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3. Implementing the ecosystem approach

Why should the ecosystem approach matter to me?

Many people, from policy-makers to businesses to the general public, are unclear what the ecosystem approach is or why it is relevant to them (see Box 1). While the term ‘ecosystem’ may suggest it concerns ecology and conservation, it is in fact as much about ensuring the future economic prosperity and viability of human communities. In short it matters to all of us, and to our future generations.

Box 1: Examples of stakeholder perceptions regarding the ecosystem approach:

“Given all of the other legislation that we are already complying with, it’s just not clear what the ecosystem approach means in my sector – we need simple, clear, practical guidelines.” (Ports sector)

“It means all things to all people, and there is therefore the potential threat of individual interpretations of EA being used as a stick to beat us with.”
(Fisheries sector)

“Ecosystem approach is just another way of packaging ‘sustainability’ which we’re doing already through numerous existing tools and processes.”
(Marine management professional)

“We are already following the ecosystem approach, for example, by considering ecosystem services and values in marine plan development.”
(National government marine planner)

“The ecosystem approach has become all the more relevant given proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.”
(Fisheries sector)

Despite its importance, there is little practical guidance to help people translate the principles of the ecosystem approach into practical actions. This guides aims to help address this.

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