NOAA and AFS: Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management


AFS is entering the third year of its most recent cooperative agreement with NOAA Fisheries. AFS has been working with NOAA Fisheries since 2015 to disseminate news about the agency’s work on ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. We organized three congressional briefings in 2015 and are working on one for the coming months. As this approach gains momentum, NOAA Fisheries has completed guidance that will ease our collective transition from traditional to an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

NOAA Fisheries released its Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management (EBFM) Road Map1 in November 2016, detailing how the agency will implement its EBFM Policy2. The EBFM Policy documents, clarifies, and solidifies NOAA Fisheries commitment to EBFM, as well as establishes a framework of guiding principles. The EBFM Road Map will guide implementation of the EBFM Policy by NOAA Fisheries and its partners via a series of core components and action items for each of the Policy’s guiding principles. These elements are the actionable steps that provide a menu of options to implement EBFM. They also establish benchmarks against which NOAA Fisheries can evaluate its progress.

There has been much discussion about EBFM for the past couple of decades, but this is one of the first attempts to describe in detail what operational EBFM might look like. NOAA Fisheries is moving from the “what’s, why’s, and when’s” to the “how’s” of EBFM implementation. The Policy and Road Map’s action items are a significant step towards that end. It is neither simple nor routine for an agency such as NOAA Fisheries to delineate its expectations for an approach such as EBFM. This resource management challenge has both disciplinary and practical ramifications. Watch for continued discussions on this topic in a Policy Column, an essay in Fisheries, various symposia at our 2017 Annual Meeting in Tampa, and continued debates as we advance the implementation of EBFM.