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The California Current: Ecosystem-based Management

Jennifer Martin


Gulf of the Farallones marine environment. PRBO photo by Ben Saenz.
For generations, people have viewed the ocean as a vast resource whose resiliency and ability to provide for our needs knew no limit. Scientists, managers, resource users, and a growing number of citizens now recognize that not only are the ocean's resources limited, they're in peril. Ensuring our ability to derive, in the future, the goods and services we depend upon requires that we change our practices.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of the lead federal agencies responsible for ocean resource management, has adopted as its number one goal to "protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through an ecosystem approach to management." To accomplish this goal, the agency needs scientific information about the species, communities, and natural processes that shape ocean ecosystems. And they will need to apply that information in order to ensure sustainable use of resources for future generations.

It is not just federal agencies like NOAA that are looking to an ecosystem-based approach to resource management; state governments are, as well. Recently, the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California signed an historic accord declar-ing their commitment to work together to protect the ocean's health. These states are working jointly to develop a strategic plan that calls for an ecosystem approach to resource management.

As NOAA and other federal, state, and local resource managers develop scientific information and new tools to implement such a management approach, it is critical that the people who use, enjoy, and make their living from the ocean are not only informed but involved in the process. Government agencies across the country and internationally have acknowledged the need to engage and collaborate with partners.

In addition to collecting data on key food web interactions to inform ecosystem-based management, PRBO is facilitating the creation of a coalition of marine stakeholders who are interested in working together to improve conservation and management actions within the California Current. The coalition will pursue projects that increase the knowledge needed for ecosystem-based management and demonstrate its practical implementation. In building partnerships among stakeholders with diverse interests, knowledge, and experiences, we can develop more durable, effective solutions to today's complex ocean resource management challenges.