Understanding the Levels of Ecosystem-Based Management in Relation to Marine Fisheries Management

Fishery managers and scientists frequently reference three levels of ecosystem management in relation to marine fisheries. These levels vary in the degree to which ecosystem interactions and management trade-offs are considered. In decreasing degree of holistic management, these levels are:

  1. Marine ecosystem-based management is defined as an integrated and multi-sectored approach to protecting and sustaining diverse and productive marine ecosystems and the services they provide. Informed by science, marine ecosystem-based management incorporates interdependent components of the ecosystem, including humans, into resource management decisions related to living marine resources, habitats, and tradeoffs among competing economic activities.
  2. Ecosystem-based fisheries management focuses on the fisheries sector of the ecosystem, which includes recreational and commercial fisheries, and recognizes the physical, biological, economic, and social interactions among the affected components of the ecosystem and attempts to manage fisheries to achieve a stipulated spectrum of societal goals, some of which may be in competition.
  3. Ecosystem approach to fisheries management refers to the inclusion of ecosystem (e.g. predation) and environmental (e.g. temperature) factors into single species stock assessments, enhancing understanding of fishery dynamics and better informing management decisions. The majority of ecosystem management work performed in the United States and in other counties is considered ecosystem approaches to fisheries management.


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