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The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeriro addressed the issue that environmental management policies, with their traditional sectoral basis, were not  adequately covering the full impacts of human development and exploitation on the environment.  There was a concerted move then to incorporate a more holistic approach to policy decision making in regard to sustainable development with an Ecosystem Approach based direction . This concept has been applied  to many Fisheries projects (Link) but ECASA  is one of the first aquaculture based projects to focus on this.

The ecosystem, (first defined by Tansley 1935), has many different definitions, all based on functional dynamic interrelatedness An ecosystem approach also has many definitions and for ECASA the most appropriate is that described by the Convention on Biological Diversity:

‘The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.’ (UNEP/CBD/COP/5/23/ decision V/6, 103-106)

Based on 12 principles (link) the ecosystem approach is ‘learning by doing’, using the best available methodologies which evolve with the incorporation of increasing understanding. ECASA has identified three main objectives and four main tasks which are integrated within the six workpackages.

"Obviously man has to enter the sea. There is no choice in the matter. The human population is increasing so rapidly and land resources are being depleted at such a rate, that we must take sustenance from the great cornucopia.”

Jacques Cousteau, The Silent World, 1953

The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.

E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, 1973.

With laissez-faire and price atomic, Ecology's Uneconomic, But with another kind of logic Economy's Unecologic.

Kenneth E. Boulding

Sustainable Development is the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and cintinued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 1995.

Project Summary.

The ecosystem approach to the aquaculture sector will be addressed by

  1. identifying plausible quantitative indicators of the effects of aquaculture on ecosystems through a process of expert working groups, workshops and meetings,
  2. similarly, identifying indicators of the main drivers of ecosystem change affecting aquaculture, including natural and environmental pressures,
  3. assessing both sets of indicators using existing datasets (the partners collectively have extensive data archives), considering each in the context of appropriate selection criteria,
  4. developing a range of tools, particularly models, that encapsulate best process understanding at a wide range of scales,
  5. testing these models and indicators in a wide variety of field locations across Europe (~10) encompassing major culture species and technologies, and covering a wide spectrum of environment types, selected according to criteria developed during the project,
  6. using this data to test and select the final “toolpack” of models and indicators, including appropriate decision support tools to guide users to effective implementation.

Interaction with stakeholders will ensure the practical relevance of the work and that the “user community” achieves ownership of the project’s outputs: the “toolpack” of indicators and tools for effective environmental impact assessment and site selection.

Ecosystem definitions

The whole system (in the sense of physics), including not only the organism-complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors, forming one physical system. Tansley, A. G., 1935.

The ecosystem is a complex entity made up of interacting inorganic and biotic elements. Tait, R. U., 1981.

The ecosystem consists of the community of organisms plus the associated physical environment. Chapman, J. L. and Reiss, M. J., 1999.

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