Ten Myths Concerning Ecosystem Approaches to Marine Resource Management

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Ecosystem approaches to management (EAM), EBM, MPA

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Ecosystem approaches to marine resource management (EAM) offer comprehensive decision making based on rationalization of currently fragmented ocean policies and their implementation. However, despite the apparent utility in addressing these problems, EAM has also been criticized as being nonspecific, immature, invalid as a basis for decision making, and not fully supported by science. While it is commonly perceived that a paradigm shift in governance and science institutions awaits implementation to address these criticisms, in fact, ecosystem considerations are being incorporated more frequently, employing existing authorities as the basis for mitigation of sectoral impacts and for resource allocation. Management ‘best practices’ for EAM are emerging based on these experiences. Ten common criticisms of EAM, which I believe to be myths propagated primarily to maintain the status quo among sectoral interests, are discussed. Accelerated evolution of EAM will occur as science better articulates feedbacks, cumulative ecological effects and economic consequences framing policy choices, and more formal “rules of engagement” among sectors (e.g., fishing, coastal development, water quality, and energy) are negotiated. These operating procedures would be established under informal arrangements, in national law, and by international agreement. The management paradigm for marine resources is shifting and EAM will eventually be considered redundant with established practice.

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Marine Policy, v. 31, issue 6, p. 681-690