June 30, 2014
The environmental group Oceana seeks to impress us this week with Part 2 of a report on fishing bycatch, those fish that are brought up incidentally while fishermen target another species.
"Wasted Cash," the follow-up to "Wasted Catch," says that fishermen are throwing $1 billion worth of fish away each year, over the side instead of going to auction.
The first part of the report was published in March, and sought to document that there has been very little progress reducing bycatch. The furious response that followed pointed to all sorts of effective and innovative things that U.S. fishermen and researchers have come up with, like those underwater video surveys invented by UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the coordinating committee for the eight fisheries management councils sent Oceana a letter that was a shot across its bow, charging that the analysis is faulty, data is skimpy, assumptions are faulty, omissions are plentiful and the science is way, way too thin. (The letter is very lengthy. I am sketching it here for you; the whole text is available online).
I wonder what Oceana was thinking when this letter dropped in its lap barely two weeks ago. After all, here was the report, almost ready to go, and the councils call foul even before its release.
The answer? Ignore the councils, it appears. The new Oceana report makes a passing nod to some improvements, then proceeds to revisit the first report as if nothing had happened.