Today the global community of fisheries science is confronting many substantial challenges. The world's human population continues to grow, our aquatic resources are under constant threat from over-exploitation, and environmental change has begun to confound our fishery management efforts. The ultimate challenge is to sustain the world with food and at the same time conserve our global aquatic resources. The developing countries of the world have been impacted severely from the decline of regional fisheries and the destruction of aquatic habitat. Scientific capacities must be built in these countries to support the adoption of best available management practices. Fisheries management in many developing countries and countries with economies in transition has traditionally focused primarily on managing fish species as a product for human consumption. However, this approach does not adequately take into account the complex inter-relationship among ecological, economic, and social factors that affect the integrity and function of aquatic ecosystems.
Since 1995, the International Council of the Global Environment Facility included Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) as important geographic units for introducing developing countries to innovative strategies for ecosystem-based assessment and management practices leading to more sustainable management of fisheries and other marine resources.
To improve sustainable fisheries management, countries need to adopt a sound scientific approach that takes into account the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of the management challenges facing fisheries worldwide. Managing 21st century fisheries will require communication, cooperation, and coordination between all groups involved in fisheries management. Sound scientific approaches provide the framework for such a responsible, integrated and cross-sectoral approach. At the same time, socioeconomic factors must be taken into consideration when decisions are made regarding fisheries resources. The need for skilled resource managers in this context is readily apparent.
The project is called Global: Promoting Ecosystems-based Approaches to Fisheries Conservation and LMEs. The goal of the project is to support capacity building in developing countries, and countries with economies in transition through the transfer of advanced methods, practices and tools for ecosystem-based fisheries management. The project officially began through participation in the 4th World Fisheries Congress (4th WFC), which was held May 2-6, 2004 in Vancouver. Since then, world fisheries experts have continued to interact and share their expertise through participation in training courses, workshops, and follow-on in-country workshops and transfer of information via electronic networking.
Reconciling Fisheries with Conservation: The Challenge of Managing Aquatic Ecosystems
The world demand for both fisheries and conservation challenges fisheries science and management. Although fisheries date back thousands of years, recent decades have witnessed an unprecedented expansion. Serial depletions by area, species and trophic level have led to a world fish catch in decline. Major alterations to fish habitat have depleted resources in the world's aquatic ecosystems. In the developed world, fish resources continue to collapse, often with little warning, bringing economic and social ruin to coastal communities. In parts of the developing world, people eke out an existence in coastal ecosystems that are but a shadow of their former diversity and abundance. In the past decade, a broad consensus has emerged that this situation cannot continue, yet solutions remain elusive.
How do we reconcile the human use of aquatic resources with the conservation of ecosystems? We must seek ways to manage fisheries without causing unacceptable losses of biomass, species, diversity, habitats and ecosystem function. To achieve this goal, we shall examine fresh, interdisciplinary ways to evaluate and maintain the economic and social benefits of healthy fisheries, in the face of global climate change, human population trends, competing habitat demands, and the expressed desire for a future world of aquatic ecosystems endowed with natural diversity and resilience. These are the major challenges facing the management of aquatic ecosystems at the opening of the 21st Century.
Dr. Doug Austen: American Fisheries Society (AFS)/World Council of Fisheries Societies (WCFS); Bethesda, MD, USA
Dr. Ken Sherman: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/ Large Marine Ecosystems (LME); Narragansett, RI, USA
Dr. Sara Graslund: Global Environment Facility (GEF); Washington, DC, USA
Dr. Vladimir Mamaev: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/ Division of Global Environment Facility Coordination (DGEF); Nigeria
Dr. Patricio Bernal: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); Paris, France
Global Environment Facility: The GEF, established in 1991, helps developing countries fund projects and programs that protect the global environment. GEF grants support projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degredation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC): The IOC of UNESCO provides Member States of the United Nations with an essential mechanism for global co-operation in the study of the ocean. The IOC assists governments to address their individual and collective ocean and coastal problems through the sharing of knowledge, information and technology and through the coordination of national programs.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association/Large Marine Ecosystem: The LME program provides scientific and technical assistance to developing countries committed to advancing new policies and actions for eliminating causes of transboundary environmental and resource-use practices leading to serious degradation of coastal environments, linked watersheds, and losses in biodiversity and food security from overexploitation in LMEs located around the margins of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.
United Nations Environment Programme: The mission of the UNEP is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.