1st Edition of Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) defined
Ecosystem-based management is a regime to manage the uses and values of ecosystems with all stakeholders to maintain ecological integrity in the face of the uncertain and ever changing nature of ecosystems.
To maintain a healthy marine ecosystem, conservation management needs to use research to uncover and take into consideration all the key links within the ecosystem, as well as manage human activities and their impacts. It is necessary to manage fisheries, chemical and noise pollution, vessel traffic, climate change, agriculture and industrial activities that produce runoff, offshore oil, gas and other mineral industries, among other things, to minimize adverse impacts and to maintain a healthy functioning ecosystem.
Ecosystem-based management as a management regime grew out of the widely acknowledged failure of single species management, primarily of fisheries. It is a management regime that seeks to include all the relevant stakeholders. In some countries, it is called ‘ecosystem management’.
Ecosystem-based management requires an ongoing research commitment to unravel and model the complex linkages in marine ecosystems. And, where knowledge is lacking, a precautionary approach should be invoked to protect the ecosystems which nourish all life and life processes in the sea. The creation of effective MPAs is an important way to exercise the precautionary principle, protecting ecosystems while research is carried out.
In recent years, those in favour of marine mammal, shark and other large predator culling, as well as whaling, have sought to use the language and ideas of ecosystem-based management to argue for so-called fisheries protection – killing predators in a misguided attempt to protect commercial fish stocks. At the same time, some fisheries lobbies have also called for research into trophic interactions which would include killing animals to learn about what they eat and how they function in an ecosystem. Ecosystem research is desperately needed but there are benign techniques available to study what animals eat and associated trophic interactions without killing those animals or disturbing or destroying the complex ecosystems that we are trying to understand. We are a long way from the approach of the Victorian era of killing animals to study their life history and ecology. Culling marine predators and other actions that seek to manipulate, disturb or destroy the ecosystem have no place in ecosystem-based management.
In The Politics of Ecosystem Management, authors Cortner and Moote (1999) comment that ‘Ecosystem management breaks new ground in resource management by making the social and political basis of natural resource management goals explicit and by encouraging their development through an inclusive and collaborative decision-making process. Ecosystem management is based on an ecosystem science that integrates many disciplinary approaches and addresses the ecological issues at very large temporal and spatial scales. Given the recognized complexity and dynamic nature of ecological and social systems, ecosystem management is adaptive management, constantly being re-assessed and revised as new information becomes available.’
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