The premise of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is that fisheries should be managed as interconnected systems rather than stock by stock. EBFM helps managers look at many factors simultaneously – multiple fisheries, predator-prey interactions, climate change, global markets – and address priorities strategically, in a way that conventional management cannot. But progress toward EBFM has been slow because of concerns that it is overly complex and might detract from more immediate priorities.
In fact, the necessary science, policy tools, and legal authorities are already available to implement EBFM. A new report from the Lenfest Fishery Ecosystem Task Force – Building Effective Fishery Ecosystem Plans – finds that a key impediment has been the lack of a structured process for implementation.
The report recommends using Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) to develop that process because they can facilitate EBFM by helping managers to:
- Establish goals, priorities, and measures of performance for the whole fishery system.
- Analyze system-level alternatives to directly address trade-offs.
- Focus not only on ecosystem sustainability, but also on social, economic, and cultural goals.
This document is a summary that describes the Task Force’s blueprint for “next-generation FEPs,” a five-step process for developing them, and a set of case studies that evaluate the feasibility of the process.