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A proposed ecosystem-based management system for marine waters: linking the theory of environmental policy to the practice of environmental management

Rafael Sardà, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Blanes (CSIC-CEAB), Spain
Tim O'Higgins, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), Scottish Marine Institute, Scotland
Roland Cormier, Gulf Fisheries Centre, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Amy Diedrich, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Australia
Joaquin Tintoré, Sistema d'Observació I Predicció Costaner de les Illes Balears (SOCIB), Spain; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (CSIC-IMEDEA), Spain


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New coastal and marine management strategies have recently been developed in many countries and regions. From an ecosystem approach perspective, the aim of such strategies is the maintenance of ecosystem integrity while enabling the sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services. There is, however, a need for harmonized definitions and standardized processes to deal not only with the interjurisdictional and multidisciplinary complexities that are associated with such strategies but also with the extensive timelines and resources implicated in the planning and implementation of these strategies. The ecosystem-based management system proposed here is based on three pillars that facilitate the integration of an ecosystem approach to coastal and oceans policy development, regardless of the ecosystem or administrative scales. The managerial pillar is based on classical risk-management systems that incorporate environmental considerations and objectives within a continuous improvement cycle of adaptive management. The managerial pillar is supported by governance structures that provide oversight and thereby ensure that planning and implementation activities adhere to modern environmental principles. The information pillar ensures that data and scientific advice are based on current knowledge, and the participation pillar brings together communication and consultation requirements as indicated by the principles of the ecosystem approach.

Key words

ecosystem approach; ecosystem-based management; ecosystem goods and services; environmental management; marine environment; marine ecosystems; marine management strategy; oceans policy

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087