EarthLabs > Fisheries > Lab 3: Oh What a Tangled Web: Ecosystem-Based Management > 3A: Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) and EBM Tools

Oh What a Tangled Web: Ecosystem-Based Management

Note to Users

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

Part A: Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) and EBM Tools

Marine ecosystems are incredibly complex systems made up of living organisms, their environment, and the processes that drive them. Because of the connections and relationships among the many parts of an ecosystem, fishing for a particular species of fish may have consequences not just for that species, but for other wildlife, habitats, and humans. It takes more than a healthy population of fish to sustain a fisheryit takes a healthy ecosystem.

  1. Read this excerpt from the WWF publication Ecosystem-Based Management for Marine Capture Fisheries (Acrobat (PDF) 366kB Jan17 08) to learn about ecosystem-based management (EBM) and how it can be used to improve fisheries management.

    Checking In

    Answer the following question to check your understanding of Ecosystem-Based Management.
    • What are the basic principles of ecosystem-based management?
      Ecosystem-based management has objectives and targets that:
      • Focus on maintaining the natural structure and function of ecosystems and their productivity
      • Incorporate human use and values of ecosystems in managing the resources
      • Recognize that ecosystems are dynamic and constantly changing
      • Are based on a shared vision of all stakeholders
      • Are based on scientific knowledge, adapted by continual learning and monitoring.

    Stop and Think

    1:In your own words, summarize the elements required for EBM to be a successful approach to managing fisheries.

    2: Discuss three major obstacles standing in the way of broader implementation of EBM in the world's fisheries.

    Fisheries managers use tools to help construct a clearer picture of the current state of an ecosystem's resources and to help determine the best management approaches for maintaining the health of a particular ecosystem. According to the Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network, EBM tools are typically software or some other method that can:

    • create models of ecosystems or key ecosystem processes;
    • generate scenarios that illustrate the consequences of different management decisions on natural resources and the economy; or
    • facilitate stakeholder involvement in planning processes.
  2. The Census of Marine Life (CoML) is a global initiative to assess and explain the past, present, and future diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) project is one tool in the CoML toolbox that will help researchers learn about the life, death, and migration habits of ocean creatures.

    Click on the image below to watch a short animation about how the POST tool will work.
    Movie courtesy of POST.

Checking In

Answer the following questions to check your understanding of the information presented in the POST animation.

  • How does POST track animals?
    The POST project uses newly developed acoustic technology to track the movement of individual animals. Tags implanted in the animals' abdomens send out unique signals, which are picked up by receivers placed on the ocean floor. Most species and many life history stages can be studied using POST.
  • What types of data will POST provide?
    With tracking tags and listening arrays, POST will be able to track where marine animals travel, how fast they are moving, and where they die. POST will also measure water properties such as temperature and salinity (saltiness).

Stop and Think

3: How might POST data be useful for fisheries management?