Can we have our fish and eat it, too? An unusual collaboration of marine ecologists and fisheries management scientists says the answer may be yes.
In a research paper published in the journal science, the two groups, long at odds with each other, offer a global assessment of the world’s saltwater fish and their environments .Their conclusions are at once gloomy and upbeat – over-fishing continues to threaten many species, but a combination of steps can turn things around.
Because antagonism between ecologists and fisheries management experts has been intense, many familiar with the study say the most important factor is that it was done at all. They say they hope the study will inspire similar collaborations between scientist whose focus is safely exploiting specific natural resources and those interested mainly in conserving them .``This paper starts to bridge that gap.”
The collaboration began in 2006 when Boris Worm, a marine ecologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and other scientists made an alarming prediction: if current trends continue, by 2048 over-fishing will have destroyed most commercially important populations of saltwater fish.
Ecologists applauded the work. But among fisheries management scientists, reactions ranged from skepticism to fury over what many called an alarmist report . Among the most prominent critics was Ray Hilborn , a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the university of Washington in Seattle .Yet the disagreement did not play out in a typical scientific fashion with ,as Dr. Hilborn put it ,``researchers firing critical papers back and forth .”Instead, he and Dr .worm found themselves debating the issue on National Public Radio.
``We started talking and found more common ground than we had expected,” Dr .Worm said .Dr .Hilborn recalled thinking that Dr .worm`` actually seemed like a reasonable person.” The two decided to work together on the issue.
Because the new paper represents the views of both camps, its conclusions are likely to be influential .Getting a strong statement from those communities that there is more to agree on than to disagree on helps build confidence.