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Thread: The science and sociology of fisheries' management . . .

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    Default The science and sociology of fisheries' management . . .

    In order to prevent hijacking of the Halibut Migration thread, this thread is devoted to the science and sociology of resource management.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    The natural sciences, even given their inherent uncertainties and limitations, can only give us partial understand of the "what" of resource management. Only sociology, economics, and ethics give us the "how" and "why" of resource management.

    What exactly is hoped to be gained by further scientific study of halibut migration?


    I am not going to get into details but the above statement is just flat wrong in my opinion. How we manage resources is also a scientific question and why we manage resources is also a scientific question. One good example is the difference between single species management - the discussion of this thread - and ecosystem management. The how and why are technical questions that the natural sciences are an integral part in recommendations and decisions. I am not dismissing the other areas only not excluding the natural sciences in the equation.

    The question of what is to be gained is one that our society has failed at numerous times. Because some think that the social and ethical questions should decide this there may be a loss of knowledge that we cannot even guess at. Advances in resource management come from a number of scientists that do not study the species of economic and social interests or are afraid to do it because of unfounded ethical positions. The literature is full of examples of where understanding species and systems comes from studying systems for the sake of knowledge not some perceived gain defined before one starts. These understandings then apply to species of economic or social concern.

    That is why funding of these studies is typically at the Federal level and at Universities. State resource departments are limited to those who ask " what is to be gained?" and by definition are limiting the options those State's have for resource management. Alaska is a prime example. You do not see basic life history information for even the most prized species - look at the lack of knowledge on Kenai River Chinook salmon. Long term research is not funded because short term issues dominate the discussion in the political environment of the State.

    I do not want to take this thread into the discussion of this point but could not leave the comment to stand as some truth
    .
    First, "how," "if," and "why" we manage our fisheries resources, are fundamentally social questions, they are not scientific questions. Science is value-free; science cannot set or define social priorities. Science is purely materialistic, and in the case of Alaska's fisheries resources, science is always employed in pursuit of social priorities and goals. If, for instance and as was mentioned in the Halibut Migration thread, more studies are "needed," those studies are "needed" only or primarily for the purpose of implementing social priorities, to aid in answering social questions, or to resolve competition for harvest of the resource (commons).

    Once social goals are defined, the natural sciences can then supply us with uncertain, purely-materialistic, "best guesses" as to how society might proceed in the accomplishment of its goals, but "how" we manage our fisheries is only and always a social question for which science helps supply purely mechanical answers.

    It is thus incorrect to say that "Advances in resource management come from a number of scientists that do not study the species of economic and social interests . . " Advances in resource knowledge come from scientists; such advances in materialistic knowledge are then used by managers in pursuit of a social agenda.

    It's important, to my thinking, to keep such distinctions in mind in discussions of the management of our fisheries or other resources. How, or for what reasons and purposes, we manage our resources are not scientific questions, and it is impossible to overstate that fact. How and for what reasons and purposes we manage our resources are social questions. Once the questions are answered socially, science can help supply the materialistic/technical knowledge necessary for the implementation of social goals and priorities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    In order to prevent hijacking of the Halibut Migration thread, this thread is devoted to the science and sociology of resource management.


    First, "how," "if," and "why" we manage our fisheries resources, are fundamentally social questions, they are not scientific questions. Science is value-free; science cannot set or define social priorities. Science is purely materialistic, and in the case of Alaska's fisheries resources, science is always employed in pursuit of social priorities and goals. If, for instance and as was mentioned in the Halibut Migration thread, more studies are "needed," those studies are "needed" only or primarily for the purpose of implementing social priorities, to aid in answering social questions, or to resolve competition for harvest of the resource (commons).

    Once social goals are defined, the natural sciences can then supply us with uncertain, purely-materialistic, "best guesses" as to how society might proceed in the accomplishment of its goals, but "how" we manage our fisheries is only and always a social question for which science helps supply purely mechanical answers.

    It is thus incorrect to say that "Advances in resource management come from a number of scientists that do not study the species of economic and social interests . . " Advances in resource knowledge come from scientists; such advances in materialistic knowledge are then used by managers in pursuit of a social agenda.

    It's important, to my thinking, to keep such distinctions in mind in discussions of the management of our fisheries or other resources. How, or for what reasons and purposes, we manage our resources are not scientific questions, and it is impossible to overstate that fact. How and for what reasons and purposes we manage our resources are social questions. Once the questions are answered socially, science can help supply the materialistic/technical knowledge necessary for the implementation of social goals and priorities.
    How we manage a resource is a scientific question for resource managers. There are a variety of models and approaches that resource managers use and they are selected on scientific criteria. The lay public does not even know in a number of cases which models are being used and for what reasons. So to try and separate the various disciplines is not correct. Resource management is a scientific arena. I was just trying to state that How is a broad question and it is simplistic to try and limit it to just social issues and not technical ones.
    Last edited by Brian M; 10-04-2011 at 09:55. Reason: personal comments

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    Exclamation Science is speechless . . .

    How we manage a resource is a scientific question for resource managers. There are a variety of models and approaches that resource managers use and they are selected on scientific criteria. The lay public does not even know in a number of cases which models are being used and for what reasons. So to try and separate the various disciplines is not correct. Resource management is a scientific arena. I was just trying to state that How is a broad question and it is simplistic to try and limit it to just social issues and not technical ones.
    No. How—for what purposes and toward what goals—we manage a resource is not a scientific question for resource managers. Resource management is a social question, which, once answered, is accomplished by resource managers using, among other things, scientific (materialistic) information/models/criteria. The implementation of resource management is, in part, a scientific arena, but resource management itself—social goals and priorities—is purely a social arena.

    It is, to my mind, crucial to understand the difference between policy and implementation, because implementation always depends on and is defined by social policy. These are not word games. If, in discussion of fisheries or other resource management, someone advances an argument for, say, a particular allotment in terms of "science," it is critical to understand, a priori, that science can say nothing about allotment. Allotment is a social question. Once the question of allotment is socially/politically/economically decided, scientific data can be used to defend or contest that decision, but the allotment itself is not a scientific question.

    Moreover, we all have agendas or preferences or bias, and we bring them to such discussions. Some have a sport-fish preference, some have a comm-fish bias, some have a charter bias, some have a long-line agenda, and so on. To intelligently discuss resource management, social policy is always the fundamental consideration. Management of the resource always follows social policy. Any wishing to change resource management must first change resource policy.


    *This thread is an attempt to keep the halibut thread on-topic while still discussing issues I believe are important to the overall subject of management.
    Last edited by Brian M; 10-04-2011 at 09:56. Reason: referenced deleted comment

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    Just for the record management is defined as " act or art of managing: conduct;control;direction. Judicious use of means to accomplish an end; skillful treatment. Capacity for managing; executive skill. The collective body of those who manage any enterprise or interest."

    So Marcus, go forth as I have better things to do.
    Last edited by Brian M; 10-04-2011 at 09:56.

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    This is fun!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post

    My point stands: the "ends" or goals of management are socially set, not scientifically. Science can help managers accomplish the social ends of resource management.

    In reading the posts from the two of you, I don't really see that you are in such stark disagreement. Science is a tool that is used to gather data about and to develop strategies for managing resources. The priorities by which these resources are managed, however, are set utilizing non-scientific means.

    All of that being said, I tend to put a lot of value in the words of Nerka as it pertains to resource management. 30 years of experience in managing our state's resources is certainly going to imbue one with a great deal of knowledge.

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    Thumbs up Bingo . . . !!

    . . Science is a [materialistic] tool that is used to gather data about and to develop strategies for managing resources. The [social] priorities by which these resources are managed, however, are set utilizing non-scientific means. . .
    Absolutely! Couldn't agree more.

    A star for that . . .

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    I thought that this forum was a place to discuss fisheries managemant! Not slam the door on someone with whom you my not agree. I see that fisheries management has use science and social impacts to make decisions in the past, some at the fed level and some at the state level that seemed to have been influenced by non scientific pressures. Just remeber hind sight is 20/20 and even Nerka might wish that some dicisions made in the past could be changed. But for now lets make the best of what we have left, and use all the provided information wisley!

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    I am posting this because of Brian's comment and it is my last on this subject. I did not debate that priorities for management and the funding of management are not influenced significantly by social and economic issues. I took exception to the claim that the HOW of resource management is not a scientific discipline. I believe the resource management undergraduate and graduate program at Cal State (references below) shows the intergration very well. Science is more than just data gathering and HOW resource management is done is inclusive of science as discussed below. Marcus claim that it does not is not correct in my opinion.

    The Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) program is an interdisciplinary program designed for students interested in a variety of environmental topics. Graduates in Environmental Science and Resource Management have a solid understanding of the environment from both scientific and human perspectives.

    ESRM students are grounded in the fundamentals of ecology, physics, and chemistry by examining the intersection between the biological and the physical environments in the lab and field. Effective management of these natural systems are explored from a variety of social science and humanities perspectives including demography, economics, political science, sociology, literature, and environmental history. In addition to theoretical underpinnings, our students are trained in a variety of skills necessary for the environmental science professional of the 21st century; Geographic Information Systems, quantitative data analyses and presentation, technical writing, and a variety of field and lab methodologies. Service Learning and Civic Engagement feature prominently in several of our courses from the introductory level to the advanced. ESRM graduates leave us with a deep appreciation for the complexities involved in balancing human needs and desires with sustainable use of Earth's renewable and non-renewable resources and the ability to contribute to the effective management of these resources into the future.
    ESRM faculty and their students are engaged in a wide variety of research efforts across Ventura County, the United States, and the globe. We have particular strengths in human dimensions of resource management, geospatial analysis, and ecological restoration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flatfish View Post
    This is fun!
    No it isn't. Not really. One of the deepest truths I've found in my years on this silly planet is that when two people argue, they're usually both wrong.

    It doesn't much matter what their opinions are, what matters is that they're too busy arguing to actually listen to one another, to see that perhaps they each have something worth saying, that agreeing to disagree makes them both stronger, that they're both missing out by arguing instead of sharing differing perspectives. And ultimately not only those arguing, but also those listening, wind up somewhat diminished.

    There are exceptions, such as academic debate clubs, but all exceptions are characterized by an absence of rancor, by a lack of anger or negativity. That can be fun! But even as each side tries to win, good sportsmanship is always involved. The key difference is that proper debate is never dismissive of other opinions.

    If we as hunters, fishers, and outdoors people can't treat one another with respect, how can we expect any better from our neighbors, our government, or our society?

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    Thumbs down Issues and ideas, not people . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Seraphina View Post
    . . One of the deepest truths I've found in my years on this silly planet is that when two people argue, they're usually both wrong.

    It doesn't much matter what their opinions are, what matters is that they're too busy arguing to actually listen to one another, to see that perhaps they each have something worth saying, that agreeing to disagree makes them both stronger, that they're both missing out by arguing instead of sharing differing perspectives. And ultimately not only those arguing, but also those listening, wind up somewhat diminished.

    There are exceptions, such as academic debate clubs, but all exceptions are characterized by an absence of rancor, by a lack of anger or negativity. That can be fun! But even as each side tries to win, good sportsmanship is always involved. The key difference is that proper debate is never dismissive of other opinions.

    If we as hunters, fishers, and outdoors people can't treat one another with respect, how can we expect any better from our neighbors, our government, or our society?
    That we have differing opinions on various issues and ideas is a fact of human existence, and the rational debate of those differences is critical to the advancement of social order. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren noted:

    Mere unorthodoxy or dissent from the prevailing mores is not to be condemned. The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society.

    Rational debate of differing opinions degenerates into a nasty quarrel when one side or both resort to personal abuse of their opponent rather than debating the issue on its merits. Intelligent, rational debate must be and remain issue-oriented. When one side of the issue starts calling names or otherwise begins to abuse their opponent personally, rational debate is over. As the rules here state: "Comment on outdoor related ideas is welcome; comment on people is not."

    All that is necessary to keep our discussions civil, intelligent, and profitable is that we simply observe the rules of these fora.

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    Cool Cutting the pie . .

    . . Effective management of these natural systems are explored from a variety of social science and humanities perspectives including demography, economics, political science, sociology, literature, and environmental history. In addition to theoretical underpinnings, our students are trained in a variety of skills necessary for the environmental science professional of the 21st century; Geographic Information Systems, quantitative data analyses and presentation, technical writing, and a variety of field and lab methodologies. . . ESRM graduates leave us with a deep appreciation for the complexities involved in balancing human needs and desires with sustainable use of Earth's renewable and non-renewable resources and the ability to contribute to the effective management of these resources into the future.​ (emphasis added)
    The above is well said. Here in Alaska, the "theoretical underpinnings" of our resource management is that they be managed for sustained yield to the benefit of the state's citizens. And that theoretical underpinning is socially-derived, not scientifically-derived.

    In pursuit of those socially-derived underpinnings, the state has established bureaucracies and hired professionals with the necessary training to accomplish management for sustained yield. Science, grounded in certain, metaphysical presuppositions about the nature of the cosmos, is a tool; science is not a world-view or a philosophy or a religion. Science is a tool in the same way that a hammer is a tool. Science is a way of contemplating and investigating the material world to the advancement of human understanding and to the betterment of the human condition.

    Complications arise, not from the theoretical underpinnings of Alaska's resource management but from the competing demands for economic opportunity within that underpinning and within the definition of "citizens." Again, these competing demands are not scientifically-determined, these competing demands are socially, economically, and politically determined. Specialists employed by state bureaucracies must then, using the tools science provides, suggest ways to harmonize the various competing demands for the commons.

    The fundamental point I'm trying to make is that if one user group or another wishes to alter or change the current divisions between competing demands for the commons, that group must first change the sociology defining the status quo, not the science. For instance, if halibut charters want a bigger cut of a zero-sum pie, they must alter the sociology defending current division of the pie, not the science.

    That's all . . .

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    I will lend some perspective, at some risk......

    In my view, the interaction between public policy choices, management realities, and scientific inquiry is not a one-way street. It's not linear and, ideally, it does not have a precise end point. Science informs policy choices. Policy choices narrow the field of management based on preferences. Management is informed both by the policy choices and by scientific realities. All three help to inform the others, in an interative manner.

    Science for the sake of science has an important place in society, primarily as a means of discovery. Public policy debates unencumbered by scientific facts or implementation details is important to think about "what might be", or to encourage out-of-the-box thinking for solving complex social problems. Implementation (i.e., management) divorced from narrow public policy choices can be enlightening to seek different technical solutions and ideas. However, in reality, society works best when all three work together. Examples abound. However, there are too many examples of how things break down when they don't. In my view, narrow public policy choices too often dictate management options, to the deteriment of important natural resources. Given that resource managers have a dual role of both utilizing (I hate that word...) natural resources and preserving them for future generations, it's easy to see how and why conflicts over natural resources abound in our society. And not just in Alaska.

    I would agree that implementing policy choices is primarily a question of "how". Therefore, management is more scientific than it is social. On that point, I agree with Nerka. But I recognize that management is often bounded by policy choices, on one hand, and scientific realities on the other. Balancing those two is the "art" of managing natural resources.

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    Thumbs up Good stuff . . .

    Good post, issue-oriented . . . . thanks . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    I will lend some perspective, at some risk......

    In my view, the interaction between public policy choices, management realities, and scientific inquiry is not a one-way street. It's not linear and, ideally, it does not have a precise end point. Science informs policy choices. Policy choices narrow the field of management based on preferences. Management is informed both by the policy choices and by scientific realities. All three help to inform the others, in an interative manner.


    Agreed. We live in a cosmos understood greatly in terms of the cause-and-effect described by the laws of physical science as opposed to mythology or magic. We no longer read animal innards in order to guess at the future. Such scientific understanding of the material cosmos is one of the hallmarks of Western Civilization.

    Science for the sake of science has an important place in society, primarily as a means of discovery. Public policy debates unencumbered by scientific facts or implementation details is important to think about "what might be", or to encourage out-of-the-box thinking for solving complex social problems. Implementation (i.e., management) divorced from narrow public policy choices can be enlightening to seek different technical solutions and ideas. However, in reality, society works best when all three work together.

    Again agreed with the caveat that there is no such thing is public policy unencumbered by scientific fact. Human social order, at least in the Western world, is largely the product of scientific discovery and fact. Such is, in fact, the very air we breath.

    Examples abound. However, there are too many examples of how things break down when they don't. In my view, narrow public policy choices too often dictate management options, to the deteriment of important natural resources. Given that resource managers have a dual role of both utilizing (I hate that word...) natural resources and preserving them for future generations, it's easy to see how and why conflicts over natural resources abound in our society. And not just in Alaska.

    Conflicts arise solely over competing interests for the utilization of the commons, of natural resources. Resource managers are tasked with the job of harmonizing those competing interests within the parameters of social underpinnings.

    I would agree that implementing policy choices is primarily a question of "how". Therefore, management is more scientific than it is social. On that point, I agree with Nerka. But I recognize that management is often bounded by policy choices, on one hand, and scientific realities on the other. Balancing those two is the "art" of managing natural resources.

    Science helps inform society, not wholly, but in part. Science is restricted to purely materialistic considerations and investigation of the physical cosmos. But science can say nothing whatsoever about metaphysics, about values, about ethics, and much more. That said and beyond that abstract function, science exists in more circumscribed contexts as merely a tool of implementation. Social values, in part informed by scientific or materialistic fact, drive science. Science does not drive social values. Science is not a philosophy. Science is not a world-view. Science is not a religion.

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    Trying to combine science and social needs as in fisheries managment is a basic conflict of interests. There are similar conflicts in other regulatory groups that oversee both tarrifs and monetary interests and general oversight. The groups managing the offshore oil development recently reorganized to avoid this conflict.

    We need to seperate the fisheries managment into two seperate and independent groups: one seperate group that oversees the management strictly from a scientific and technical only perspective, and another group that does allocation and balances the harvest restrictions needed etc based on social needs and pressures.

    Then and only then can we have real science based management.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
    ".. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" JFK

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    Tvfin - You are correct. Seperating the science of determining the allowable harvest from the policy choice of "who gets what" is the heart and soul of natural resource management in Alaska. Or at least it used to be. I'm not sure any other State has developed this as well as Alaska. However, lots of folks on this BB lament the blurring of the lines between the process of determining the size of the pie and the process of determining who gets the first/biggest/best slice. That didn't used to be the norm in Alaska, but from what I hear, things ain't what they used to be.

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    Marcus - Thank you for the thoughtful response. My only nagging concern is that policy choices, scientific inquiry, and management implementation all have one thing in common: They are all done by people. Ideally, people could compartmentalize themselves strictly into scientists, managers, or policy wonks. However, that rarely happens. Scientists recognize they have a limited role in policy development, but they still have policy preferences. Not because they are scientists, but because they are human. The same can be said of policy makers and fish managers. I believe it's important for all these folks to have their own views and preferences, provided they can seperate those preferences from their role as a scientist, manager, or policy maker. The mistake they make is NOT clearly seperating those competing views. However, their mistake is NOT in having a policy, management, or scientific preference. Having a preference is not a problem. Failing to seperate your preferences from your role is.

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    Cool No blurred lines . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Tvfin - You are correct. Seperating the science of determining the allowable harvest from the policy choice of "who gets what" is the heart and soul of natural resource management in Alaska. Or at least it used to be. I'm not sure any other State has developed this as well as Alaska. However, lots of folks on this BB lament the blurring of the lines between the process of determining the size of the pie and the process of determining who gets the first/biggest/best slice. That didn't used to be the norm in Alaska, but from what I hear, things ain't what they used to be.
    Somewhat confusing:

    The "allowable" harvest policy choice and the policy choices of "who-gets-what" are all socially-defined "underpinnings" of Alaska's resource management policy.

    First, "allowable" harvest is a social choice/decision and is embedded in the constitutional directive to manage Alaska's fisheries for sustained yield. State employees, trained in the natural sciences, then give their best estimates of what constitutes an "allowable" harvest that will accomplish sustained yield.

    Second, who is allowed what portion of that scientifically-approximated, allowable harvest pie is again a matter of social choice/decision/priorities, and state employees again must give their best estimates of how to slice the "allowable harvest" pie while still accomplishing the constitutional directive/choice of sustained yield.

    The lines between social choices such as sustained yield and who-gets-what of sustained yield and the technical decisions of how to accomplish those social choices have always been there, remain there still, and always shall.

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    Thumbs up Bingo!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    Marcus - Thank you for the thoughtful response. My only nagging concern is that policy choices, scientific inquiry, and management implementation all have one thing in common: They are all done by people. Ideally, people could compartmentalize themselves strictly into scientists, managers, or policy wonks. However, that rarely happens. Scientists recognize they have a limited role in policy development, but they still have policy preferences. Not because they are scientists, but because they are human. The same can be said of policy makers and fish managers. I believe it's important for all these folks to have their own views and preferences, provided they can seperate those preferences from their role as a scientist, manager, or policy maker. The mistake they make is NOT clearly seperating those competing views. However, their mistake is NOT in having a policy, management, or scientific preference. Having a preference is not a problem. Failing to seperate your preferences from your role is.
    I could not agree more wholeheartedly! A star for that, two or three if I could . . .

    As you say, we all, without exception, have our preferences and biases, and anyone who tells me they are perfectly objective is either epistemologically unconscious or will lie to me about other things as well. Nor, again as you say, can other be the case as long as we're human.

    In the meantime, all we can do is to acknowledge that we are biased and have preferences while listening to the other guy's biases and preferences, and try to work out a mutually-respectful compromise.

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    Yes, but..... The policy choice of ensuring an allowable harvest is completely seperate from the determination (scientific) of what that is. Making the policy choice of enshrining maximum susutained yield into the Alaska Constitution was an enlightened idea, but it says nothing about what that is, or should be. To a large extent, that's a scientific/management decision. Again, policy choices, scientific inquiry, and management options are all linked. Ideally they should work together. And often do, in a non-linear manner.

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