Marine ecosystem management: Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?
The emergence over the last 20 years of a paradigm for ecosystem management parallels recognition of the necessity for holistic approaches to controlling human use of natural resources. Like most paradigm shifts, the move towards an ecosystem management regime is driven by necessity born of the failings of existing regimes, and runs the risk of uncritical acceptance at the expense of established paradigms.1 Theory and practice have not always been well linked, and at present the conceptual development exceeds implementation in most arenas. If we accept a simple deﬁnition of ecosystem management as “. . . the manipulation of the ecosystem by man,”2 it is clear that we have been managing terrestrial ecosystems at least since the use of fire by Aboriginal peoples to direct forest productivity, and continue to do so in restricted ecosystems through the practices of agriculture and aquaculture. Only recently, however, has the approach infiltrated the highly sectoral governance structures of the over-developed nations as a formal management process for the use of ocean space and marine resources.3 The knowledge and tools required for ecosystem management in the marine environment are less available, and the concepts and applications less well developed than those on land. The opacity, remoteness, complexity and connectivity of marine ecosystems make integrated management a pragmatic necessity and a serious conceptual and logistic challenge. Agencies responsible for marine management in both Australia and Canada are adopting ecosystem-based approaches with varying degrees of commitment and success.