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

Oh What a Tangled Web: Ecosystem-Based Management


Marine ecosystem food web. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Of the resources humans derive from marine ecosystems, food is one of the most important, with over a billion people worldwide relying on fish as a main source of protein. Sustainable production of healthy and abundant seafood requires healthy marine ecosystems. However, modern fishing practices often have negative impacts on marine ecosystems through habitat destruction, incidental deaths of non-target species (by-catch), and changes in the structure and function of ecosystems.

Traditionally, fisheries management has focused on restoring depleted fish populations one species at a time. This approach ignores other species, that while commercially insignificant, may be vital to the overall function and health of the ecosystem. Although single species fisheries management may be an effective way to reverse dwindling numbers of a particular fish species, it does not adequately protect marine ecosystems from the harmful impacts of human influence.

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is an approach that considers all components of an ecosystem, including humans. In 2005, COMPASS (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea) released a Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management. According to this report, ecosystem-based management:

  • emphasizes the protection of ecosystem structure, functioning, and key processes;
  • is place-based in focusing on a specific ecosystem and the range of activities affecting it;
  • explicitly accounts for the interconnectedness within systems, recognizing the importance of interactions between many target species or key services and other non-target species;
  • acknowledges interconnectedness among systems, such as between air, land and sea; and
  • integrates ecological, social, economic, and institutional perspectives, recognizing their strong interdependences.

In the first part of this investigation, you will learn about the EBM process and EBM tools. In the second part of the investigation, you will play a game in which you make decisions about how to manage different types of fisheries.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:

  • define Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM);
  • explain the four steps of the EBM process;
  • explain why fisheries should use EBM approaches;
  • describe the types of EBM tools used for fisheries management; and
  • understand that fisheries management is more complex than just counting fish.

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.

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