Fishery Ecosystem Plans

What is a Fishery Ecosystem Plan?

The regional fishery management councils (councils) can develop fishery ecosystem plans as a mechanism for incorporating ecosystem principles, goals, and policies into their current fishery management structure. The objectives of fishery ecosystem plans are to:

  • Provide council members with a clear description and understanding of the fundamental physical, biological, and human/institutional context of ecosystems within which fisheries are managed.
  • Direct how that information should be used in the context of fishery management plans.
  • Set policies that guide development and implementation of fishery management options.

Fishery managers can use fishery ecosystem plans as a metric against which all fishery-specific fishery management plans are measured. This metric can help determine whether management effectively incorporates the ecosystem principles, goals, and policies of the council or NOAA Fisheries.

Existing Fishery Ecosystem Plans

Currently, four of the eight regional fishery management councils have developed fishery ecosystem plans:

Ongoing efforts

Several other councils are currently in the process of developing fishery ecosystem plans. In 2014, NOAA Fisheries partnered with the Lenfest Ocean Program to charge a team of scientists with creating a practical blueprint that managers can use to make ecosystem-based fisheries management operational. The Fishery Ecosystem Task Force will hold a series of meetings and provide recommendations in 2016. The Task Force’s main output will be an outline of the components of effective fishery ecosystem plans. It will provide a set of specific questions that every fishery ecosystem plan should address and a set of recommendations for how each question can be answered. Read more about the Fishery Ecosystem Task Force.

In 1999 the Ecosystems Principles Advisory Panel provided guidance on the development of fishery ecosystem plans.  That guidance is available here.  In 2015 the NOAA Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries provided a Technical Memorandum that benchmarked the eight recommendations from the Ecosystems Principles Advisory Panel guidance against the ten Fishery Ecosystem Plans that had been developed since release of the guidance.  The Technical Memorandum is available here.