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PUBLISHED: 
17 Jun 2019

Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health and Stressors in the North Atlantic Ocean Vision Document now available

At a recent workshop (April 2019), the AORA Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health and Stressors Working Group met to finalise their vision and roadmap for an international science plan on research directions, priorities, synergies, and complementarities in the North Atlantic. The report is now available and synthesizes findings, presenting main messages and recommendations.

AORA EA2OHS Meeting in Mallorca, Spain

The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Working Group on the Ecosystem Approach to Ocean Health and Stressors (AORA EA2OHS) is a trilateral working group (CA/EU/US) formed to promote research to understand the North Atlantic Ocean in support of ecosystem-based management. Recognizing that the Atlantic Ocean is a shared resource and responsibility, the AORA EA2OHS has worked over the past three years to advance understanding of the Atlantic Ocean and its dynamic systems to:

  • Improve ocean health
  • Enhance ocean stewardship
  • Promote the sustainable use and management of its resources

At a recent workshop (April 2019), the working group met to finalise their vision and roadmap for an international science plan on research directions, priorities, synergies, and complementarities in the North Atlantic. The report is now available and synthesizes findings, presenting main messages and recommendations. This document is available here.

The management of marine ecosystems is transitioning towards implementation of ecosystem-based management (EBM), which offers a more systematic and integrated approach compared with conventional management. Science informs ecosystem-based management, which includes key elements such as connections and linkages between and within ecosystems, as well as with social and economic systems.

The roadmap to the vision developed to address challenges identified for further implementation of ecosystem-based management. The eight-step plan covered development of common language as a basis for collaboration, stakeholder engagement, review of governance mandates, linking sector and ecosystems effects, identifying gaps in knowledge and uptake of science, identification of tools for EBM, and communication of key research priorities. The EA2OHS ultimately developed five main messages.

  1. Ecosystem-based management enables new benefits and opportunities; make the business case
  2. Yes, we can! Adequate mandates and effective tools exist for ecosystem-based
    management
  3.  Integration of human dimensions is essential for ecosystem-based management;
    diversify the conversation
  4. Stakeholders don’t see their stake (in ecosystem-based management); engage and target ocean literacy to professionals
  5. A sustainable future requires a sustained investment in ecosystem-based  management; commitment is key

These messages point to seven main recommendations, both to AORA and to the scientific community at-large.

1. Establish a multilateral evaluation group to track progress of ecosystem-based management

2. Emphasize calls for future research on social ecological systems that address:

a. Cumulative effects

b. Functioning and connectivity of systems

c.  Ecosystem goods and services

d. Synthesis of empirical evidence with societal values for trade-off analysis

e. Implementation of cross-sectoral tools for ecosystem-based management advice

3. Establish a durable mechanism for sustained engagement and capacity building for stakeholders, scientists, and managers

4. Establish a workshop and working group to further examine stressors across sectors

a. A workshop to validate linkages between stressors-pressures and sectors-ecosystem components

b. A future working group to explore the cross-sectoral use of thresholds/reference points within existing ecosystem-based management tools

5. Align funding mechanisms and timing from a project-based approach to a more coordinated and sustained programmatic approach for ecosystem-based management, across all three Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation jurisdictions

6. Reframe ecosystem-based management to highlight benefits with a workshop to explore and evaluate the business case

7. Analyze barriers to implementation of ecosystem-based management

With funding from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme, work package 4 of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action helped facilitate the work of the group. Work has focused on preparing the vision/science plan on research directions, priorities, synergies, and complementarities.