It’s no longer enough to care for our oceans one fish at a time.
Looking at the ocean with a wide-angle lens reveals changing ecosystems, vibrant marine life, and a pulsing coastal economy. From swirling sea turtles trekking across a great expanse and fishing vessels returning with the day’s catch, to deep sea corals in the deepest trench and warming waters from a changing climate—all of these activities are interconnected.
Many scientists, including former NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, know that managing our marine fisheries means stepping away from the traditional species-by-species approach and taking a look at the bigger picture. The health of our oceans will depend on our ability to understand and account for the interactions among species, their environment, and the people who rely upon them for food, commerce, and sport. This comprehensive approach is called ecosystem-based fisheries management.
"We need to think about the whole as we manage the piece," says Lubchenco. “We really need to be thinking about not just individual species, but the other parts of the ecosystem, the habitat, the prey, the competitors, the predators—all those pieces that interact.”
Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., a Pew marine fellow and professor at Oregon State University, is passionate about promoting the discovery and use of scientific knowledge in policy and management. Under her leadership, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration focused on returning fisheries to sustainability and profitability and restoring the oceans and coasts to a healthy state. She was most vocal about the way the world’s oceans are interconnected and her conviction that we must manage them accordingly.
Making the transition to ecosystem-based fisheries management will help meet the rising and urgent challenges of dynamic, changing and imperiled ocean environments. Important habitats must be protected, forage fish must be carefully managed to account for their role in the food web, and the waste of nontarget wildlife, or bycatch, must be reduced to shore up the resilience of our oceans.