Sustainability R Us

By Joe Margraf, AFS President 

Fisheries management and the science that supports it are all about sustaining fish populations for wise and long-term use by people. Without science-based fisheries management, most fisheries would eventually collapse and become useless as predictable and highly valuable food and recreational resources. Our Society and its members know this, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves what we stand for. I know I also said that I would not devote my column to news, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. We just went through a very divisive, yet very telling election, with results that, in many cases, surprised us. About half of us are rejoicing, while the other half are in some form of mourning.

We didn’t go to the moon (or did we?) or have any technological advances without science as the basis, and we won’t have sustainable fisheries without good, solid science-based management either.

Regardless of which camp we’re in, we nd ourselves wonder- ing what the future will bring. Will science-base management be abandoned and individual autonomy be the way we will go forward? Will some fish be like the dodo of yore as a result? There is much uncertainty in our future; however, in this time of un- certainty is great opportunity. We only need to be wise enough to seize the appropriate way forward. How will we accomplish this? I say that the answer lies somewhere in the old saw that says “stick to our roots.” We didn’t go to the moon (or did we?) or have any technological advances without science as the basis, and we won’t have sustainable fisheries without good, solid science- based management either. So, how do we sell this concept to the new powers that are now in place? You might say “We have much bigger fish to fry” (pun intended!). But do we? What is bigger than sustainable fisheries, whether it’s for food, recreation, or both? We almost always sell ourselves short, but now is not the time. Our way of life, indeed life itself, may be in the balance. Also, let’s not forget that there is huge profit over the long run at stake here, as well.

AFS just released a document, “Future of the Nation’s Fisher- ies and Aquatic Resources: The Challenges We Face in 2017 and Beyond,” aimed at the new administration to provide help and direction for some of the areas that need our attention in fisheries management and science (yes, it’s available on our website, which by the way if you haven’t seen it lately has been greatly updated). AFS began working on it early in 2016—well before the outcome of the election was known, so it is nonpartisan.

The document had input from a wide cross-section of the AFS membership and from the profession at large, and was assem- bled by the AFS Policy Team, Tom Bigford and Taylor Pool. The original piece needed some help, starting like many really good documents, but with much effort by everyone involved, it is now a very useful prospectus on the needs of fisheries management across a broad spectrum.

I’m going to spend some space paraphrasing the pamphlet. While I recognize that I risk insulting your intelligence, I am do- ing this because many of you won’t take the time to look at it. (Of course this tactic also has the added bene t of lling up my allotted space without boring you with more of my personal opinion.) The pamphlet begins with a version of the simple de nition of fisheries that I gave in my October column: “Simply defined, a fishery is people catching or rearing fish. Fisheries also encom- pass our interactions with fish, including direct interactions such as seafood consumption, angling, and diving tourism along with indirect interactions like the effects of pollution, changes to habi- tat, and other human in uences on aquatic ecosystems. Fisher- ies provide much needed protein and essential nutrients for the world’s tables, as well as the opportunity to relax, recreate, and reconnect with the natural world. Fisheries also serve as an early warning system for the loss of clean water that we all need to survive. As the oldest, largest, and most in uential collective of fisheries professionals in the world, AFS is dedicated to the science and policy of sustaining fisheries for the bene t of human- kind.” The pamphlet then goes on to lay out its objectives—all on one page in six short paragraphs. The second page is a bulleted list of nine “Proven Bene ts,” six “Areas at Risk,” and three “Poor Conditions.” The remainder of the document goes on to discuss 12 highlighted areas of concern, each one page in length with appropriate photos and other graphics. “All of these issues are important and are not necessarily presented in order of sig- ni cance. Many of the areas of concern are interrelated, but each is a signi cant, stand-alone subject that the next administration should address through proper engagement and investment in existing policies and programs and those still in development.” The 12 highlighted issues include: Effective Fisheries Management, Angling and Fisheries Conservation, Climate-Related Impacts on Coastal and Marine Systems, Climate-Related Resiliency for Inland Aquatic Systems, The Need for Advancements in Aqua- culture, Medications for Aquaculture Programs, Conservation Science Funding, Management within an Ecosystems Context, Imperiled Species, Habitat Protection and Restoration, Hydro- connectivity, and Invasive Species. The pamphlet is available from AFS as a slick printed document or can be found on the AFS website as a PDF that can be reviewed or printed ( policy-media/future-of-the-nations-aquatic-resources). To our knowledge, no other organization has yet to craft a set of similar recommendations. If you have important contacts with whom to share the document, please contact AFS and request as many copies as you need.

Members click below for the March 2017 Fisheries magazine’s complete issue. Non-members, join here.

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