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Improving the use of the “Best Scientific Information Available” Standard in Fisheries Management
The first set of findings is drawn from a previous National Research Council report titled Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service (National Research Council, 2002a), which is relevant to this study:
The use of science in the marine fisheries management decision-making process is impeded by the governance system created by the [Magnuson-Stevens Act] and the resulting mismatch between institutional authorities and responsibilities.
A better structure to conduct science in [NOAA Fisheries] would improve outsiders’ perceptions of [NOAA Fisheries] 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 [NOAA Fisheries].
Chapter 2 includes a review of the legislative history of the phrase “best scientific information available,” describes the application of National Standard 2 by science centers and management councils, and analyzes the courts’ interpretations of National Standard 2. Based on this information, the committee arrived at the following findings:
There is an implicit obligation in National Standard 2 to improve scientific information and reduce uncertainty over time.
National Standard 2 embodies the idea that decisions regarding management and conservation should be made in a timely and effective fashion with available information despite recognized data gaps.
It is not tenable to require a threshold of scientific certainty before making management decisions because National Standard 2 requires that managers make the best possible decisions based on the scientific information available.
When presented with an explicit expression of the risks of management options, decision makers are better able to evaluate actions relative to the potential consequences of undesirable or irreversible outcomes.