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SpearMax
11-30-2006, 03:54 PM
Oceans' early demise disputed

By Kevin Howe and Sarah C.P. Williams
The Monterey County Herald

MONTEREY, Calif. - The sky isn't falling and the fish will still be around in mid-century, according to fishermen and critics of a recent article that forecast a bleak future for the fishing industry.

The article, published Nov. 3 in the magazine Science, predicted the collapse of all of the world's fisheries by 2048, based on declining fish harvest numbers and other research. It also sparked a firestorm of controversy, generating headlines nationwide in newspapers and news magazines, spinning off into an elaborately illustrated feature in Time magazine.

Among critics like Ray Hilborn, a peer review scientist at the University of Washington, the article was "probably the most absurd prediction that's ever appeared in a scientific journal regarding fisheries."

Hilborn called the Science article findings "silly," but also worried that they "will become completely accepted in the ecological community. They have no skepticism."

But the researchers who wrote the Science story - including two from Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif., - are sticking to their findings.

"I haven't seen any science that shows we're wrong," said Steve Palumbi, a marine ecologist at Hopkins. "There are opinions I've heard, but I haven't seen any science."

At the same time, Palumbi and the other researchers said they are grateful the article has generated controversy because they believe it will help direct attention to the factors contributing to the loss of fishery resources.

Palumbi and Fiorenzo Micheli, also a scientist at Hopkins, were among a dozen authors of the Science article.

At the core of the controversy is what critics call the growing "enviro-sensationalism" trend of environmental news, said Steve Ralston, senior fishery biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Office in Santa Cruz.

He referred to the growing number of similar reports as "an increasing `Chicken Little' response."

The principal objection, Ralston said, is that the scientists infer that fisheries are going to "collapse" based on declining catches.

But one reason for the decline, he said, has been a successful management program. "The basic way they measure `collapse' is flawed. Catch is not a good way to measure the status of the fish stock."

The authors of the original paper acknowledged that there is some validity to Ralston's argument.

"Yes, catches are an imperfect measure of the stock abundance," said lead author Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada's Dalhousie University. He said, however, that declines in catches are still indicative of larger trends.

"It's obvious that when the catches collapse, it's often because there's no more fish to be found," Worm said.

Critics of the research have also cited the successful recovery of some fish populations, like rockfish, as evidence against declines.

Co-author Fiorenzo Micheli, of Hopkins Marine Station, said those recoveries only go to show that there are ways to stop collapses from becoming severe.

"These examples prove the point that when something is done, and measures are taken, things get better," said Micheli.

Worm agreed, and said that much of the debate about the paper is because of this misunderstanding of what a projection is.

"Our projection is not a prediction. If we don't change the way we do things, that's what the future will look like," he said. "I'm actually optimistic that we're going to turn things around fast enough that we're not going to hit rock bottom."

The forecasted potential to hit rock-bottom, however, is what most critics have latched onto.

"I'm very disappointed in Science magazine," Ralston said. "This is not the first article that's almost created a panic situation with ocean resources and fish."

Hilborn said many of the world's fisheries are not well managed and are getting worse, but the United States, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and others have successfully pursued strategies to keep fisheries sustainable. For instance, those countries are getting rid of a fishing industry race that led fishermen to build and operate ever-bigger boats to bring in ever-bigger catches.

Lowering the take, he said, is the key.

Ralston describes himself as "an ardent conservationist," but said he worries that public exaggerations of environmental problems erode the credibility of scientists and the conservation movement.

Fishers view the Science report as another undeserved slap at them and their industry.

"I see a completely different picture of fishing and the ocean," said Jiri Nozicka of Monterey, Calif., a native of the Czech Republic and a fisherman on Monterey Bay for the past seven years.

"We as fishermen see how much fish there is, and we've been catching a lot more fish than ever before."

Palumbi acknowledged that some areas of the world have not seen such drastic declines in fish populations as others. In fact, a main point of the paper was that the collapse in fish numbers is dependent on the diversity of ecosystems.

"In Monterey," he said, "we're in a hotspot of diversity. So the collapse is happening more slowly here." The research, however, looked at the global picture.

Fishermen have also said the study was flawed because catch numbers are influenced by government regulations.

"There's huge waste created by reduced limits by the federal government because of quotas not matching reality," said Joe Pennisi," Nozicka's brother-in-law and fishing partner.

Fishers, Nozicka said, are forced to throw catches overboard because of regulations limiting the number of fish they can land, and that lowers the landing numbers scientists rely on to determine fish population.

In addition to the lower catch limits, he said, the number of fishing vessels is also declining. If there's an endangered species on the coast, Nozicka said, it's the American fisher.

A fishing industry can collapse, he said, when there are too few boats on the water to support the fish canning and processing industries, not to mention the businesses ashore that maintain, supply, build, fuel, service and sell boats.

The decline in fishers, however, is also closely tied to the number of fish in the ocean, say some scientists.

"Historically, the cause of a shrinking fishing industry is because of declining stock," Micheli said.

Jared Roth, who was until recently an observer for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's West Coast Groundfish Observer Program, disagreed.

"There's a lot of fish out there," Roth said. "Nobody knows what's down there, and that might always be the case. The ocean is really mysterious; it's dark, always changing. It's really hard to know what the truth is down there."

Roth sailed with Nozicka and Pennisi as an observer on a number of their fishing trips.

While the Monterey coastline is rich in marine life, he said, "how does that compare to what it was like before people started dipping into the pot?"

Roth described himself as "skeptical of a lot of ocean science," even though that's his educational background.

He has participated in fish counts but doesn't know what is done with the numbers they generate.

Rockfish species were "really heavily fished by really intense gear by a really intense industry over the past 10 years," Roth said. "You have to suspect that real damage was done. We're just too good at doing damage when there's money involved."

Almost all of the gear used then has been outlawed, he said, and catch limits are lower.

Roth, too, worries about the future of the industry, which he sees as a fleet of aging boats and aging skippers, with few young people willing to come into the business.

"Fishing is so hard, really hard," he said. When people set out to harvest wild fish on a wild ocean "you really have to be able to adapt, to have lots of options, to be lucky, smart, skilled and tough."

"People don't value the resource," he said. "If they really knew where their food was coming from and wanted real local fresh food, then these guys wouldn't so easily be weeded out. We should be valuing these guys. What will replace these guys? They seem to be going out of style fast, like family farms."

This is one point that all the scientists agree on.

"These fishermen need your support to be able to fish sustainably," said Worm, who encouraged consumers to buy local catch when they eat seafood, even if it's more expensive.

Whether or not they agree with the research methods, the end message Worm hopes people take away from his research is that something has to be done so that we avoid the 2048 projection.

"People still expect scientists to tell them what the future will look like. But we don't have a crystal ball," he said. "What we can do is tell people what the consequences of our actions or inactions will be."

2006, The Monterey County Herald (Monterey, Calif.).

Visit the Monterey County Herald's World Wide Web site at http://www.montereyherald.com

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

WreckDiver
11-30-2006, 04:02 PM
Tony its called scare tactics, its a ploy to get more MPA's

fishkilla
11-30-2006, 04:30 PM
government/scientists trying to take more power for themselves through implementing more mpa's? that's silly talk.

SpearMax
11-30-2006, 04:36 PM
Tony its called scare tactics, its a ploy to get more MPA's

Hey Roland, I did not say I thought this article was right or wrong. Just letting you guys and girls know what the "fish stories" are. I found this gem in a commercial fishing newsletter I get. It's kinda like the global warming thing - opinions differ on the great environmental debates of our times. Such is free speech and the pursuit of scientific truth. :cowboy:

WreckDiver
11-30-2006, 05:13 PM
I know tony.

Hey Ben does the name Jerry Ault ring any bells and how about his newest studies for the new MPA's in the Tortugas? or did you just forget one of these :rolleyes: and one of these :eek: and one of these :D

jackpine savage
11-30-2006, 05:15 PM
While the oceans will probably be ok 50 years from now there are serious problems occuring in all of the major fisheries around the globe. I was diving in the Adriatic this summer and was shocked by the lack of large fish and its not just limited to the Mediterranean. While I think their prognosis was a little on the sky is falling side they did start up a dialogue that we, as recreational fishermen, should pay attention to.

smilinmatt
11-30-2006, 07:33 PM
That "overfishing" study falls into the same category as man's contribution to global warming (popular today), global cooling (popular in the '70s), and eugenics (popular in the '30s - if you don't already know, look what this led up to). It's a case of pseudoscience, where the proponents think the earth is a static environment with an alien civilization (people).

The biggest problem is that people take the phrase "in theory..." as a statement of fact. In reality the term "in theory..." means that all the unknown (and usually vital) variables were left out of the equation.

PatMyGreen
12-01-2006, 11:02 AM
The biggest problem is that people take the phrase "in theory..." as a statement of fact. In reality the term "in theory..." means that all the unknown (and usually vital) variables were left out of the equation. Well said.

It does scare me that an outsider might read the responses here and get the idea that the members of this site think that all is well in the fisheries world and think all scientists are full of crap. The reality being that we as a user group tend to be pretty conservation minded but remain skeptical of science that is often used out of context or not really science to begin with. We want good science, its just hard to find sometimes in the world of fisheries managemnt since everyone has an agenda or an angle. You really have to read the data yourself understand what you are reading and know the limitations of the data when it comes to making inferences from it.

Ed Walker
12-01-2006, 12:56 PM
[SIZE=4][B]
"I haven't seen any science that shows we're wrong," said Steve Palumbi, a marine ecologist at Hopkins. "There are opinions I've heard, but I haven't seen any science."

At the core of the controversy is what critics call the growing "enviro-sensationalism" trend of environmental news, said Steve Ralston, senior fishery biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Office in Santa Cruz.

He referred to the growing number of similar reports as "an increasing `Chicken Little' response."

Excellent story and EXACTLY what is going on right now!
Key word of the day: "ENVIROSENSATIONALISM"-Jerry Aults middle name. Craft a study that exaggerates your personal agenda and suggests the elimination of some sort of fishing, then state that "I havent seen any science that proves Im wrong", knowing full well that the everyday family fisherman is never going to produce his own a scientific study. Stomp! No more fishing for you Mr. family man.
Most recs are not against protecting fish that are in legitimate need, but the new tactics of "study and close" have gone way beyond rational or fair management. Close black grouper because they look similar to gags? Close all grouper to protect reds? Such suggestions are just plain unfair but they are now coming faster than ever. Hopefully the current trend is going to backfire hard on those "researchers" who use the guise of science to perpetuate thier own anti-fishing agendas.
Managed fish species can thrive and still produce MSY (max sustainable yeild). A few examples: King Mackerel, spanish mackerel, speckled trout, redfish, stone crabs, Gulf hogfish, Keys lobster. That article suggested otherwise.
Dr. Boris Worm.....heh, sounds like a computer virus. :D

SpearMax
12-01-2006, 02:50 PM
Excellent story and EXACTLY what is going on right now!


Ed, you are so right. The aticle is a good read. Worth reading twice and reflecting on it BEFORE posting opinions.

This article was indeed a contrarian view!

It basically says the doom and gloom scientists may be wrong who are saying the ocean fisheries may collapse in 50 years. That does not mean we should not protect the resource. But, the free debate among scientists is healthy. We need to hear that debate, educate ourselves, and ONLY THEN formulate our opinions based on good scientific data. :slap:

fishkilla
12-01-2006, 04:51 PM
the free debate among scientists is healthy. We need to hear that debate, educate ourselves, and ONLY THEN formulate our opinions based on good scientific data.


good scientific data is going to do nothing any time soon to help our resource.

there is not any good science and there is not any good management that allows any fishery to be longlined. bottom line this whole debate in our gulf is over money and control of power to get more money. every fishery in the world that has banned longlining has seen a huge come back in population. look at venezuela and the laguara bank, look at south florida and it's swordfish and sailfish population explosion.

i'm tired of people thinking that we can keep our recreational rights if we are nice, say "please" and "thank you" and present a good strong case. we need to buy these scientists and put them in our back pocket and lead them around by their noses. it's becoming very blatent that this is the way our federal fishery is managed.

fizisition
12-01-2006, 10:24 PM
i'm tired of people thinking that we can keep our recreational rights if we are nice, say "please" and "thank you" and present a good strong case. we need to buy these scientists and put them in our back pocket and lead them around by their noses. it's becoming very blatent that this is the way our federal fishery is managed.


I agree. These scientists don't use the resource, they dont care. They will sell their data to the highest bidder.

SpearMax
12-01-2006, 10:32 PM
I agree. These scientists don't use the resource, they dont care. They will sell their data to the highest bidder.

Interesting....Where is this "Black Market" for scientific data about the fisheries? I might like to buy some opinions that suit me. ;)

SpearMax
12-01-2006, 10:46 PM
good scientific data is going to do nothing any time soon to help our resource. there is not any good science and there is not any good management that allows any fishery to be longlined.

I agree with you Ben about the need to reduce the longlining. Their bycatch is horrible. But, you would have to agree that at least some scientific data should be gathered on other fisheries issues, wouldn't you? Otherwise those that society has designated to manage the fisheries would end up resorting to some sort of a Ouija Board policy system. If you think we the fishermen and women are not involved in what the regulators do, I hear from some scientists that fisheries policy decisions are sometimes made while ignoring their input as well. I think we all agree the system needs some repair and most certainly needs better communication.

fishkilla
12-02-2006, 11:04 AM
Otherwise those that society has designated to manage the fisheries would end up resorting to some sort of a Ouija Board policy system.


unfortunately tony it appears that this is already their policy. :D

when i spoke to peter hood of the nmfs he told me that very few fish that longliners catch because they are out past 120ft are not of legal size. this man is a scientist helping create laws that govern the GOM and he has no idea what goes on out there. when is the last time any of these people have stepped out of their office and gone on a commercial and recreational boat ride? i guess that would be asking too much from a scientist.

the GOM along with every fishery in the US belongs to its entire population. 80% of a total allowable catch caught by less than 1% of the resources users is a gross injustice.

SpearMax
12-02-2006, 05:24 PM
when is the last time any of these people have stepped out of their office and gone on a commercial and recreational boat ride? i guess that would be asking too much from a scientist.
:yup: I agree Ben.
Maybe we should be offering to help take the scientists out in our boats. That is part of my plan for the future - to try and work closer with them and make sure they have our input....make sure they see what we see...make sure they truly consider our point of view. :cowboy:

80% of a total allowable catch caught by less than 1% of the resources users is a gross injustice.
:scratch: Sounds like fishing is going the same way as the rural small farmer - consolidated by big farmers (commercial fishers) :mad:

jackpine savage
12-02-2006, 06:00 PM
:

:scratch: Sounds like fishing is going the same way as the rural small farmer - consolidated by big farmers (commercial fishers) :mad:
That is why I dont think that report is overblowing the situation. The commercial fishing industry already destroyed the fishing grounds up here and it was a lot richer than the GoM. If they can manage to destroy a rich fishery like Georges and Grand Banks then they can do it anywhere so long as they have the politicians in their pocket. Gerry Studds was the congressman here in the 70's and 80's and did more to screw up the cod fisheries than anyone alive and then went to lobby for the fishing industry. I hope you dont have a similiar politician down there in the industrys pockets cause you will be screwed like us.

SLAYER
12-02-2006, 06:20 PM
i believe that with the regulations they have now in the gulf the fishing will not fall any more but it was on a decrease..i think it can hold its own now