THE ECOSYSTEM APPROACH TO FISHERIES
A legal obligation
The application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries is not just the wish of NGOs involved in environmental protection, but also the obligation of EU Member States, under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in particular.
The text notes that marine strategies must ensure the “protection and preservation of the marine environment, the prevention of its deterioration and where practicable the restoration of that environment in areas where it has been adversely affected”. The ecosystem approach thus demands that the impact on all species within the ecosystem be taken into account and that an end be brought to the “monospecific” approach that only considers the state of the target species.
As stated by the European Commission, the ecosystem approach defies traditional, monosectoral decision-making bodies:
“The ecosystem approach, enshrined in the recently adopted Marine Strategy Framework Directive, brings with it particular challenges. Decision-making may no longer be organised exclusively along the lines of traditional sectoral policies, but needs to reflect the large, transfrontier marine ecosystems which must be preserved in order to maintain the resource base of all maritime activities. Within this context of marine environmental protection, it is therefore necessary also to think in terms of maritime basins and the marine regions and sub-regions provided for in the Directive.”
Moreover, the ecosystem approach is a cornerstone of the French response to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
A definition of the ecosytem approach
The French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea (Ifremer) defines the ecosystem approach as follows:
“The development of an ecosystem approach for the management of more or less severely degraded marine resources is one of Ifremer’s priorities.
This approach gives a more overarching perspective on the natural and anthropogenic constraints on living resources and their habitats, but also on the fishing sector’s ability to react in the face of pressures from the oil market and from the consumption of marine produce, as well as to the need to manage the resources exploited.
This approach aims to restore weakened ecosystems, limit the loss of biodiversity, and optimize profitability in the fisheries sector through regulated usage. The aim therefore extends beyond just analyzing the effects of fishing on resources and their habitats: it also encapsulates the economic dynamics of exploitation and the changing governance of the fisheries system (a system that includes not only fisheries resources, but also their environments, and the users and businesses that exploit these resources).
The application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries involves:
- integrating long-term strategic planning into short-term operational planning.
- combining risk analysis with a precautionary approach.
- simultaneously representing the interests of citizens and those of traditional stakeholders in the fisheries sector (administrative authorities, professionals and researchers).
- treating sustainable marine produce as a contribution to sustainable development as a whole.”
References & Sources
- Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:164:0019:0040:EN:PDF
- Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy: Towards best practice in integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation, Brussels, 26.6.2008, COM(2008) 395 final.
- Mémorandum français relatif à la réforme de la politique commune de la pêche (French memorandum on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy), section II.1.2. January 2010.
- Fisheries Information Systems website / Ifremer (in French): http://wwz.ifremer.fr/peche/Les-defis/Les-pistes