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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


May 2007

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Solving the Crisis in Ocean Governance: Place-Based Management of Marine Ecosystems

There is growing awareness that the escalating crisis in marine ecosystems—from biodiversity losses and transformed food webs to marine pollution and warming waters—is in large part a failure of governance.1 Problems arise from fragmentation in the governance systems used to manage specific human uses of marine resources, together with spatial and temporal mismatches between biophysical systems and the rights, rules, and decisionmaking procedures created to manage human interactions with these systems.2 Many scientists have advocated reforms centered on the idea of ecosystem-based management (EBM).3 To date, however, a politically and administratively feasible method for translating this attractive concept into an operational management practice has not emerged. A practical way to solve this problem features place-based management—a strategy that calls for integrated management of the full suite of human activities occurring in spatially demarcated areas identified through a procedure that takes into account biophysical, socioeconomic, and jurisdictional considerations.

1. L. B. Crowder et al., “Resolving Mismatches in U.S. Ocean Governance,” Science 313, no. 5787 (4 August 2006): 617–18; Pew Oceans Commission, America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change (Arlington, VA: Pew Oceans Commission, 2003), (accessed 3 April 2007); U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP), An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, Final Report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to the President and Congress (Washington, DC, 2004), accessible via (accessed 3 April 2007); and S. J. Hall, “U.S. Ocean Policy: A Blueprint for the Future,” Environment 47, no. 2 (March 2005): 41–43.
2. Crowder et al., ibid.
3. K. L. McLeod, J. Lubchenco, S. Palumbi, and A. A. Rosenberg, Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS), 2005); Crowder, et al., note 1; Pew Ocean Commission, note 1 ; USCOP, note 1 , and Hall, note 1.

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