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.

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