Ecosystem approach

ICES considers ecosystem-based management (EBM) as the primary way of managing human activities affecting marine ecosystems.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​The aim of EBM is long-term sustainable use of marine resources with a resilient ecosystem. The health and productivity of the ecosystem should be maintained while allowing appropriate human uses for the benefit of current and future generations.

EBM serves multiple objectives, involves strong stakeholder participation, and focuses on human behaviour as the central management dimension. ICES follows the principles laid down by the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and this is further explained in our advisory plan.

Our role is to provide the management of fisheries and other sectors with the evidence for ecosystem-based decision-making. This is to support sustainable development aimed at both human and ecosystem well-being and the stewardship of marine ecosystems.

ICES advice on fishing opportunities integrates ecosystem-based management with the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The aim is, in accordance with the aggregate of international guidelines, to inform policies for high long-term yields while maintaining productive fish stocks within healthy marine ecosystems.

​How do we apply ecosystem approach to fisheries advice in practice?

We consider the influence of a dynamic ecosystem and multiple fleets on fish stocks, and assess and advise on the impact of fisheries on the ecosystem from the coasts to the deep sea, and  monitor trends in species and habitat biodiversity. We assess the state of fish stocks in a region through fisheries overviews. We put fisheries into the context of other maritime activities and pressures through our ecosystem overviews, and provide options for trade-offs between management objectives.

All of this is done through a continuous iterative process of development. Our integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) expert groups are challenging past paradigms, and re-enforcing our expanded efforts  in stakeholder engagement. We are developing a framework to assess and advise on cumulative effects and multiple management objectives.

Read a more detailed description of ICES approach to ecosystem-based management​.​​

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Ecosystem approach

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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