Our ocean’s health is critical to all life on the planet, as well as to our economic and physical well-being. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is particularly important because it supports one of the world's most diverse and productive marine ecosystems. MBNMS is affected by many human activities that are actively managed by local, state, and federal agencies to reduce risks posed by pollution, resource extraction and habitat degradation. While specific agencies often concentrate on single issues or resources, protecting the ecosystem as a whole requires an integrated approach.
The Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) Initiative builds on current management efforts by focusing on the interconnections among all the physical and biological features of the marine environment, as well as on the interactions among the various resource users and managers. Rather than targeting species, sectors or activities individually, this initiative will consider ecosystem services, structure and function, while identifying ways to increase compatibility among the many uses and protection efforts. Working collaboratively with partner agencies and stakeholders will allow for a more coordinated and proactive approach to improve ecosystem health.
MBNMS EBM Initiative Goal
Enhance ecosystem-based management in MBNMS by applying the best available science and integrating and coordinating with partner agencies.
MBNMS EBM Initiative Objectives
Ecosystem-based management is an integrated approach to management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans. The goal of ecosystem-based management is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need. Ecosystem-based management differs from current approaches that usually focus on a single species, sector, activity or concern by considering the cumulative impacts of different sectors.
Specifically, ecosystem-based management:
Since well before the sanctuary’s designation in 1992 and continuing today, multiple agencies with different priorities and jurisdictions have managed human activities using a variety of resource management regulations (see Figure 1). Often these regulatory actions have resulted in a piecemeal or uncoordinated approach to sanctuary management and protection.
The MBNMS Ecosystem-based Management Initiative takes a holistic and comprehensive ecosystem-based approach to management, in step with a NOAA-wide effort to move towards multi-sector, multi-objective management rather than single sector, single-objective management. The EBM Initiative process will develop recommendations to maintain healthy and resilient coastal and marine resources while allowing for multiple sustainable uses for the benefit of present and future generations.
Linking to National Ocean Policy – The Pew Oceans Commission, U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and Joint Ocean Commission Initiative have called for the U.S. to adopt ecosystem-based management as part of a new era of a national ocean policy. In July 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order adopting the recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, since its designation 18 years ago, has applied many EBM principles (in alignment with the National Marine Sanctuaries Act) to design and implement its management plan, involving diverse stakeholders. MBNMS staff also provided important support and experience helping to establish the Marine Life Protection Act’s central coast network. The MBNMS EBM Initiative will build upon this experience to help advance the implementation of national ocean policy, and balance multiple marine uses while protecting ecosystem health and services within sanctuary waters.
Strategies for Implementation
The EBM initiative will follow an adaptive management cycle involving the following steps:
These three steps will be followed over a multi-year process. Stakeholders have been and will continue to provide input and generate creative solutions related to the four objectives for consideration by the sanctuary. MBNMS staff also continues to work closely with partner agencies to better integrate this information into existing planning processes, and inform management decisions affecting the sanctuary. A key informational piece for the EBM Initiative is NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) of the California Current Ecosystem, led by NOAA Fisheries, focusing specifically on MBNMS. IEAs provide integrative science support by synthesizing and analyzing information across a wide range of ecological, environmental and human factors. NOAA’s IEA has provided status reports on ecosystem health and evaluated the effects of current management strategies. The IEA may also eventually help inform potential decisions by considering the trade-offs between different management strategies.
MBNMS will work closely with management agencies operating within the sanctuary and with stakeholders and interested parties to propose and implement various strategies to achieve the EBM Initiative objectives.
Citations for EBM definition used in this process: