"The ocean is an ecosystem--you can't squeeze one piece without impacting another," - says Kurt Martin, a fisherman from Orleans, Mass. "Cod eat herring, seals eat cod, dogfish eat everything. Managers need to start taking a serious look at the how predators and prey interact with each other. If they don't do this, they'll never be able to manage things right."
--------------------------------------------------------------------- During most of the 20th century, marine fisheries and fish farming were developing in parallel as separate industries with little market interaction. Each had traditional consumers. Some preferred farmed carp or tilapia, while others preferred wild marine fish, like cod and salmon. Lovers of frutta di mare have had the choice of fished crustaceans, cephalopods, and mollusks gathered and dredged on their beds in the wild, and of fished or farmed shrimp and mollusks. But during recent decades, things have been changing on the fish market. Now many consumers buy fresh or smoked salmon, sea-bream, or frozen shrimp, without knowing, and some without caring, whether they were caught in open sea by fishermen, or grown in ponds or floating cages. The same goes for additional 15, or so, species of marine finfish, farming of which is starting off or already expanding, each according to the progress made by researchers and fish farmers.
Capture fisheries and fish farming are inter-related and to a great extent overlapping in their ecology, economics and social impacts. This chapter, therefore, is discussing both in the context of the new approach of progressive development, which recognizes the fact that our whole civilization has been based on modified ecosystems both on land and in water, and that further modifications are required in view of the badly mishandled needs of the expanding human population and the sustained destitution of many.
The dilemma of growing demand. Worldwide, both governments and international and regional organizations define their marine policies as aimed at achieving sustainability in aquatic ecosystems and, particularly with respect to aquatic life and fisheries resources. At the same time, it is widely recognized that the present production of fishery products from the wild and from the existing aquaculture would not be able to match the increasing food needs of the expanding human population.
The commonly proposed solution is both to improve the management of exploited fish stocks, which is widely implemented, although with rather debatable results, and to further the development of commercial fish farming – a process, which is already going on at accelerating pace. There is a continuum between open-access fishing and intensive aquaculture, along which fishing rights and property rights develop from vague to almost absolute (Anderson, 2002). However, such developments represent a focus of an earnest dispute on a global scale. This, because they affect inter-related processes within the domain of marine ecology, of economics and of the involved social systems of coastal communities and other people involved in fishing, fish farming and fish processing and trade,
In 2004, the total world fisheries yield reached almost 142 million mt, of which some 106 million mt represented food fish, produced almost equally by capture fisheries (58%) and aquaculture (42%) (FAO, 2006). Aquatic foods have high nutritional quality, contributing 20 percent or more of average per capita animal protein intake for more than 2.8 billion people, mostly in developing countries. Fish is also the world’s most widely traded foodstuff and a key source of export earnings for many poorer countries with particular significance for small island states.
Defining sustainability. As far as the management of wild fisheries resources is concerned, both critics and advocates of the presently dominant policies of the management establishment are claiming that they’re after sustainable extraction of fish and other marine organisms from ecosystem. They all accept the U.N.’s definition of sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations... to be achieved through …balance between environmental integrity, social development and economic development…”. According to FAO, sustainability entails the notion of progressive development, which has no negative effect on the environment and on the future of the resource concerned (Caddy and Griffiths. 1995).
This definition, however, has become a subject of different and often contradictory interpretations (Ben-Yami, 2006). Sustainable development means at least three different, often incompatible things to the economists, sociologists and environmentalists (Sharp and Hall, 2004). At the two poles of the controversy there’s the extreme “nature-first” conservation approach on one hand, and a “development and business first”, on the other. The former is about maintaining of or returning to marine ecosystems as close as possible their “virgin” or pre-industrial state (Ben-Yami, 1996). The latter is about extraction of fishery resource in the most profitable way, now, (Goodland and Daly, 1996).
The saga of the Nile perch in Lake Victoria (Ben-Yami, 1996) may serve as an illustration. The almost accidental introduction of Nile perch to an Ugandan lake, and its spiraling expansion in Lake Victoria in the1990s created a loud brouhaha on the part of some scientists, in particular taxonomists specializing on dwarf Haplochromine cichlids of which over 200 species had created hundreds of thousands of tonnes of huge stunted populations undisturbed by predators that filled every single eco-niche in the lake, atrophied the lake's food chain, and stopped the protein flow at a 5-6 cm fish length level. The Nile perch expanded initially by feeding on the dwarf cichlids. The result was that instead of the bonny dwarfs, the the fishermen were able to fill their nets with large Nile perch, which has become an important source of income to the coastal populations, and a source of foreign currency as an important export item of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Local fishermen nicknamed Nile perch “the saviour”. All this, however, did not match the sustainability and biodiversity paradigms, and the anti-Nile perch protests, turned laments, have continued till the present.
Undoubtedly, the intruding Nile perch had modified the L.Victoria’s ecosystem. It reduced the stunted stocks of the dwarf cichlids and, thus, enabled several commercial fishes that formerly had their eggs and larvae depressed by the masses of dwarfs, to develop exploitable populations, thus changing the whole flow of protein from primary production up to a level where they became valuable to humans. In spite of the obvious benefit to the local populations and to their countries, only a few scientists stood up to the carriers of the above paradigms (ibid.).
Gary Sharp, a widely respected veteran marine systems ecologist wrote on the Fishfolk Internet List: “The word' Sustainability" is a nonsense term, too vaguely defined to actually be meaningful in communicating the issues, the solutions, and coping with natural variabilities - that actually dominate all issues - including how over 6 Billion people are walking the earth today”...
Sustainable development has been advertised as a methodology that allows “holding the cake of undiminished resources (including fish) and enjoying the eating of it too”. But the prevailing "sustainable development" policies rarely examine their objectives in terms of external costs as, for example, the non-renewable fossil fuels that would be required to carry out their sustainable recommendations (Sharp and Hall, 2004).
Progresive development. This chapter is introducing another, progressive concept of fisheries development and management policies.It entails profound changes to the prevailing approach to management of aquatic resources both in the developed and under-developed areas. It questions those interpretations of the “sustainability principle” in the aquatic realm that focus on preserving lakes, seas and oceans in their “natural” state, and on reverting of some regions to their pre-modification status, while neglecting basic needs of many societies and uncounted communities (Ben-Yami, 2005 & 2006).
This concept is about development of aquatic ecosystems (freshwater, brackish and seawater) that is putting human beings and their societies and communities first, and about doing it with minimum damage to environment, minimum pollution and with great attention to maintaining maximum feasible bio-diversity (Ben-Yami, 2000). On the other hand, progressive development is taking into account the present and future achievements of technology and science, and the maturing of political will that will produce solutions to problems of the present, especially those of coastal and marine pollution, overfishing, preservation of important inshore habitats and offshore nature reserves, and marine farming, which is not detrimental to environment.
MANAGEMENT OF FISHERIES Fisheries management means managing the process in which fishingpeopleexploitin a rational mannerfish-resources withinfisheryecosystems. In every fishery those three are bound together, influenced by such external factors, as people’s cultures, markets, technology, and logistics on one hand, and fishery-independent natural, biotic and non-biotic trends and fluctuations on the other (Ben-Yami 2006-b; Kawasaki, 1983; Kawasaki et al., 1991; Sharp et al. 2004).
The management’s challenge is to find a balance between the economics of the fishing activities and the protection of the environment and its resources.Social scientists, fishery anthropologists, sociologists, and socio-economists, have been trying for years to give more weight to the human aspect in fishery management systems. What they are saying is that fishery management should be first and foremost about people whose way of life is fishing and the related environment. Fish stocks and macro-economics come next. Another problem is allocation of fishery resources among the various fishery sectors; with attention paid that fisheries management’s policies and regulation protect the rights of small-scale and artisanal fishermen to fish undisturbed by industrial fleets in inshore and coastal waters (Ben-Yami, 1993). The problem is that the attention these problems are getting from biologists, managers, economists, and politicians is far from what it should be (Ben-Yami, 1995).
In short, for all practical purposes, fisheries management must seek the golden means to exploiting fisheries resources, without depleting them. Rational management and development of the global oceans and adjacent inland and coastal areas (more than 60% of the world’s population lives within 60 kilometers of the coast) must comprise pursuit of science and technology that support the sustainability of human societies, as well as aquatic biological resources, and calls for a cross-disciplinary methodology, (Mann-Borgese, 1998).
The science behind the management. The prevailing fishery management system is based on stock assessment supposed to be provided by “the best available science”. Unfortunately, this science is mostly inadequate, and in some cases utterly fallacious. It’s using simplified assumptions, sticks to statistics, avoids ecology, and ends up with often dubious appraisals of whether and how much fish stocks are overfished (Ben-Yami, 2006-b).
No doubt, wherever occurs impoverishment of commercial fish populations - a term, which should be preferred to describe combined causality, which happens in almost every instance the term overfishing is brought up - fishing would probably be one of the causes. But any a priori blaming of every negative change in fish populations solely on fishing is certainly wrong and demonstrates either ignorance or intentional fallacy, and not once has led fishery management to a debacle. In ecology there's almost never one single factor that's responsible for an ongoing process or for a given situation. No moratoria on fishing will restore fish population that unfavourable hydrographic changes or massive pollution of its habitat chased it away from its usual environs, or forced it into producing poor year classes (Ben-Yami, 2006-b; Sharp et al., 2004).
According to Beverton (1994), only close liaison between biological and physical research can tackle the effect of long-term climate change on fish stocks in an integrated manner. Multi-species and ecosystem research is vital for elucidating these long-term effects, the source of which lies in profound changes in the early life history of species and in basic productivity. The total amount of fish eaten by other fish, marine mammals, and birds is as great as or greater than it is by man. Fishing is only one factor and regulation by catch limits is fundamentally flawed, except in the simplest of single species fisheries, and the TAC system is both wasteful and ineffective (ibid). Presently, some 15 years later, increasing number of fishery scientists and fishermen are coming to agreement with Beverton's statement.
The problem of stocks assessment. The prevailing management system is based mainly on catch targets imposed upon a fishery in the form of a total allowable catch (TAC ), which requires assessment of the managed stock size and composition. This is presently achieved by employing various population models predominantly based on a “root” formula: resulting biomass = old biomass less fishing mortality less natural mortality plus recruitment (Hoggarth et al, 2005), which over-simplifies the ecological and biological reality of fish populations.
According to M. Heino (2003), “Models that consider fish stocks in isolation from their ecosystem have clearly had their day, and fisheries science is moving on”. Obviously, these models never have been any good and the consequences have been felt in most areas of the N. Atlantic and adjacent seas. There is a growing recognition that the mainstream fishery management has been based on flawed assumptions. This makes all the “sustainable yield” notions, whether maximum (MSY), or optimum (OSY), etc., which serve as bases for the TAC fixing, appear as a sort of make-believe values, calculated for single species in a tunnel-vision manner on the basis of last-year and only seldom on some current data. The resulting values are employed for fixing future TACs, when they'd already be hardly relevant and often counter-productive (Ben-Yami, 2005). Also, to be able to follow environment-induced trends, it is not enough if a model is designed to follow a past trend; it must be able to "catch up" with trends changes in real time, and be continually fed with a real time data. For any reasonably reliable predictions it must be fine tuned to well-studied long term time-series of environmental cycles (Ben-Yami, 2006-b; Kawasaki et al., 1991; Klyashtorin and Lyubushin, 2007), which, for the time being is a rather tall order.
According to Hester (2008), the early management concept of single stock (species) management depended on a simple model – the Baranov catch equation – and that is still the case. All that is needed is catch and effort data and some understanding of how the fishery operated to plug into the equation and do the arithmetic. The key was the adequacy of the data and the validity of the assumptions about how the stock responded to exploitation. That included the biology of the species concerned and the operation of the fishery. While some recognize and pay lip service to the importance of ecological interactions with other occupants of the biosphere, and inadequate data, the former methodology is still used. It is concealing the data flaws in complex statements of probabilities, which in the final analysis ignore the probabilities an still base management decisions on a point estimates with obscenely wide confidence intervals, so that these variance estimates do not reflect the true levels of uncertainty. The result is that as long as assessments use models as a substitute for data, the results will be whatever the political regime wants (Ibid., 2008).
Copes (1998) suggested abandoning mathematically impeccable naïve models in favour of a realistic, multi-disciplinary approximation of a working fishery, on the understanding that empirical verity should take precedence over theoretical precision. For policy implementation in a real-life fishery, is it not better to be approximately right than precisely wrong? – wrote Prof. Copes.
Nonetheless, mathematical models and their software offshoots have been promoted and applied in fishery science under a fallacious pretense that they have reliable operational value. Their devotees are trying to mathematize the “unmathematizable”, computerize the incomputable, and program the “unprogrammable”. They miss the knowledge of the interrelations and weight of the various factors, such as fishermen and species inter-relations in multi-species fisheries, planktonic and benthic food and forage fish availability, prey-predator relations, and the various effects of physical fluctuations in the environment; they overlook or ignore many of them, lack reliable and sufficient data to feed the models, and disregard or “smooth” unwieldy parameters for the sake of making their findings mathematically accurate and statistically significant (Ben-Yami, 2003; Sharp, 1995 &1997).
Requested for precision by their superiors in the management establishment, stock-assessment scientists keep providing ridiculously precise figures for the stock biomass in the sea and, hence, for the catch quotas they are paid to advise on. No accuracy can be achieved by dividing estimate by approximate, adding a guesstimate and multiplying it all by an assumption.
Social anthropologists William Ward and Priscilla Weeks (1994) who had made fishery scientists in Texas the object of a study, found that their education has not included either social studies or management courses that might have prepared them to look at and deal with people. Moreover, much of their approach is made up not only of scientific analyses of empirically established facts but also of concepts and presumptions inherited from the system of which they had become a part. This nudges them to profess more and more of the same, and secures them against other concepts and new ideas. Thus, they tend to extrapolate rather from basic scientific models and theories than from actual research and findings, and local knowledge obtainable from fishing people. Chris Finlayson (1994) in his analysis of the NE Atlantic cod stock debacle wrote that scientific opinions are made by scientists, who may interpret the same data differently and, thus, draw different conclusions, all the more that they are acting within their respective social and political milieus.
Many of the scientists, responsible for advising political managers on fishery management see themselves stewards of the resource, but their contact with "the industry", (that is the fishing people), is quite limited, their knowledge about it coming from the old hands in the fishery-science system (Ward and Weeks, 1994). Their approach to the management of fisheries is often limited to the often misused and ill-applied concept of “tragedy of the commons” reviewed by Feeny et al, 1990), which with respect to fisheries, Prof. Russ J. McGoodwin called in his book “Crisis in the World Fisheries: People, Problems, and Policies": ”the tragicomedy of commons” (McGoodwin, 1990).
At best, the dominant fishery science produces very approximate results. At worst, it employs inadequate models and feeds them with inadequate, often erroneous data and their results’ likeness to reality is all but incidental. Ironically, most of the stock assessment scientists are honest-to-God individuals, led astray by fictitious beliefs in the almighty powers of statistical and mathematical models. They’ve been conditioned, not to say brainwashed, to prefer their magic over human and nature’s realities, and to shun empirical at-sea research. Hence, their irrational pretension that computer models can forecast and provide solutions for situations where nature’s intricacies and related fish responses, and fishermen’s free will and choice play a major role in processes, events and developments.
Environmentalist advocacy and fisheries management. Environmentalists and fishermen rarely agree on anything. It’s a pity, because conventional logic would say that, fundamentally, environmentalists and fishing people should stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a common cause for maintaining resources sustainability, while blending that with their sensible usage. This, especially, with respect to the damage to the environment due to pollution and coastal habitat destruction. Unfortunately, only too often over-eager environmentalist see fishing people as enemies of the environment, and a controversy between the two, at times on low fire, at times raging, is going on in many countries, and even globally.
For example, to some environmentalists sustainability means reducing commercial fishing to no more than a very small inshore one-man vessel industry with the interests of seaweed/fauna growing on the seabed being preferable to the development of an industry that over the generations has been producing top quality nutritional food. But, they say it’s needed, for it is only by reducing the capacity of fishing fleets that a solution to the problem of over-exploitation of the marine environment can be found. “The fishing industry cannot exist if there are no fish left” – is the argument. They believe that reduction of excess fishing capacity, creation of "no-take zones" covering about 20 or more percent of marine habitats, and political enforcement of sustainable fishing levels would solve the problem of stocks impoverishment (Pauly et al, 1998). But what they fail to see or often ignore are the dozens of toxic chemicals and excess nutrients that abound in upstream water and air pollution and their joint effect on coastal marine areas, and that the most deadly pollution that affects coastal habitats including fish nursery and feeding grounds, comes from industrial sources and, in particular, from the petro-chemical and electro-chemical sectors (Patin, 1992).
Other factors ignored by the environmentalists’ advocacy are the crucial influence of climatic and oceanic processes and fluctuations on fish populations, well documented in the history (Cushing, 1982; Klyashtorin and Lyubushin, 2007). Species with narrow temperature preference limits, are affected by thermal anomalies that delay or hasten spawning and hatching, and displace spawning and feeding grounds. Survival of larvae and juveniles depends, apart from hydrographic conditions, also on availability of the right food, at the right place and time, as well as on the rate of predation (Sharp et al., 2004). Changes in river flows raise or reduce salinity in estuaries, deplete and displace fish and aquatic plant species. Climate variability is the key controlling factor in fishing yields for about half of the world's large marine ecosystems, including the East and West Greenland shelves, the Benguela Current off Southwest Africa, the Canary Current off Northwest Africa and the Humboldt Current off the west coast of South America (ibid.).
Over the past decades, modes of oceanic variability such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been related to shifts in marine ecosystem structure, species composition, distribution and biogeochemical processes. Thus, since patterns of species abundances shift with the ocean climate, when climatic, biological and oceanographic conditions are just right, fish can respond with an extremely strong year class, or a series of them, and the other way around (Beamish, 1993 &1995; Cushing, 1982; Csirke and Sharp, 1983; Kawasaki, 1983; Sharp and Csirke (1983)).
Economics. Environmental lobbying encourages fisheries managers to think that if they got hold of controlling the fishing, all their problems would be solved. Ignoring anthropogenic (Ben-Yami, 1998) and natural environmental factors, which critically affect natural mortality is ridiculous. But to many of them all these ecological problems are only a noise, which creates confusion in their favored system. In that they’re joined by some economists, who analyze fisheries in purely economic-financial terms, with hardly paying even lip service to non-fishing factors that affect the whole system, fishery resources included (Hannesson, 1996). A neo-liberal economic approach inserted the agenda of privatization of fishery resources as a medicine to overfishing. This agenda is often disguised as rights-based management. Politically it depends on who holds or is offered the rights, and economically - are those rights marketable, a solution promoted by neo-liberal economists.
Accordingly, the quota system has been introduced to fisheries management, particularly the individual transferable quotas (ITQ), which had great theoretical appeal to those economists. They embraced ITQ-system quickly and uncritically, and appeared to regard it as a cure-all for fisheries management problems. While the overall benefits of the ITQ-system are highly disputable, what is not is that it causes an ongoing concentration of quota in the hands of a smaller number of larger operators and a resulting displacement of fishermen owner-operators. Thus, the introduction of the ITQs has become also a political tool for redistribution of benefits from marine fishery resources away from the small to the hands of large firms and corporate interests (Ben-Yami, 1998-b, 2003-b; Copes, 1995). Notwithstanding, the whole idea of rationalization of fisheries through privatization is based on misperception and, hence, it fails to achieve the desired results of sustainability, all the more that for most fisheries any promise of true privatization is a hoax (Copes, 1998).
Evidence accumulated over many years shows that there’s more than a single viable resource management option. Private, state, and communal property and fishing rights are all potential options and there’s no panacea for fisheries management. Fishery laws and regulations should be separately tailored for every fishery and environment, and for the different socio-economic conditions. The tunnel vision of some economists, which disregards external costs and benefits, represents achievement of the highest profits and free marketing of fishing rights and quotas as also the highest social and national benefits. Often, consequences of such approqch becoming actual policy have been social and economic devastation of fishing communities and dislocation of fishing people.
In the recent years, the fishery science started internalizing the notion that management by single species and only by controlling fishing is illogical and contrary to ecological realities. A new approach entered the domain of fisheries management under the name of “Ecosystem-based management”. So what the new approach should be about? Let’s consider the main elements of an ecosystem affected by commercial fishery (fishery ecosystem) and their changes in space, time and character. The first element is the time factor. Any aquatic ecosystem is a dynamic, pulsating, and ever-changing macro-organism. Thus, trends and fluctuations that have been occurring in the ecosystem throughout history must be taken into account (Sharp et al., 2004). The second element embraces all the changes and physical, biological and chemical forces, including upstream and coastal pollution, imposed upon the ecosystem by climatic variations and the various human activities. Whatever happens with inshore and bottom habitats, and the water, affects the ecosystem’s biota (i.e., all living things). The third element is made up of the relationships between the various species occupying the ecosystem at all stages of their life. This runs from bacteria and phyto-plankton up to top predators, with special attention to the managed “target species”, physical factors affecting them, their food, prey and predators. Last, but not least is fishing, which apart from massive removal of marine organisms from the system, also may influence the size, age and genetic composition of the fished populations (Laevastu et al., 1996). The fishing itself is influenced by the market and the socio-economic context of fishing people and their communities, and of fish consumers, as well as by the industries and technologies involved (Sharp et al., 2004). No doubt, controlling fish harvests is not enough to ensure sustainable fishery and healthy ecosystems.
“The vastness of linkages between species and critical habitats in a coastal area requires comprehensive management of all its parts”, (Caddy and Sharp, 1986). An appropriate approach should incorporate institutional arrangements and cultural factors to provide for better analysis and prediction, (Feeny et al., 1990).
The list of the factors other than fishing that affect the size, composition and well-being of populations of marine organisms would be extensive. Here’re some examples:
Further expansion of dead anoxic zones, 150 of which were reported in 2003 in bays and semi-enclosed seas, some of which extended up to 27,000 square miles, may well be a greater peril than overfishing.
A slowly killing mycobacteriosis epidemic was affecting the condition and size of the striped bass population in Maryland and Virginia and in the heavily polluted Chesapeake Bay.
According to some estimates, the word’s seabirds consume 70 million mt of food as compared to the 80-90 million mt of global marine landings, and the amount of fish eaten by marine mammals worldwide is several times the worldwide ocean fish harvest.
Climatic fluctuations and separate events cause boom-and-bust sequences among fish populations and other marine organisms. There may be umpteen sorts of association between the physical and biological elements. For example, studies show that the main factors critical for salmon abundance are distance to and size of oceanic areas with temperature and food critical to the survival of juveniles, such as the abundance of krill, which is their main food.
Pollution of rivers and estuaries and longshore development that destroys inshore habitats, affect the reproduction of many fish species whose spawning and nursery areas are in inshore waters.
In most coastal areas, rehabilitation of marine habitats and restoration or protection of essential upstream environments and coastal hydrology functions are essential to future fisheries sustainability. The fundamental message is that for such sustainability we must restructure general coastal management. Environmentalist NGOs and everyone involved in trying to secure sustainability of habitats must realize that there has to be a balance between the needs of the people and the conservation of living resources, and both sides need to be prepared to compromise (Carpenter et al., 1999). The environmentalists’ and some scientists’ advice that by only controlling fishing they’d achieve sustainability is counter-productive when it diverts attention from other, often more significant factors.
Only an intelligent analysis and synthesis of the interaction of all important elements involved can enable understanding of the problematique of ecosystem management and searching for solutions. We have to accept that the dynamics of the system is so complex that even the best existing models are of limited use for forecasting the outcomes of actual management actions.
In this general context, “ecosystem-based fishery management” must address the particular elements (ibid). Those that require intervention must be defined and managed respectively, while the others, including those that are beyond the management’s powers, must be taken into account. Flexibility and tailoring management for each specific fishery and area should become the rule. There’s no rational way to impose a policy that doesn’t take all the above into account, or a single “common” policy for different fisheries, ecosystems and fishing cultures. We have to analyze separately each fishery ecosystem to see, for example, if TACs are the right methodology to use or other options such as effort control should be considered (Ben-Yami, 2005).
Unfortunately, some authors and “green” zealots are trying to hijack the concept of “ecosystem management” by representing it as care-taking of the fishery that it doesn't affect the ecosystem. While paying lip service to other factors, they focus on commercial fishing in a way which stigmatizes it as the only factor affecting ecosystem that needs tackling and as the main villain to be constrained or eliminated in order to “protect” marine ecosystems. Their interest doesn’t lie in cleaning up habitats and keep fisheries prosperous, but elsewhere. Where? – This depends on who’s the “father” (or sponsor) of the particular "stewardship" (Ben-Yami, 2003-c). The institutional and human inertia is strong and many NGOs as well as the fishery management system worldwide abound in scientists and environmentalists who preach sustainability, butkeep talking of "saving the oceans" just by shutting down fisheries or by closing off major sea areas to fisheries, and hardly even mention the whole set of other vectors, whatever may be their relative roles in each separate ecosystem. They still ignore physical and biological-ecological environmental factors and upstream and marine pollution from industrial, municipal, and agricultural sources. They close the eye on inshore habitat destruction, and disregard or play down non-human predation, nowadays enhanced by the extensive protection bestowed upon marine mammals.
In fact, however, ecosystem management approach places fishing in its proper context, so it can’t be blamed anymore for everything that happens in the sea. Ecosystem management doesn’t allow managers and politicians to keep turning a blind eye to pollution, environmental variations, habitat destruction, etc. It carries fishery management from the current over-simplification into more complex concepts. This obviously worries some scientists and managers, who are concerned that with “ecosystem management" they'd be sailing in unknown waters and lose their control over fishing rights and quotas.
Doubtless, it won’t be easy, but the point is that to manage fishery ecosystems using the existing methodologies, as they’ve practically been since the mid 20th century, is like looking under a streetlamp for a lost key, because that’s where the light is, instead of looking for it where it may be - however dark is the place. The new approach may also require to get used to the fact that for a long time to come we won’t be able to put numerical values to all acting factors, a current custom that sometimes borders on numerology, and relearn to talk also in qualitative terms and perhaps to employ fuzzy logic (Mendel, 2005).
While ecosystem-based management is coming of age, institutional inertia and obstinacy, human conservatism, fear of the unknown and need to admit own misconstruction of the realities of the coastal, marine and living resources, impedes its application (Ben-Yami, 2008).
The notion of positive development stems from the recognition that, climatic conditions permitting, sustainability of both, marine capture fisheries and marine aquaculture, can only be achieved by integrated and balanced approach to ecosystem management involving upstream and downstream influences, fisheries, and any other human activities that affect coastal and offshore habitats. There is a growing understanding of the complexity of the systems to be managed and of the futility of simplistic approaches, such as those of the still prevailing fishery management based on inadequate science and its mathematical models.
Fishery science must:
1 - recognize that marine ecosystems are complex and involve many factors affecting each the other and the system in general;
2 - recognize that marine ecosystems and their bio-resources cannot be "managed" and otherwise manipulated by only managing fishing;
3 - recognize that the presently employed models, as long as they lack in parameters with reliable values, represent inadequate fishery science, and can be scientifically applied, if any, only with appropriate qualifications;
4 – recognize that more effort should be invested in studying marine ecosystems in general, and the ecology of fishery resources in particular, and governments should allocate more funds for, especially, sea-borne marine research;
6 - increase the time scientists spend at sea both on board research and commercial vessels, on the beach, and in the lab, at the expense of the time now spent at operating computer models;
7 - direct much more attention and consequent efforts to chemical-industrial, agricultural and urban pollution, eutrophication, habitat degradation or destruction by longshore development and various extraction activities on sea bottom, introduction and invasions of exotic species, and studies of the effect of climatic variationsthat are among the main causes for fluctuations in the abundance of living marine resources, but presently obfuscated by directing most of the attention towards fishing.
*Published as: Chapter 11 – Progressive Development in the Marine Environment – by: Menakhem Ben-Yami and Arie S. Issar, in: A.S. Issar (Ed.). PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT. (Springer, 2010). Pp. 71-80.
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