As a dynamic and diverse ecosystem, the Gulf of Mexico requires management that goes beyond looking at one species at a time. All of the species living in and utilizing the Gulf interact with one another in some way; a management plan needs to reflect these across-species interactions. One way to do this is by using an ecosystem management plan such as a fishery ecosystem plan (FEP). An FEP is a comprehensive guide that helps to identify, track and address current and potential situations and threats that an ecosystem may face. Here are 5 of the most important reasons why the Gulf needs an ecosystem management plan.
- For starters, focusing on each species individually and managing them as separate entities suggests their effect on each other is not worth considering. An FEP would take into account the interspecies interactions and be able to provide suggestions and guidelines based on all the inhabitants of the Gulf. Furthermore, an FEP would acknowledge the role that humans play in the greater Gulf ecosystem.
- An FEP would cover both human and nonhuman threats to the Gulf of Mexico. Things like severe weather, oil spills, red tides or changes in pollution levels would all be accounted for under and FEP. It would act as a one stop shop for anyone affected by the Gulf environment.
- Building off of reason 2, an FEP would not only account for all types of threats and situations, it would also offer guidance on what to do in those situations. Using trends from the past, the FEP would help fishery managers plan ahead and be prepared for emergency and non-emergency situations.
- Using a comprehensive management plan would not only be beneficial for the wildlife of the Gulf, but also for fishers, restaurant owners and consumers. A larger profit would come if there is scientific backing to promote a longer fishing season.
- Finally, and most importantly, everyone benefits from a healthy Gulf. A management plan would help the Gulf stay healthy not just in the near future, but for many years to come. When the Gulf is healthy, it is a resource everyone can benefit from.
With no comprehensive management of the Gulf, we risk overfishing and unpreparedness in disaster situations. For more information regarding an ecosystem management plan, the Gulf Council will be presenting an update on developing a plan at their virtual quarterly meeting on Thursday, August 27.
This blog was written by Julia Lingelbach, Healthy Gulf’s Gulf Fish Forever intern.