Ecosystem Management Plan Prerequisites*
The following questions need to be answered before ecosystem management is possible:
- What are the key species and ecologically valuable species in each habitat and ecosystem?
- What are the spatial distributions and population sizes of these species?
- What are the life history characteristics of these species? Migration patterns, if any?
- What are their functions/roles in the ecosystem?
- Have the interactions between species been established?
- What is the dominate group and has this group remained dominant over time? If not, what caused the change?
- Are certain life stages or certain species particularly susceptible to environmental change or man-made impacts?
- Has habitat or habitat complexity changed over time?
- Has biodiversity changed over time?
- What are the predator/prey and habitat limitations?
- What trophic interactions dominate habitat choice, survivability, and abundance among different species?
- Have there been any observed changes in fish, benthic, and/or algal communities and their habitat that can be attributed to fishing or fishing gear?
- Has recruitment changed over time?
- Has the productivity of key species and ecosystems changed over time?
- Is there any evidence of long-term regime shifts?
- Are there certain spawning, nursery or feeding grounds that merit protection?
While it is understood that government agencies may never have sufficient funds or manpower to answer all of these questions, the lack of knowledge should trigger the application of the precautionary approach to management actions.
* This list is a shortened and modified version of that included in Link, Jason S. 2002. Ecological Considerations in Fisheries Management: When Does It Matter? Fisheries 27(4):10-17. See also Jason S. Links fisheries management essay: What Does Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management Mean? Fisheries 27(4): 18-21.