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Ecosystem-based Fishery Management (EBFM)

imagePI: Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, Pew Institute for Ocean Science

Healthy marine ecosystems are necessary for sustainable fisheries. On the other hand, modern industrial fishing has a profound impact on marine ecosystems, through habitat destruction, incidental mortality of non-target species (by-catch), and changes in the function and structure of ecosystems. Current fishery management, which focuses on managing one species at a time, does not adequately protect marine ecosystems from these impacts.

Ecosystem-based fishery management (EBFM) is a new approach that reverses the usual order of management priorities so that ecosystems, rather than single species, are paramount. EBFM is an improvement over single species management because it integrates ecosystem impacts into the management of fisheries. Thus, habitat, predators, and prey of the target species, as well as other ecosystem components and interactions, are taken into account in managing fisheries. This approach both ensures that ecosystems will be sustained, and provides the foundation for long-term sustainability of fisheries.

Although EBFM has been widely recommended, its implementation has been slowed by a lack of consensus on how to proceed, and a perception that obstacles to EBFM, such as increased data needs, are impossible to overcome.

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