[env-trinity] Study: Fisheries Mgt Too Slow To Account For Climate Change, Human Behavior

Sari Sommarstrom sari at sisqtel.net
Fri Oct 16 12:46:13 PDT 2009

Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
October 16, 2009
Issue No. 504

* Study: Fisheries Management Too Slow To Account 
For Climate Change, Human Behavior

A new analysis of fisheries management concludes 
that climate change will significantly increase 
the variability of the size and location of many 
fish populations, creating uncertainty for 
fisheries managers -- and the need for greater flexibility.

Most management processes are slow and 
cumbersome, as well as rigid, the authors say, 
and don't adequately take climate change and human behavior into account.

"What climate change will do is pit the increased 
resource variability against the rigidity of the 
process," said Susan Hanna, a fishery economist 
from Oregon State University and co-author of the 
report. "Over time, managers will have to become 
more conservative to account for the greater 
uncertainty, and we will need to do a better job 
of understanding the effect of uncertainty on human behavior."

The study focuses on seven short international 
case studies in fisheries management -- including 
Columbia River basin salmon. It is being 
published in the journal Marine Policy.

Hanna said that while most fishery management 
models incorporate the latest data on fish 
populations and distribution, they are not 
adapted to incorporate climate data. That can be 
problematic when an El Niño looms, or other 
oceanic conditions have a negative impact on 
fisheries. Such was the case in 2005, when a 
delay in the spring upwelling had a catastrophic 
effect on ocean production, which many biologists 
say caused the recent collapse of salmon runs on 
the Klamath and Sacramento rivers.

Shorter fishing seasons and lower quotas are 
understandably frustrating for commercial and 
recreational fishermen, Hanna said.

"Human psychology can work against fishery 
management because our expectations are based on 
the high range of fish populations, not the low 
end," she said. "In salmon fisheries, the 
conditions of the 1970s may be taken as the norm, 
when in fact they represented an all-time high."

Hanna is a professor in the Department of 
Agricultural and Resource Economics who works out 
of OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in 
Newport. She is affiliated with the Coastal 
Oregon Marine Experiment Station and Oregon Sea 
Grant, and has served as a science adviser to the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Northwest 
Power and Conservation Council, the National 
Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

The need for better human behavioral data is 
acute, Hanna said. While resource managers have 
plenty of information about numbers of fishermen, 
where they fish and what they fish for, there is 
less knowledge about how people will react to 
changes in regulation -- or how they will adapt to climate change.

"We have a history of implementing regulations 
that have unintended consequences," Hanna said.

She cites as an example what happens when 
managers limit the number of boats in a fishery 
with the idea of limiting fishing effort. The 
result can be just the opposite, Hanna points 
out. "A boat limit as the single control over a 
fishing effort will give those who have the 
permits the incentive to invest in more speed and 
more gear to boost their fishing power and become 
more effective at catching fish.

"Managing resources," she said, "is all about incentives."

Management also is becoming more complicated -- a 
situation that may be exacerbated by changes in 
ocean conditions, whether natural or triggered by 
humans. There are many groups with claims on 
salmon resources, Hanna pointed out, from ocean 
trollers and river gill netters, to Native 
American tribes and recreational anglers. And 
management cuts across many boundaries.

In the past, Hanna said, fishermen could adjust 
to closures or shortened seasons by switching to 
different species. Now, she says, most fisheries are fully subscribed.

"If it's a bad year for salmon, you can't just 
switch to crabbing or fishing for rockfish unless 
you have the permits," Hanna pointed out. "It's 
not a question of gear, but of access."

Hanna said West Coast fishermen are progressive. 
They contribute to the knowledge base through 
cooperative research and participate in 
management decision-making processes. While some 
may grumble about regulations, she said, they 
generally see the need for management and are 
often in the lead in proposing new management approaches.

"Fishing operations are regulated businesses that 
fare more successfully the better they are 
understood," Hanna said. "We need to do a better 
job of knowing how fishermen will respond to 
changes in catch rates and length of season if we 
want to continue to have sustainable fisheries -- 
because greater uncertainty lies ahead."

Other authors on the study include Alistair 
McIlgorm of Southern Cross University in 
Australia; Gunnar Knapp, the University of 
Alaska-Anchorage; Pascal Le Floc'H, University of 
Brest in France; Frank Millerd, Wilfrid Laurier 
University in Canada; and Minling Pan, of NOAA Fisheries Service in Hawaii.

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