Points of view
The trouble with ®sheries science!
GEORGE A. ROSE
Chair of Fisheries Conservation, Fisheries and Marine Institute, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St
John's, NF, Canada A1C 5R3. E-mail: email@example.com
Marine ®sheries management has passed through turbulent times in the past decade
(Royce, 1996). Management has been unable to sustain ®sheries and curb population
declines in commercial species in many jurisdictions (Hannesson, 1996). Although
management dif®culties often stem from unrealistic visions of `managing' marine
resources in dynamic ocean systems, with biological goals compromised by political,
economic and social considerations, the failure of ®sheries science and scienti®c
institutions to provide adequate stock information upon which to base management must
be acknowledged (Finlayson, 1994; Walters and Maguire, 1996).
Several recent publications examined ®sheries science problems (Parsons and Seki,
1995; Parsons, 1996; Ulltang, 1996; Walters and Maguire, 1996). In general, these
authors suggest that in past decades, ®sheries science has lost touch with the realities of
®sheries, management and ocean ecosystem dynamics. Much of this can be attributed to
an obsession with quantitative methods, which relegated these realities, and ecological
science, to the back burner, and spawned unwarranted faith in population and bio-
economic model outputs (Symes, 1996). As a corollary, where statistical primness
outranked experienced observation, so-called anecdotal views of ®shermen (and
scientists) were discounted (e.g. small boat northern cod ®shermen: Rose, 1992).
However, the above articles do not consider why ®sheries science took this path (except
Finlayson, 1994, who ascribes problems to sociological pressures within science).
In my view, the problems are simpler. They arise because too many ®sheries
scientists have become `keyboard ecologists', who seldom if ever go to sea or work
directly with real ®sheries. It is not simply that of®ce-bound scientists do not contribute
to new knowledge of the ®sheries. Data are sometimes bountiful. However, wisdom to
interpret those data, comprising ``Knowledge and good judgement based on experience''
(Avis et al., 1972), is often scarce. Wisdom is a hard-won property, and one unlikely to
be garnered at the keyboard. The argument that statistics replaces wisdom is counterfeit
in the face of an inexact science with poor data. Fisheries science has fallen to the
Doon (1996) condition, whereby ``a scientist who lacks familiarity with nature will have
dif®culty interpreting any kind of results realistically''. In our haste to free ourselves
from descriptive naturalism we have embraced clever but naive abstractions of reality,
and ultimately, ignorance.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 7, 365±370 (1997)
0960±3166 # 1997 Chapman & Hall
An essay drawn from a Symposium on Contributions of the Zoological Sciences to Fisheries Management held at
the Canadian Society of Zoologists Annual Meeting, St John's, NF, May 1996.