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Implementation of integrated ecosystem assessments in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea—conceptualizations, practice, and progress
With increasing activities of multiple sectors in marine spaces, management of marine social–ecological systems requires more holistic approaches. Adopting such an approach, however, presents difficult institutional and disciplinary challenges. Here, we use the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) as a case study on the implementation of ecosystem-based management (EBM) and integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs). ICES includes EBM and IEAs in its Science Priorities and established IEA Working Groups (WGs) to carry out regional IEAs. But to what degree does this IEA WG work follow best practices? We examine policy documents, academic literature, and interview data from chairs of all IEA WGs. Results indicate mixed success. All groups acknowledge the holistic goals of IEA, and many use the IEA model as laid out by Levin et al. However, we found a significant variation in the degree to which the full model is applied. We identified two primary areas for improvement: (1) integration of social and economic issues and (2) involvement of stakeholders. We offer examples of how WGs have been making progress towards full IEAs, discuss how ICES can further support this transition, and suggest lessons with respect to the adoption of EBM and IEAs more broadly.