Marine Ecosystem-Based Management in Practice

Originally published: 
April, 2017

Washington, DC (February 14, 2017)—Julia Wondolleck and Steven Yaffee are hopeful about marine ecosystem-based management (EBM). Rather than lamenting the persistent conflicts in global marine ecosystems, they spent over five years listening to scientists, planners, managers, community members, fishermen, and environmentalists who are working together to make progress for coastal and marine ecosystems against great odds. Marine Ecosystem-Based Management in Practice (Publication Date: February 14, 2017) is the culmination of their research. The first practical guide for the marine conservation realm, the book showcases successful collaboration in marine EBM and distills replicable lessons for those working in the field. The authors begin by introducing the basic concepts of EBM and identifying five different pathways for making progress, from community to international levels. Twelve in-depth case studies, ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to Washington State’s Puget Sound, demonstrate that there is no single way to advance marine EBM—good news for a world that operates in diverse social, political, and ecological contexts. Rather, the authors identify common lessons from the case studies that can be applied to a range of marine EBM projects around the world. Successful marine EBM initiatives:

  • Build bridges to link agencies, governments, communities, scientists, fishermen, businesses, and organizations with jurisdiction or concern for a marine ecosystem;
  • Embed science in their processes in order to ensure sound decisions;
  • Create processes that make a real difference, thereby motivating sustained engagement;
  • Construct governance systems that clearly delineate objectives, roles, and responsibilities;
  • Are built on a foundation of relationships, shared concern for place, and commitment to advancing common goals for management.

The authors devote several ending chapters to discussion of governance systems and individual factors that are critical to successful implementation of marine EBM and conclude with a discussion of the implications for policy and on-the-ground practice. Throughout, the book emphasizes that successful marine management requires not only the right mix of science, law, financing, and organizational structure, but also an atmosphere of collaboration—a comfortable place for participants to learn about issues, craft solutions, and develop the interpersonal relationships, trust, and understanding needed to put plans into action.

Marine Ecosystem-Based Management in Practice offers a hopeful message to policy makers, managers, scientists, practitioners, foundations, students, and more. It will be an indispensable guide to field-tested, replicable marine conservation management practices that work. 

Julia M. Wondolleck is Associate Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan. She is an expert in the theories and application of dispute resolution and collaborative planning processes. 

Steven L. Yaffee is Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan. His work focuses on improving public decision making through ecosystem-scale management involving biodiversity, public lands and marine systems.

Founded in 1984, Island Press works to stimulate, shape, and communicate the information that is essential for solving environmental problems. Today, with more than 1,000 titles in print and some 30 new releases each year, it is the nation’s leading publisher of books on environmental issues. Island Press is driving change by moving ideas from the printed page to public discourse and practice. Island Press’s emphasis is, and will continue to be, on transforming objective information into understanding and action. To purchase Marine Ecosystem-Based Management in Practice, please visit