have been followed as part of the review for compliance with all 10 national standards specified by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. A rigorous secretarial review of the use of scientific information will result in a feedback process that will improve the compliance of fishery management plans with National Standard 2. The goal is to reduce the pressure on all parties to tailor the management plans to the interests of any one constituency, regardless of the scientific findings.
Scientific reports should explicitly identify the level of uncertainty in results, provide explanations of the sources of uncertainty, and assess the relative risks associated with a range of management options. Decision making in fisheries requires an accurate and understandable assessment of uncertainty and risk. Managers need to take into account both the short-term and the long-term effects of management actions. Scientists can help by estimating the risks to the fish population and to the fishery over different periods and in relationship to the uncertainties. Descriptions of uncertainty can also provide an index of the quality of available information that should then be used to help set research priorities.
NOAA Fisheries should develop and implement a plan to systematically improve the quality of the “best scientific information available” that includes regular assessments of the outcomes of management actions and evaluation of the predictive quality of the scientific information supporting those actions. After a management action has been passed by the council and approved by the Secretary of Commerce, a follow-up evaluation of the effects of that management action is rarely undertaken. Yet evaluation of the outcomes of management actions over time is necessary to ensure the continued use and refinement of scientific information. As the quality of scientific information improves, the basis for good management decision making will be stronger. Such an evaluation process requires explicit hypotheses (statements about relationships) regarding potential actions and their related system components. Properly designed studies will provide new knowledge that tests these hypotheses and leads to a more refined understanding of the consequences of management actions.