Ecosystem-Based Management

Ecosystem-based management is the management of human activities so that ecosystems, their structure, function, composition, are maintained at appropriate temporal and spatial scales. EBM requires a move away from boundaries on jurisdiction and sectorial patterns of use towards planning based on the characteristics of the ecosystems. EBM is one of the three principles guiding integrated management, where ecosystem sustainability and function are of primary importance.

Ecosystem-based Management objectives are established through joint agreement among participants. The identification of EBM objectives and reference levels will guide the development and implementation of management to achieve sustainable development. EBM objectives could include:

  • the diversity of ecosystem types;
  • species diversity;
  • genetic variability within species;
  • productivity of directly-impacted species;
  • productivity of ecologically-dependant species;
  • ecosystem structure and function;
  • and water quality.

After a shift from sector or activity-specific management to integrated coastal and ocean management (ICOM) and a focus on ecosystem-based management (EBM); the scientific community has been working to better understand marine ecosystems as dynamic entities and to develop prediction models. Among fisheries scientists, managers, resource users and others the growing acceptance that fisheries cannot be sustained through single-species managementhas led to the identification of EBM objectives to maintain the natural resilience of the ecosystem. Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long term objective is to integrate EBM into planning for all fisheries.   

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has published several case studies of relevant regions in A New Ecosystem Science Framework: In Support of Integrated Management, 2007. These case studies include ecosystem-based approach for the Northumberland Strait, the Fundy Isles, and Atlantic Cod Recovery included in Examples of DFO Activities. EBM is addressed from two perspectives in this report: the challenges and benefits of an EBM approach, and how science can support an EBM approach.  

EBM Network and Database

The Ecosystem-based Management Tools Database is an online platform to help a broad range of users find, share, and contribute information about decision-support tools, projects and resources for innovative, interdisciplinary coastal-marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management.  Examples of EBM Tools Database projects are found in Squamish, BC and New Hampshire, USA.

The focus of the Squamish project is "Hazard Assessment and Planning" to link natural hazard risk assessment and community planning and was conducted by Natural Resources Canada. The district of Squamish is located where the ocean meets the mountains in the "sea-to-sky" corridor, midway between Vancouver and Whistler. The images below are a risk profile (left) and examples of the assessment framework (right) of the Squamish district. 

This document provides the rationale for an ecosystem science approach and describes the proposed framework for realigning the DFO Science program to support an ecosystem approach to management and better reflect an ecosystem science program.

The Ecosystem-based Management Tools Network is one of the premier sources of information about coastal and marine planning and management tools in the United States and internationally. The mission of the network is to promote healthy coastal and marine ecosystems and communities through the use of tools that help incorporate ecosystem considerations into management. EBM Tools Training connects practitioners with the knowledge of tool developers and tool application experts. Webinars are provided by EBM Tools Network and they highlight key case studies to help practitioners learn about tools quickly and determine their sustainability for specific EBM projects.

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