Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ocean half full or half empty?

Do you like your status reports deep fried? US fishery managers released their status report for 2007, and the news is either good or bad, depending on your point of view.

Things are getting better, but there's still a ways to go. Is that reason to celebrate or cry? You decide. Here at fair and balanced blogfish, we won't try to decide for you.

Now for the editorial. I do think progress is too slow. We're not talking about enviros crazy dreams of a pristine ocean here, we're asking about basic principles of good management like not catching fish faster than they can reproduce. Managers are making modest progress on the "duh" aspects of management. Hooray.


Unknown said...

hmmmm, I wonder if there's any way to see whether NMFS thinks the news is good or bad? Let's see, when did they release the report? You say it was on the Friday before the Congressional 4th of July recess? Any more questions?

Mark Powell said...

I agree mhirshfield! I've heard people in NMFS call this the "spank me" report because once it comes out they get criticized (spanked) by everyone.

Rather than burying the report, maybe the government should do better appointments to the management councils, and solve the overfishing problems so the report is more fun to release.

Anonymous said...

I guess what always kicks me about the status reports is the number of stocks/stock complexes for which there isn't enough information to assess their status with respect to overfishing - 284 in this last report, I think. Your thoughts on the problem here Mark? Is it an issue of these stocks being "unimportant" (i.e nobody fishes for them so we don't suspect they're in danger? Does NMFS lack the resources to get data on all relevant stock complexes? Do they have the resources and just aren't using them well?

Mark Powell said...

Managers have a problem because there's 900-some fish stocks to evaluate. I doubt they'll ever have timely info on all of them.

The agency should (and does) focus efforts on stocks of importance. That makes sense. So some fish get left out.

In an ideal world, we'd have status reports on all fish, but that would cost a fortune and I might rather spend the money on other things like enforcing regulations.

I'm not totally satisfied with the agency's approach on this, but they do have a serious dilemma and they've done a reasonably good job in allocating assessment money to the right fish.

The best solution would be to develop some cheaper approaches for mini-assessments on fish that are not the target of major fisheries and for which no obvious signs of problems exist.

Obvious signs of problems include disappearnce from fishery or research catches, etc.

The most important point is that it's not lack of information that limits our management success. It's lack of political will. In this context, why focus on lack of information? It just empowers the deniers and delayers by letting them ask for delay while we collect more information.

We know enough to manage fish right, but we don't typically manage fish right. That's the problem.