Monday, March 14, 2011

Towards Ecosystem-Based Management of blue crabs

After a brief hiatus from blogging, I'm launching a new series of posts on Ecosystem-Based Management of blue crab fisheries. These posts will focus on crab fisheries in the Southeast US (those occuring in the South Atlantic Bight), but will also address fisheries in other states.

Blue crab fisheries are among the most valuable fisheries in Southeast coastal states, but fisheries have declined by as much as 50% since the mid-1990's. Traditional management strategies such as gear restrictions, minimum size limits, bans on harvest of sponge crabs, etc. have not prevented the decline. I propose that we need to move towards a more comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management (EBM) strategy that takes into account the ecology of crab fisheries and coastal ecosystems, incorporates environmental variability and interactions with other fisheries, and prioritizes the participation of fishers and other stakeholders in management decisions.

In 1999, the Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel put together a report to the U.S. Congress that summarizes EBM in the following way:

"First, we must better understand the long-term dynamics of marine
ecosystems and how they respond to human-induced change, particularly changes
brought about by fishing.

Second, we must develop governance systems which have ecosystem health and
sustainability, rather than short-term economic gain, as their primary

Over the coming months, I will explore some of the tenets of EBM as they relate to crab fisheries in the Southeast US, some of the first steps that are being taken to incorporate ecosystem principles into management, and potential next steps that could be taken as we move towards EBM.