ecosystem approach

The need for a wider consideration of environmental and ecosystem issues in fisheries has been acknowledged. Photo © Ned Deloach/Marine Photobank

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) advocates a holistic approach to resource management that recognizes maintenance of ecosystem functions and services as a primary objective for fisheries management. EAFM shares many principles with ecosystem-based management (EBM), but with a particular focus on management of uses of fisheries resources. EAFM explicitly integrates the broader set of fisheries-related benefits derived from the ecosystem into management considerations, including other — often conflicting — uses of marine resources. It also has a strong focus on incorporating uncertainties, variability and predicted changes into fisheries management. EAFM involves a precautionary approach that encompasses the whole system, rather than being driven by a simple goal of maximizing harvest of a target species. The ecosystem approach greatly increases the alignment in management objectives between fisheries and reef conservation, potentially allowing for a collaborative approach with a shared focus on building reef resilience.

The emergence of EAFM creates many opportunities for coral reef managers to work with fisheries managers in the conservation of reef ecosystems. EAFM is gaining prominence and increasingly being adopted in national fisheries policies. It is the principle approach to fisheries management advocated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to comply with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. FAO have identified the following principles for EAFM:

  • Fisheries should be managed to limit their impact on the ecosystem to the extent possible.
  • Ecological relationships between harvested, dependent and associated species should be maintained.
  • Management measures should be compatible across the entire distribution of the resource (across jurisdictions and management plans).
  • The precautionary approach should be applied because the knowledge on ecosystems is incomplete.
  • Governance should ensure both human and ecosystem wellbeing and equity.

EAFM includes four main planning steps:

  1. Initiation and scope — This step asks managers: What are you going to manage and what objectives do you want to achieve?
  2. Identification of assets, issues, and priority — This step requires managers to identify all of the relevant issues for the fishery and determine which of them need direct management intervention for the fishery to achieve its objectives.
  3. Development of the EAF management system — This step works to determine the most appropriate set of management and institutional arrangements needed to achieve the objectives.
  4. Institutionalization, monitoring, and performance review — This step establishes the new management system and reviews its performance.

For coral reef managers wishing to explore opportunities to engage with fisheries managers in EAFM, FAO’s EAFnet offers an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Toolbox that can be used to help reef managers identify which methods and approaches provide the best opportunity for input and engagement given the type of fishery, ecosystem setting, resources and capacity.



FAO Putting into practice the ecosystem approach to fisheries (pdf, 756k)


Return to Top

Last updated January 26, 2018

Translate »