Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management

The Council defines Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) as a fishery management approach which recognizes the biological, economic, social, and physical interactions among the components of ecosystems and attempts to manage fisheries to achieve optimum yield taking those interactions into account.  The ultimate goal of EAFM is to manage for ecologically sustainable utilization of living marine resources while maintaining ecosystem productivity, structure, and function. 

EAFM Guidance Document

In August 2016, the Council approved an EAFM Guidance Document. The purpose of this document is to enhance the Council’s species-specific management programs with more ecosystem sciencebroader ecosystem considerations and management policies that coordinate Council management across FMPs and the relevant ecosystems. The EAFM guidance document is intended to provide a framework for considering policy choices and trade-offs as they affect FMP species and the broader ecosystems.


During the development of the EAFM Guidance Document, the Council held a series of workshops which brought together scientists, managers and stakeholders to discuss ecosystem-related issues and best management practices. Click on the title of a workshop below to view related background materials, presentations, and recordings. White papers from these workshops are linked in the “Additional Documents” section at the bottom of the page.

Current EAFM Activities

EAFM Risk Assessment

As part of the EAFM Guidance Document, the Council agreed to adopt a structured framework in order to account for and incorporate ecosystem considerations into its science and management programs. A risk assessment was identified as the first step in this process in order to identify ecosystem indicators of highest priority. The Council, its Ecosystem and Ocean Planning (EOP) Committee and EOP Advisory Panel members worked throughout 2017 to identify risk elements and the available information and science necessary to develop rankings for all of the risk elements. The risk assessment is intended to be an adaptive document that is reflective of changing and improved information and will continue to be refined and updated on an annual basis. The initial risk assessment was approved by the Council in December 2017 with updates made to the report in 2018 based upon recent stock assessment and scientific information.

Mid-Atlantic Bight State of the Ecosystem Report

As part of a NOAA-wide initiative to integrate all components of the ecosystem into the management process and help advance the implementation of Ecosystem Based Management, the Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Program has partnered with the regional Councils to help develop ecosystem products to be used within the management process. Scientists from the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center have worked with the Mid-Atlantic Council and its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) to develop annual State of the Ecosystem reports which provide information on management objectives assessed by a variety of linked indicators. These indicators evaluate the status and trends of relevant ecological, environmental, economic and social components of the Mid-Atlantic Bight ecosystem. The first State of the Ecosystem report was provided to the Council in 2017 with annual updates presented each April. Many of the indicators and analyses in the State of the Ecosystem report were used to form the basis of the Councils risk assessment (described above).

Summer Flounder Conceptual Model Development

Development of conceptual models to address management questions regarding the highest priority ecosystem factors is the second step in the Council’s EAFM Guidance Document framework. These models are built to ensure that key relationships throughout the system are accounted for. Utilizing the results of the risk assessment, the Council agreed to begin piloting the development of a summer flounder conceptual model that will consider the high priority risk factors affecting summer flounder and its fisheries. Model development and stakeholder input will take place throughout the year with results and outcomes presented to the Council late in 2019.

Additional Documents and Resources