Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good News?

I wanted to share an interview by Ray Hilborn that I came across this morning. (See article here.)  It is a short excerpt but I think you can get the gist.  Professor Hilborn sheds some light in an otherwise gloomy forecast of the future of the seafood industry.  He seems to believe that good management practices are in place (in some areas) and not all news is bad news when it comes to the status of our world fisheries stocks.

I think he makes a good point about sustainability when he says "...sustainability doesn’t have anything to do with how many fish are there; it has to do with the management system."  The Pacific halibut fishery is a prime example supporting this thesis.  Halibut stocks are lower than they were three years ago, but so are the quotas of how many fish can be landed.  The fish is 'sustainably' managed and therefore deemed sustainable, in light of the decreased availability of large fish.  

I do believe that the issue is much more complicated than this, if it weren't there wouldn't be as many books out there written by good people who thoroughly believe that the state of our shared global fisheries is in deep trouble.  The issue I take with this line of reasoning is that finding the right management system may be harder than it sounds.  Each fish stock is represented by a singular species that has its own traits and habits.  Different species of fish respond to fishing pressure differently.  What works for wild salmon may not be the best management for stripped bass.  Then there are the factors of by-catch, discards and pollution that also affect stocks.  All of these must be taken into consideration when evaluating which management system must go into place to effectively and sustainably manage a fish population.   

This line of thought however is not disagreeing with what Professor Hilborn is saying, it's only stating that creating the proper fisheries management system for each species is a difficult task that can not be exercised effectively without the help of many involved parties.  These include the Federal Government, scientists, fishermen, and third party analysts.  All must cooperate to collect and implement the data that is out there to ensure the prosperity of our fisheries.

At the end of the day what Professor Hilborn is saying makes sense.  If we can develop management systems for our stocks that ensure species prosperity and then vehemently abide by and protect those systems, then it is possible to strike a sustainable balance between human appetite and the health of our oceans.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we are going to need sustainable management to get there.  Anything worth doing is typically going to be difficult.  Saving our ocean's marine life is definitely worth doing.  

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