Ecosystem-based management commonly involves "scaling up" from how other management practices have typically worked:

From single-species fisheries management to management of multi-species assemblages;
From looking at isolated drivers of change to considering all environmental and human impacts;
From design of individual protected areas to planning MPA networks; and
From conservation of a fragment of habitat to comprehensive spatial management.

This process of scaling up, and assuring harmony between scales of management, presents an array of challenges. In this issue of MEAM, we discuss issues of scaling in marine management, and focus on examples of how disconnects between scales have been overcome.

Planning often occurs at larger scales than management or conservation interventions. The end result can be that management on the ground is more ad hoc than the idealized scenarios or "management dreams" of regional planners. EBM often runs into trouble when attempts to establish regulations, design research, conduct monitoring and enforcement, or forge international agreements are planned with the big picture in mind but fail during on-site execution. Sometimes top-down governance operates unaware of what is actually happening with more bottom-up management. Even worse is when planners and managers at various scales have clashing interests or employ conflicting methods to achieve management. To progress toward larger-scale, more-holistic EBM, all the parts of management should work in harmony, moving in the same general direction.

In the previous issue of MEAM, we presented a case study of the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Project (SWIOFP) as a salient example of EBM. We return to Africa in this issue of MEAM, focusing on the different approaches to meeting challenges of scale that have been embraced in two places: by MPA network planners in West Africa and by a national effort to institute EBM in the United Republic of Tanzania. We contrast these with other cross-scale EBM efforts elsewhere in the world.

What are the critical disconnects between scales?

If it is true that all politics is local, it is most assuredly not the case that all policies are accepted by locals. So the thorniest issue of scaling in EBM concerns how one can avoid having the best-laid plans for EBM falter when management is actually applied. A key question becomes:

How can users of marine resources, and the entities that make decisions concerning uses, be guided to tailor management that not only solves local problems but results in better, more effective management of entire ecosystems or regions? And who steers this ship?

Kimberly Heiman and Dean Wendt have been working on both theoretical and practical aspects of EBM in North America. Heiman is EBM science coordinator for COMPASS (, a collaborative effort to advance and communicate marine conservation science, and Wendt is a biologist at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo. They address the issue of scale in an article they submitted to MEAM, "Connecting the many scales of marine EBM", available here. In the article, Heiman and Wendt write of the need to develop flexible, responsive management structures. These structures link local management, scientific understanding, and stakeholder interests to regional and national management while maintaining the ability to respond rapidly and endure for decades.

"Local scales are where people connect with ecosystems," write Heiman and Wendt. "It is where people 'feel' the effect of management. Thus, EBM must have a presence at local scales. Indeed, local-scale EBM is often a bottom-up (stakeholder-driven) effort to create a forum for communication among management agencies, scientists, and the community. Such programs focus on finding solutions to local issues and better managing resources in a particular location. The conundrum is that place-based efforts usually do not have legal authority to change management regulations. Moreover, smaller scales are necessarily impacted by ecological and political events occurring at larger scales. If small-scale efforts are to be effective, they must connect to larger-scale activities."

Heiman and Wendt address the policy/governance issues of scales as well, suggesting that large EBM efforts tend to be top-down policy efforts. "However," they write, "these policy efforts are often without a roadmap for how to implement EBM at small scales, leaving local managers wondering how to interpret policy language or find resources to realize needed changes. There is a disconnect between these two efforts because governance structures are not built to connect different sectors of human uses or able to integrate between large and small efforts. Thus a 'marine EBM paradox' exists that can only be resolved if EBM efforts integrate their activities across scales."

In 2005, a theme section on the politics of EBM in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series made a similar assessment of the disconnect between scales that often occurs in the development of MPA networks. (The journal section is available for free at Scroll down to "Theme section".) But demonstrating that disconnects can and do occur does not further EBM. Fixing those disconnects does. We thus highlight practical examples of overcoming scaling challenges.

Scaling up from MPAs: West African Regional MPA Network

Our look at practical examples of linking scales begins in West Africa, where EBM at the scale of a large marine ecosystem (LME) is being built on the foundation of a regional MPA network – see the case study on p. 4 for details. The West African Regional MPA Network (RAMPAO) was created in April 2007 and currently includes 15 MPAs, spread among the countries of Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. According to Charlotte Karibuhoye, MPA program coordinator for Fondation Internationale du Banc d'Arguin, the aim of the network is to ensure, at the scale of the West African marine eco-region, the maintenance of a coherent set of critical habitats. "These habitats are needed for the dynamic functioning of ecological processes, which in turn are necessary for the regeneration of natural resources and conservation of biodiversity for the benefit of society," says Karibuhoye.

EBM in the region is embodied in the Regional Strategy for Marine Protected Areas in West Africa, which states that developing effective conservation "hinges on bringing together local, national and regional strengths." The Strategy (available online at explicitly takes on the issue of scale by stating how RAMPAO addresses conservation and management at multiple levels. It states, "Clearly, the sustainability of conservation measures depends both on the effectiveness of on-site management and on the support provided by national-level guidelines, policies and legislation. It is at the national level that a country's environmental priorities are established, and it is at this level that conflicts at the local level may find resolution."

Scaling up while also scaling down: Tanzania

Thus the regional effort in West Africa aims to achieve EBM by starting with the establishment of an MPA network, through cooperation between the seven countries in the region. In contrast, the United Republic of Tanzania is moving toward an ecosystem approach by simultaneously scaling up from local initiatives, and scaling down from national governance. The core pieces that allow the forging of connections include national coastal zone planning, a new fisheries management act, a nascent MPA network initiative, and a sustainable development/poverty-alleviation strategy. All these broad-scale initiatives have explicit links to management at the community or site level. And the marine management efforts in Tanzania span temporal scales as well. The new marine initiative not only involves looking into the future through planning, but also looks back at the full suite of marine projects undertaken in the past, to derive lessons learned.

In 2005, a report entitled Blueprint 2050 presented a vision for EBM in Tanzania: it was a flexible framework for overall marine management in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, identifying possible priorities for MPA networks, fisheries management, and sustainable development projects. Blueprint 2050 explicitly tackled the question of scale by discussing connectivity, comprehensiveness, and adequacy, and by linking coastal and marine planning to sustainable financing and alternative livelihood projects at the community level. The presentation of this vision, in plain terms and in a storytelling format, has garnered understanding and support for EBM at the national level.

There have been significant new developments in Tanzania. The Deep Sea Fishing Authority Act Amendments Bill was passed by the Parliament in February 2007. The Amendments incorporated difficult, long-debated but finally-resolved agreements on revenue sharing and other contested issues relating to proceeds from the high-value commercial fisheries of Tanzania's Exclusive Economic Zone. Indu Hewawasam, senior environmental specialist at the World Bank and a co-author of Blueprint 2050, hails this development as a "historic and monumental achievement", and points out that it is in line with a goal of the Tanzania Marine and Coastal Environmental Management Project to establish a common and ecologically sustainable governance regime for offshore fisheries management. One of the Amendments' features is the Marine Legacy Fund. This fund will generate financial support for sustainable development and conservation through revenues from fisheries licensing fees, as well as biodiversity offsets from other sectors such as oil and gas. It complements Tanzania's already existing Coastal Village Fund, which supports alternative livelihood ventures.

As Tanzania's marine management program continues moving forward, it will keep an eye to an even bigger scale: that of the western Indian Ocean. Projects are already underway to explore transboundary cooperative management of coastal and marine areas shared by Kenya to the north and Mozambique to the south. And the country is a key player in larger-scale regional initiatives, including the Southwest Indian Ocean Marine Fisheries Project (described in the last issue of MEAM) and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.

Community-based management with national-level guidance: Philippines

The Philippines demonstrates a different approach entirely. The nation has been heavily invested in community-based management. This is a logical response to the fact that the population is so widely distributed among the far-flung islands of the archipelago, and the fact that traditional social institutions still hold sway in many places. Yet marine and coastal management in the Philippines has grown systematically, with the national government providing technical support to the increasing number of local government and community initiatives spread across the country.

An assessment of marine management in the Philippines by Alan White and Philippine colleagues is featured in the forthcoming book, Integrated Coastal Zone Management. The book documents a stepwise development of integrative policies, between local, regional and national scales. White, a senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy, emphasizes that achieving integration across scales is a learning process, which requires continuous communication between stakeholders, civil society and governmental institutions. According to White, this underlines the need to embed ICZM in a set of measures, which together form a system of coastal and marine governance. "The 'system' of coastal and marine governance has evolved through the development and implementation of a set of ICZM benchmarks around which each coastal municipality/city in the country can organize its coastal and fisheries management programs," he says. "This benchmark system is providing the foundation for each local government to plan and implement coastal and fisheries best practices that are consistent with their neighbors – an essential step on the road to EBM. For instance, in several areas in the Visayas, Philippines, coastal municipalities are forming management councils that are bounded by true 'fisheries ecosystems' that transcend municipal jurisdictions."

White continues: "A common thread among EBM programs that are beginning to work as planned is that the stakeholders affected are involved in planning and at the same time are gaining an improved understanding of what EBM means. In the Philippine case, small-scale fishers working with their local governments have begun to realize that by maintaining habitats, curtailing destructive fishing and limiting effort in nearshore waters, their fish catch stabilizes and increases over time. This translates into an understanding of EBM that encourages sustainability."

Top-down strategic approach: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Finally, we contrast the bottom-up, additive approach of the Philippines with the top-down strategic approach used in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia. The responsible agency, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), has tackled issues of scale since its creation. The fact that the Marine Park is widely considered one of the better working examples of EBM may reflect that it has successfully addressed many of the scaling problems touched upon in this issue of MEAM.

GBRMPA operates on a very large physical scale: the Marine Park is about the size of Japan and is bigger than many of the countries in the EU. Yet the management regime is fine-tuned to reflect the complex range of related and interconnected habitat types, represented by 70 bioregions, that collectively make up the broader region. Zoning is only one of many spatial management tools used. Other tools include statutory plans of management over high-use areas, permits, site plans, and temporal closures.

Jon Day, one of the directors at GBRMPA, says, "While the Marine Park is largely confined to the 'wet' bits, the integrated management approach extends well outside those areas to include all the islands, all the tidal lands/tidal waters, and even some activities in the catchments." Legislation since 1975 effectively incorporates an ecosystem approach for GBRMPA, and allows for regulatory controls on activities well outside the jurisdictional area. For example, regulations were introduced controlling aquaculture – fish ponds – up to 5 km landward. (Although the State of Queensland oversees regulation of that industry, the Australian Government – represented by GBRMPA – requires audits to confirm that Queensland law has delivered adequate protection for the Marine Park.)

Over the last 30 years, management has evolved and adapted, and despite the jurisdictional complexities, continues to be well-integrated. The national and state-level management efforts are in harmony largely due to complementary legislation for adjacent state and federal waters. According to Day, "There is very good cooperation between government and most sectors, especially the tourism industry."


A June 2007 workshop in Colombia reviewed Latin American initiatives that have adopted the ecosystem approach. In an English summary of this workshop (available here), Angela Andrade Pérez of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management writes, "As a strategy endorsed at global level by the Convention on Biological Diversity, there is only one Ecosystem Approach. When it comes to implementation, however, the Ecosystem Approach can be applied in many different ways, all consistent with the strategy. The application of the Ecosystem Approach should reflect, and be tailored to, the different ecological, social and political situations in a specific geographic area."

Likewise, a diversity of approaches to ensure that management at all scales is coordinated or harmonized suggests that there is no formula for overcoming disconnects. Why some regions adopt one approach while others adopt different approaches, starting points, or tools may have much to do with the physical lay of the land and corresponding laws or jurisdictions: EBM in more-bounded ecosystems can be more top-down, while EBM in widespread and less-bounded ecosystems may necessarily have to be more decentralized. Another important factor is of course the human/social dimension – which is, after all, what EBM is all about. Countries with a history of centralized government and government-dominated governance exhibit a different way of coordinating management from cultures in which governance extends to other, non-governmental institutions. And finally, the scale of the "E" in EBM makes a huge difference, such that the larger the geographic and sectoral scales, the greater the need for a hierarchical or integrated strategy to maintain linkages between scales.

Clearly a critical step in being able to practice effective EBM is to recognize disconnects, anticipate them in planning, and take necessary measures to promote awareness, understanding, and cooperation. Subsequently, wherever EBM is taking place, linkages are forged in a delicate interplay between top-down and bottom-up planning, management, and governance.

For more information:

Kimberly Heiman, COMPASS, Oregon State University, 3029 Cordley Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, U.S. Tel: +541 737 9982; E-mail:

Dean Wendt, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, U.S. Tel: +1 805 756 2988; E-mail:

Charlotte Karibuhoye, Fondation Internationale du Banc d'Arguin (FIBA), c/o UICN – BP 3215, Avenue Bourguiba x Castors, Dakar, Sénégal. Tel: +221 33 869 02 88/ 77 570 51 71; E-mail:

Indu Hewawasam, Environment and Natural Resources Management, Africa Region, World Bank, Washington, DC 20043, U.S. Tel: +1 202 458 8342; E-mail:

Alan White, The Nature Conservancy, 923 Nu'uanu Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96817-1539, U.S. Tel: +1 808 587 6218; E-mail:

Jon Day, GBRMPA, PO Box 1379 Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia. Tel: +61 7 4750 0803; E-mail: