In the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world, SeaWeb's Asia Pacific program is strengthening voices for ocean conservation by bridging the worlds of marine science, journalism, and public policy. We work to amplify and clarify the messages of local scientists and ocean experts, and to connect journalists and decision-makers to ocean issues and specialists.

We envision an Asia Pacific region where all people will act on the belief that a healthy ocean is vital to human life and a sustainable future.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

COMPASS-promoted paper continues to make people think...

I ran across the following in a blog post this morning. I found it to be somewhat amusing, somewhat provocative, and an interesting example of the intersection of blogging and conservation science.
Last November in the journal Science, a team of researchers made quite an international stir by documenting the importance of biological diversity in the oceans and linked it to the long term sustainability of fisheries. The paper made front page news in numerous news outlets worldwide and was even picked-up by CNN and national and local news. Interestingly, most of the media attention skipped-over the core message of the paper, that healthy fisheries are a byproduct (or ecosystem service) of robust ocean biodiversity. Instead, media reports chose to focus on the articles chilling prediction that if current fishing trends continue, most of the world’s fisheries could be headed for collapse by mid-century.

After the chill came the heated response from the research community. Collapse? What collapse? Let's be certain we all understand what collapse means. Don't you mean reduced, not collapsed? Or depleted. Depleted is a more accurate word, right? And what fish stock will collapse? Surely not all! Oh, and what's the cause? We have to completely understand the cause before we should sound so alarmist! It all made my head hurt. Meanwhile, what is apparent to the lay observer––fish catches continue to shrink, market fish get smaller, and unsustainable fishing practices continue––remains "anecdotal" therefore "unimportant" to the research community.
This week, a follow-up article by the same group of researchers was published in Science to address the backlash. Emmett Duffy, Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science and co-author of the original paper and this week's response, succinctly summarized the criticism on his blog, The Natural Patriot,
In a nutshell (or dare I say, in a clamshell), the criticisms raised do not invalidate the main conclusions of the original analysis by [the original paper]. Fish stocks have declined worldwide over the last few decades, as widely recognized and documented not only in our paper but by the comprehensive assessment of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. What is new is our documentation that biodiversity is critical to maintaining the normal functioning of marine ecosystems, and the goods and services that they provide to human society, including the productivity and resilience of global fishery catches.
For the full posting, see Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets: Time To Fish Or Cut Bait?

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