Photo: Ecosystem-based management and oceans

(Credit: Asha Wareham)

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is a term used to describe a balanced way of managing resources, one that takes the surrounding ecosystem into account. There is no one definition of EBM, but this early definition has stood the test of time and is widely quoted:

"...ecosystem management is integrating scientific knowledge of ecological relationships within a complex sociopolitical and values framework toward the general goal of protecting native ecosystem integrity over the long term." (Grumbine, 1999)

The world's ecosystems provide goods and services, without which life on earth would cease to exist. The marine environment provides food, regulates the earth's climate system and assimilates pollutants. The goods and services humans derive from the planet's marine ecosystems are estimated to total $21 trillion annually. But, human activities have the power to change ecosystems drastically. By taking and EBM approach to managing our resources we can maintain ecosystem services, and reduce the risk of losing species or degrading the integrity of marine ecosystems.

Ten recommendations for fisheries on the B.C. coast

The David Suzuki Foundation has produced a report that highlight and ecosystem based approach for fisheries on the Pacific Coast of Canada. This report, Seas of Change outlines the top 10 strategies necessary for sustainable fisheries and ecosystems on the British Columbia coast.

The report outlines the need for precautionary management, ecosystem-based management and full participation of communities surrounding fisheries in management decisions. This report provides examples of best practices from around the globe, and a critical analysis of current practices to assess whether legislation, management reforms or both need to change to ensure sustainable management of Canada's oceans.

EBM needs science

The current state of knowledge about many aspects of coastal and marine ecosystems is very limited, especially the state of knowledge about the cumulative environmental effects that result from the many different types of industrial activity in our oceans.

Research has most often focused on single-species or single-sector impacts. The more we know about Canada's oceans, the more effectively will be able to develop management and conservation plans that guarantee the long term health of our oceans. The David Suzuki Foundation invests in research and advocates that government must spend more money on research that helps determine not only the base level condition of marine environments but also the overall effects of various activities on the greater web of life that exists in our oceans.

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