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Traditional fisheries management has focused on single species sustainability for commercially valuable species. Single-species management can be quite successful [ 6 ], but often ignores important ecosystem considerations such as species interactions, bycatch, changes in ecosystem structure, and gear impacts on habitat [ 7 ]. For example, large bycatch of Pacific halibut in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Groundfish fishery have reduced the catch in the commercial Bering Sea halibut fishery [ 8 , 9 ].

Additionally, the use of single-species reference points, such as harvesting each species at its maximum sustainable yield MSY , could cause severe deterioration in trophic levels and ecosystem structure by removing top predators with unpredicted consequences at bottom trophic levels [ 10 ].

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To address these issues, ecosystem-based fisheries management EBFM has been proposed as a holistic way of managing fisheries, considering the complex dynamics between target and non-target species and the greater social-ecological system [ 11 — 14 ]. It values habitat, embraces a multispecies perspective, and is committed to understanding ecosystem processes.

Principles of Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management

However, translating these generic statements into concise management approaches and goals, and targeted actions has inevitably led to different perspectives on EBFM definitions [ 18 ] and implementation in different regions of the world [ 19 , 20 ]. This research is just the continuing effort to reconcile the greatly varying perspectives on which scenarios constitute EBFM. The most frequently mentioned principles in the ecosystem-based management conceptual and theoretical literature include: Moreover, EBFM implementation performances have been quantitatively evaluated in different countries, but not in different fisheries [ 19 , 20 ].

The objectives of this paper are to 1 highlight the lack of consensus on what constitutes EBFM and 2 explore varying degrees of implementation of EBFM in different fisheries around the world. We hope that understanding the variations in which EBFM is perceived and applied can highlight areas for improvement.


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To see how EBFM is conceptually perceived, we surveyed experts in different specialties of fisheries science and management on whether they consider a range of management scenarios to be EBFM. The survey consisted of 17 questions categorized in different areas: Answers required ordinal scores ranking each scenario from 1 to 5, from strongly agree 1 to strongly disagree 5. All responses were assigned the same weight. Respondents to our survey were highly trained U.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management: Perception on definitions, implementations, and aspirations

Based on this pool of respondents, the results reflect only variations in perception among U. Survey results for defining EBFM. The y-axis is the list of scenarios asked and the x-axis the score of the final response. We divided the scenarios by categories for different management actions gray shading and the respondents by profession or background colored. Each tube represents the range of responses. Shows the average responses by survey for each respondent background. To explore EBFM implementation in different fisheries around the world, we developed a checklist of characteristics to reflect how EBFM is implemented.

The checklist had 18 criteria selected from three key subjects: We used this checklist to calculate a unique score summarizing how many EBFM principles are part of different fisheries management plans S1 File , not how EBFM is implemented or enforced. Criteria used to score the fisheries listed in S1 File and justification for each scoring criteria.

We assessed 20 fisheries with publicly available management plans from around the world to compare EBFM implementation scores. These fisheries included fish and invertebrates, multi-species and single-species, and nationally and regionally managed. While these fisheries may not explicitly indicate EBFM as part of their management plans, we examined the extent to which EBFM principles were described in the management plans. References to these fisheries and management plans can be found in S1 File. Score values of 1, 0.


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In the S1 File we also presented a description of how each score was assigned for each fishery. This was particularly true for questions regarding catch controls, trophic manipulation, human benefits, and habitat modifications Fig 1A.

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These attributes may be controversial in many fisheries, such as deliberately overharvesting low value species to reduce competition with high value species to provide economic incentives that benefit local residents. These management strategies are commonly used for high-profile ecosystem-related issues, including avoiding bycatch of charismatic species and implementing marine protected areas, and are often used in U.

DEMO - Developing a framework for ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Baltic Sea

Policy makers had very different views on the subjects than conservationists, ecologists, and stock assessment scientists, generally attributing fewer management scenarios as EBFM higher scores compared to other groups Fig 1B. Conservationists showed the broadest range of responses, but in general were more willing to categorize a management scenario as EBFM lower scores; Fig 1B. We did not find specific patterns in EBFM implementation scores within specific countries or regions see map in Fig 2.

While the three top-scoring fishing were U. However, the lowest scoring fisheries Fig 2 were those within developing nations e. Ecuadorian Artisanal fishery and Indonesian Blue Crab fishery or with no cohesive management between multiple agencies and jurisdictions e. Ecosystem considerations were at a lower priority or implemented unsuccessfully in scenarios with other barriers to successful management, including low enforcement capacity, management bodies detached from the needs of the fishing community, or joint management bodies with conflicting objectives e.

Scores belonging to either the ecosystem, social, or management process categories in columns and for each fishery in rows. The criteria belonging to these categories are listed to the bottom-right of the figure.


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  • Ecosystem-based fisheries management: Perception on definitions, implementations, and aspirations?

Shading represents the relative magnitude of the score in each column e. The font colors are different within the table to provide contrast with the background. The map at the top right shows the geographical locations of the fisheries considered in the study. A rigorous management plan that includes ecosystem considerations does not necessarily mean that EBFM is implemented and enforced. In , Mora et al. They found that the scientific basis on which management recommendations are made did not influence the sustainability of fisheries. They suggested that in policy makers may override scientific advice due to socioeconomic costs, political pressures, or corruption.

For example, the Northeast Groundfish fishery was the third highest scoring fishery in our checklist for implementing ecosystem approaches, with the highest mark for its management process, and mid-range scores for its social and ecosystem components Fig 2. This multispecies fishery has a very long history of management that has resulted in large increases in groundfish biomass over time. However, the Northeast Groundfish fishery management has been largely unsuccessful in enabling the recovery of cod stocks [ 29 , 30 ].

Principles of ecosystem-based fisheries management

In this case, strong single and multispecies management with ecosystem considerations have not equated to successful management of all Groundfish components. While management regulations appeared to be well enforced in this fishery S1 Fig , multispecies fisheries management is complex due to difficulty avoiding bycatch overlapping in time and space with target species.

The Coorientation Model was used to characterize understanding between the Council and fisheries-related stakeholder groups. The application of the Coorientation Model to EBFM and the fishery management councils provided insights into how an improved understanding of the attitudes, beliefs, and mutual comprehension of Council members and stakeholder groups could potentially facilitate the implementation of EBFM. Council members and stakeholders responded similarly to, and Council members correctly predicted stakeholder responses about, EBFM definitions, practices, and outcomes.

We use cookies to help provide and enhance our service and tailor content and ads. By continuing you agree to the use of cookies. Over time, new national policies on other aspects of ecosystem management, such as the management of by-catch species, will be incorporated into this Framework. This will ensure that Canada continues to build a solid framework for applying an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Principles of Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management International consensus is emerging that the adoption of ecosystem-based fisheries management is essential for sustainable fish stocks and sustainable fisheries over the long term.