Prof Doug Butterworth challenges scientists to find common ground in fish stock assessments

The third and final plenary lecture at ICES Annual Science Conference (ASC) centred around the need to find common ground in fish stock assessments.
Published: 27 September 2013

​​​​​​​​​​​Will the wide variability of management advice risk integrity with stakeholders? What is the appropriate role of scientists in providing advice to fisheries managers? These were amongst questions raised during Wednesday's plenary lecture at the ASC by Professor Doug Butterworth from the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

​During the talk – Factoring uncertainty into management advice – have fisheries scientists got their act together? Butterworth presented practices and projections of various assessment approaches. He also outlined the challenges posed by stock recruitment fluctuations and annual surveys to fisheries management.

Butterworth, presenting statistical examples from the USA, queried how unlikely a scenario has to be before it is deemed 'implausible', another instance in which there is much difference of opinion, especially in precautionary approaches. He also described the 'great north-south divide' between approaches to fisheries management and the effects of uncertainty on global marine science. For him, this divide is apparent in which figures both regions' scientists take into account when assessing stocks. He stated that in the north, scientists focus more on fishing mortality figures whereas in the south they concentrate more on biomass figures. Professor Butterworth was asking the gathered crowd whether scientists shouldn't 'get their act together' on the commonality of uncertainties.

It is such consensus and commonality, Butterworth argued, which goes towards retaining credibility in the eyes of the stakeholders. With the broad nature of fisheries management advice, this, along with clear communication, is critical, he concluded. ​

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Prof Doug Butterworth challenges scientists to find common ground in fish stock assessments

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