March 11, 2005

3/11 - RECREATIONAL FISHING DEBATE: Letters in Science on the Coleman paper

And in this corner, weighing in at ...

Last year's paper in Science by Coleman et al. infuuuuuuriated recreational fishermen. Now Mike Nussman, President of American Sportfishing Association, fires back with a letter to Science that begins by claiming Coleman et al. had suggested that "the overfished condition of marine fish stocks rests on the shoulders of recreational anglers."

Well, for starters, why did they even publish a letter that starts off with this accusation? That opening sentence mischaracterizes the Coleman paper from the outset -- it makes it sound like Coleman accused recreational fishing of being the ONLY source of over-fishing, which they obviously didn't.

Nussman goes on to say that yes, recreational fishing today for some species is significant, but the over-fishing problems are primarily the result of past and present commercial activities. Coleman et al. provide their reply, which is that while recreational fishing is not the only, and often not even the major, source of over-fishing, it is nevertheless important in many cases.

As a side note, I would like to say that Coleman's reply is similar to what I think I see and hear is the situation for the nearshore fishery of the Central California coast, which is that today's fish stocks for most species appear unchanged for the past 15 or so years, suggesting the fishing effort today is sustainable. BUT, the abundance of fish 15 years ago is far below what they once were. Which means the decision is: Do we want a sustainable rundown fishery, or a return to earlier levels?

Here's the letters about the Coleman paper: Download file

Posted by Randy Olson at March 11, 2005 09:47 AM