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Implementing ecosystem-based management: evolution or revolution?


  • Ghoti papers
    Ghoti aims to serve as a forum for stimulating and pertinent ideas. Ghoti publishes succinct commentary and opinion that addresses important areas in fish and fisheries science. Ghoti contributions will be innovative and have a perspective that may lead to fresh and productive insight of concepts, issues and research agendas. All Ghoti contributions will be selected by the editors and peer reviewed.
    Etymology of Ghoti
    George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), polymath, playwright, Nobel prize winner, and the most prolific letter writer in history, was an advocate of English spelling reform. He was reportedly fond of pointing out its absurdities by proving that ‘fish’ could be spelt ‘ghoti’. That is: ‘gh’ as in ‘rough’, ‘o’ as in ‘women’ and ‘ti’ as in palatial.

Fikret Berkes, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, 70 Dysart Road, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3T 2N2
Tel.: (204) 474-6731
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As a dominant paradigm, ecosystem-based fisheries have to come to terms with uncertainty and complexity, an interdisciplinary visioning of management objectives, and putting humans back into the ecosystem. The goal of this article is to suggest that implementing ecosystem-based management (EBM) has to be ‘revolutionary’ in the sense of going beyond conventional practices. It would require the use of multiple disciplines and multiple objectives, dealing with technically unresolvable management problems of complex adaptive systems and expanding scope from management to governance. Developing the governance toolbox would require expanding into new kinds of interaction unforeseen by the mid-twentieth-century fathers of fishery science – governance that may involve cooperative, multilevel management, partnerships, social learning and knowledge co-production. In addition to incorporating relatively well-known resilience, adaptive management and co-management approaches, taking EBM to the next stage may include some of the following: conceptualizing EBM as a ‘wicked problem’; conceptualizing fisheries as social-ecological systems; picking and choosing from an assortment of new governance approaches; and finding creative ways to handle complexity.