Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Network Releases Report Assessing Needs for At-Sea Observers

"The Marine Fish Conservation Network recently released Meeting the Information Demands of 21st Century Fisheries: A Needs Assessment for Fisheries Observer Programs, a report that explains the need for more federally funded at-sea observers. At-sea fisheries observers are a central pillar of the National Marine Fisheries Service's national bycatch strategy and the catch data they collect is critical to the success of efforts to end overfishing. The report shows that significant increases in funding of fisheries observer programs are needed to support the information needs of fisheries managers and it recommends other changes to expand observer coverage and maintain public access to data."

Read it at :

Well, it is an okay report, but like so many things written by bystanders to the industry it is full of comfortable half truths. "Observer coverage varies widely by region and fishery, from levels of 30 to 100% in most Alaska groundfish fisheries..." Garbage in, garbage out. Too general, not accurate and completely oblivious to the gaming that goes on within the industry. Frankly, I can't worry about how messed up the other regions are, because right here in the Gulf of Alaska, things are not pretty. 30% observer coverage is a goal, is heavily gamed by players so that the data gained is distorted and inaccurate. That data ends up being used to forecast and regulate and is mostly erroneous. Huge gaps exist in the catch and bycatch data. High-grading and wastage are rampant. If a fish dies in the cod end and there is no one there to see, is it really there? Not according to the NMFS. Only occassionally does a brave soul step forward and record the waste, as has been seen here on these pages.

So Marine Fish Conservation Network, nice try, but no you didn't get it right. The system is far more broken than you can imagine. Please try again. Your brush is far too wide and general to have much use. Put a finer point on it. 100% observer coverage must be part of any real plan to manage fisheries, at least until we really know what the hell is going on out there. Make it a rolling 100% coverage. A couple years for each fishery to ground truth what is really going on. Rumor is just not admissible in court. 'They'll never kill all the buffalo." Think again.

Keep yer flippers wet.

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