Lessons From Fisheries
Gary D. Sharp
Abstract from UBC Fisheries Centre Workshop on Fisheries Oceanography, 1995
The Solar Engine and the Earth’s spin provide the forcing for the continuously varying environment within which the Earth’s ecosystems evolve, and within which humanity’s mere century old ocean sciences have begun to compile records that might help them cope. Among the many pathways taken by would-be resource managers, that leading away from data gathering and observations, toward modeling from numerical parameterizations has nearly driven many aquatic and forest resources into unsustainability, within the last half of this century.
Much of the problem has been described as the result of a "lack of political will", which is to say a failure of government to look after the common properties. I maintain that just as much of the problem lies with the scientific communities whose lack of basic understanding has been codified in ritual methodologies and methods that ignore many factors over which humans have no control, and therefore "assume" into some convenient statistical patterns that serves their mathematical needs, rather than the realities of nature (TrophicPyram.gif). See ref. at Sharp’s Site.
Time and space scales of processes have been explored, from the recent fifty years of instrumental records. The fact that this recent half century has been one of the most stable periods in the climate records of the last three thousand years has had its consequences, as we begin shifting toward another climatic state. Much of what is known about climate forcing, and ecosystem responses, is within the realms of geology and paleoclimatology, far from knowledge bases for most fisheries students. Recent insights into the behaviors of coastal pelagics, oceanic species and related fisheries has shown that there is far more to aquatic resource management than calculating CPUE, aging fish from modal progressions, and formulating VPA each year. (Horta-1991.htm). See ref. at Sharp’s Site.
Climate forcing combines erratic inter-annual patterns with quasi- periodic, time-horizon based events that punctuate environmental properties and processes, setting new system contexts within which aquatic ecosystems naturally respond on daily, seasonal and epochal time scales. There are abundant examples from fisheries that yield insights into the timing, and some short-term research into aquatic ecosystems that help to define the cascades of responses in time and space, yet much of fisheries science over the recent decade has been focused on annual data sets, ritualized data reductions, and "smoothing" procedures that minimize the information contents of the resulting information. The result has been less than satisfactory. Alternate procedures, and better integration of information are not only available, but timely to reconsider.
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