ment science results as much from troubled relationships between NMFS and the industry as from the occasional errors in assessments that are exacerbated by regulations necessary to restore overfished stocks. In a recent issue of National Fisherman (2002), the editor repeats the oft-stated lament that “questionable science” from NMFS is the consequence of failing to “seek the everyday wisdom of fishermen.” The perception of poor science in stock assessments can obscure the reality that NMFS stock assessment science is generally good.
In the broader arena of ecological and ecosystem science, there is a perception in the environmental community that NMFS is not conducting its science at a level or with the quality that is necessary to define fishing effects on habitats, biological communities, and ecosystems in a way that will allow achievement of the directives of the MSFCMA. The lack of necessary information hinders managers’ ability to regulate fishing to account for those concerns. In that regard, perception may be closer to reality. NMFS has been subject to litigation on ecosystem effects and in some instances has not done timely studies on environmental effects or essential fish habitats or on effects of bycatch on fisheries and ecosystems or, in several cases, has not conducted the science necessary to understand how fishing may affect threatened or endangered mammals, turtles, and seabirds. Even broader mandates probably will be required of NMFS as marine protected areas (MPAs) become more common in FMPs. NMFS is aware of its responsibility to learn about ecosystem-based management, and it has created the Ecosystem-Based Approach to Management Task Force of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee that held a workshop January 15-17, 2002. An example of a new responsibility in ecosystem science evolves from Presidential Executive Order 13158 (May 30, 2000, 65 Fed. Reg. 34909), which directs NOAA (through its National Ocean Service and NMFS line offices) and other agencies to develop and design networks of MPAs. The designated agencies are undertaking the task, but unless the scientific evaluations and modeling research in support of specific MPAs are excellent, it seems certain that lawsuits will be brought by both the fishing and environmental communities to challenge the scientific basis of designations and recommended implementations of MPAs.