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IMPROVING THE COLLECTION, MANAGEMENT, AND USE OF MARINE FISHERIES DATA
predictable, the effects of interactions of fish stocks with each other and with the environment are largely unknown. The expectations of fishermen, scientists, and managers can differ quite drastically from reality because of such uncertainties. The major goal of data collection is to support and enable biological, economic, and social analysis that will reduce these uncertainties, so that harvest can be sustained at the highest level that is commensurate with other management goals, such as maximizing long-term potential yield. NMFS (1999) estimates recent average yield from U.S. fisheries is 33% below the long-term potential yield.
Fisheries management includes three activities on an ongoing basis: (1) assessing the condition of a fish stock2 in the context of its place in the ecosystem and in connection with the fishery it supports; (2) developing and implementing regulations to use and sustain the fish stock and the fishery; and (3) monitoring the biological, economic, and social effects of regulations. These activities may each require biological, economic, and social data. Because fish are publicly owned and publicly managed resources, the government has a stake in collecting biological, economic, and social data needed to encourage effective management. However, collection of private and proprietary social and economic data is sometimes viewed by the industry as being too intrusive (PFMC, 1998b). The legal precedents for the government's role in protecting resources for the good of the nation, the government's public trust responsibilities, are not as developed for marine resources as for terrestrial resources. A good summary of the legal precedents is given in NRC (1999b).
A fundamental goal of data collection and quantitative stock assessment processes is to estimate current and future stock abundance and the effects of fishing activities. Data management is an important link between the collection and assessment processes, because data of high quality must be available in a timely manner and accessible form to be useful for assessment scientists. High-quality biological, economic, and social data are essential for evaluating the effectiveness of regulations and, when necessary, designing new regulations.
A gulf commonly exists between the beliefs of fishermen and those of managers and scientists in terms of the current status of marine fisheries, the existence of problems in the fisheries, and how such problems can be solved. The committee will explore the nature of these beliefs in the following chapters. Differences in viewpoints related to fisheries problems frequently arise because3
different fisheries stakeholders operate with different time horizons. Commercial fishermen often have to focus on cash flow within a given year to meet current expenses. Managers may evaluate the costs and benefits of different management options based on discount rates set by the government at 7% (OMB Circular A-94). Scientists and environmental groups focus on sustaining stocks indefinitely for both biological and economic reasons.
fishermen take pride in their ability to catch fish and in their good working knowledge about fish behavior and distribution. They are frustrated by scientists who seem to be unwilling or unable
“A fish stock can be defined as all fish belonging to a given species that live in a particular geographic area at a particular time, that is, all individuals actually capable of interbreeding. For practical management purposes, a stock is often further defined by political boundaries. That is, the management unit, often still called a stock, includes those members of a biological stock that are under management by a single governmental agency. Units so defined, however, do not necessarily reflect meaningful biological entities or the spatial heterogeneity of fish distributions.” (NRC, 1998a, p. 8)
These points are obviously generalizations and are based on statements made by participants at the committee's meetings, not on systematic sociological research on fishery stakeholders.