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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Orange Roughy on the endangered list

Just saw in a press release: "The Orange roughy fish species will be added to the threatened species list under Australian environment law, the Australian Minister for the Environment & Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has announced"

I guess Orange Roughy will also now be added to Cod to further justify the chorus of "fisheries management has failed!" or "fisheries science has failed!", whilst the likelihood that politically-expedient decisions were made (or rather politically-inexpedient decisions were not made) in the face of advice from fisheries scientists or management specialists is overlooked.

If this does happen, I will be claiming, bitchily: "Isn't it interesting how, when a fish stock collapses nowadays people say that 'fisheries management has failed', but when a species goes extinct people don't say 'conservation has failed' "

The reality is that both fisheries management and marine biodiversity conservation have thousands of ongoing successes every day with fisheries that are not collapsing and species that are not going extinct. And the failures that do happen are object lessons in how to do it better. From my perspective as a semi-outsider, fisheries management has gone through some dramatic and radical changes over the past decade. In fact I would suggest that "fisheries management" will cease to exist soon as a distinct discipline and will need to be called something like "aquatic socio-ecosystemic management" (or hopefully something a bit less geeky).

And fisheries science is evolving rapidly. Some of the less-fit ways of thinking are dying off and the discipline as a whole is under intense selection pressure as it moves from having to worry primarily about the status of stocks - with the ecosystem in a purely supporting role - to worrying about the status of of the ecosystem itself. And into thinking about human beings not as an alien irritant, or a potential source of data, but as a components of the ecosystem.

I emphasise that these are just a few knee-jerk reactions off the top of my head (no Chelsea goalkeeper jokes please) and I'd be very happy to be told exactly where I am mistaken.

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