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Subject: Re: Deep Threats for High Seas
From: "Trevor J. Kenchington" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 10 Aug 2006 14:28:03 -0300

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You really need to take more care in reading other people's postings,  
instead of setting up straw men for burning.

> 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?

For the same reasons that Serge Garcia drew that same conclusion.  
(See the two-part FAO Fish.Tech.Pap. on precaution. I should have the  
number to hand but cannot instantly find it.) In brief: over times  
scales of decades, fishery resources can and do recover from "over- 
utilization". Hence, the direct effects of fisheries are (in the  
main) reversible. Hence the precautionary principle (in the strict  
sense) is not applicable. The precautionary approach is.

>   It
> was designed for just such an occasion.

No it was not. The precautionary principle was designed for actions  
that have irreversible consequences.

> 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.

If that is the sense that you get from my posts, I can only suggest  
that you quit trying to sense them and instead work on reading and  
comprehending what I have written. Thus far, you have completely  
missed the point.

> 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.

Again: Read what I have written and, if necessary, re-read it until  
you understand.

I have a bibliography listing 1200 items relating not to "the  
subject" (whatever subject that may be) but to the seabed impacts of  
fishing gear. (An earlier version, with somewhat fewer entries is  
available on the web, with more specific information on the  
boundaries defining what is included.) They are all scientific items  
(as distinct from newspaper pieces, advocacy documents and the like)  
but they are not all in refereed journals. A good part of the total  
is "grey literature" material.

> 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.

And again: Read what I have written. I already made the point that  
knowledge can be gleaned from the corpus of material. However, when  
an author fails to account for the (inevitable?) flaws in his work  
before drawing conclusions, those conclusions should not be taken at  
face value. Sadly, far too many of us do fail to consider the  
limitations of our own work, and far to many fail to apply  
appropriate skepticism to the conclusions of others. Those two  
deficiencies are sadly common in the seabed-impacts literature.

> 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.

If anyone produces a report on a study with such a design, I most  
certainly will. In the meanwhile, we have to cope with many studies  
that compared the benthos of trawled and untrawled areas, where  
fishermen got to choose where they would fish. Failure to consider  
that the trawling grounds were selected, in part, because they had a  
suitable benthic habitat has led many such studies to dubious  

> 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).

Again, should somebody attempt such an analysis of their data, I  
would welcome a report on the work.

> All 1200 articles were
> published for a reason, I doubt that only a handful hold any valid
> meaning.

So would I. But nobody has claimed any such thing, so we really have  
no reason to express our doubts.

> 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
> article.

Michael did not ask for information. He stated as fact that which was  

On the broader question, partisan adversarial approaches are probably  
inevitable in any political process. However, the ultimate compromise  
can only come when some reasonable proportion of the players prove  
willing to agree on a common ground. Just when it helps your cause to  
go overboard with extremist propaganda and when it helps to extend a  
hand to your opponent is a matter requiring judgement calls that I am  
not competent to make. I only note that both approaches have their  

> 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.

I am sorry but you lost me with that paragraph. What is the "this"  
that something needs to be done about? High-seas bottom trawling? All  
bottom trawling?

Why would you propose banning trawling on sandy bottoms, which are  
usually thought to be the least vulnerable to gear impacts?

Of course we should not be backing away from any of these issues but,  
since nobody seems to have suggested that we should, I am not clear  
what significance you see in that point.

I do, however, disagree with your last two sentences. In my opinion  
(and it is not a point on which we have much more than opinions),  
management should aim for multi-objective optimization, not the best  
possible solutions from any one perspective. That optimization must  
take full account of the practicalities of managing the systems we  
are dealing with. Meanwhile, the role of government executives is to  
implement regulations. Objectives are usually best determined through  
some democratic process. But the generation of ideas about how to  
manage a fishery and what the objectives might be, along with the  
production of advice on the consequences of various management  
regimes, are very much matters for scientists -- not as the sole  
voice but as a primary one.

Trevor Kenchington

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