Public participation in the management review process depends on the council’s decision-making framework. In most cases, stakeholders may review assessments and help guide the decisions made by council members by submitting written or oral comments at open stock assessment workshops and public meetings publicized by the councils (except as noted in the Magnuson-Stevens Act).
The primary shortcoming of this format is that “open” and “accessible” cannot be construed as equivalent. Many fishermen do not attend the open meetings because they cannot afford the time away from work or the travel expenses associated with attending meetings. Further, even if they can attend, the information is not always accessible because of the form in which it is presented. Thus, the transfer of information is not always successful.
Scientists present their findings at public meetings to help council members, stakeholders, and the general public understand the scientific basis for the alternative management options being considered. Some scientists fail to do this effectively because their presentations are replete with complex terminology, methodologies, and theoretical concepts. Many fishermen lack this expertise, although nongovernmental organizations and fishing organizations often hire representatives who are conversant in the science and can interpret the information for their members.
Some council members may not be conversant in fishery science. Indeed, nearly all of the current 118 council members across the eight regional councils have no background in stock assessment science. The councils have expert scientists at their disposal on advisory panels and on review committees (Appendix F). Providing more training in scientific principles to council members is one means of making the translation of scientific information more effective. In addition, council members would benefit if those scientists who present information to the councils made a concerted effort to develop communication skills that effectively inform audiences with diverse, and often nontechnical, backgrounds.
Poor communication skills are not the only flaws in the application of National Standard 2. Data acquired by the science centers in a transparent fashion can ultimately contribute to flawed policy when the