A holistic approach to fisheries management

Author: Angela Pauly
Date: April 17, 2012



Last week, we held an event at the European parliament to raise awareness around a concept that is near and dear to us. The event, which brought together scientists, politicians, policy experts  and civil society, was designed to start a discussion on how best to implement an ecosystem-based approach (don’t worry, read further down, we’ll get to explaining what this is) into the Common Fisheries Policy reform. 

Since the creation of the CFP, fisheries management in Europe has been strictly focused on managing (some, and not nearly enough) individual fish stocks without placing much emphasis on the ecosystems in which fisheries activities are carried out. In recent years, however, as we have witnessed the degradation of marine aquatic habitats that are essential for healthy fish population, it has become clear that the species by species approach has been short-sighted, and the concept of using ecosystem-based approach (EBA) to manage fisheries has arisen.

So, what does an ‘ecosystem-based approach’ actually mean, and why do we care so much about it?

The implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management is a conceptual shift away from fisheries management that is based only on individual fish stocks, to a broader consideration of the maintenance of ecosystem balance and function. An ecosystem-based approach includes a focus on rebuilding marine biodiversity and allowing species and communities to recover together from exploitation.

The fact is, only management based on the entire ecosystem will stop biodiversity loss, rebuild the natural diversity of the oceans, restore productive seas, and enhance their resilience, thus guaranteeing fishing activities that are economically viable in the long-term.

It won’t be easy, but it is what must be done – we hope our event and the dialogue it created will help move us towards a more holistic, and comprehensive approach to fisheries management in the CFP.

On a side note, Commissioner Damanaki, though unable to attend, did add her voice to the discussion. You can find out what the Commission had to say by clicking here.