EarthLabs > Fisheries > Lab 3: Oh What a Tangled Web: Ecosystem-Based Management

Oh What a Tangled Web: Ecosystem-Based Management

Note to Users

This lab has been updated as of January 29, 2008. A previous version of this activity is available.


Artist's rendering of the complexities of the Gulf of Alaska marine ecosystem. Image courtesy of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council GEM (Gulf of Alaska Ecosystem Monitoring and Research) project. Click on the image for a larger view.

Food is one of the most important resources humans derive from the oceans. Sustainable production of healthy and abundant seafood requires healthy marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, modern fishing practices can jeopardize the health of ocean communities through habitat destruction, by-catch, and overfishingall of which throw off the natural and delicate balance of marine ecosystems.

Traditionally, fisheries management has focused on restoring depleted fish populations one species at a time. These single-species management approaches can be an effective way to replenish numbers within a given fish stock. But these approaches ignore other species, that while commercially insignificant, may be vital to the overall function and health of the ecosystem. Ecosystem-based management (EBM), on the other hand, is a different kind of approach that considers the interconnectedness of all components within an ecosystem, including fish, plants, marine mammals, climate, and humans.

In the first part of this investigation, you will learn the basics of the EBM approach to fisheries management and watch a short animation showing an example of one of the many types of EBM tools that can be used to aid fisheries management. In the second part of the investigation, you will play a game in which you make decisions about how to successfully manage different types of fisheries.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:

  • define Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM);
  • understand that fisheries management is more complex than just counting fish; and
  • explain why fisheries should use EBM approaches.

Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you engaged and focused on key concepts and to allow you to periodically check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills you should be learning from the lab activities and readings.
Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.