Marine Institute

Ecosystems Overview

Cup coral on Irish Groundfish Survey

Ecosystems are composed of living animals, plants and non living structures that exist together and ‘interact’ with each other. Ecosystems can be very small (the area around a boulder), they can be medium sized (the area around a coral reef) or they can be very large (the Irish Sea or even the eastern Atlantic).

Fish in the marine ecosystem

Fish do not live in isolation - they are part of the marine ecosystem and they interact closely with their physical, chemical and biological environment. They are dependant on the ecosystem to provide the right conditions for growth, reproduction and survival. Equally, they provide an important foodsource for other animals such as seabirds and marine mammals and therefore form an integral part of the marine food web.

The effect of fishing on the ecosystem

Fishing activity does not only impact on the fish stocks themselves, but also the ecosystem within which the fish live in. There are both, direct and indirect effects of fishing on the ecosystem. Direct effects of fishing include catching and/or discarding of other animals and damaging the seabed with fishing gear. The effect of fishing on the ecosystem can also be indirect, for example by removing fish from the marine food web.

The ecosystem approach to fisheries

The Ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) recognises that fisheries have to be managed as part of their ecosystem and that their impact on the environment should be limited as much as possible.

Integrated science for integrated management

In order to integrate ecosystem considerations into fisheries advice there has to be a sound understanding of how fisheries, fishes and their environment interact with each other. The Marine Institute endorses this and carries out multidisciplinary research surveys that study not only the fishes but also their physical and biological environment.

For more information on multidisciplinary fisheries surveys visit the Fisheries & Ecosystems Surveys section of the website.