advance progress toward ecosystem-based fisheries management that simultaneously satisfies fisheries, conservation, and relationship-building objectives.
Human use of marine and coastal areas is increasing worldwide, resulting in conflicts between different interests for marine space, overexploitation of marine resources, and environmental degradation. In this study we developed a methodology that combines assessments of marine environmental vulnerability and cumulative human pressures to support the processes of ecosystem-based adaptive maritime spatial planning. The methodology is built on the spatially explicit marine environmental vulnerability profile (EVP) that is an aggregated product of the distribution of essential nature values (habitat-forming benthic macroalgal and invertebrate species, benthic species richness, birds and seals as top marine predators) and their sensitivities to disturbances. The marine environmental cumulative risk profile (ERP) combines the EVP and the HELCOM Baltic Sea Pressure Index (BSPI), the latter representing the spatial distribution of intensities of cumulative anthropogenic pressures. The ERP identifies areas where environmental risks are the highest due to both long recoveries of the biota and high intensities of human pressures. This methodology can be used in any other sea areas by modifying the list of nature values, their sensitivity to disturbances, and the intensities of human pressure.
The Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) is one of the largest and most important globally. In recent years Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand have come together to build consensus around a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters, Norway, Sweden and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) process identified a number of key issues including overexploitation of marine living resources, degradation of critical habitats and pollution and water quality. The TDA process identified several key drivers which contribute to these issues. These include socio-economic drivers, institutional, legal and administrative drivers and climate change. The agreed SAP identified four key objectives including that fisheries and other marine living resources are restored and managed sustainably; degraded, vulnerable and critical marine habitats are restored, conserved and maintained; coastal and marine pollution and water quality are controlled to meet agreed standards for human and ecosystem health; and social and economic constraints are addressed, which should lead to increased resilience and empowerment of coastal people. Analysis of the BOBLME SAP shows that just over 70% of the identified activities are being undertaken to some extent by countries already. SAP implementation recognises the importance of approaches such as the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF), Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and the focus on Small Scale Fisheries. Whilst BOBLME countries vary considerably in their governance arrangements and capacity to implement, they recognise the importance of regional coordination and cooperation to address transboundary issues.
The Ecosystem Approach in Ocean Planning and Governance takes stock of the challenges associated with implementing an ecosystem approach in ocean governance. In addition to theorizing the notion of Ecosystem Approach and its multifaceted implications, the book provides in depth analyses of lessons learned and remaining challenges associated with making the Ecosystem Approach fully relevant and operational in different marine policy fields, including marine spatial planning, fisheries, and biodiversity protection. In doing so, it adds much needed legal and social science perspectives to the existing literature on the Ecosystem Approach in relation to the marine environment. While focusing predominantly on the European context, the perspective is enriched by analyses from other jurisdictions, including the USA.
Principal approaches to ecosystem-based ocean management in the United States include five major strands: Legislation for EBM, Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management, Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning and Marine Protected Areas. The presence of multiple strands of action is indicative of a lack of an agreed goal for what ecosystem-based management of the ocean is expected to achieve. It also leads to uncoordinated and sometimes competitive processes that are confusing to ocean users and observers. This paper identifies the principal evolving trends in ecosystem-based approaches in the federal arena in the United States in both sectoral and integrated regional approaches. How these emerging national policies work illustrates how such approaches are generally inadequate to implement EBM.
The sustainable use of global marine resources depends upon science-based decision processes and systems. Informing decisions with science is challenging for many reasons, including the nature of science and science-based institutions. The complexity of ecosystem-based management often requires the use of models, and model-based advice can be especially difficult to convert into policies or decisions. Here, we suggest five characteristics of model-based information and advice for successfully informing ocean management decision-making, based on the Ocean Modeling Forum framework. Illustrated by examples from two fisheries case studies, Pacific sardines Sardinops sagaxand Pacific herring Clupea pallasii, we argue that actionable model-based output should be aspirational, applicable, parsimonious, co-produced, and amplifying.
Although ecosystem-based management (EBM) has been adopted by many management organisations in principle, operationalising EBM has been problematic. A mismatch in institutional arrangements, created by the traditional sectoral focus of marine environmental and resource management, may be one factor acting against EBM implementation. To investigate this potential issue, this study focused on ‘sectoral interplay’, the challenges and tensions that prevent ‘whole of government’ cooperation, political consensus among conflicting user and interest groups, and collaboration between government and stakeholders that preconditon implementation of EBM. Four key challenges/tensions to sectoral interplay in marine EBM were found, including: governance structures and mechanisms, communication and sharing, participation and exclusion and fragmentation. Several ways in which these challenges/tensions could be addressed are proposed such as creating co-ordinating structures which operate across sectors and clarifying mandates and precedence between decision-making agencies. There are myriad case study examples from which to learn how to manage, and how not to manage, sectoral interplay in marine governance, and this should be the focus of future research.
Three decades following the onset of efforts to revert widespread eutrophication of coastal ecosystems, evidence of improvement of ecosystem status is growing. However, cumulative pressures have developed in parallel to eutrophication, including those associated with climate change, such as warming, deoxygenation, ocean acidification and increased runoff. These additional pressures risk countering efforts to mitigate eutrophication and arrest coastal ecosystems in a state of eutrophication despite the efforts and significant resources already invested to revert coastal eutrophication. Here we argue that the time has arrived for a broader, more comprehensive approach to intervening to control eutrophication. Options for interventions include multiple levers controlling major pathways of nutrient budgets of coastal ecosystems, i.e., nutrient inputs, which is the intervention most commonly deployed, nutrient export, sequestration in sediments, and emissions of nitrogen to the atmosphere as N2 gas (denitrification). The levers involve local-scale hydrological engineering to increase flushing and nutrient export from (semi)enclosed coastal systems, ecological engineering such as sustainable aquaculture of seaweeds and mussels to enhance nutrient export and restoration of benthic habitats to increase sequestration in sediments as well as denitrification, and geo-engineering approaches including, with much precaution, aluminum injections in sediments. These proposed supplementary management levers to reduce eutrophication involve ecosystem-scale intervention and should be complemented with policy actions to protect benthic ecosystem components.
To implement ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), there is a need to comprehensively examine fundamental components of fisheries ecosystems and ascertain the characteristics and strategies facilitating this more systematic approach. Coupled natural and human factors, inherent biological productivities, and systematic governance measures all influence living marine resource (LMR) and socioeconomic status within a given socio-ecological system (SES). Determining the relative prominence of these factors remains a challenge. Examining these facets to determine how much EBFM and wise LMR management occurs is timely and warranted given the many issues facing marine fisheries ecosystems. Here we characterize major United States (U.S.) marine fishery ecosystems by examining these facets and compiling a consistent, multidisciplinary view of these coupled SESs using commonly available, integrated data for each ecosystem. We then examine if major patterns and lessons emerge when comparing across SESs. This work also seeks to elucidate what are the determinants of successful LMR management. Although U.S.-centric, the breadth of the ecosystems explored here are likely globally applicable. Overall, we observed that inherent biological productivity was a major driver determining the level of fisheries biomass, landings, and LMR economic value for a given region, but that human interventions can offset basal production. We observed that good governance could overcome certain ecosystem limitations, and vice versa, especially as tradeoffs within regions have intensified over time. We also found that all U.S. regions are performing well in terms of certain aspects of LMR management, with unique successes and challenges observed in all regions. Although attributes of marine fisheries ecosystems differ among regions, there are commonalities that can be applied and transferred across them. These include having: clear stock status identified; relatively stable but attentive management interventions; clear tracking of broader ecosystem considerations; landings to biomass exploitation rates at typically < 0.1; areal landings at typically < 1 t km2year−1; ratios of landings relative to primary production at typically < 0.001; and explicit consideration of socio-economic factors directly in management. Integrated, cross-disciplinary perspectives and systematic comparative syntheses such as this one offer insight in determining regionally-specific and overarching approaches for successful LMR management.