The Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM) has emerged as the preferred means for addressing trade-offs in the management of multiple activities in marine ecosystems. Therefore, checking up on the state of EAM practice is timely. Identifying lessons learned across multiple regions will further advance the discipline and practice of EAM.
In this study the authors solicited perspectives from international representatives of several marine sectors – such as fisheries, conservation, and energy – to elucidate the capacity, knowledge, and application of EAM in their respective locations and sectors. Additionally, common perspectives were highlighted to find major impediments and the best options for implementing the approach.
Key findings showed that the international community has a general understanding of EAM, but still perceives challenges to putting it into practice due to limited knowledge, data or information being available, conflicting sectoral interests, insufficient communication among sectors, and limited legal frameworks or governance structures. Respondents confirmed, however, that processes have been developed to put integrated knowledge towards assessing key issues within their sectors, for which capacity was generally high. Those directly involved in ecosystem approaches were mostly working on an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) or environmental management, marine resource planning, and specific scientific and management efforts within regional ecosystems.
This work shows that independent of sector or geography, those working with marine ecosystems see value in integrated EAM and that much of the international community is converging towards continued understanding as it is applied to the management of trade-offs among marine resources.