Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Overfishing impacts on ocean food webs

It's a risky move to elevate scientific thinking into dogma.  Because sooner or later, it's likely to come crashing down.

This time the crashing dogma is "fishing down food webs," the now-classic finding by Daniel Pauly and colleagues.  It turns out to be a productive and important idea that got taken too far when it was imagined as a single, universal indicator of overfishing and fisheries sustainability.

The original finding remains important.  But a new study shows that it's not always true, and that it's a mistake to use the trophic level index too widely.  There are just too many problems and exceptions.

Hmmm...the original finding is important, subsequent work turned it into a universal tool, and that elevation took the finding too far..?  This isn't surprising, and it's barely interesting.

Except, perhaps, as a story about the folly of turning science into dogma.  According to the Vancouver Sun, his emminence objects to the new study, and it seems like he's taking it personally:
"This paper is a hatchet job, and it's a bad hatchet job," says Pauly, who has a collection of international awards, leads the Sea Around Us Project, and is former director the UBC's fisheries centre.
A hatchet job?  A "crude or rutheless effort ending in destruction?" That's a bit ridiculous as an indictment of a valid scientific study.

For a nice discussion of the issues, check out jebyrnes' blog post on the subject


3 comments:

jebyrnes said...

Thanks for the link! I'm surprised as to Pauly's strong comments, particularly given that some of his colleagues at the UBC Fisheries Centre are co-authors on the paper.

carmel.finley said...

"The trail of fisheries science is strewn with the opinions of those who, while partly right, were wholly wrong."
Michael Graham, The Fish Gate, 1943, p. 129

carmel.finley said...

"The trail of fisheries science is strewn with the opinions of those who, while partly right, were wholly wrong."
Michael Graham, The Fish Gate, 1943, p. 129.