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A O U
Overfishing
Fact or Fantasy?
Part 2

The address of this page is:
http://www.SwedesDock/overfis2.sht

You can email the author at
NMFS-BITES-BIG-TIME@SwedesDock.com

(Note - where there are gaps in the numbering is where I've combined posts that were split up because they were too long to fit into TT's message format)


Part 1 - PART 2 - Part 3

Dave C - 05:55am Nov 3, 1998 PDT (#331 of 357)
I keep going back to your argument about how large catches are economically self-limiting without being dangerous on a species-extinction level. It's a very good argument. If someone wants to argue against it, I'd be very interested in reading a contrary point of view.

Play the devil's advocate for a moment, Gosta. Imagine a NMFS person here posting. What would s/he say against your large-catch-self-limitation argument.


Gösta H. Lovgren - 07:27am Nov 4, 1998 PDT (#332 of 357)
I've given your challenge (presenting their side) a LOT of thought Dave and think I'll pass. While I would welcome a discussion in this forum with them, I will not present their arguments for them nor will I give away any "defences" I might offer (as if I haven't already). Nor will I do ANYTHING that might *possibly* advance their case. As to your earlier point that I may have "left out some important and relevant facts of the matter" I assure you I haven't, at least none that I am aware of.
Dave C - 02:54pm Nov 4, 1998 PDT (#333 of 357)
Ok. For now, then, I accept your argument at it's face value, which I would rate quite high. To repeat: I think your argument of economic limits to large catches is very compelling. I never heard it before [this not being a subject I've read much about] and I think you've presented it here very well. Thanks.
(Note - At this point I started a new "thread" called "Overfishing - Fact or Fantasy", so the numbers will start anew at 2)


Table Talk Science and Health
Overfishing - Fact or Fantasy?

Gösta H. Lovgren - 12:53am Nov 5, 1998 PDT
I do have faith in the future, just not as much as I had yesterday.


This thread on Overfishing started over in Global Warming and it got sort of hijacked it so I'm moving over here. See msg #2.
Gösta H. Lovgren - 01:32am Nov 5, 1998 PDT (#2 of 42)

The term "Overfishing" is an emotional word, invoking images of all that's wrong with society and the world. As it's generally understood it is

FANTASY

To catch up here you will have to have read the thread in Global Warming starting at #290 or so to #330. You can probably read it better here at (http://www.SwedesDock.com/OverFish.sht).

I've spoken much about the "natural" cycle of fisheries (I make no claim to know what the cycle is for any given fishery or even if there is even any regularity to a cycle - say every 10 years, only that there are peaks and troughs in stock sizes.) and I've made much of the "natural" regulation of Commercial Fishing. Now I will give an example of what I mean.

For illustrative purposes, I'll use a *relatively* stable fishery like lobsters (And I am in no way claiming it is stable) with *relatively* low entrance investment. Let's presume that at the stock trough it can support 20 lobstermen at subsistence levels. There comes a fortuitous confluence of conditions (for lobsters) and there is an increase in available stock (to fishermen).

Well, most or all of these 20 lobstermen have a good year. Other fishermen who may not have been doing as well (maybe the cycle is on a down side for the fishery they are in) decide the next year to get (back) into lobstering.

These fellas all have a good year and some fellas who were carpenters or shoe salesmen decide "Lobsterin' don't look all that hard. Sure beats poundin' nails or forcing ballet slippers on hefty heifers' feet for money too." Or maybe their industry slowed down and they just can't find any work. Whatever, a whole lot more go lobsterin'.

Now this goes on for a number of years until the landings peak and start to go down again, fishermen start dropping out until the trough comes and there's only 20 lobstermen left.

And here's what made our industry so healthy. It wasn't the same 20 lobstermen left. Maybe some got old, maybe some just couldn't compete against brighter guys who got attracted during the up side. Whatever, it was only the 20 who were the best at catching lobsters and could still make a living out of it. Until the government began forcing political "solutions" down the throats of fishermen that is.


Anthony Cagle - 12:31pm Nov 5, 1998 PDT (#3 of 42)
Question: Once the population bottoms out, what's to keep the remaining fishermen from keeping the population low. I.e., Why should one assume that in a commercial enterprise with a basically bottomless (or topless, as it were) demand, why would one think the population would ever rebound if the intensity of predation continually matches the replacement rate of the prey?

What I'm really wondering is whether you can apply what is basically a predator-prey covariation model to a commercial venture.


(Deleted message originally posted by Gösta H. Lovgren on 04:03pm Nov 5, 1998 PDT)
Gösta H. Lovgren - 04:42pm Nov 5, 1998 PDT (#5 of 42)

Anthony said:Question: Once the population bottoms out, what's to keep the remaining fishermen from keeping the population low. I.e., Why should one assume that in a commercial enterprise with a basically bottomless (or topless, as it were) demand, why would one think the population would ever rebound if the intensity of predation continually matches the replacement rate of the prey?

I believed I had answered that (I'm assuming you read the link). Perhaps it would be clearer to you if I said it this way: As population falls (maybe even before it bottoms out) the cost of production is far greater than the return (the per unit price effectively has a ceiling no matter how scarce the product is, and far far far before the last one can be caught). If the cost of production is less than the cost of return as/when it bottoms out then what's the big deal? The population will boom despite fishing effort.

Anthony said: What I'm really wondering is whether you can apply what is basically a predator-prey covariation model to a commercial venture.

I don't even know what a "a predator-prey covariation model to a commercial venture" is. It sounds like a lot of fishery science to me - making something really complicated out of what is at base only common sense. I'm not attempting to make a "model" only explaining what has been the (successful) history of the fishing business for 100's of years (until Uncle got into the picture).

Incidentally many/most regulations actually encourage, even mandate, exactly what you're talking about - keeping "stress" on the stock when it's depressed. Stress that, but for the regulations, would not be there. I intend to show how that comes about but not just yet. Probably later on this week. Just don't have the time right now.


Ormond Otvos - 08:07pm Nov 5, 1998 PDT (#6 of 42)

What about technology that is capable of depressing the stock to a level where it fails to reproduce. Fisheries stock don't necessarily continue to reproduce down to extinction. There are, I believe, minimum population sizes and ranges for reproduction to occur in some species.

It's fun to pooh-pooh fisheries science, but my experiences at the University of Washington fisheries science library made me a good living for several years in the trolling fleet, selling little gadgets based on obscure science of the type you denigrate. (galvanotropism in salmon)


Anthony Cagle - 08:57am Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#7 of 42)

Well, Gosta, not to be too argumentative, but I have two problems with your last post and a general one with a particular link you provided.

Gösta said: I'm . . . only explaining what has been the (successful) history of the fishing business for 100's of years...

I don't think that's terribly relevant since technology has progressed. A hundred years ago, people simply couldn't overfish even if they wanted to. That's rather tantamout to stating that since people have been farming for thousands of years, modern farmers can't have any bad effects on the environment -- just evil government regulation of it.

Gösta said: making something really complicated out of what is at base only common sense.

Point taken, but when was the last time you flew on an airplane? I seem to recall common sense saying things that were heavier than air couldn't fly. Common sense might be common, but it ain't always right.

Lastly, I perused the PARC site you made a link to. I have to admit, a lot of red flags got raised by some of the statements therein. They seem to be blaming the usual conspiracy suspects all over the place. Oh, those awful gubmint people, those evil university researchers who are just out for grant money, etc., etc., etc. Their argument seems to be "They are in it just for the money, so their comclusions are automatically suspect."

Uhhhhhh.......fishermen don't have any economic incentive for concluding that they're not responsible?


Gösta H. Lovgren - 09:31am Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#8 of 42)

OO said: What about technology that is capable of depressing the stock to a level where it fails to reproduce.

Without question there is technology available (and in use) today that is very sophisticated in finding fish, avoiding bad bottom, etc. And it is true that technology has vastly contributed to the harvest of seafood. But no matter how good or sophisticated the technology is, it CANNOT make the effort efficient enough to catch the last fish or even drive it down to unrecoverable levels. The return so far falls short of effort cost it's impossible to even begin to happen.

OO said: There are, I believe, minimum population sizes and ranges for reproduction to occur in some species.

Unless you can show an ocean fishery where that has clearly happened from commercial exploitation then that's all it is, a (wishful) belief and/or an exercise in the theoretical. To my knowledge and experience it has never happened, And can't happen. There likely have been localized cases where an indigenous population may have fished out a reef or bay or small area or something like but that is a far cry from a species extinction. Leave that area alone for a period and the population will reestablish itself (barring other external influences like pollution for example.)

What you are doing is applying your land-based (mammal) knowledge and experiences to an entirely different paradigm where the rules are incredibly more complex than they are in our own everyday experience. (And it's entirely understandable that you would, we all do. It takes a conscious effort to get beyond them.)

A possibly credible case could be made for a recreational fishery (the cost/return basis is not economic, it's a cost/pleasure basis) to do as you allege - reduce a population below recovery levels, causing it to extinct - but even there I would question the possibility. I must note however ( at the risk of pooh poohing) I find it typically ironic (though not humorous) in every case where both recreation and commercial go after the same species that recreational interests always receive the greatest allocations and the least restrictions. Even in cases where the historic landings of a species "in need of strict regulation because it is or will be in danger of extinction" are recreational in nature.

OO said: It's fun to pooh-pooh fisheries science, ...

It may be fun for you but I assure you it's deadly serious for me and I don't do it lightly (though I do (attempt to) use humor and sarcasm) nor do I do it ignorantly (without knowledge).

OO said: ... but my experiences at the University of Washington fisheries science library made me a good living for several years in the trolling fleet, selling little gadgets based on obscure science of the type you denigrate. (galvanotropism in salmon)

You bet I denigrate the science. I just wish I was better at it and had a bigger audience. Because it's not science, it's political $cience to serve agendas that have nothing to do with stock levels, environmentalism, conservation, fishermen or even the country.

(Note - I appreciate your unusually comprehensible, even civil, questions, OO.)


Gösta H. Lovgren - 09:39am Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#9 of 42)

Anthony said:Well, Gosta, not to be too argumentative, but I have two problems with your last post and a general one with a particular link you provided.

Gösta said:" I'm . . . only explaining what has been the (successful) history of the fishing business for 100's of years... "

I don't think that's terribly relevant since technology has progressed. A hundred years ago, people simply couldn't overfish even if they wanted to. That's rather tantamout to stating that since people have been farming for thousands of years, modern farmers can't have any bad effects on the environment -- just evil government regulation of it.

Not really true and you'll see I addressed the technology issue in the response to OO.

Anthony said: Gösta said:"making something really complicated out of what is at base only common sense."

Point taken, but when was the last time you flew on an airplane? I seem to recall common sense saying things that were heavier than air couldn't fly. Common sense might be common, but it ain't always right.

No it isn't. And I don't believe that's a fair or even reasonable analogy in this case. You are talking about laws of physics that weren't known about at one time and I am talking biology and stuff that is known but is being (deliberately) ignored and/or covered up. Two entirely different areas and entirely different concepts.

Anthony said: Lastly, I perused the PARC site you made a link to. I have to admit, a lot of red flags got raised by some of the statements therein. They seem to be blaming the usual conspiracy suspects all over the place. Oh, those awful gubmint people, those evil university researchers who are just out for grant money, etc., etc., etc. Their argument seems to be "They are in it just for the money, so their comclusions are automatically suspect."

I think you confused the PARC reference (http://www.SwedesDock.com/PARC.sht) which deals only with pollution with the Overfishing reference (http://www.SwedesDock.com/overfish.sht). I'll be glad to discuss any of those specific flags you're concerned about as long as you quote my exact statements (like I and many others do here). I will not respond to any general or vague or inflammatory interpretations on what I have (not) stated. I don't think that's unreasonable.

Anthony said: Uhhhhhh.......fishermen don't have any economic incentive for concluding that they're not responsible?

You are going to have to give some examples of commercial fishermen acting irresponsibly for me to answer. For you to imply that because they make a living from seafood they are de facto irresponsible seems to me pretty damned irresponsible and small minded in and of itself.


Anthony Cagle - 09:48am Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#10 of 42)

Gösta said: "What you are doing is applying your land-based (mammal) knowledge and experiences (and it's entirely understandable that you would, we all do. It takes a conscious effort to get beyond them.) to an entirely different paradigm where the rules are incredibly more complex than they are in our own everyday experience "

HUH?????????????????????


Gösta H. Lovgren - 09:51am Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#11 of 42)

Anthony said: HUH?????????????????????

If you had been following this discussion from the beginning (the (referenced) discussion in Global Warming or in the link I provided in the first post (#2)) you would have understood what I meant.


h.g. - 10:18am Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#12 of 42)

Gosta,

What is your personal experience with commercial fishing?


Anthony Cagle - 12:17pm Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#13 of 42)

Actually, Gosta, I have read the referenced discussion. Most of what I see is assertions about how nobody else knows anything about fishing except fishermen, and whoever disagrees with the fishermen are either A) doing it only for the money, or B) Simply don't understand that marine predator-prey relationships are somehow different from any other form of life on the planet.


Dave C - 02:49pm Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#14 of 42)

Ormond, did you read the referenced previous argument in Global Warming [also copied over to Gosta's site]?

It sounds like you might be the person needed here to provide some informed counterpoint.

Though Gosta has convinced me he's onto something here with his economic self-regulation of large catches, I'd really like to read informed argument from the other side.


Ormond Otvos - 06:12pm Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#15 of 42)

Hyar's my bona-fides: I was working at the University of Washington building little op-amps for Dr. Hille in Physiology and Biophysics, trying to catch potassium ions as they cross frog-nerve membranes. (Frogs aren't mammals, and there are those that would maintain that I'm not even human anyway, but whether that moves me closer to fish or farther away is hard to tease out...)

I useter take my sammiches over to the new fisheries liberry ( a posh piece of copper roofed gummint megatecture if there ever was one ) and, like Gösta, I read a lot of stuff. I did that for several months, and since some of what we were doing involved the resistivity of fatty tissue, I deviated into the physiology of galavanotropic fishes, and electric eels, specifically to figure out how a flesh and blood (albeit non-mammalian) critter could sense electric currents in the µvolt/meter range in saltwater. It turned out that it was the extremely efficient hexagonal packing of high resistivity fat cells, but the search led through a lot of fisheries expertise.

I never thought it would happen, but I got to talking with some fisherpersons one day, and the next I was at the Fishermen's Terminal, and then I went for a little boat ride, and then I bought a boat, and then I went fishing, and then I caught fish, one at a time, by teasing them and knowing their little non-mammalian habits.

I sorta think a net fisherman is a crude sort compared to a troller, who has to understand the mind of the wily salmon, even unto its sense of taste, place, water movement, depth, tide, polarization, and electrical currents, both galvanic and derived from the flow of the salt water in the earth's magnetic field.

Salmon are highly evolved critters, tightly packed into their niche, and for someone to purely POSIT that they couldn't die out is in direct contradiction to common sense. Vide the carrier pigeon, which darkened the skies.

Think of how long you can go without air. Think of small and light a thing the air is compared to your 200 pound body. Inconceivable that air could matter to such a leviathan. Oops. Whales are mammals.

All that is necessary is that the niche disappear. Dam every stream, pollute every waterway, introduce pests, and then fish their asses off. Salmon have choke points in their anadromy.

Sort of got carried away. Used to get carried away when I heard this stuff in the Cedar Bar, too. Good thing I had big friends I fixed things for, or the commercial net guys woulda ripped my head off for daring to suggest that they were the most brainless polluters and despoilers of the environment they got their daily bread from.

Gµsta, are you familiar with the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons? It was the subject of an hour show on Discovery some while back, and the commons that was the illustration was the Grand Banks Fishery.

And, what does it matter if the fish die out, every one, or just die back to a sputter. When the fish are so hard to catch that you lose energy catching them, then the fisher is dead. D E A D . The myth of overfishing is a strawman, set up by the last of the greedhead fisherman, to which most fishermen belong. M O S T , and that's a direct observation of: White guys, Indians, East Coasters, West Coasters, Mexicans, Norwegians, and Southerners. I haven't drunk beer with the Great Lakes guys. Too cold.


Gösta H. Lovgren - 08:46pm Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#17 of 42)

h.g. said: Gösta,

What is your personal experience with commercial fishing?

My experience, as relates to this discussion, is covered in the referenced thread in Global Warming (address in the 1st post (#2) and/or in the link provided).

Anthony said: Actually, Gosta, I have read the referenced discussion.

I referenced a paper on pollution too. To better understand the discussion you need to read that as well.

Anthony said: Most of what I see is assertions about how nobody else knows anything about fishing except fishermen,

That's not what I said nor was it the impression I wanted people to have. If you choose to believe that there's little I can do to change your mind.

Anthony said: and whoever disagrees with the fishermen are either A) doing it only for the money,

I did NOT say that but again if it's what you want to infer ...

I do think it important (even critical) that people understand there's a great deal more to the "overfishing" problem than what they've been told. And I think it's important for them to know there's a hellava lot more money at stake than just what commercial fishermen take out of it. The motivation of NMFS funded science is less than pristine. (for example none, AFAIK {As Far As I Know} is peer reviewed). I was magnitudes more fair to them then they have EVER been to us. I refer you to some examples of what passes for "science" in the fishery science world (http://www.SwedesDock.com/scie_evi.sht).

Anthony said: or B) Simply don't understand that marine predator-prey relationships are somehow different from any other form of life on the planet.

They absolutely and unquestionably are (at least land based ones).

Dave said: sounds like you might be the person needed here to provide some informed counterpoint.

Asking Ormand for "informed counterpoint" is like asking, in terms of experience and knowledge, a 7 year old what a doctorate is like. The only thing "informed" you'll get from Ormand is malignant bitter negativity.


(Deleted message originally posted by Gösta H. Lovgren on 08:50pm Nov 6, 1998 PDT)
Gösta H. Lovgren - 09:00pm Nov 6, 1998 PDT (#19 of 42)

Ormond said: Hyar's my bona-fides: I was working at the University of Washington building little op-amps for Dr. Hille in Physiology .........., both galvanic and derived from the flow of the salt water in the earth's magnetic field.

A wealth of experience all right. Informed too. I've seen literally hundreds of Ormands come into fishing, stay 15 minutes and then leave to go on to yet another 40 minute career (fishing weeds 'em out faster than most jobs). And become instant experts too.

Ormond said: Salmon are highly evolved critters, tightly packed into their niche, and for someone to purely POSIT that they couldn't die out is in direct contradiction to common sense.

Again that's NOT what I said and you damn well know it. It's what you want to believe.

Ormond said: Vide the carrier pigeon, which darkened the skies.

A land based animal (or bird).

Ormond said: All that is necessary is that the niche disappear. Dam every stream, pollute every waterway, introduce pests, ..

Now THAT's what I (effectively) said.

Ormond said: and then fish their asses off. Salmon have choke points in their anadromy.

And what I said was it doesn't matter what the fishing pressure is if you "Dam every stream, pollute every waterway, introduce pests,". The fish won't survive anyway, no matter how much you "manage" them.

Ormond said: Gµsta, are you familiar with the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons? It was the subject of an hour show on Discovery some while back, and the commons that was the illustration was the Grand Banks Fishery.

First of all The Tragedy of the Commons is a land based analogy that was corrupted to fit an agenda.

(Note - The "Commons" was large field where villagers could graze their sheep. As villagers added sheep (building their own wealth) without regulation there soon came a point where there were too many sheep, the commons got destroyed and the villagers starved. Effectively killing themselves with their own greed. What you unthinking children are supposed to get out of this fairy tale is that if there only were benevolent regulators we could all live happily ever after.

I won't belabor you with the logical fallacy in and of itself but you can see how it clearly is not even remotely applicable to the ocean. Furthermore in fisheries the "benign regulators" are effectively destroying the Commons all on their own.)

Secondly, OO, you are admitting your wealth of informed fishing experience obviously comes from (Discovery Channel) despite your pitiful attempt to convince us you were ever actually in a bar with real men.

It's true the Grand Banks Fishery was depleted. So what? Fishermen there skimmed the cream off the top of some bumper years and society got the advantage of it (via cheap protein). But they didn't (and can't) drive the stock so low they can't recover. Again you are trying to use land based thinking (analogy) so that you can have "uniform" production according to some sort of schedule. "If we only land x million tons this year and leave 10x mt for next year then they will reproduce enough in the intervening period to replace the x mt we took out by next year. That way we will have a steady yield every year instead of ups and downs which are disrupting to the market place"

Stuff looks really good on paper. (Not the) Only problems are:

  1. by only taking x mt instead of 10x mt (leaving 1 x the fisherman is unable to catch) the price to the consumer has to be significantly higher (I'm not claiming 10x as there are fixed processor costs that don't vary much with volume). MANY people who could have used the protein at the lower price 10x landings would bring will be precluded from the market just by price alone.

    And I'm not saying fishermen can catch 90% of the stock in an open ocean only species, I don't believe they can although it may be possible to catch an even higher % in some fisheries - surf clams for example, a "static" fishery "without tails"

  2. It presumes that 10x is going to still be around next season. It may very well be and it just as easily may not. Just as I described fortuitous confluences responsible for bumper "stocks" there are fortuitous confluences for the "natural" (non fishermen) predators of those stocks. When that happens they will reduce/collapse the prey stocks to "dangerously low" levels (far lower than the 1x the fishermen can't catch). And thus the cycle is at a low ebb until the next inevitable "Fortuitous Confluence of Events" (as long as pollution hasn't interfered).

Ormand said: And, what does it matter if the fish die out, every one, or just die back to a sputter. When the fish are so hard to catch that you lose energy catching them, then the fisher is dead. D E A D .

I will tell you just this once Ormand - if you (deliberately) insult me again (and you know exactly what I'm talking about) I will ignore any further posts from you. You have two problems as I see it:

  1. We've sparred before on many threads and I've often gotten the best of you. Usually, but not always I'll admit, with good humor. It's tough for you to swallow.

  2. You have a severely jaundiced view of the world. You see everyone as "greedy" cretins. You refuse to acknowledge openness and honesty if it doesn't square with whatever your malignant, warped view of the world is.

Again I will respond to any fairly (even to some extent unfairly) put question or position you have. But ONLY if you are civil.


Gösta H. Lovgren - 03:52am Nov 7, 1998 PDT (#21 of 42)

To borrow a phrase Rick Adair said in the Nature's Destiny thread (#161) (in a different context),- "This is all pretty woo-woo, in that it sorta defies intuition ..." - fits quite well what I've described here in the ocean fishery situation.

I'd like to add, also, salmon to that example of "static" fisheries I mentioned above. They do have "tails" but it's also known with pretty fair certainty and specificity (but nowhere near 100%) where they are all gonna be at a given time and so it is possible to catch them all (theoretically at least, not as a practical matter).


John Horowitz - 11:34am Nov 7, 1998 PDT (#22 of 42)

Give 'em hell, Gosta, cause you've nailed ole OO exactly on-target.


End of Overfishing Part 2

(Well not really the end but enough for now {grin})

Part 1 - - Part 3


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