Posts Tagged Dr. Hilborn

Oct 31 2017

‘Rule of Thumb’ Management Approach Is Wrong For Forage Fish, Dr. Ray Hilborn Tells U.S. Senate

Saving Seafood interviews Dr. Ray Hilborn about forage fish management ahead of his testimony before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.


WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) – October 31, 2017 – At a hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard last week, respected fisheries scientist Dr. Ray Hilborn testified that fisheries managers “can do better than a one-size-fits-all” approach to managing forage fish. He also said there was “no empirical evidence to support the idea that the abundance of forage fish affects their predators.”

Dr. Hilborn’s comments came in response to questioning from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) about whether fisheries managers should manage forage fish according to a “rule of thumb” approach, where fisheries are managed according to a set of broad ecological and management principals, or a “case-by-case” approach, where management is guided by more species-specific information.

Dr. Hilborn, a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, was part of a team of top fisheries scientists that recently examined these issues, as well as what effects fishing for forage fish species had on predator species. Their research indicated that previous studies, like a 2012 report from the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, may have overestimated the strength of the predator-prey relationship.

Before the hearing, Dr. Hilborn spoke with Saving Seafood about his research and his message for lawmakers.

“It’s very clear that there really are no applicable rules of thumb, that every system is independent [and] behaves differently, and we need to have the rules for each individual forage fish fishery determined by looking at the specifics of that case,” Dr. Hilborn told Saving Seafood.

He also discussed his team’s finding that forage fish abundance has little impact on their predators. They looked at nearly all U.S. forage fish fisheries, including the California Current system and Atlantic menhaden, and concluded that predator species generally pursue other food sources when the abundance of any one forage species is low.

“The predators seem to go up or down largely independent of the abundance of forage fish,” Dr. Hilborn said, adding, “For Atlantic menhaden, for their major predators, the fishery has reasonably little impact on the food that’s available to them.”

Another key message Dr. Hilborn had for the Subcommittee was that fisheries managers must determine what they want to accomplish so that scientists can advise them accordingly.

“The time has come to refocus our fisheries policy on what we actually want to achieve because rebuilding is only a means to an end,” Dr. Hilborn told Saving Seafood. “Do we want to maximize the economic value of our fisheries? Do we want to maximize jobs? Do we want to maximize food production?”

In his testimony, Dr. Hilborn praised U.S. fisheries policy that has “led to rebuilding of fish stocks and some of the most successful fisheries in the world.” He attributed this success to a variety of factors, including funding of NOAA, regionalizing fisheries management decisions, and requiring managers to follow science advice. As a result, overfishing should no longer be the top priority for fisheries managers, he testified.

“The major threats to U.S. fish stock and marine ecosystem biodiversity are now ocean acidification, warming temperatures, degraded coastal habitats, exotic species, land based run off, and pollution,” Dr. Hilborn testified. “Overfishing remains a concern for a limited number of stocks but should not continue to be the most important concern for U.S. federal fisheries policy.”

The hearing was the latest in a series examining reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the nation’s supreme fisheries law. It was organized by subcommittee chairman Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and focused on fisheries science.

Originally posted: Saving Seafood Inc.

Apr 3 2017

Video: Leading Fisheries Scientists Challenge Lenfest Research that Recommended Cutting Catch of Forage Fish

Clockwise from top left: Dr. Ray Hilborn, Dr. Ricardo O. Amoroso, and Dr. Carl J. Walters

WASHINGTON (NCFC) — April 3, 2017 — A new study by a team of respected fisheries scientists from around the globe is challenging previous forage fish research, most notably the 2012 Lenfest Oceans Program report “Little Fish, Big Impact,” which recommended leaving more forage fish in the water to be eaten by predators.

Dr. Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington was the lead author on the paper, which will be published later today in the peer-reviewed journal Fisheries Research. The study concludes that fishing of forage species likely has a lower impact on their predators than previously thought.

You can learn more about this important research right now by watching the seven-minute video below. In the video, Dr. Hilborn and two of the paper’s co-authors, Dr. Carl J. Walters and Dr. Ricardo O. Amoroso, discuss the paper’s findings, and their implications for forage fish management.

The Lenfest Oceans Program was established in 2004 by the Lenfest Foundation and is managed by the Pew Charitable Trusts

Look for further updates, and the complete research paper, from Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities throughout the day.

Copyright © 2016 Saving Seafood

May 14 2016

Greenpeace files complaint about UW fishery professor

Greenpeace takes aim at high-profile UW fishery scientist in a complaint alleging he has not properly disclosed industry funding in his academic articles.

Professor Ray Hilborn stands outside of the UW Fisheries Science Building on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

Ray Hilborn, a prominent University of Washington fishery scientist, is under attack from Greenpeace for sometimes leaving out mention of industry funding he receives in articles published in academic journals and elsewhere.

In a letter sent Wednesday to university President Ana Mari Cauce, Greenpeace filed a complaint against Hilborn’s research practices, and asked for an investigation.

Hilborn, over the years, has been a critic of Greenpeace as well as other environmental groups and researchers he accuses of overstating the impacts of fishing on marine resources.

In the letter to Cauce, Greenpeace unleashed a broadside against the scientist.

“The failure of Dr. Hilborn to fully disclose his ties to industry put both scientific knowledge and the reputation of the University of Washington at risk,” wrote John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA’s ocean campaigns director.

Since 2003, Hilborn has brought in more than $3.55 million in industry dollars to the University of Washington, representing about 22 percent of the total outside funding he obtained from all sources during that period, according to documents released to Greenpeace under a public-disclosure request.

Hilborn reviewed Greenpeace’s complaint and issued a response. He said his research threatens the repeated assertions by the environmental group that overfishing is universal and that the oceans are being emptied.

“Obviously they are getting desperate because they haven’t been able to mount any type of attack on the quality of the science that I and this large group of collaborators have produced,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “So they got to attack the messenger.”

Hilborn, 68, said he has not felt obligated to disclose industry funding unless it was specifically for the research that is the focus of an academic journal article. Hilborn said he has never deliberately left out mention of such funding.

Some of the biggest industry funding came from groups in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska helping pay for salmon research. The money also flowed from Washington-based seafood companies, a trade association called the National Fisheries Institute, and the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council.

Much of the money is used for staff and student salaries, Hilborn said.

Altogether, the documents obtained by Greenpeace indicate Hilborn drew research funding to the university from at least 69 different industry sources, as well as consulting payments from others.

Greenpeace’s Hocevar, in his letter to Cauce, cites more than a half-dozen specific examples of papers published by Hilborn that allegedly failed to include full disclosure.

This represented a “significant departure from the accepted practices of his research community,” Hocevar wrote.

Greenpeace’s complaint also criticizes an online fisheries-information service that reaches out to the media: Hilborn helped launch last fall with financial help from the seafood industry that is not noted on the website.

A UW spokesman said the Greenpeace complaint involves matters “we take very seriously.”

“We will be looking into the issues raised by Greenpeace to determine if problems exist and what steps might need to be taken to address them,’’ said Norm Arkans, the UW spokesman.

Money and disclosure

Amid shrinking public funding, university researchers often reach out to private industry to fund their work. Researchers also may do outside contract work, which at the UW requires prior approval.

The potential for industry funding to influence research has long been a topic of debate and controversy, and major journals have developed disclosure policies that attempt to lay out an author’s potential conflicts of interest.

For example, the journal Science asks authors “to reveal any financial relationships that could be perceived to influence the research,” according to a statement released by Science.

Hilborn has been published in many major academic journals, including Science, and is widely quoted in the media.

His research at the UW School of Aquatics and Fishery Sciences has focused “on how to best manage fisheries to provide sustainable benefits to human societies,” according to his website. He has helped to launch a global database of fish stocks, and his awards include the 2006 Volvo Environment Prize and, this year, the International Fisheries Science Prize.

He also has obtained funding from environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But Hilborn, over the years, has spoken out against what he portrays as the unwarranted gloom and doom pushed by some environmental groups, which he accuses of pushing bad news about fisheries to boost fundraising.

In a 2011 New York Times opinion piece headlined “Let Us Eat Fish,” Hilborn denounced “apocalyptic predictions about the future of fish stocks.” On his website and elsewhere, he has sought to debunk what he calls “myths” that include that most fisheries are overfished and that all fish stocks could be gone by 2048.

“On average, fish stocks worldwide appear to be stable, and in the United States they are rebuilding, in many cases at a rapid rate,” Hilborn wrote.

And in 2013 testimony submitted to Congress, he declared: “The major threat to sustainable jobs, food, recreational opportunity and revenue from U.S. marine fisheries is no longer overfishing, but underfishing.”

Critics and supporters

Greenpeace is attempting to label Hilborn an “overfishing denier,” comparing the professor to so-called climate-change deniers who are a minority in a scientific community that overwhelmingly accepts that fossil-fuel combustion contributes to global warming.

“This issue is analogous and no less important,” said Hocevar, who accuses Hilborn of downplaying the effects of overfishing.

Other researchers dispute Greenpeace’s comparison. They say Hilborn has been a leader over the decades in a wide range of important research projects in the North Pacific and globally.

“I think that in general Ray’s work has been highly acclaimed by many scientists. He is not sitting way on the edge,” said Gunnar Knapp, a University of Alaska-Anchorage fishery economist who has collaborated on research with Hilborn.

But some marine scientists have been at odds with him.

They include Daniel Pauly, a University of British Columbia marine biologist who shared the 2006 Volvo prize with Hilborn. Pauly has authored numerous papers about the global decline in fish stocks that have been attacked by Hilborn as lacking creditability.

In an interview, Pauly criticized Hilborn as an industry-friendly scientist who has failed to properly disclose his funding.

“We all are certainly affected by where we get money from, and certainly have to make that available for discussion,” said Pauly whose own affiliations include an unpaid seat on the board of Oceana, a major marine-conservation group.

Hilborn said he draws money from a wide range of sources, and rejected the notion that he has been swayed by industry money.

That money is not a problem “but a natural part of working on solutions,” Hilborn said. “They (industry) should be paying part of the bill.”

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