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Ocean Ecosystem Management (OEM) Project

Ocean Ecosystem Management (OEM) is a component project of Discovery 2010: integrating Southern Ocean ecosystems into the Earth System science research programme, part of the British Antarctic Survey research strategy Global Science in an Antarctic Context (GSAC) 2005–2009

The Challenge

Maintaining long-term food security in a changing environment is one of the greatest challenges to the sustainable exploitation of the Earth System, including its oceans. The well publicised collapses of commercial fish stocks are one of the most striking examples of the failure to manage natural resources sustainably. All harvesting, however well managed, will have an effect on the ecosystems that support those fish populations. Nevertheless, these effects have had little influence on traditional approaches to managing fisheries. A recognition of the wider consequences of harvesting on the different components of the ecosystem lies at the heart of the scientific and political initiatives to implement ecosystem-based approaches to the management of fisheries.


The development and successful use of ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management requires a scientific understanding of the fundamental ecosystem processes affected by harvesting and the scales over which these interactions operate. The OEM project will use the Southern Ocean as a model to address two primary objectives that have direct relevance to the global implementation of ecosystem approaches to the management of fisheries.

  • The determination of the analytical procedures and feedback mechanisms required to incorporate the results from long-term monitoring of the exploited ecosystem into management processes, and
  • The development of a methodology for the implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management at the space and time scales appropriate to the operation of the ecosystem and the fishery.

Relevance to Global Science

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) incorporates the ecosystem approach to the management of Antarctic fisheries in its Convention that came into force in 1982. Since that time the general concept of ecosystem approaches to fisheries has gained increased recognition such that the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 suggested that it should be implemented in global fisheries by 2010. Recently there has been a great deal of emphasis placed on the implementation of such approaches with respect to UK/EU fisheries, with NERC identified as one of the bodies that should be involved in providing the scientific basis.


Delivering the Results

The primary role of the OEM project will be to integrate scientific output from the other DISCOVERY 2010 projects, particularly FOODWEBS and FLEXICON, in the most policy-relevant form including options for how that science can be made operational in a fisheries management context. By delivering this science this Project will deliver national capability in respect of UK input to fisheries management, especially through CCAMLR, and will deliver international scientific leadership in the field of sustainable resource management both in the Southern Ocean and Domestic/EU fisheries.


Key OEM Team Members: