Destructive Fishing Practices and Evolution of the Marine Ecosystem-Based Management Paradigm
Elliott A. Norse
Abstract. The recent increase in interest about effects of trawling and dredging on seafloor ecosystems and their fisheries can be understood by examining three phases in the history of conservation thinking. The primary focus in nonmarine conservation thinking and management worldwide is on maintaining biodiversity, while marine managers are still focused mainly on use of marine life. Marine conservation lags behind nonmarine conservation, as shown using key measures of scientific publication, species protection, and ecosystem protection. Because fishing is the human activity that most affects marine biodiversity, marine fisheries biology has a particularly large role in determining the fate of the sea’s biodiversity. Unlike management-oriented nonmarine fields including wildlife biology and forest biology, marine fisheries biology has yet to incorporate key insights from the science of ecology, including the importance of maintaining abundance and diversity of predators and structure-forming species. Growing concern about the loss of structure-forming species, such as corals and sponges, and their role in providing fish habitat cannot be addressed using traditional stock assessment techniques. This creates the need for the evolution of a new marine ecosystem-based management paradigm that incorporates modern understanding of ecology and conservation biology.