Sissenwine and Murawski on the new fisheries management paradigm

by Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sissenwine, M. and S. Murawski (2004). “Moving beyond ‘intelligent-tinkering’: advancing an ecosystem approach to fisheries.” Marine Progress Series 274: 291-295.

Sissenwine and Murawski are at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  NOAA is a scientific agency of the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere.  In this article, they consider the requirements for advancing ecosystem-based management approaches from the planning stages into practice.  They also discuss the roles of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

This article is focused specifically on fisheries management.  The authors begin by explaining the shift in terminology from Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) to Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries (EAF).  In 2003, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded EAF is the better term because it takes into account ecosystem processes in the formulation of management measures.

In practice, EAF is not necessarily a new type of scheme and need not take an entirely new direction from traditional fisheries management.  However, EAF is much more inclusive in terms of diversity and stakeholder involvement.  Sissenwine and Murawski discuss the urgent need for both science and governance institutions to evolve using EAF to bridge traditional single-species paradigms with ecosystem management which includes human activities.  The authors believe that MPAs are useful and have an even greater role under the EAF.  They are a good tool for controlling fishing mortality, reducing bycatch, and mitigating fishery interactions.  Although EAF and MPAs are not synonymous, they can work in unison to maintain complex marine ecosystems.

Ecosystem-based approaches will continue to be viewed as a mechanism for resolving conflicting objectives arising from species-by-species approach and for integration of biology, oceanography, law and politics, economics, and other social sciences.  Sissenwine and Murawski emphasize the need for closer ties between science and management in order to recognize and incorporate fundamental uncertainties in how biological components are linked.  They recommend adaptive strategies so that the best practical solution will be chosen.  The main benefit of EAF is that it offers a more complete and integrated account of the full range benefits and costs to society associated with developing sustainable approaches for living marine resources.

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