Alverson asks for help – What is EBM?

Alverson, D. L. (2004). “Searching for ecosystem reality-terms and concepts.” Bulletin of Marine Science 74(3): 639-652.

Here, Dayton Alverson frankly presents his own struggles with understanding the exact meaning of terms used in the ecosystem management debate. He conducts a non-scientific survey by querying 45 of his colleagues with questions about nine statements selected from the NMFS EPAP 1999 Report to Congress. Among the 40 responses he received several notable points emerge. First, there was wide disagreement among these professionals as to the clarity and usefulness of ecosystem terms and statements. Second, respondents leaned more generally towards frustration at the lack of clarity in terms. Third, people were very concerned about this issue as Alverson reports getting many lengthy written addendums to the survey (one was 13 pages). …

It would be interesting to re-run Alverson’s survey (perhaps with the same participants, if he would care to identify them) now that several recent attempts (e.g., the consensus statement) to better define ecosystem based management have been published. The larger question remains, which is, “is defining the terms and procedures enough?” or the converse, “if we have well defined terms and procedures, will we be able to protect marine ecosystems?”.

In this regard, Alverson makes the nice point that we should not expect EBM to be a “panacea” for our ocean problems, but that we should also not blame the failure of single species fisheries management on a failure to adopt EBM. The former point has been made often, but I had not often read the latter. This drives the more direct question, “why have there been so many failures in single-species management” – perhaps a topic for a discussion forum.

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