Breaking through the crisis in marine conservation and management: Insights from the philosophies of Ed Ricketts

Raphael D. Sagarin, Larry B. Crowder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Over the last decade, 2 major U.S. commissions on ocean policy and a wide range of independent sources have argued that ocean ecosystems are in a period of crisis and that current policies are inadequate to prevent further ecological damage. These sources have advocated ecosystem-based management as an approach to address conservation issues in the oceans, but managers remain uncertain as to how to implement ecosystem-based approaches in the real world. We argue that the philosophies of Edward F. Ricketts, a mid-20th-century marine ecologist, offer a framework and clear guidance for taking an ecosystem approach to marine conservation. Ricketts' philosophies, which were grounded in basic observations of natural history, espoused building a holistic picture of the natural world, including the influence of humans, through repeated observation. This approach, when applied to conservation, grounds management in what is observable in nature, encourages early action in the face of uncertainty, and supports an adaptive approach to management as new information becomes available. Ricketts' philosophy of "breaking through," which focuses on getting beyond crisis and conflict through honest debate of different parties' needs (rather than forcing compromise of differing positions), emphasizes the social dimension of natural resource management. New observational technologies, long-term ecological data sets, and especially advances in the social sciences made available since Ricketts' time greatly enhance the utility of Ricketts' philosophy of marine conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-30
Number of pages7
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Conflict resolution
  • Conservation philosophy
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Ed Ricketts
  • Marine conservation
  • Natural history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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