In different parts of the world, in the last decades the focus of fishery management has shifted from an approach aiming at maximizing the catch of a single target species (single-species management) to a broader view. Such new vision considers the well-being of the marine ecosystem as a whole, as well as economic and social complexities of managing marine living resources.

Ecosystem Based Marine Resource Management (EAM) approaches differ from more narrowly-focused management approaches (e.g. single species methods) by a number of characteristics. They are geographically specified and adaptive in their development over time (as new information becomes available or as circumstances change); they take ecosystem knowledge and uncertainties into account; they recognize that multiple simultaneous factors may influence the outcomes of management, particularly those external to the ecosystem; they strive to balance diverse societal objectives that result from resource decision making and allocation. In contrast to individual species or single-issue management, EAM approaches consider a wider range of relevant ecological, environmental, and human factors bearing on choices regarding resource use. EAM approaches have already been implemented in both formal (explicit) and informal (implicit) ways in a variety of institutional settings at local, national, and international levels (e.g. US Ocean Commission Report, EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and the Canadian Oceans Act).