Fishery Ecosystem Plans
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council developed Fishery Ecosystem Plan II as a mechanism, in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries, to incorporate ecosystem principles, goals, and policies into the fishery management process. Fishery ecosystem plans are developed to provide the Council with a clear description and understanding of the fundamental physical, biological, and human/institutional context of ecosystems within which fisheries are managed. The plan also identifies information needed and how that information should be used in the context of fishery management plans. Council policies developed through the process support data collection, model and supporting tool development and implementation of Fishery Ecosystem Plan II. FEP II and the developing implementation plan will provide a metric for determining the incorporation of ecosystem considerations into the management process.
Habitat Conservation and Fishery Ecosystem Plan
The Council, viewing habitat conservation as the foundation in the move to ecosystem based fishery management in the region, facilitated the evolution of the Habitat Plan into the first Fishery Ecosystem Plan. This approach required a greater understanding of the South Atlantic ecosystem and the complex relationships among humans, marine life, and the environment including essential fish habitat. To support this move, the Council adopted broad goals for Ecosystem Based Fishery Management including: maintaining or improving ecosystem structure and function; maintaining or improving economic, social, and cultural benefits from resources; and maintaining or improving biological, economic, and cultural diversity. The original Fishery Ecosystem Plan served as a source document describing the South Atlantic ecosystem and the impact of fisheries on the environment.
Fishery Ecosystem Plan II Development
Fishery Ecosystem Plan II was developed employing writing and review teams established from the Council’s Habitat Protection and Ecosystem Based Management Advisory Panel, and experts from state, Federal, NGOs, academia and other regional organizations and associations. Fishery Ecosystem Plan II, unlike the original Plan, is a living continually developing online information system presenting core Sections and Sections with links to documents or other online systems presenting detailed updated information on species, habitat, fisheries and research. The Plan for example, provides both concise summaries of Council Managed Species while operationalizing the South Atlantic Ecospecies online species information system cooperatively developed with FWRI, to provide online access to detailed information on habitat, life history, the fishery and management. This more concise and focused Fishery Ecosystem Plan II also addresses key new issue areas including highlighting our understanding of the complexity and connectivity of South Atlantic food webs and the implications of climate variability and fisheries as the basis for further policy development, consideration in habitat and fish stock assessment and future management of fisheries and habitat supporting more a more comprehensive view of conservation and management in the South Atlantic and the ability to identify long-term information needs available models, tools and capabilities that will advance the move to ecosystem based fishery management in the Region.