In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 3

Atlantic cod (Photo credit: MA Division of Marine Fisheries).


Comments

4 Responses to Fish Talk in the News – Friday, February 3

  • Thaddeus Bigelow says:

    Why the silence on what the implications of the recent GOM cod assessment are for our ability to accurately predict the catch needed to end overfishing? Clearly something is wrong if two consecutive assessments of a key species cannot reach the same conclusions. What does this say about science’s abiity to support the stringent requirements of the M-S Act? Any chance our legal/policy framework is founded on unrealistic expectations of our science? Or do CLF and the other ENGOs just plan to ignore this?

  • Peter Shelley says:

    What silence? Talking Fish already touched on the science of the assessment and CLF is actively engaged in the “task force” developed by NMFS and the Council to deal with the new Gulf of Maine cod assessment. The science is what it is. Neither the science nor the scientific process is “wrong” just because two assessments disagree with each other, even if they disagree significantly with each other. New data produces new results and that is what has happened here. There is significant room for improvements on the fishery assessment side of the equation. But you are leaving out a number of important points when you challenge the notion of a science-based fishery management approach. To name just two: one can’t limit the data streams and the analytical resources going into an assessment process or depend on data from boats that actively misrepresent their unobserved catch and discards and then fault the model’s results. The quantity and quality of the data inputs are largely determinative of the predictive strength of the model outputs. Everyone knows that the New England groundfish models have consistently overestimated biomass and underestimated fishing levels (F). As a result, catch levels are set too high. I have never heard a New England fishermen object to this practice. Indeed, as far as I know, only a handful of New England fishermen have pressured Congress for more funds during appropriations fights. Second, you can’t support or be silent in the face of the Council’s practice of setting annual fishing levels that only have a 50% probability of accomplishing their rebuilding goals (at best it seems) and then blame either the science or the fish when the populations go into the tank. Should the Giants be blaming physics and probability theory that the Pats won the coin toss? And finally, I don’t think one can simply accept the assessments when they come out the way one wants and trash talk them when they don’t. Where was the outcry over the scallops or pollock or haddock dramatically upward re-assessments? Fishery models will always be wrong to a degree; we should all have the same interest in taking that risk fully into account. No one promised anything differently and no one has shown that they could do it better. What is the alternative: surveying guys on the dock or in a diner? Congress, the states, and/or the people who getting a direct economic return out of the fishery need to fund fishery-dependent and independent stock assessments at appropriate levels if anyone wants to see more predictability of the results. Some fisheries in the US and around the world do that; the New England groundfishery is not one of them.

  • Thaddeus Bigelow says:

    Seems like you are intentionally misinterpreting my comment to be an attack on the science to avoid discussing the legal and policy issues I raised. Your reply is full of misleading information, to wit:

    1. “when you challenge the notion of a science-based fishery management approach”: How did I challenge a science-based approach? What I challeged was a legal and policy framework that refuses to acknowledge the large uncertainties in the science.

    2. “Neither the science nor the scientific process is “wrong” just because two assessments disagree with each other”: I agree. But the science is wrong, as admitted in the GOM cod assessment, when the weight of discarded fish is assumed to be the same as landed fish. This led to an over-estimate of SSB in 2007. OK, mistakes get made by all of us. But the legal framework is wrong when the only response is to drive small boats out of business, as will happen in 2013, if not 2012.

    3. “boats that actively misrepresent their unobserved catch and discards “: What is this based on? And if this is the case, why do assessment models assume no error in the catch (all VPAs) or only very small errors (SCAA models)?

    4. “Everyone knows that the New England groundfish models have consistently overestimated biomass and underestimated fishing levels”: This is a half-truth. At GARM III the assessments supposedly adjusted for this retrospective pattern in one of two ways for the cases where it was large. GOM cod was not one of them.

    5. “you can’t support or be silent in the face of the Council’s practice of setting annual fishing levels that only have a 50% probability of accomplishing their rebuilding goals”: You have no idea whether I supported those decisions or not. But I’ll assume you were referring to a collective “you.” This argument is a red herring. The GARM III projections showed there was less than a 1 percent chance that SSB would be this low in 2010. And GOM cod allowable catches were based on a fishing mortality much less than the rebuilding target, so your argument is factually wrong for this stock. In fact, the 2010 GOM cod catches were set at a level that had better than a 75 percent chance of achieving the rebuilding target by 2014 – according to the GARM III assessment.

    • Peter Shelley says:

      1. How does the legal or policy framework “refuse” to acknowledgement the large uncertainties in the science? Seems to me, it is the managers who have “refused” by setting catch levels with high probabilities of failures with modest—and historically no–margins for the known science uncertainties. Explicit requirements to account for science uncertainties in federal law didn’t show up until after the 2006 Magnuson Act amendments. I am curious whether you supported those new provisions, given what you know about the uncertainties of science? I am also curious whether you have ever gotten up at a New England Council meeting or written comments to the managers arguing that they were setting catch levels for groundfish stocks too high for the science uncertainties?

      2. The assumptions about weights-at-age of discards in the 2008 assessment seem to turn out, in hindsight, to have been wrong as you say. Maybe it’s semantics but at the time in 2008 not a single scientist, including some with a strong industry bias, pointed this out. I simply don’t think it is constructive to talk about “right” or “wrong” as those words are popularly understood in the context of the scientific process or the scientific method. Yesterday’s science is almost always wrong in the sense that assumptions turn out to be inaccurate or insufficient. Again, fishery law requires that managers take these uncertainties into account. Clearly, they didn’t.

      3. Regarding misreporting, really? As far as the model assumptions with respect to misreporting go, you’ll have to ask the modelers. I’m pretty sure that so-called fisheries dependent data is not treated as the gospel.

      4. Half-true? Quoting from the recent Gulf of Maine cod Plan Develop Team Report (1/30/12): “These projections [for future catch scenarios] do not account for the retrospective pattern that remains in the assessment[,]” and “[e]xtensive work … last summer indicated that groundfish stock projections are often biased high—that is, future stock growth is projected to be faster than realized, resulting in catches that are set too high.”

      5. You’re right; I don’t know whether you supported this “high risk” strategy or not. However, a search of the 60,000+ page, 3+ year administrative record of the last groundfish amendment does not turn up your name, even once. As much as we enjoy these exchanges with you on Talking Fish, I encourage you to also make your views known more widely and publicly as part of the assessment or the council process. As to the specifics, referring to Table 15 of Amendment 16 itself, the probability of success indicated for achieving the then-proposed rebuilding year of 2014 for GOM cod is “50%.” Perhaps I am mis-reading that table. I’m sure you will set me straight.

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