• 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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