Marine ecosystems are complex, dynamic and highly interconnected with biological, physical and human processes occurring at varying temporal and spatial scales. Populations of species that are part of them are not fixed in time or space, fluctuating in response to environmental drivers, natural cycles and human pressures. This dynamic nature presents a major challenge for the monitoring, assessment and management of human activities and services (e.g. fisheries, tourism) provided by an ecosystem. In contrast to single stock or single issue management, an ecosystem approach considers a wider range of relevant ecological, environmental, and human factors. By considering these cumulative impacts, an ecosystem based approach to management aims to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy and productive condition so that it can continue to provide services and benefits to society.
The ecosystem approach has been increasingly promoted as an effective framework for fisheries management to meet societal needs, while reducing the direct and indirect impacts of fishing activities on the environment. An ecosystem based approach to fisheries management (EBFM) is a major goal of the Common Fisheries Policy in EU law, while many international agreements have it as an objective of marine capture fisheries management.
Through our work programme and associated projects, AFBI are building the understanding and knowledge needed to develop an ecosystem approach to the management of the Irish Sea and its fish and shellfish resources.
Research conducted at AFBI is undertaken in support of fish and shellfish stock assessments and the implementation of the ecosystem approach to managing the fisheries and other resources of the Irish Sea.