Toward sustainable ecosystem services from the Aleutian Archipelago
The new research reported in this special issue of Fisheries Oceanography expands our understanding of the Aleutian Archipelago ecosystem. Yet our knowledge remains very limited, while the use of this ecosystem for commercial activities, recreation and other purposes expands. Given this situation, how can we sustain the ecosystem services (food, fuel, fibers as well as spiritual, recreational, educational and other non-material benefits to society) of this region? The region has a mixed history; healthy populations of many species exist, but so do species extinctions (e.g. Steller sea cow, Hydrodamalis gigas) and population depletions, including the sea otter (Enhydra lutris), Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), whiskered auklets (Aethia pygmaea), Pacific ocean perch (Sebastes alutus), and red king crabs (Paralithodes camtschaticus), associated with human impacts. The solution to our limited knowledge in this poorly studied region is increased funding for ecosystem research, including its responses to climate change and human impacts. Knowledge is not sufficient, however; a change in management approach is also needed. We emphasize the need to maintain a broader set of ecosystem services objectives rather than the traditional narrower focus on commercial fishery yields. To do so, we recommend the development of an integrated ecosystem services management plan for the Aleutian Islands. Such a plan requires that state and federal regulatory agencies coordinate with a broad stakeholder community involving sectors of commercial and recreational fishing, subsistence, conservation, oil and gas development, coastal development, shipping, tourism, and others.