Ecosystem-based management is dependent upon scientific research to determine the ecological interactions and processes necessary to sustain ecosystem composition, structure and function in the environments in which fish and fisheries exist. Understanding the factors that sustain the ecosystem will provide the scientific underpinnings needed to inform ecosystem-based management decision. Ecosystem-based management can be an important complement to existing approaches of fisheries management. By understanding the complex ecological relationships within which exploited fishes exist, researchers can better anticipate the effects of the ecosystem on fisheries and the effects of fishing on the ecosystem.
Ecosystem-based management can be seen as a systematic process, based on good judgment and sound science, and aiming, for a defined area, at the sustainable use of natural resources, by increasing the ecological sensitivity and content of management practices, and by integrating economic, ecological, social, and technological considerations, over both the short and long terms, from the site to the landscape-scale ecosystem.
Ecosystem-based management relies on the following key principles:
- Partnerships and citizen participation. Work together with citizens, businesses, local governments, interest organizations, and other agencies to face problems, identify opportunities and find common solutions.
- Science-based approach. Use the best available scientific knowledge (social, economic, and ecological) as a foundation for decision-making; understand natural resource interrelationships, and focus on sustainability of whole ecological systems.
- Long-term view. Establish long-term goals for desired ecosystem conditions that maintain the capacity of the land to sustain public benefits and opportunities into the future.
- Comprehensive perspective. Find solutions that support economic prosperity, lasting livelihoods, and ecological health.