Geographic Information Systems to support the ecosystem approach to fisheries


Geographic Information
Systems to support
the ecosystem approach
to fisheries

Status, opportunities and challenges


Fabio Carocci
Fishery Information Assistant
Fisheries and Aquaculture Management Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department

Gabriella Bianchi

Senior Fishery Resources Officer
Fisheries and Aquaculture Management Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department

Paul Eastwood

FAO Consultant

Geoff Meaden
FAO Consultant

Rome, 2009

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ISBN 978-92-5-106433-7

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FAO 2010

Carocci, F., Bianchi, G., Eastwood, P. & G. Meaden
Geographic Information Systems to support the ecosystem approach to fisheries.
FAO Fisheries and AquacultureTechnical Paper; No. 532. Rome, FAO. 2009. 120p.


The ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) has been developed during the last decade in response to perceived and actual deficiencies in previous methods of management. The EAF recognizes that fish are only one albeit important part of a much wider ecosystem incorporating an array of physical and biological components that humans interact with and exploit. Rather than managing single fish stocks, an EAF is concerned with the impacts of fisheries on the marine ecosystem, the interactions between different fisheries, of fisheries with the aquaculture sector, as well as with other human activities. The Geographic Information System (GIS) is considered an ideal platform upon which to perform necessary information manage-ment and decision-support analysis for the implementation of an EAF.


Preparation of this document (Download pdf 438 kb)
List of tables, figures and boxes
Acronyms and abbreviations
Executive summary

1.  Introduction 

2.  What is EAF? (Download pdf 127 kb)

     2.1 Background to EAF
     2.2 Conventional fisheries management and the ecosystem approach
     2.3 Applying EAF, a pragmatic approach      

3.  The current status of GIS in marine fisheries (Download pdf 311 kb)

     3.1 GIS as a tool
     3.2 A brief history of GIS technology and developments
     3.3 The main functionalities of GIS
     3.4 Use of GIS in marine fisheries
     3.5 Case studies of GIS applications to fishery-based topics
          3.5.1 In search of the optimum time to release juvenile chum salmon into the coastal waters of northern Japan
          3.5.2 Identification of the essential fish habitat for small pelagic species in Spanish Mediterranean waters
          3.5.3 Development of a GIS for the marine resources of Rodrigues Island
          3.5.4 The influence of closed areas on fishing effort in the Gulf of Maine
     3.6 Conclusions

4.  The role for GIS in support of EAF implementation (Download pdf 881 kb)

     4.1 Introduction
     4.2. Mapping in EAF with GIS
          4.2.1 Ecoregions
          4.2.2 Species
          4.2.3 Habitats
          4.2.4 Human activities
          4.2.5 Indicators
          4.2.6 Management regulations
     4.3 Modelling in EAF with GIS
          4.3.1 Spatial stock assessments
          4.3.2 Ecosystem interactions
          4.3.3 MPA placement and design
          4.3.4 Fishing vessel movement and behaviour
     4.4 Management in EAF with GIS
          4.4.1 Integrated marine management and planning
          4.4.2 Monitoring and enforcement
     4.5 Communication in EAF with GIS
     4.6 Conclusions

5.  Case studies to illustrate ways to integrate GIS into EAF (Download pdf 270 kb)

     5.1 Introduction
     5.2 Ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem of southern Africa
     5.3 The Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Ocean Management Plan in Canadian Atlantic waters
     5.4 Channel Habitat Atlas for Resource Management (CHARM) in the eastern English Channel
     5.5 Conclusions

6.  Implementing GIS for EAF (Download pdf 389 kb)

     6.1 Introduction and underlying assumptions
     6.2 The scope of GIS and user requirements
          6.2.1 The objectives and scope of GIS in support of the EAF implementation framework
          6.2.2 Strengthening the use of GIS for EAF implementation
     6.3 Capacity building to enable GIS use
          6.3.1 GIS configuration and system architecture
          6.3.2 GIS software
          6.3.3 Data for GIS
          6.3.4 Support for the use of GIS
     6.4 Challenges to the use of GIS in marine ecosystems
     6.5 Conclusions

7.  Conclusions and recommendations (Download pdf 434 kb)



Annex: Major fisheries and marine data providers on the Internet