Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Scientists in Florida this week are asking a question that has been on the lips of many Gulf Coast fishermen for more than a year: What are the long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?
A two-day meeting at the University of Central Florida among scientists whose efforts are being coordinated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography — using $10 million in grant monies from BP — gives me hope that someone is trying to get to the bottom of things.
The angle the scientists are taking is that some degree of ecological collapse could be taking place, but the scientific community may not yet have the knowledge and tools to predict and measure it.
What "it" is remains to be seen. However, this seems to me to be an exemplary case for the precautionary principle.
How many fishery management tools have been implemented without adequate data but with the understanding that we must protect one species or another "just in case"?
And yet, when it came to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration's immediate response was to assume all was well.
The scientific community is increasingly eager and willing to work with fishermen. It's time for policy-makers to realize that fishermen's anecdotal reports have value, as well.
We need to stop trying to fit our management of fisheries and oceans into bar graphs and start treating them like part of a living, ever-changing, sometimes-unpredictable ecosystem.
The more information we can gather from a variety of sources, the closer we will get to truly managing fisheries.
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