Systems Thinking Applied to U.S. Federal Fisheries Management

Vol. 26 No. 3

Mr. McGuire is assistant professor of environmental policy in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Mr. Harris is assistant professor of marine biology in the Department of Environmental Science at Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska.

U.S. federal fisheries management offers a good example of how sets of laws and policies co-evolve with changes in our perceptions and understanding of natural system complexities. The ocean ecosystems in which federally managed fisheries take place are inherently complex and dynamic. Our understanding of these systems is nascent, but ongoing scientific research continually yields new perceptions that hopefully lead to greater understanding of the marine ecosystem. An historical view of the co-evolution of the federal fisheries management legal regime and our understanding of the marine system provides insights into how legal regimes evolve and suggest some legal structures for managing complex and dynamic systems.

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