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Did FAO Get the Fish Catch Results in GoM Wrong?

Posted on February 25, 2008

[So who do you trust? This sort of says FAO FishSTAT uses flawed methods to calculate sustainable fishing levels. . . and if you look at self interest, Louisiana State University may have reasons to be unreasonably optimistic about MSY calculations?? bgp ]This little abstract from the Society for Conservation Biology . . Journal Watch at…or

Statistical glitch conjures fish

Reanalysis shows the Gulf of Mexico fishery didn’t collapse after allIn great big letters…Measuring stuff is difficult, as a paper published this week in PNAS makes clear. The widespread marine ecosystem collapse reported in the Gulf of Mexico was an artifact of the fisheries data that were collected and used, according to a reanalysis carried out by Louisiana State University marine biologist James Cowan and colleagues.Regional catches are dominated by the commercially important and targeted menhaden Brevoortia patronus and several penaeid shrimp species, but because they’re at the low end of the food chain they skew measures of ecosystem health based on fisheries landing data (the “mean trophic level index”, which provides a rough and ready indication of how overfished or degraded a marine community is).Using data from the National Marine Fishery Service, rather than the Food and Agriculture Organization, Cowan’s group found that only 21 percent of Gulf fisheries collapsed between 1950 and 2001 (and 8 percent have since recovered), whereas almost four-fifths would have been designated as collapsed under formerly used criteria. The key lies in incorporating management practices: even subtle changes in the way fleets operate can bring about significant differences in the composition of catches.Monitoring marine ecosystems is a complex task that we clearly haven’t mastered, but watch this space: the debate surely isn’t over.Source: de Mutsert K, Cowan JH Jr, Essington TE & Hilborn R (2008) Reanalysis of Gulf of Mexico fisheries data: landings can be misleading in assessments of fisheries and fisheries ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0704354105

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