Posted by: pauditore | July 23, 2013

Big Data & The Future of Fish

Captain Kids Woods Hole

Captain Kids Woods Hole

This month’s blog is big data and fisheries, the problem is there is so much statistical big data available on the dismal management of fisheries that no even knows about it except for the National Marine Fisheries Service, the fishing industry and the ineffective egalitarian groups that think they can facilitate change. Believe it or not during the 1800-1900s the majority of fish eaten in the United States came from our Great Lakes. Enter the steam engine and off we went to demolish many of the fisheries in our oceans, the fishing pressure has been so tremendous these last 100 years that we have nearly irreversibly damaged many species that will never return to commercial harvesting levels. One of the only fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean to survive this pressure has been the lobster industry. Lobsta men now are regulated, but they have to run hundreds of traps to make a living, when just 40 years ago there was a huge off-shore lobstering industry. I remember it well because my grandfather was part of it, however, it no longer exists thanks to the NMFS and the fishing industry. Egalitarian groups had no play in the 1940 and 1950’s and from my perspective they have had little to no impact to date.

It’s been fifty-two years since the beginning of Greenpeace (1971) and along with it the Sierra Club (1912), the NRDC, Save the Fish and now we have the Future of Fish Let’s take a look in the rear view mirror, the Japanese are still harvesting whales, Monterrey Bay Aquarium is telling people not to eat farmed fish and there has been little to no effective changes in the NMFS that have lead to sustainable fisheries management. In fact when you look at the big data picture the only thing the NMFS has done right was the marine mammal protection act, at least that worked. Just recently I was in Morro Bay, California where there was a great abalone fishery. During a discussion with a local restaurant owner, he blamed the otters for wiping out the abalone not the fisherman and diving bells. Wait a minute, weren’t the otters and abalone there before the fisherman?

As a young man growing up in Gloucester, Massachusetts I watched species after species of fish get literally wiped out because of over fishing, and lack of effective sustainable fisheries management from our government and the fisheries industry. I can still distinctly remember one early morning in 1971 around 4 am greasing the pumps at the Kennebec Fish Factory in preparation for the herring fleet’s landings. As the boats moved in position to offload their catches I noticed that the majority of the Gulf of Maine herring being pumped into the trucks where less than a finger length long. I felt that something was wrong, but then again two representatives of the National Marine Fisheries Service where to observe and I thought that well if the NMFS is here then it is ok.  Less than ten years later the entire herring fishery was irreversibly damaged and has not recovered to this date. The good news is that some species will come back if they are given the chance and others like the herring and the Red Fish will probably never recover.

I became a marine biologist in an effort to create more sustainable fisheries management, and through tremendous personal and professional sacrifice made significant contributions to fisheries science. Nonprofit organizations whose mission is challenging current practices in world fisheries management and providing new and innovative methods for management are not working. As a scientist I spent seven years of my life studying the early life history and development of two species of fish, the Atlantic Cod and Haddock, primarily on the Georges Bank about 100 miles east of Cape Cod. The Georges Bank once the world’s most productive fishing ground made my hometown the largest fishing port in the world for over two hundred years.  As a result of poor management, the fishermen of Gloucester are no more.


The future of fish will not be effected by the Future of, along with Greenpeace (whom now have x-employees working for big oil) and many of these other organizations that take money from industry and in effect protect some of the industry’s agenda. It is more than obvious that nonprofit orgs devoted to fisheries and their protection are not making any difference in sustainable fisheries management, for sure not in this country. The Future of Fish is just another pipe dream, strewn with x-peace corps veterans that actually have no experience what so ever in the fisheries industry. Do you really think the fishing industry is going to pay attention to anyone that has no experience in their industry? They are not Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School and are not going to study an industry and make change without any experience it in or cache.  So enjoy your salmon, halibut and cod before they too are eliminated from commercial harvesting. The next time you see the nonprofit asking you for resources think twice about it, in my view they bring wanted media awareness but beyond that their track record is actually quite dismal.


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