Sep 7 2013

National Research Council study finds rebuilding timelines for fish stocks inflexible, inefficient

Saving Seafood

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) September 6, 2013 — A new study from the National Research Council of the National Academies, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Fish Stock Rebuilding Plans in the United States,” examines the ability of US fisheries management to reduce overfishing. Among other conclusions, the study, currently in pre-publication, finds that current stock rebuilding plans, which are based on eliminating overfishing within a specified time period, are not flexible enough to account for uncertainties in scientific data and environmental factors that are outside the control of fishermen and fisheries managers. It concludes that basing rebuilding on a timeline diminishes consideration for the socioeconomic impacts of the rebuilding plans.

The study was originally requested by Senator Olympia Snowe and Congressman Barney Frank in 2010, who wrote to NOAA asking them to fund the National Research Council’s work. The following are excerpts taken from pages 179 and 181 of the report:

The tradeoff between flexibility and prescriptiveness within the current legal framework and MFSCMA guidelines for rebuilding underlies many of the issues discussed in this chapter. The present approach may not be flexible or adaptive enough in the face of complex ecosystem and fishery dynamics when data and knowledge are limiting. The high degree of prescriptiveness (and concomitant low flexibility) may create incompatibilities between singlespecies rebuilding plans and EBFM. Fixed rules for rebuilding times can result in inefficiencies and discontinuities of harvest-control rules, put unrealistic demands on models and data for stock assessment and forecasting, cause reduction in yield, especially in mixed-stock situations, and de-emphasize socio-economic factors in the formulation of rebuilding plans. The current approach specifies success of individual rebuilding plans in biological terms. It does not address evaluation of the success in socio-economic terms and at broader regional and national scales, and also does not ensure effective flow of information (communication) across regions. We expand on each of these issues below and discuss ways of increasing efficiency without weakening the rebuilding mandate.

Read the full article here.

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