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Subject: Re: Deep Threats for High Seas
From: "Johnston, Justin C" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 10 Aug 2006 11:56:11 -0400

text/plain (200 lines)

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Fisheries Science classes begin with students reading the "Tragedy of
the Commons".  Fisheries have collapsed from over-utilization and
improper management since the day commercial fishing began.  How can you
argue that the precautionary principle should not be applied here?  It
was designed for just such an occasion.  I get the sense from your posts
that you believe that it is too difficult to do anything about the
current situation, so why try?  International mandates don't stop
anything, so why make them?  Truly scientific studies are too expensive
and the logistics are too insurmountable, so why attempt them?  Other
than an all out ban, regulations are impossible to enforce, so why try?
The propaganda may be taking the situation too far, but you seem adamant
on preventing any such action as regulating this type of fishing. 

As you stated, you have 1200 articles on the subject.  I know that you
are a well educated scientist, and that all of these are from refereed
journals.  You discount many of the articles on the basis that they
pseudo-replicated, were non-randomized, or lacked Bonferroni
adjustments.  Not every experiment or observational study is perfect.
In fact, I doubt as if any are without flaw if you look hard enough.
Biology is nearly as much an art as it is a science.  Logistics make it
difficult to design and execute fully defensible studies, especially in
the deep sea.  That does not mean that attempts that fall short of
perfection should be discounted completely.  A lot of useful information
can be found in studies that are not fully randomized, committed the sin
of pseudo-replication, or where the researcher lacked the due diligence
to perform the Bonferroni adjustments.  Some statisticians also believe
that interspersion is better than randomization, so you should at the
very least include interspersed studies in your group of valid articles.
Depending on the type of pseudo-replication, perhaps statistical
adjustments could be done to accommodate them (i.e. blocking for time in
the case of temporal pseudo-replication).  All 1200 articles were
published for a reason, I doubt that only a handful hold any valid

From the perspective of management, there are two sides to every story
and in the end neither side will win.  There will be a compromise.  The
propaganda side will not get everything that they want, and the
fisherman will not get to run rampant either.  If propaganda didn't take
a hard stance to the left, then the compromise would end up "favoring"
the fishermen.  If the fishermen gave an inch, the compromise would end
up favoring the propaganda.  Therefore, both sides will naturally step
as far as they can to their respective sides in the social and political
arena.  If you see a situation where you think one side is gaining an
edge that they shouldn't, fine, but that is a personal perspective not
to be mistaken as science.  You certainly should not be jumping on
Michael's back for leaning the other way even if he lacks your knowledge
from years of experience and 1200 articles.  He asked for information to
make his own judgment, not why you believe contrary to the Deep Threats

It is likely that something should be done to regulate this be it an all
out ban (a doubtful outcome) or some compromise (more likely).  I would
say bans in areas with sandy bottoms and with a lot of coral trees would
be warranted whereas trawling in other areas could be allowed.  The
exact regulation would probably be more complicated than that, but we
shouldn't be backing away from the issue just because it's difficult.
We shouldn't be ignoring the best possible solutions from a biological
perspective just because we see them as impossible to regulate.
Regulation is not our job, that is up to the executives in government. 

Justin C Johnston

Wexford Prof. Bldg. III
11676 Perry Hwy, suite 3101
Wexford, PA 15090
Phone: (724) 940-4200x229
Cell: (231) 282-2192
Fax: (724) 940-4205

-----Original Message-----
From: Scientific forum on fish and fisheries
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Trevor J. Kenchington
Sent: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 7:23 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Deep Threats for High Seas

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I should probably have the sense to let someone else carry the ball on
this one but, since you appended your posting to one of mine:

Of course we should apply the precautionary approach in fisheries
management (but NOT usually the precautionary principle, which is
intended for actions causing irreversible change -- as new trawl
fisheries on seamounts might be but continued trawling on long-fished
continental shelves is not).

However, having once been stuck doing a contract that required me to
work in both international and national fisheries management
simultaneously, I have become painfully aware of an important
distinction: The international arena (at the U.N. level, some regional
management agencies are different) is mostly a talking shop, good at
generating pious statements about overall goals. The national arena has
to deal with the difficult process of implementing plans that actually
bear on what people do. Too often, national-level managers ease their
burdens by dodging the obviously-desirable long- term goals but their
international colleagues too often set unrealistic standards that just
don't work when you get down to the level of trying to put them into

So ... the Code of Conduct is a great document but one intended as a
guide, not a rulebook. The Straddling Stocks Agreement is important too
but applies to straddling stocks and is, at most, only another guide to
good practice in national fisheries management. In any case, both are
very general and the "precautionary approach" wording could be fulfilled
by nothing more than limiting catch or effort -- stuff that North
American or European fishery managers take as the starting point but for
much of the world is a goal to be worked towards one day.

The Rio declaration could be dismissed as just another set of hopeful
nonsense which the signatories never intended to implement but, in so
far as it is more, it calls for not postponing "cost-effective
measures". Thus expressed, I suspect that most fisheries people could go
along. What we would argue over (endlessly) is what restrictions should
be deemed cost-effective in light of our current levels of uncertainty.
Bans on expanding mobile-gear fishing into new areas might make the cut
while bans on trawling on established grounds might not.

Trevor Kenchington

On 9-Aug-06, at 1:46 PM, Tom Pickerell wrote:

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> Dear All
> My tuppence-worth...
> With such a difficult to assess ecosystem, shouldn't we be adopting
> the precautionary approach to any fisheries?
> The Precautionary Principle has been endorsed internationally on many
> occasions. At the Earth Summit meeting at Rio in 1992, World leaders
> agreed Agenda 21, which advocated the widespread application of the
> Precautionary Principle in the following terms:
> 'In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall

> be widely applied by States according to their capabilities.
> Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of
> full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing

> cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.'
> (Principle 15)
> In Fisheries Management this precautionary approach has been defined
> in two international instruments:
> the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF); and the
> Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United
> Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating
> to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and
> Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNIA).
> Both of these share common wording and ideas. The wording used in the
> CCRF is:
> 'States should apply the precautionary approach widely to
> conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources
> in order to protect them and preserve the aquatic environment. The
> absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a
> reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management
> measures.'
> Regards
> Tom Pickerell

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