Friday, November 03, 2006

It ain't overfishing

Over 400 articles on Google news repeat the same dire message that commercial fish stocks, world-wide, are in trouble. As The Independent puts it, all wild seafood will have disappeared from the world's menus within 50 years.

But, if there is a message that comes out loud and clear from the plethora of reports, it is summed up in one word, helpfully illustrated by The Times, amongst others… the word "overfishing". Says the Times caption, this "has caused a third of species to crash to less than 10 percent of natural numbers."

This sort of miss-reporting fills me with gloom, as it completely distorts the debate and thus obscures understanding of the problem – the first thing necessary in order to reach a solution. Overfishing, as we wrote in our report last year, is not the problem:

…we do not accept [the] assertion that "overfishing" per se is the central cause of the problem in British fisheries. Rather, as we have earlier discussed, it is the failure of management - which has allowed overfishing - that is the problem. The distinction is crucially important. The one is the cause, the other is the symptom.
If a fishery is depleted, this is a failure of management. It is then at the managers and the management system that one must look, in order to start sorting out the problem and seeking remedies.

Yes, this very simple principle seems to be beyond the ability of the bulk of the media to understand, an industry which all to often perpetuates the mantra, "too many fishermen chasing too few fish". One has to say that, if the fishing industry managed its affairs as well as the media industry, we would not be talking about running out of fish in 40 years. The seas would already be deserts.

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