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Ecosystem-based management is an integrated approach to resource management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans.  For resource managers, this means incorporating the cumulative effects of multiple activities on entire ecosystems. They identify approaches for assessing trade-offs among these activities with the goal of maintaining ecosystem health and services. The ability to make sound decisions depends on access to reliable, accurate, and actionable ecological, social, and economic information, tools, approaches, and models.

Ecosystem-based management considers all the elements that are integral to ecosystem functions and accounts for economic and social benefits as well as environmental stewardship concerns. It also recognizes that ecosystems are not defined or constrained by geopolitical boundaries.

The concept of ecosystem-based management is underpinned by sound science and adaptive management that include the following integral components:

  • Observations & data.
  • Research and modeling.
  • Synthesis and analysis.
  • Management advice.

This graphic shows the types of scientific advice and applicable framework for each of the following levels:

  • Ecosystem-based management.
  • Ecosystem-based fisheries management.
  • Ecosystem approach to fisheries management.
  • Single species fisheries management.

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Infographic depicting the components to ecosystem-based fisheries management

Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management

Introduced in the 1990s, ecosystem-based fisheries management has evolved to become a cornerstone of our efforts to sustainably manage the nation’s marine resources. Unlike traditional fishery management approaches, ecosystem-base fisheries management provides a more holistic approach to fisheries management—one that takes into account the complex suite of biological, physical, economic, and social factors associated with managing living marine resources.

Guiding Principles

  1. Implement ecosystem-level planning.

  2. Advance our understanding of ecosystem processes.

  3. Prioritize vulnerabilities and risks of ecosystems and their components.

  4. Explore and address trade-offs within an ecosystem.

  5. Incorporate ecosystem considerations into management advice.

  6. Maintain resilient ecosystems.

Learn more about ecosystem-based fishery management