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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service 7 Findings and Recommendations Since 1996, NMFS Operations, Research and Facilities (OR&F) funding (the main source of NMFS operational funds) has increased by 125 percent (NAPA, 2002). At the same time, the percentage of funding directed to pass-through or earmarked funds for specific purposes has also increased. Kammer (2000) found that there was a plateau in NMFS’s base funding for stock assessments and other science operations, particularly those with a long-term focus. The plateau in base science funding has had serious effects on NMFS’s ability to pursue research needed to enable effective management and minimize lawsuits against the agency. In general, litigation results when stakeholders are dissatisfied with the outcome of the fishery management process. Two major groups are typically interested in fisheries: fishers are interested in the amount of the catch, and others are concerned with the magnitude of the standing stock of fish and the preservation of marine biological diversity and habitat. A fundamental conflict exists between those groups over the allocated catch and the effects of fishing on marine ecosystems. Great pressure is often brought on NMFS and the regional FMCs by harvesters because of excess capacity and other incentives that drive a “race for fish.” When scientific knowledge is available in support of restrictions and is properly documented, NMFS usually wins lawsuits. However, a substantial fraction of the litigation that NMFS faces is a consequence of real or perceived deficiencies in data or science. The committee developed recommendations related to:
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service Adequacy of scientific information for fisheries management—for stock assessments, related to marine ecosystems and protected species, and for social and economic data and analyses. Use of available scientific information and advice to manage marine fish and protected species. Adequacy of scientific expertise available to NMFS. High-priority areas for augmentation of NMFS science activities. Funding. ADEQUACY OF SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION FOR FISHERIES MANAGEMENT Finding: Past National Research Council committees found that NMFS stock assessments generally have been done correctly given the data available and have used reasonable assumptions. Data on fish population characteristics collected by NMFS generally are adequate to guide management of fished species, particularly those of major economic and social importance. NMFS wins most lawsuits brought on grounds of its stock assessments. Funding available for collection and analysis of fisheries data is small relative to the immensity of the task if all fish stocks need to be analyzed at the same high level. Given the current state of knowledge, conservative single-species management is the most important (and probably most cost-effective) approach for many fisheries (NRC, 1999b). At the same time, NMFS has been urged to develop techniques to move beyond single-species management (NRC, 1994b; 1999b; 2001). Assessments might be improved for some fisheries through increased expenditures for data collection and analysis, including observer programs, and though greater use of commercial data and data obtained through cooperative and collaborative surveys (NRC, 2000a). For some fisheries, however, the incremental gain in assessment accuracy and precision per incremental expense for data collection and analysis may be a decreasing function because of the general phenomenon of diminishing returns on investments. Recommendation: NMFS should maintain and advance its tradition of excellence in fisheries science. Several NRC studies (NRC, 1998a,b; 2000a) have concluded that NMFS’s stock assessment techniques are second to none among govern-
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service ment fishery-management agencies worldwide. However, those studies also recommended some actions that NMFS should take to improve the use of stock assessment models. For example, NMFS’s scientists should use several models (depending on the data available) to analyze the same data as a means of understanding the data better and uncovering peculiarities that arise from assumptions implicit in the models rather than from the data themselves. To accomplish that goal, it will be necessary for NMFS stock assessment scientists to be trained more broadly in the use of different models and to be less prone to use models as “black boxes.” Other important recommendations from those NRC reports are that NMFS and the regional FMCs should find ways to use fishery-dependent data more effectively and collect and use more social and economic data in the stock-assessment process to evaluate the social and economic impacts of different management strategies. NMFS cannot afford to assess all fisheries to the same degree. It is appropriate for NMFS to continue to focus its resources on assessing the most economically and ecologically important species. The National Research Council (NRC, 2000a) recommended a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of fisheries data collection and stock assessments nationally to help set funding priorities. Many stock assessments are conducted only once every few years, and every assessment is reviewed. For many Atlantic Coast fisheries, peer review is a slow process and is the rate-limiting step, forcing the councils to use out-of-date assessments. For some stocks, peer review may only be necessary if a major change in stock status is detected or a major change in the management approach is proposed. Finding: Fisheries management depends on the availability of a variety of biological, environmental, economic, and social data on a timely basis, and NMFS is involved in a variety of activities to collect and manage such data (NRC, 2000a). The National Research Council (NRC, 2000a) described the current status of data collection for marine fisheries management in the United States and made recommendations for improving it. It (NRC, 1998a) pointed out the importance for fisheries management of a reliable indicator of the abundance of fish populations over time. For most fisheries, the most reliable indicator is obtained from fishery-independent surveys conducted by NMFS. Surveys are conducted on relatively old, technically obsolete NMFS fishery research vessels. The National Research Council (NRC, 2000a) endorsed the efforts of Congress and NMFS to maintain a
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service strong fleet of NOAA survey vessels—particularly for trawl and acoustic surveys—by replacing aging vessels with newer, more capable, and quieter ones. Congress should not only fund the construction of new vessels but also provide adequate funding for survey and research work performed by these vessels (NRC, 2000a). NMFS has documented the need for six replacement, special-purpose research vessels. Only one of the approved vessels has received full funding, and a second has received partial funding. Data from fishery-independent surveys and other sources are stored in a variety of locations and formats with relatively little coordination making access to the data difficult for managers and scientists. At the request of Congress, NMFS submitted a plan to Congress for a Fisheries Information System (FIS) to coordinate fisheries data regionally and nationally, but the FIS has not yet been funded. The National Research Council (NRC, 2000a) states (p. 156): The committee agrees with the directive of Congress in requesting a plan for a nationwide Fisheries Information System (FIS). The FIS design (based on coordinated regional systems) is good and its reliance on national standards is a positive feature. The FIS is ambitious; however, for it to be successful (1) Congress must provide adequate funding and (2) cooperation and balance among the regions must be ensured. Recommendation: Congress should fund continued acquisition and deployment of new vessels and the Fisheries Information System, as recommended in previous NRC reports. NMFS cannot support either the continued acquisition of state-of-the-art fishery research vessels or implement the proposed FIS without new funding. Both items are essential to increase the likelihood of successful fisheries management. ADEQUACY OF SCIENCE RELATED TO MARINE ECOSYSTEMS AND PROTECTED SPECIES Finding: NMFS is responsible for administering a wide array of legislative mandates, requiring broader scientific knowledge than is available from scientific activities traditionally conducted by NMFS. In the science that it conducts and the weight given to mandates of legislation, NMFS appears to place greater emphasis on the MSFCMA than ESA, MMPA, and NEPA. NMFS appears to conduct its science on the basis of traditional fisheries-oriented priorities and does not always have
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service scientific knowledge available to meet important legal mandates that arise from the ESA, MMPA, and NEPA. Many fisheries are in a rebuilding status and are managed to stay as close as possible to (or to exceed) fishing mortality designed to rebuild populations to levels that will produce optimum yield within 10 years. In the last decade, increasing pressure has arisen from the environmental community to improve data on protected species and essential habitats. Yet NMFS still appears to focus most of its activity on protecting fish harvests. NMFS is responsible for implementing several major laws that are perceived to conflict with objectives and provisions without clear guidance on how to maintain balance, such as among the MSFCMA, ESA, MMPA, and NEPA. Therefore, preservation of biodiversity, maintenance of marine food webs, and protection of habitat are important goals that must also be included in fisheries management. Moving toward an ecosystem orientation will place new demands on fishery managers. With improved understanding of how various fish stocks interact as parts of marine ecosystems, there is increasing recognition that landings are not adequate measures of the health of ocean resources. NMFS has the capabilities and facilities through its science centers and its relationships with academic scientists to obtain observations and conduct the experiments necessary to improve our biological understanding of fish populations and marine ecosystems sufficiently to improve the management of fisheries and such protected resources as marine mammals, marine turtles, and seabirds. However, much of NMFS’s scientific capacity in recent years has been devoted to collecting and analyzing data for stock assessments, conducting other work directly related to short-term needs to fulfill regulatory requirements of the MSFCMA, and responding to litigation. That leaves less in financial, facility, and human resources to conduct the fundamental research that is necessary for NMFS to fulfill its current and long-term resource management mission in relation to the MSFCMA and other laws. The situation has persisted and worsened as NMFS’s core budget has plateaued and pressures to defend stock assessments against councils and courts have increased. Ecosystem and biological research will be increasingly important in the context of changing environmental conditions, including climate change. Data and research necessary to fulfill mandates of the ESA, MMPA, and NEPA are particularly lacking in relation to EFH requirements and availability, predator-prey relationships, and health and reproductive status of the organisms sampled.
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service Recommendation: NMFS must balance its traditional emphasis on sustainable exploitation with its duty to protect vulnerable species and habitats harmed by fishing. A new focus will require enhanced research on bycatch, fish habitats, marine ecosystems, and the biology and ecology of threatened and endangered species. NMFS should address the gaps in scientific understanding and legal vulnerabilities in setting priorities for future research. New types of information will need to be collected by NMFS and obtained from other agencies to ensure management that accounts for a target species’ place in marine food webs, the effects of fishing on marine ecosystems, and the effects of changing environmental conditions on fish populations. It is important that NMFS staff employed in protected resources, habitat, and sustainable resources communicate effectively to plan, coordinate, and conduct needed research. Ecosystem research will have substantial costs and should be considered in NMFS funding priorities without diminishing support for routine stock assessments and biological research. NMFS managers should consult with the NOAA General Counsel to identify the research whose lack of funding and conduct would create the agency’s greatest potential legal vulnerability (see Kammer, 2000). A strategy to address such vulnerability is needed. ADEQUACY OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DATA AND ANALYSES Finding: Social and economic data collected by NMFS are inadequate for understanding the effects of past management on fisheries and fishing communities and for predicting outcomes of management alternatives. Fishery management plans often do not include adequate social and economic goals. In addition to collection and analysis of biological data, fisheries management requires economic and sociological-anthropological analysis of how participants respond and adhere to management regulations and how the regulations affect their livelihoods and general well being. Lack of social and economic data hinders the development and implementation of acceptable and effective management measures. The lack of data results from a variety of factors (such as inadequate funding, restrictions imposed by the MSFCMA, and concerns of fishers about the confidentiality of social and economic data that they provide) that are largely beyond NMFS’s
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service control. The National Research Council (NRC, 2000a) listed a variety of social and economic data that should be collected and made recommendations to Congress for changes in the MSFCMA to make economic data more easily available to managers and social scientists. Economic and social goals of FMPs are not expressed clearly and quantitatively. Consequently, important economic and social values are not documented or measured continually, and it is impossible to measure progress toward goals, anticipate the effects of alternative management measures on social and economic values, and calculate the total costs of alternative management measures. Without critical baseline data, such as would be obtained through standard and regular collection of data to track economic and social changes, it is difficult to examine the effects of fishery-management decisions on commercial fishers, recreational anglers, and their associated communities. Because critical social and economic data are not routinely collected and analyzed, it is difficult to determine whether population fluctuations measured by landings, for example, result from changes in the magnitude of the stock or from changes in associated economic or social factors. Without adequate social and economic data and analysis, it is often impossible to determine the total cost of management alternatives. Therefore, it is difficult to discuss rationally how total costs might be minimized and the distributional effects alleviated as public preferences for the use of fishery resources change. Sufficient information must be available to design programs that will reduce fishing capacity and restore economic viability to the harvest sector and keep total harvests within the bounds required to rebuild stocks within a reasonable period. Usually, managers choose among alternatives on the basis of biological concerns without objectively considering economic and social implications. The MSFCMA requires calculations of stock sizes relative to their unexploited states and relative to measurable definitions of overfishing, but it does not include similar requirements for economic and social values. It is clear that excess harvesting capacity is one of the major problems in U.S. fisheries, as well as fisheries worldwide, and that not enough attention is being devoted to collecting data and conducting analyses to quantify overcapacity in each fishery. Such information is fundamental for preparing plans to reduce overcapacity, which is an important step in reducing the tendency for risk-prone management decisions and for reducing bycatch and overfishing.
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service Recommendation: The importance of social and economic data and analysis to marine fisheries management should be recognized in the reauthorization of the MSFCMA, resulting federal regulations, fishery management plans, NMFS funding requests, and Congressional appropriations. Many NRC reports have recommended increased collection of social and economic data (for example, NRC, 2000a); it is well past time to give economic and social data equal consideration with biological data in the development of FMPs. With respect to adequacy of social and economic data, plans need to be made for the regular collection, storage, and retrieval of this type of data in a manner that is analogous to data for stock assessments. NMFS needs to develop a comprehensive plan to determine social-science data needs and to implement the data-collection process. The MSFCMA should be amended to require such data collection, given that fishers are exploiting a public-trust resource, while appropriate protection of data confidentiality is maintained. The availability of such data will help managers to choose from among different possible management scenarios, balancing biological, social, and economic factors. As NMFS assimilates its new social scientists, their first tasks should be to quantify overcapacity, where it exists, in all fisheries managed under FMPs and to develop plans to reduce it that take into account social and economic factors in individual fisheries. Plans for reducing overcapacity should consider all the fish stocks in a fishery region, inasmuch as reductions in overcapacity in some fisheries will spill over into other fisheries (primarily in the same region) as fishers shift target species. Congress should encourage such analyses, because solving the overcapacity problem could make fisheries management easier and less expensive. Other tasks with very high priority are to develop regional and national consensus on the standards to be used in addressing the social impact assessment and National Standard 8 requirements and to establish regional or national systems for the standardization and collection of social, demographic, and other data on the socioeconomic, cultural, and community aspects of marine fisheries.
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service USE OF AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION AND ADVICE FOR MANAGEMENT OF MARINE FISHERIES AND PROTECTED RESOURCES Overfishing can result from a lack of sufficient scientific information or from a fisheries management process that ignores available scientific advice or has insufficient resources to enforce management regulations. In the former case, prevention of overfishing depends on better data collection and analysis (discussed previously). In the latter case, prevention of overfishing depends on changed procedures for using science in the management process and for allocating resources to enforcement. Finding: The use of science in the marine fisheries management decision-making process is impeded by the governance system created by the MSFCMA and the resulting mismatch between institutional authorities and responsibilities. The use of science in fisheries management is a multistage process. NMFS generates stock assessments and other information about managed fisheries, habitats, and protected species. The information is provided to the regional FMCs (usually to their science and statistical committees) to develop FMPs. Regional FMCs sometimes disregard the scientific advice provided by NMFS and their science and statistical committees in setting total allowable catches (TACs) and in deciding other aspects of FMPs. NMFS has the legal right to approve, disapprove, or partially approve FMPs; but when councils have disregarded the scientific findings of NMFS and the advice of their science and statistical committees, NMFS has sometimes sought compromises with the councils rather than upholding their original findings. The entire process is subject to intense political pressure, directly from stakeholders and indirectly through their representatives in Congress. Many issues arise in how science is used to manage marine fisheries in the United States. The committee discussed examples in which NMFS stock assessment scientists or the science and statistical committees made clear recommendations about target fishing mortality and harvest levels and the councils ignored the recommendations in developing their FMPs (correspondence of Coleman, 1997, and Pikitch, 1999). NMFS does not always defend its own science after council decisions. NMFS and the Secretary of Commerce bear the legal responsibility for the content of FMPs, although in practice much of the responsibility for the content rests with the councils.
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service Recommendation: Congress should initiate a review of the fisheries governance system and the use of science in governance. Crucial breakpoints in the production and use of science in the fishery management process are discussed below: From NMFS to the Scientific and Statistical Committees (SSCs) and the Regional FMCs NMFS scientists and the science and statistical committees (SSCs) of regional FMCs focus on data collection and analysis needed to meet the requirements of the MSFCMA and to some extent the ESA, MMPA, and NEPA. SSCs are usually composed of scientists in academe and in NMFS. They are responsible for recommending FMP options to the full councils. Some councils rely more on plan development teams (PDTs) than on their SSCs. PDTs are smaller but with similar compositions. Council members need to understand the manageable uncertainties and that uncertainty can be quantified, accounted for in stock assessment predictions, and used to make better decisions. Councils should explore different techniques to present relative uncertainties and effects on decisions (such as decision tables; see NRC, 1998a). It is not necessary for council members to understand the details of stock assessment methods to use the results, but they should be helped to assess the relative merits of criticisms of stock assessments that may arise during the decision-making process, for example, by strong representation of the SSCs in FMC meetings. From the FMCs to the Secretary of Commerce It is important for science to be insulated from political influence at the level of the Secretary of Commerce and the NMFS staff to whom the Secretary defers in decisions on FMPs. A disconnect can occur between NMFS scientists (who advise the regional FMCs) and NMFS managers when the latter act on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce and compromise with council recommendations that are in violation of laws (for example, recommendation by NMFS and approval by the Secretary of Commerce of a quota with only an 18 percent chance of achieving target fishing mortality rates in the summer flounder fishery). The Secretary of Commerce should be more consistent in rejecting plans that clearly ignore cur-
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service rent laws and regulations. NMFS should design and use objective decision-making processes with maximal defensibility, for example, the Organized Decision Process that has been proposed for making determinations with respect to purse-seining and its potential for adverse stress-related effects on dolphin populations of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. The court decision described in Brower v. Evans criticized the agency for not following the structured process in reaching its interim findings on that question. The agency should make further use of decision methods that insulate scientific determinations from political pressure or considerations. Finding: A better structure to conduct science in NMFS would improve outsiders’ perceptions of NMFS scientists and science. A structure that allowed scientists to operate objectively and independently of the management body (but was responsive to requests for scientific investigations) could improve both the image and the performance of NMFS. Some of the challenges and dissatisfaction with the fishery management process are related to science results that are judged to be questionable, insufficient, or wrong. The committee agreed that a different structure in the agency—one that better insulates the science from the management decision process—could improve the ability of NMFS to conduct science and enhance the quality of science available for fisheries management. The committee also believes that NMFS science needs to be open and transparent to their constituents, but at the same time, NMFS scientists need to be able to provide their best scientific work in an environment insulated from political influence that can occur in the management-decision process. One way to depict the management process is with the fundamental input of science occurring at the first stage of the evaluation process, in a venue where NMFS scientists present their assessments to stock assessment review committees and the science and statistics committees. But by that point most of the work on the science advice is completed, and little opportunity remains to conduct new analysis during the decision-making process. Hence, the development of new ways to approach analysis must happen at or before the initial stages of the evaluation process. The problem can be partly solved by improving conditions for undertaking scientific research in the agency. NMFS scientists can benefit from a workplace in which they can conduct the following:
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service Responsive science. Scientists must be responsive to the issues and problems of resource management. To do so, they need the financial and staffing resources to respond. Ideally, scientists should be free of the political pressures of management-related issues, recognizing that they must produce timely results that respond to management needs. Innovative science. There is a need for innovative science to improve stock assessments and to reduce the personnel needs, costs, and uncertainties associated with stock assessments and modeling but also a need to address the new and complex concerns of ecosystem science. Integrative science. New demands for ecosystem science require broadly interdisciplinary approaches to solve problems that span climate, oceanography, individual species’ biology, systems ecology, and fish-stock dynamics. Effective teams will be required to conduct such research in support of management. Furthermore, NMFS, other NOAA line offices, and other agencies will need to work collaboratively to solve the broad ecosystem problems faced by marine fisheries management. Visionary science. Science that anticipates management issues is needed. Being more than responsive to current issues will require an infusion of staff and funds into NMFS to conduct research at the cutting edge of theory, modeling, and anticipation of problems that either fishing or environmental variability will contribute to fisheries and fisheries management. Some would argue that other institutions—possibly academic institutions—should accept the responsibility for those aspects of research and science; however, the health of NMFS science, the morale of the agency’s scientists, and the quality of advice to managers could improve if this element were instituted in NMFS. Recommendation: NMFS should create an atmosphere that encourages innovation and rewards excellence, as recommended in previous National Research Council reports. NMFS has already developed institutions, such as the NOAA-university cooperative institutes and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Cooperative Marine Education and Research Program that foster partnerships with universities. The partnerships provide environments to develop innovative science by combining efforts of agency and academic scientists. However, only a small number of scientists are participating in these groups, and the committee recognized the importance of exposing more NMFS scientists to such an environment. However, with the increasing demands on scientists to produce analyses based on the requirements of the 1996
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service MSFCMA amendments, a business-as-usual approach to conducting scientific analyses is increasingly problematic, as demonstrated by increased litigation. Development of cross-disciplinary teams of scientists within and across regions would seem to be one cost-effective way to follow the recommendation, but other approaches, such as the development of an NMFS national think tank, might also be appropriate. Finding: NMFS is required by the MMPA and ESA to develop conservation or recovery plans for protected, threatened, or endangered species, such as marine mammals and sea turtles, listed under the ESA. Those plans often identify research needs related to understanding the biology and population dynamics of the target species and the causes of their decline that might be mitigated through regulation of human activities that affect them or their habitats. Some recent lawsuits under the ESA and NEPA have resulted in injunctions against fishing activities and caused considerable economic disruption in relation to potential impacts of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fisheries on Steller sea lions; the Hawaii-based, pelagic longline fleet effects on sea turtles; and the effects of the lobster fishery around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands on Hawaiian monk seals (Greenpeace v. NMFS, Leatherback Sea Turtle v. NMFS, and Greenpeace Foundation v. Mineta, respectively). In each of these cases, the species of concern were the subject of recovery plans prepared by teams of scientists familiar with the species and their habitat requirements. Each team recommended a suite of investigations that could help to determine the causes of the species’ decline and the interaction with the fishery, but the research was not ranked high in budget requests and therefore was not conducted in a timeframe that made information available to the agency for use in EISs and biological opinions. Consequently, the agency was often left with limited information on which to make jeopardy determinations. A similar problem is occurring with respect to stock identity questions about the marine mammals that are the subject of take reduction planning efforts under the MMPA. Recommendation: NMFS should develop and implement a plan for rapid response to research needs identified in recovery and conservation plans. The NMFS research system should be able to initiate research outside the normal multi-year budget planning and appropriation cycle because delays of several years in research and application of results to management
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service can severely reduce the chance of averting a species’ extinction. Consideration should be given to expanding recovery and conservation plans to include recovery of other threatened or endangered marine species. Finding: NMFS receives independent scientific input from a variety of sources, including the National Research Council (see references for list of reports with advice to NMFS), academic scientists, the Marine Mammal Commission, independent groups commissioned by NMFS, and recovery teams set up pursuant to the ESA and MMPA. National Research Council Reports The committee reviewed the findings and recommendations of past National Research Council fisheries reports and received written updates from NMFS related to how it has responded to the reports’ recommendations. It is obvious that NMFS has adopted many recommendations of previous National Research Council committees when it has been able to do so without extra funding or changes in the MSFCMA. However, NRC recommendations to NMFS require cooperation with Congress, FMCs, and others in making policy and securing funding, and NMFS has been less successful in implementing such recommendations. NMFS has attempted to create special initiatives in response to NRC recommendations [for example, the Marine Fisheries Stock Assessment Improvement Plan (NMFS, 2001b) in response to NRC, 1998 a,b], but such initiatives have generally not been funded. Center for Independent Experts Traditionally, most stock assessments and much of the science on which NMFS bases its regulations and recommendations to the councils were reviewed almost entirely in NMFS. That practice led to a distrust of NMFS science on the part of some constituents and increasing use of the courts to challenge NMFS scientific findings. It also led to requests for external peer review by such organizations as the NRC. NMFS responded to the trend by creating the Center for Independent Experts (CIE) in the late 1990s to provide relatively quick and inexpensive peer review of potentially controversial stock assessment results. That mechanism seems like a promising approach, although it is still fairly new.
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service Other Scientific Input from Academic Scientists Academic scientists participate in advising NMFS in various ways. Traditionally, they participate in formal review of stock assessments by serving on stock assessment review committees, taking part in stock assessment workshops, and reviewing papers written by NMFS scientists for publication. Other venues have also been used, such as the NMFS Ecosystem Panel, which was composed primarily of scientists from outside NMFS and provided many recommendations in relation to the principles and procedures for incorporating a greater consideration of ecosystems into fisheries management under the MSFCMA. Marine Mammal Commission and Recovery Teams Both the Marine Mammal Commission and the recovery teams formed pursuant to the ESA and MMPA identify scientific uncertainties and subjects of research that should be pursued to reduce the uncertainties. Recommendations from those groups could provide useful input for NMFS science planning. Recommendation: NMFS should continue to seek advice and review from independent sources. Independent scientific advice and peer review has strengthened NMFS science and the committee endorses the continued use of such review and advice in fisheries management. The use of advice could be improved through more systematic processes for requesting advice and review and for implementing recommendations. Finding: Fishery management plans do not always include enough measurable quantitative goals and specific data collection and analysis to monitor the achievement of goals. Most FMPs include some quantitative goals, particularly in relation to fishing mortality and harvest levels, but fisheries management would be more effective if additional quantitative goals were included in FMPs and data were collected to monitor and evaluate the goals with a formal analysis that focused on specific plans. There has been little analysis of which fishery management measures are effective or ineffective, either for specific fisheries or nationwide. Until management measures are evaluated and
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service compared continually, there is no way to identify which fishery management measures are most effective. Recommendation: NMFS and the councils should develop quantifiable management goals and collect data to measure progress toward these goals. NMFS should conduct continuing analysis of the effectiveness of fishery management measures used in the United States and elsewhere. For example, Sharing the Fish (NRC, 1999a) recommended that “existing and future IFQ [individualized fishing quota] programs should provide an annual report describing trends in the fishery and the effects of the IFQ program on important management variables.” The results of such analyses should be provided to regional FMCs on a regular basis and should be used to create new criteria to determine the acceptability of FMPs. An important aspect of setting quantitative goals in FMPs is that they be flexible enough to accommodate new scientific information as it is developed. ADEQUACY OF SCIENTIFIC EXPERTISE AVAILABLE TO NMFS Finding: The scientific expertise available to NMFS is focused largely on stock assessment science and fish biology, with increasing demands in ecosystem science, biology of protected species, and social sciences. Most NMFS science activities are conducted internally. The academic community of marine fishery scientists is relatively small, and NMFS has substantial capabilities in its regional fishery-science centers with respect to fisheries biology and population dynamics. The present expertise of NMFS staff is adequate for the agency to continue its previous emphasis on stock assessment of single species. However, it is less well suited for the data and research needs of more ecosystem-oriented management to meet relatively new requirements imposed in the 1996 MSFCMA amendments and through new understanding of the requirements of the ESA and MMPA gained through litigation. NMFS is not well prepared to respond to new expectations and mandates regarding habitats, non-targeted species, endangered species, or the new demands of non-exploitative users of marine resources because budgets have not been favorable to expand expertise adequately in these areas. Plans have been developed to hire and deploy social scientists among NMFS headquarters, regions, science centers, and regional FMCs, but they have not yet been fully funded and implemented. NMFS
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service also faces substantial loss of skilled staff through retirements in the coming decade and is experiencing difficulties in attracting staff with quantitative skills (NRC, 2000b). Recommendation: NMFS must build a scientific workforce to meet the future needs of the agency. Because NMFS scientists often do not have the time to conduct fundamental research related to NMFS’s mission, it is important in the short term for the agency to maintain strong linkages with academic scientists through joint projects and extramural funding. Many innovative ideas and techniques are developed in the academic community that can support the NMFS science mission. NMFS has developed joint and cooperative institutes and has located its regional fishery science centers near major ocean-science institutions. Such strategies have resulted in good cooperation between NMFS scientists and academic scientists. NMFS has also begun to address the looming shortfall of stock assessment scientists and resource economists through implementation of a fellowship program for graduate students in the United States. But the program is too small to recruit a sufficient number of new quantitative scientists to replace the projected retirement of 500 fisheries scientists in the next 10 years (NRC, 2000b). NMFS needs to increase efforts to attract new staff, particularly people with quantitative, economic, and social-science skills, while retaining its current staff. Those goals will require building on the historical excellence of NMFS science and improving morale in the agency through increases in both monetary and non-monetary incentives (see p. 16, NRC 2000b). PRIORITIES FOR AUGMENTATION OF NMFS SCIENCE ACTIVITIES Finding: NMFS science tends to be strongest in basic fish biology and population dynamics. NMFS has important but relatively small research efforts related to integrated bioeconomic analysis, climate effects on fish populations, how fish live in the context of ecosystems, and habitat-fisheries interactions. Kammer (2000) noted that a high percentage of the NMFS science budget is earmarked for specific tasks. Although some of the tasks may have been conducted anyway in the absence of earmarks, they may have been funded at lower levels; and the overall effect has been to reduce the
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service base funding available for adjusting to new scientific priorities. Science priorities set by Congress through earmarking are unlikely to balance evenly among actual NMFS science needs that are based on its legal mandates and research planning. Recommendation: Five areas of science, identified in previous NRC reports, should receive increased emphasis. Listed below are the five areas of science identified as inadequate which may have been responsible for some of the increased litigation in the past few years. It may be necessary to redirect budgets or augment them to bolster these activities. Development of research plans and analysis techniques relevant to MMPA and ESA issues to yield information necessary for FMPs that protect endangered and protected species and to decrease the number of lawsuits filed against NMFS. Collection and analysis of spatial data and development of spatial stock assessment models so that required information will be available for spatial management techniques, such as the designation of marine protected areas (see NRC, 2001), and incorporation of knowledge of EFH in spatial stock assessment models. With the advent EFH definitions and the desire by most councils to use various forms of spatial management, new emphasis must be placed on collecting and analyzing fisheries data in a spatial context. Much remains to be done to obtain good spatial data. One promising approach that is being adopted widely in the United States is the vessel monitoring system (VMS), which can help to link catch locations to catch amounts in vessel logbooks. Traditionally, fisheries scientists have largely developed models that include temporal but not spatial features, although spatial stock assessment models are being developed. As more emphasis is placed on multispecies interactions and ecosystem effects, there should be continued development of new models that include multispecies interactions and trophic structure, as well as the effects of environmental variability on fish populations. Development of ways to link social and economic data with biological data in modeling and other analyses. Such models should help to make fishery-dependent data more useful in stock assessments by revealing how non-biological factors affect catch per unit effort and other variables important in stock assessments. Such models are necessary for predicting
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Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service economic and social effects of potential management scenarios and how different stakeholders may be affected. Development of an understanding of how the size, distribution, and time patterns of market and non-market values vary with different management scenarios. FUNDING Finding: NMFS faces the daunting task of maintaining its traditional stock assessment activities in the face of pressures to harvest the maximal sustainable yield for most fisheries, meeting the new requirements added by the 1996 MSFCMA amendments, and meeting the requirements of the ESA and MMPA for which NMFS does not have a strong workforce or focused data collection activities. Kammer (2000) found that NMFS’s base budget has been relatively stagnant because the budget increases have been largely offset by earmarks that may not match NMFS science priorities. The effect of earmarking on NMFS science priorities should be investigated. For example, it is important to determine the percentages of science funding that NMFS would devote to specific scientific issues compared with the percentages that result from earmarks. That could be done by comparing presidential budget requests with congressional appropriations. Recommendation: Congress should examine the cost of collection, analysis, and management of data required by NMFS to fulfill its current mandates. NMFS faces a dilemma. Regional FMCs tend to develop FMPs that require accurate and precise estimates of fish stock sizes and of the effects of alternative management options to prevent management failure. Many FMPs do not provide for a buffer to allow for uncertainties. As far as the committee is aware, there has been no analysis of the costs of such data collection and management. For example, the cost of full observer coverage in fisheries in which bycatch rates are unknown should be determined. Likewise, the cost of full VMS coverage should be determined. The committee was unable to evaluate the question of whether NMFS has enough funding to fulfill its legal mandates but has identified some activities that merit increased funding, either through increased appropriations from Congress or through reprogramming of existing funds.
Representative terms from entire chapter: