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Sustainable use of our seas needs an integrated view of humans and nature

Food from fisheries, trade and transport through shipping, income from tourism and recreation we rely on our seas. Managing this rich resource is a challenge that calls for reframing humans as integral parts of marine ecosystems, say scientists from three of Europe's leading marine organisations in a new report launching during EU Maritime Day 2010.

The Marine Board-European Science Foundation (ESF), the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the European Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Organisation (EFARO) have pooled their expertise for the first time, bringing insights from marine science, fisheries, socio-economics and policy.

Together, they call for a clearer view of links between changes in ecosystems, human use and human well-being. Such understanding could prevent and ideally anticipate crises such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as improving long-term, sustainable and integrated management of marine living resources such as fish.

The report "Science dimensions of an Ecosystem Approach to Management of Biotic Ocean Resources" offers independent scientific input to current policy discussions about the marine environment such as the new EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Within the European Integrated Maritime Policy, the Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of all European seas by 2020. To maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive and resilient condition, the Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM) concept considers the entire ecosystem in an integrated way, bringing in natural sciences, socio-economics and governance, whereas conventional approaches have focused on a single species, activity or concern. The report provides the scientific knowledge to build up and bring EAM to fruition.

"An Ecosystem Approach to Management is proactive and pragmatic. It also represents a vast challenge. Mutual understanding, trust and confidence must develop across a broad range of groups, from scientists through to industry," said Andrew Kenny, who presents the report at EU Maritime Day. "Science can be an overlooked source of expertise yet it is absolutely essential for evidence-based policies. Critically, we need to adapt and develop the crossover among and between scientists and policy makers so that together, we can work towards an integrated view of the marine environment and how to best manage it."

EAM will enable sustainable development, supporting environmental protection, social equity and cohesion and economic prosperity. Science support is critical to underpin and implement the EAM of ocean resources in the context of climate change. The report "Science dimensions of an Ecosystem Approach to Management of Biotic Ocean Resources" details priority recommendations and can be downloaded from


Contact: Chloe Kembery
European Science Foundation

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