The Ghost of Ocean Management Past

By March 17, 2011 September 16th, 2011 Ocean News

Continuing on with this weeks theme of Ocean Management, I will be discussing the major method of how the Oceans were managed in the past. Actually, in some countries, this type of management is still used in some form. I am talking about Single Species Management. This management scheme worked to monitor important species related mostly to commercially or recreationally important fish species, but also included marine mammals, seabirds, and sea turtles. In essence, governments would managed the species that were either important for economics, i.e. fishing industry, or important to people because they were culturally important and many people were emotionally connected to them. The theory behind the management strategy was by protecting only the important (important to humans) species it would ensure the persistence of that species. Well, as some of you know, this management scheme did not workout so well.

In the early 1990s, the Canadian government halted fishing of cod species as the numbers were critically low and fishing vessels just weren’t catching anymore cod. The closure devastated the entire East Coast fishing industry that had been established an running for hundreds of years. Other fished species around the world were announced to be collapsing and the subsequent closure devastated those countries as well. Fishermen were forced to change industries while they waited for their prize fish populations to return to previous numbers.

Cod stocks are still far from back to normal. There is some cod fishing allowed in parts of the Atlantic Coast, but not much. Why didn’t the cod come back? Well, when you target particular species year after year, decade after decade, until they are nearly extinct then you have just changed part of the ecosystem. When one species leave a habitat for whatever the reason, other species prosper. Most of the time it is the prey that will prosper. The Atlantic lobster prospered in the Atlantic as its population rose substantially and it has become a very important commercial fishery. However, we must be careful. Fishing lobster in the same manner will cause them to go become nearly extinct. It’s a term called Fishing Down the Foodchain and it can cause serious problems in the marine environment.

In order to protect the marine environment effectively, we must first protect the entire habitat. Why? Species will stay or survive in a habitat that is intact and not damaged by trawling equipment or water pollution or habitat destruction due to development. Protecting the habitat ensures the survival of important species such as commercially and recreationally important species; whales, dolphins, and seals; sea turtles; biodiversity; and species that may contribute to medical cures for serious illnesses.


I will talk about habitat management in tomorrow’s post so stay tuned.

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