Conservation & Sustainable Management, Fisheries, Aquaculture, & Sustainable Seafood, Science Communication

Oh Canada – what about your ocean?

This is a big post.  It’s about big things.  Important things too.  It deals with Canada – a big country.  Actually by area, it is the second largest country in the world.  It also has a lot of ocean under its jurisdiction.  Take a look at the website of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a Federal government body, and you will see statements like this:

“The Government of Canada is working to ensure the future health of Canada’s oceans and ocean resources by increasing understanding and protection of our oceans; supporting sustainable economic opportunities; and demonstrating international leadership in oceans management”

Sounds good doesn’t it.  The Canadian Federal Government (which has just changed as of yesterday – see bottom of the post) have a several Acts in place to govern the bit of the ocean they have claimed as theirs.  Great stuff!  Except maybe, as demonstrated in a recently published paper, authored by 19 Canadian scientists including lead-author Megan Bailey (Dalhousie University), “over the past decade decision-making at the federal level appears to have undermined the government’s own mandates for the sustainable management of Canada’s oceansContinue reading “Oh Canada – what about your ocean?”

Fisheries, Aquaculture, & Sustainable Seafood

Not all fisheries are created equal

 And not all fisheries are as poorly managed as others.  But does fishery management mean that a fishery can achieve that hallowed if rather vague ‘sustainability’ goal?  Ray Hilborn from the University of Washington has written numerous papers saying – yes it can.  In his latest paper, written with Daniel Ovando from the University of California, Santa Barbara, he argues that many scientifically assessed stocks – particularly large stocks – are not only in better shape than we perceive, but in many cases actually rebuilding.  Ray is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his stance on fishery management, and the state of the world’s fisheries.  Just take a look at this summary of a debate with another eminent fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly that took place in Nature News & Comment last year  and if you have access to Nature have a read of this response too.  Let’s take a look at the argument Ray and Daniel has presented in this latest open access paper.

It doesn’t matter which country you look at, many fisheries have historically been heavily overexploited.  However, as to the state of fisheries now remains controversial.  Some argue that in many cases fisheries management is not only rebuilding overfished stocks but preventing others heading into a downward spiral.  Others argue that the same fisheries management is failing, particularly from the point of view of ecosystem protection.  This sort of debate is all well and good Ray and Daniel say, but something is being missed here – the “opportunity to objectively assess the successes and failures of fisheries management and identify successful strategies for achieving sustainable fisheries”.  There are a few issues here – like the issue of scale.  Take a too big a view to get an overall picture and you lose sight of the variability – including the successes.  On the opposite end of the scale, keep your focus too small then you miss what is happening around you.  As an example of how this issue of scale can have impacts on fisheries, we’ll just take a brief foray to my home Island.  Through the strange quirks of constitutional agreements, ownership and management rights, even though we are not part of the EU or the UK our fishers can be subject to EU legislation.  The undulate ray (Raja undulata) is considered Endangered, and consequently through EU legislation can no longer be fished.  In my local waters, fishers tell us that the ray is so abundant that they cannot help but catch these critters.  The undulate ray fishery, they claim, is sustainable here.  Before I digress too much as to whether the Island’s fishers should be subject to this fishery closure I’ll move back to the paper. Continue reading “Not all fisheries are created equal”

Fisheries, Aquaculture, & Sustainable Seafood

It’s not the size of the vessel that count, but how it is managed

If you are a fan of developing sustainable fishing, then super-trawlers are probably not something you smile about.  Take a look at the image below from the Greenpeace campaign against the Abel Tasman (FV Margiris) – the world’s second largest fishing vessel.  Weighing in at a some 9 ,500 GT, this trawler-come-factory ship invoked the anger of NGO’s and Australians (whose waters she was due to fish in) who saw the vessel as a huge threat to marine biodiversity.  A huge campaign ensued.  The battle lines drawn.  No super trawlers.  Not here.  Not anywhere.  Just last year, the Abel Tasman was banned from fishing in Australian waters for two years.  Victory for the NGOs.

But was it the right thing to do?

Fisheries scientists Dr Sean Tracey and colleagues from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and the University of Tasmania, Australia challenge the idea that the trawler was inherently a ‘bad thing’.  They argue that the campaigns was biased, presenting an argument based on only the worst examples of trawlers over-exploiting fish and damaging the ecosystem.  What the campaigns and the public  forgot was the importance of scientifically backed active management.

It’s a good point.  So, can super-trawlers be managed to fish efficiently without destroying the marine ecosystem?

The article – published in Fisheries which is produced by the American Fisheries Society – is likely to inflame many readers, but it is certainly worth following it through to the end.  It is open access… here’s the link (page 345 – or the 7th page of the PDF document).