Principles of Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management

International consensus is emerging that the adoption of ecosystem-based fisheries management is essential for sustainable fish stocks and sustainable fisheries over the long term.

An ecosystem approach requires that fisheries management decisions consider the impact of the fishery not only on the target species, but also on non-target species, seafloor habitats, and the ecosystems of which these species are a part. This approach also requires that management decisions take into account changes in the ecosystem which may affect the species being fished. This includes the effects of weather and climate, and the interactions of target fish stocks with predators, competitors, and prey species.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management is also part of the broader approach to managing oceans and activities that take place in and around marine environments. Known as integrated oceans management, it compels decision makers who are responsible for fisheries to consider other ocean users during management planning processes. This helps to ensure that fisheries managers make more informed decisions regarding ecosystem issues, such as the protection of ecologically significant areas and species.

Building on existing fisheries management practices, Canada’s Sustainable Fisheries Framework forms a foundation for implementing an ecosystem approach in the management of its fisheries. This includes using new policies and tools to implement the precautionary approach to fisheries management decision making, and manage the impacts of these fisheries on sensitive benthic areas and forage species.

Over time, new national policies on other aspects of ecosystem management, such as the management of by-catch species, will be incorporated into this Framework. This will ensure that Canada continues to build a solid framework for applying an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.