Marine Science Faculty Publications

Advancing Ecosystem Management Strategies for the Gulf of Mexico's Fisheries Resources: Implications for the Development of a Fishery Ecosystem Plan

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Recent global improvements to fisheries sustainability have been made through the adoption of more holistic management frameworks, such as the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) and ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), and a concurrent transition from a focus on single species or stocks to multispecies and ecosystems. In the US, federal and regional fisheries management encompass multiple layers of comprehensive, ecosystem focused management strategies for living marine resources within its network of large marine ecosystems (LMEs). Here, we provide an overview for the US portion of the Gulf of Mexico large marine ecosystem (GOM-LME) by examining multiple aspects of its fishery management scheme through the lenses of EAFM, EBFM, and the integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) framework that has been used worldwide to advise, inform, and operationalize ecosystem management. The US-GOM's fishery management and ecosystem community appears to be keeping pace with other US regional efforts. However, more tools like fishery ecosystem plans (FEPs), which are conducive to the effective integration of ecosystem considerations into fishery management processes, are needed to inform and guide the work of regional managers, decision-makers, and stakeholders. Therefore, we propose a structured planning process aimed at advancing the development and implementation of a GOM-FEP, and describe two case studies of EAFM and EBFM applications, respectively, that can help to navigate through our proposed planning process. This work offers strategic guidance and insights to support efforts of regional fishery managers to translate ecosystem management principles, approaches, and objectives into an "action oriented" FEP in the GOM-LME.

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Bulletin of Marine Science, v. 96, no. 4, p. 617-640