Fauna & Flora International compares marine management approaches

For centuries people assumed the oceans could absorb anything mankind could throw into them or extract from them. Today we realise that, to quote Fauna & Flora International (FFI) Council Member Professor Callum Roberts,

“The wholesale removal of marine life and obliteration of their habitats is stripping resilience from ocean ecosystems… and undermining the ability of the oceans to support human needs.”

Sustainable management of marine ecosystems

Around the world efforts are being made to manage marine ecosystems sustainably, from the local level up to huge expanses that encompass the waters of many countries.

In response to an initiative of Conservation International, FFI has undertaken a comparative study of five of approaches to the management of large marine areas: Marine Ecoregions, Seascapes, Large Marine Ecosystems, Regional Seas Programmes and Integrated Coastal Management.

The study, titled Comparison of Approaches to Management of Large Marine Areas, involved literature review, case studies and interviews with experts. It was carried out by FFI Americas Regional Director Robert Bensted-Smith and Hugh Kirkman, a marine management expert with three decades of international experience. Robert said,

“There are differences in the nature of these five methodologies – for example, the Ecoregion method focuses first on defining geographical limits of ecosystems whereas the Regional Seas Programme focuses on inter-governmental cooperation.

“In many parts of the world, different approaches are being applied in overlapping areas, with varying degrees of coordination. Nevertheless, the study has produced striking observations that we hope will provide food for thought for conservation funders and practitioners.”

The case studies reveal continuing innovation in the field, both in new approaches, such as CI’s Seascape programme in Indonesia, and in long established approaches, such as the application of the Large Marine Ecosystem method in the Caribbean.

A particular challenge is to connect the different levels of governance, from the local community up through national governments to the multi-country bodies overseeing large, shared ecosystems.

On this the authors conclude, “Ecosystem-Based Management demands sustained attention to the challenges of marine resource governance at the level of coastal communities, just as much as it demands maintenance of large-scale ecological processes. There are encouraging signs that conservation practitioners are progressing in this direction, irrespective of which methodological flag they are flying.”

FFI is grateful to Conservation International for coming up with the idea for this study, financing it and providing valuable feedback throughout.