Inland Fisheries Management in North America Third Edition

Chapter 5: The Process of Fisheries Management

Steve L. McMullin and Edmund Pert

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874165.ch5

Fisheries management is a challenging and exciting process of planning and taking actions to manipulate fish populations, fish habitat, and people to achieve specific human objectives (Figure 5.1). The three components of fisheries management could be thought of as the legs of a stool. If any one of the three legs is weak, the stool will not bear the weight it is intended to support. The process is challenging because fisheries managers rarely have all of the information needed to manage fish populations, habitats, and people with maximum effectiveness. Despite the uncertainty created by the lack of information, fisheries managers must make decisions that are important to a wide variety of stakeholders (i.e., anyone who has an interest in the issue or who may be affected by an issue, either positively or negatively; Decker and Enck 1996), including anglers, conservation organizations, government officials at federal, state, and local levels, farmers, ranchers, industries, and many others. Fisheries management is exciting for many reasons, but one of the more exciting aspects is that it is the nexus of science and policy. Fisheries managers serve as central points of communication, translating scientific principles and data into terms their stakeholders can understand and receiving public input regarding management of the resource that is transmitted to policymakers.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of managing people in fisheries management. If you ask fisheries managers what is the most challenging aspect of the job, they will almost certainly tell you it is managing people. Natural resource managers from forestry to wildlife to fisheries have been saying that for a century. Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, once said, “To start with, I had to know something about the people, the country and the trees. And of the three, the first was the most important” (Pinchot 1947:32). Aldo Leopold, widely recognized as the father of wildlife management, said, “The real problem … is not how we shall handle the deer… The real problem is one of human management. Wildlife management is comparatively easy; human management difficult” (Meine 1988:444). Peter Larkin (1988) described the difficult job of a fisheries manager as balancing the desires of recreational anglers (making people content), artisanal fishermen (keeping people employed), and commercial fishermen (making money). Larkin suggested that, “because it is not possible to optimize for several kinds of things simultaneously, it is necessary to find a common currency for contentment, employment, and economic performance” (Larkin 1988:8). Note that all aspects of this difficult balancing act focus on people.