Using Scientific Knowledge to Drive Policies that Create a Better World » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog


Using Scientific Knowledge to Drive Policies that Create a Better World

Posted on April 2, 2017  Comments (1)

I have written about the problems of overfishing in the past: Add Over-Fishing to the Huge Government Debt as Examples of How We Are Consuming Beyond Our Means (2012)Fishless Future (2006)North American Fish Threatened (2008)The State of the Oceans is Not Good (2011)European Eels in Crisis After 95% Decline in Last 25 years (2009). This is not a complicated problem. If you just pay attention to the science and make wise decisions with an understanding of systems we can improve the situation.

And the USA has done so. The USA has more work to do, but by taking sensible steps based on an understanding of science we have made significant progress.

How the world can stop overfishing – A case study of U.S. fishery success

By 1996, the US had declared 86 species overfished. Fast forward twenty years, and only 29 species in US waters are classified as overfished. That’s a decrease of 66% from the peak of overfishing in the 1990s.

One year after President Clinton declared the New England ground fishery a federal disaster, congress met in Washington to amend and renew the 20-year-old Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The result was the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a major bipartisan commitment to end overfishing in US waters and promote fish stock recovery.

The goal of the Magnuson-Stevens Act was to create a framework for rebuilding overfished stocks in as short a time as possible. The timeframe for rebuilding a fish stock under the act is typically ten years or less.

To accomplish such a goal, scientists established fishery management plans for each overfished stock and instituted annual catch limits to control overfishing.

By the end of 2015, 89% of fisheries with annual catch limits in place had halted overfishing.

While 64% of the fish stocks managed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act are now rebuilt or recovering, success hasn’t been universal. Certain regional fisheries, such as those in the Gulf of Mexico and New England, have struggled to control overfishing under existing regulations. The act also does a poor job of protecting highly migratory species, such as tuna, swordfish, and sharks, which move freely between different regulatory areas.

We need to build on our successful use of scientific knowledge to make wise decisions and implement wise government policy. Sadly there is an alarming lack of appropriate thinking by many of those we elect to office, in the USA and around the globe. We can’t afford to elect people that don’t have an understanding of how to make wise decisions and how to ensure scientific knowledge forms the basis of policy when it should, such as: overfishing, pollution, global warming, the health care benefits vaccines provide when they are used properly, the dangers of abusing antibiotics, etc..


It is embarrassing that we elect people so ignorant about basic scientific thinking and concepts. We can’t afford that in the world we live in today. There are political differences that should inform debates about what policies we chose to adopt given the science facts we face. But electing people so clueless as we have done is an insult to our species. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

We need to elect leaders like those that took the steps to have the EPA clean up the incredibly polluted USA. We need to elect leaders that put the policies in place to reduce the overfishing in our waters. We need to elect leaders that care about our country and will learn what they need to from those that know the science. That we have a party in the USA that wants to move toward the recent history of Chinese pollution (and the pollution the USA was creating decades ago that lead to the creation of the EPA) is unbelievably sad.

China has learned the cost of such policies and has been taking steps to stop causing such damage to their country. And we elect people that want to go back toward a pro-pollution policy framework. It is crazy that the USA can be so scientifically ignorant that we allow such people to stay in office.

We have to change. We can’t keep putting these people in office and think it is acceptable for us, our children and our grandchildren. We need to expect much more of those we vote for.



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