Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Thursday, 25 October 2012
The controversy in Canada this week is over a proposed seal cull in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Fishermen are eager to try anything that will give the cod a fighting chance of rebounding. But some scientists and animal welfare groups are opposed to the method, claiming there's no scientific evidence that a cull will work to reverse groundfish stock declines.
We've had no scientific proof that reducing fishing jobs will bring back the cod, either. Yet, we continue full-speed ahead with that plan. And so far, not so good.
If only fishermen were as adorable as gray seals. (You still have time to work on your Halloween costume!)
I'm not necessarily a proponent of this seal cull, because I believe attempts at environmental manipulation are inherently risky and fraught with unintended consequences. For that reason, I believe we ought to use protection measures conservatively, as well.
Southeast Alaska Dungeness crabbers saw their fishery disappear with an explosion of the sea otter population when they became a protected species. And now managers are working to reverse those effects, which many fishermen would say took far too long to get the attention of the right people.
We would like to think we understand our environment, or that protections are inherently humane and beneficial. But especially in marine ecosystems, I think we quickly get in over our heads.
We should focus on continued study of marine life and habitats and make efforts toward improving our understanding. But I can't support sweeping measures based on a handful of facts, generalizations or knee-jerk reactions to the especially adorable animals.
What we need is consistent leadership, cooperative research and common sense. It's a tall order for any governing body.
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