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This desk review of relevant aspects of an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) was specifically prepared to facilitate the work of the FAO Technical Consultation on the Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management held in Reykjavik (Iceland) from 16 to 19 September 2002. It was intended to be used as background material and source of definitions and references for the EAF guidelines to be elaborated at the meeting. A much shorter version was presented at the Symposium on Marine Fisheries, Ecosystems, and Societies in West Africa: Half a Century of Change, held in Dakar (Senegal) from 26 to 28 June 2002. The draft received comments and additional inputs during and after the meeting from many participants, particularly Drs D. Staples and K. Cochrane.


All FAO Members and Associate Members
Interested Nations and International Organizations
FAO Fisheries Department
FAO Fishery Officers in FAO Regional Offices
Interested Non-governmental Organizations


Garcia, S.M.; Zerbi, A.; Aliaume, C.; Do Chi, T.; Lasserre, G.
The ecosystem approach to fisheries. Issues, terminology, principles, institutional foundations, implementation and outlook.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 443. Rome, FAO. 2003. 71 p.

Ecosystems are complex and dynamic natural units that produce goods and services beyond those of benefit to fisheries. Because fisheries have a direct impact on the ecosystem, which is also impacted by other human activities, they need to be managed in an ecosystem context. The meaning of the terms "ecosystem management", "ecosystem-based management", "ecosystem approach to fisheries" (EAF), etc., are still not universally defined and progressively evolving. The justification of EAF is evident in the characteristics of an exploited ecosystem and the impacts resulting from fisheries and other activities. The rich set of international agreements of relevance to EAF contains a large number of principles and conceptual objectives. Both provide a fundamental guidance and a significant challenge for the implementation of EAF. The available international instruments also provide the institutional foundations for EAF. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is particularly important in this respect and contains provisions for practically all aspects of the approach. One major difficulty in defining EAF lies precisely in turning the available concepts and principles into operational objectives from which an EAF management plan would more easily be developed. The paper discusses these together with the types of action needed to achieve them. Experience in EAF implementation is still limited but some issues are already apparent,e.g. in added complexity, insufficient capacity, slow implementation, need for a pragmatic approach, etc. It is argued, in conclusion, that the future of EAF and fisheries depends on the way in which the two fundamental concepts of fisheries management and ecosystem management, and their respective stakeholders, will join efforts or collide.

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