Human dimensions of the ecosystem approach to fisheries: an overview of context, concepts, tools and methods

FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 489

Human dimensions of
the ecosystem approach
to fisheries: an overview
of context, concepts,
tools and methods


Cassandra De Young
Fishery Policy Analyst
Fisheries and Aquaculture Economics and Policy Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
Rome, Italy

Anthony Charles
FAO Visiting Expert
Management Science/Environmental Studies
Saint Mary’s University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Antonia Hjort
FAO Volunteer
Munkarp, Sweden

Rome, 2008

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ISBN 978-92-5-106000-1

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© FAO 2008

De Young, C.; Charles, A.; Hjort, A.
Human dimensions of the ecosystem approach to fisheries: an overview of context, concepts, tools and methods.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 489. Rome, FAO. 2008. 152 p.


This document aims to provide a better understanding of the role of the economic, institutional and sociocultural components within the ecosystem approach to fisheries
(EAF) process and to examine some potential methods and approaches that may facilitate the adoption of EAF management. It explores both the human context for the ecosystem approach to fisheries and the human dimensions involved in implementing the EAF. For the former, the report provides background material essential to understand prior to embarking on EAF initiatives, including an understanding of key concepts and issues, of the valuation of aquatic ecosystems socially, culturally and economically, and of the many policy, legal, institutional, social and economic considerations relevant to the EAF. With respect to facilitating EAF implementation, the report deals with a series of specific aspects: (1) determining the boundaries, scale and scope of the EAF; (2) assessing the various benefits and costs involved, seen from social, economic, ecological and management perspectives; (3) utilizing appropriate decision-making tools in EAF; (4) creating and/or adopting internal incentives and institutional arrangements to promote, facilitate and fund the adoption of
EAF management; and (5) finding suitable external (non-fisheries) approaches for financing EAF implementation.


Part 1 (571 Kb)

Preparation of this document

Part 2 (417 Kb)

Part I - The human context for an ecosystem approach to fisheries

1. Introduction and background

Understanding the complexities and contexts
Key concepts and issues
   EAF management
   Social, economic and institutional considerations in EAF
   EAF, the livelihoods approach and integrated management

2. Human values of ecosystem services

Ecosystem services
The value of ecosystem services to human well-being
Methodologies for assessing the value of fisheries ecosystems
How ecosystem valuation can help in implementing the EAF
Appendix 2.1 Examples of the use of valuation tools in fisheries

3. Policy, legal and institutional frameworks

Policy frameworks affecting EAF
   Millennium Development Goals
   Precautionary approach
   Management and co-management approaches
   International policy frameworks
   “Pro-poor” policies
Institutional and legal frameworks affecting EAF
   Good governance
   Nested institutions
   Within organizations

4. Social and economic considerations

The particular situation of artisanal and small-scale fisheries
Employment, livelihood and regional aspects
Poverty and social security/services
Food security
Cultural and religious considerations
Indigenous people and traditional knowledge
Distributional aspects

Part 3 (738 Kb)

Part II - Facilitating the implementation of the eaf

5. Initial steps in implementing the EAF

Boundaries, scale and scope

6. Assessing the impacts of EAF management

Benefits and costs of EAF
Measuring benefits and costs
Decision-making tools for assessing EAF
   Goal ranking
   Problem trees
   Cost-benefit analysis
   Social impact assessment
   Indicator frameworks
   Socio-economic monitoring
   Systems of national accounts
   Scenario modelling and simulations
   Bio-economic models
   The discount rate
Appendix 6.1 – Benefits and costs arising in the EAF guidelines
Appendix 6.2 – Related environmental decision-making tools
Appendix 6.3 – FAO indicators for sustainable development of capture fisheries

7. Incentive mechanisms for applying EAF

Types of incentives and their EAF implications
Institutional incentives
   Legal incentives
   Financial/material incentives
   Social incentives
   Perverse incentives
Appendix 7.1 – An economic analysis of the need for appropriate incentives
Appendix 7.2 – Kenya and Lake Victoria
Appendix 7.3 – The Bunaken National Marine Park co-management initiative

8. External financing for the EAF

“Polluter pays” financing
External conservation financing
Appendix 8.1 The global environmental facility and the EAF
Appendix 8.2 Debt-for-nature swaps how they work

9. Synthesis and final observations

Summing up
Key aspects
   Entry points
   Human realities
   The importance of policy, institutions and incentives
Information needs for decision-making
Closing comments


Part 4 (368 Kb)

Annex Process-oriented methodologies and information management tools for use in EAF implementation

Process methodologies
   Conflict management and negotiation
   Consensus building
   Delphi method
Information acquisition and dissemination
   Asset mapping
   Communication strategy
   Focus groups
   Institutional analysis
   Participatory monitoring and evaluation
   Poverty assessment
   Rapid and participatory rural appraisals
   Risk and vulnerability assessment
   Social mapping
   Stakeholder analysis
   Survey methods
   Transect diagram and walk
   Workshop methods