While purportedly busting fishing myths in his latest opinion piece for National Geographic, Pew's Lee Crockett perpetuates one of the most damaging myths in fishery management today:
"Those seeking to avoid responsible management of our natural resources often attack the science underpinning the conservation measures…
"The reality is that we have some data for every federally managed fish species. This information comes from comprehensive at-sea government surveys, historical catch levels, basic fish biology, and local knowledge. Fisheries managers are using this information to set catch limits at levels that will keep those populations sustainable."
In fact, the reality is that even fishery managers — those people who work most closely with fishing data and fishermen — admit that we rarely have adequate data to make sound management decisions.
What's worse is that Crockett implies that anyone who complains about the lack of data for a fishery is simply trying to avoid responsible management.
This could not be further from the truth, at least when it comes to commercial fishermen. I wish Crockett would take the time to talk to the hardworking researchers and fishermen who work together on collaborative research all over the country to improve fisheries data. You don't even have to get your hands dirty to make a few phone calls to university researchers. (Read more about researchers and fishermen who are working to change the face of modern fisheries data in our October issue.)
It's frankly a shame that anyone would dismiss the need for better fishing data (especially a Pew fellow) by saying what we already have is good enough. Where would any industry be in 10 years if we decided that the way we do things now is good enough?
I don't know a single commercial fisherman who would look askance at the value of better research and data. The problem is there is simply not enough of it because historically the research dollars have not been specifically aimed at projects that answer fishing-specific questions.
I believe we are starting to turn the corner on this problem, but we need to stop blaming fishermen who demand better information on their livelihoods for trying to destroy the management system. It is their system, their government, and they ought to take an active role in it.