The role of a multi-jurisdictional organization in developing ecosystem-based management for fisheries in the Great Lakes basin

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One of the mandated charges to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is to facilitate the coordination of Great Lakes fishery management across jurisdictions. To do this, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission organized annual lake committee meetings among Great Lake fishery professionals since 1964. Our objective was to describe the role of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in facilitating communication among fishery jurisdictions that fueled the development of ecosystem-based management principles in the basin. Meeting minutes from lake committee meetings and publications from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission-facilitated Salmonid Community of Oligotrophic Lakes workshop were coded based on 12 a priori ecosystem-based management principles. Meeting and workshop attendance data were analyzed through a bipartite network analysis (organizations connected to meetings) to determine if attendance at meetings were grouped, or clustered, within the fishery governance network. No significant clusters were detected, demonstrating that during 1970-75 fishery professionals in Great Lakes were cooperative in nature – in contrast to the prior half century where little cross-jurisdictional management was reported. Our analyses based on meeting attendance and coded discussions at the meetings demonstrated that three ecosystem-based management perspectives were discussed prior to 1972 (ecological integrity, hierarchical context, and humans embedded in nature) whereas discussions at lake committee meetings from 1972-74 and the Salmonid Community of Oligotrophic Lakes workshop influenced discussions about data collection, ecosystem boundaries, and hierarchical context at lake committee meetings in 1975. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission played a bridging role in facilitating communication among Great Lakes jurisdictions. These annual meetings were becoming a forum for professionals to collaboratively discuss fishery management issues, thereby advancing ecosystem-based management principles throughout the basin. Ultimately discussions at lake committee meetings helped contribute to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and allied fishery management organizations agreeing to manage Great Lakes fisheries under ecosystem-based management through the ratification of A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries in 1981.


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