This 2018 paper in Marine Policy sets forth a blueprint for fishery managers in the United States and elsewhere to create fishery ecosystem plans (FEPs). The blueprint was first introduced in a 2017 report by the Lenfest Fishery Ecosystem Task Force, a team of 14 researchers pre-eminent in the sciences that inform fisheries management.
FEPs are a tool for implementing ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), an approach that treats a fishery as part of a larger “fishery system.” As envisioned by the Task Force, the goal of EBFM is to improve decision-making by helping managers address several issues not always included in single-species management. These include habitat needs, predator-prey interactions, interactions between multiple fisheries, and the behavior of people and markets.
The heart of the blueprint is the “FEP Loop.” The loop serves as a formal planning process, something the authors saw as a major missing element from past EBFM efforts. The process starts by assessing the social, economic, and ecological context and identifying the goals that managers and stakeholders have for the fisheries under consideration. Next, it sets forth a means of prioritizing the goals and developing specific, realistic projects to address them. The final step of the loop involves systematically assessing the results of the FEP and then updating it to account for changing conditions, in the water and in the communities and economies that are part of the fishery system.
EBFM has not been widely implemented, in part because of a perception that it is too costly and time-consuming. The authors argue that the FEP loop can help managers overcome that obstacle, because it provides a way to operationalize EBFM using existing science tools, policy instruments, and management structures.
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Levin, P. S., Essington, T. E., Marshall, K. N., Koehn, L. E., Anderson, L. G., Bundy, A., Carothers, C., Coleman, F., Gerber, L. R., Grabowski, J. H., Houde, E., Jensen, O. P., Möllmann, C., Rose, K., Sanchirico, J. N., Smith, A.D.M. 2018. Building effective fishery ecosystem plans. Marine Policy, 92, 48-57. doi: doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2018.01.019.