Lenfest Ocean Program

Supporting Science and Communicating Results

Published Paper

Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management for Social–Ecological Systems

Renewing the focus in the United States with next generation fishery ecosystem plans

Marshall, K.N., Levin, P.S., Essington, T.E., Koehn, L.E., Anderson, L.G., Bundy, A., Carothers, C., Coleman, F., Gerber, L.R., Grabowski, J.H., Houde, E., Jensen, O., Mollmann, C., Rose, K., Sanchirico, Smith, A.D.M. (2017). Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management for Social–Ecological Systems: Renewing the Focus in the United States with Next Generation Fishery Ecosystem Plans. Conservation Letters. doi: 10.1111/conl.12367.

  • Bottom line: A 2017 “policy perspective” article in Conservation Letters argues that U.S. fisheries management could benefit from a “next generation” of fishery ecosystem plans (FEPs). It outlines a five-step process for developing next-generation FEPs and encourages managers to use them to balance competing environmental, economic, and social objectives. This is the first journal article from the Lenfest Fishery Ecosystem Task Force and gives a broad overview of the rationale for next-generation FEPS. More detail is available in the Task Force’s November 2016 report, “Building Effective Fishery Ecosystem Plans.”
  • Background: Conventional fisheries management focuses on a single fish stock or set of stocks that are caught together. But managers and policymakers have long recognized the importance of considering ecosystem interactions, as well as social and economic factors that cut across individual fisheries. Many have advocated an approach to this known as ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), but progress has been slow. FEPs were conceived in the late 1990s as guidance for Regional Fishery Management Councils to implement EBFM, but few of the resulting plans took concrete steps toward doing so.
  • Methods: The article draws on the work of the Lenfest Fishery Ecosystem Task Force, which was charged in 2014 with developing a blueprint for FEPs. The Task Force held extensive deliberations and discussions with managers and stakeholders over two years. It based its blueprint on a planning framework known as adaptive management.
  • Findings:
    • The authors envision a five-step process for building an FEP. The steps are as follows:
  1. Inventory the state of the social-ecological system
  2. Set strategic objectives for management of the system and prioritize issues
  3. Develop projects and evaluate management strategies to achieve objectives
  4. Implement management strategies
  5. Monitor progress and evaluate impacts
  • The authors recommend that managers use FEPs to consider the costs and benefits of their decisions across the “triple bottom line” of ecological, economic, and social objectives. This approach focuses on improving all outcomes rather than privileging either conservation or human uses.
  • Next-generation FEPs may also be able to help managers streamline their work, for example by prioritizing goals that affect multiple fisheries and identifying the actions that are most likely to achieve them.
  • The authors also recommend that FEPs establish an open, transparent process that supports deliberate, informed choices. Managers are expert at planning processes, but rarely plan at a scale above a single fishery or create objectives for the entire fishery system.
  • The last section of the article argues that the tools to create next-generation FEPs are available now, and it outlines several next steps for achieving its vision.

The full publication is open access and available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12367/full

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Elizabeth Striano

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