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Ecosystem Considerations in Fisheries Management: Theory and Practice

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

This article examines recent developments with respect to the development and application of an ecosystem approach in marine fisheries management. A number of international fisheries legal instruments now include explicit references to ecosystem considerations. While there has been general agreement on the need to take ecosystem considerations into account, there is no clarity or consensus on how this can best be done. Various definitions of an ecosystem approach emphasise that the focus must be on managing the human activities, which are part of, and impact on, marine ecosystems. An ecosystem approach is neither inconsistent with, nor a replacement for, existing fisheries management approaches—it is not a panacea for the problems confronting world fisheries. Realistically, we can only move to an ecosystem approach incrementally, starting with more rigorous/cautious application and extension of single species methods. A key element of any ecosystem approach will likely be to set harvest rates for target species at even lower conservative levels than might be suggested by single species analysis. Fisheries management measures should also ensure the protection not only of target species, but also of non-target, associated or dependent species. Reducing the killing power of the world's fishing fleets is an essential component of ecosystem-based fisheries management.


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