Ecosystem approach

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

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The aim of EBM is the 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 on Biological Diversity (CBD) and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and is further explained in our advisory plan.

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

ICES advice on fishing opportunities integrates ecosystem-based management and changes in ecosystem productivity 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 an ecosystem approach to fisheries advice in practice?

We consider the influence of a dynamic ecosystem and multiple fleets on fish stocks, where relevant we account for changes in ecosystem productivity and the needs of apex predators, 
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 develop methods to address evidence needs for regional management challenges, prioritizing local pressures on the marine ecosystems. Challenging past paradigms, they re-enforce our expanded efforts in stakeholder engagement. We are developing a framework to assess and advise on cumulative effects and multiple management objectives.

Read a mo​re 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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