Walter Starck's Blog
Walter Starck has a PhD in marine science including post-graduate training and professional experience in fisheries biology.
His reef experience includes some 50 years of fishing and diving on coral reefs including those in the eastern, western and central Pacific areas as well as the Indian Ocean and tropical western Atlantic region.
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Suite 3, 20 Cato Street
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Letters may be published online or in one or more of Baird Maritime or Ausmarine magazine.
|West Australian fisheries in decline: Over-management, not overfishing|
|Thursday, 26 November 2009 10:53|
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Last year I was contacted by fishermen operating out of Broome, Western Australia. who wanted some independent scientific advice regarding the validity of a need for effort reduction claimed by their Department of Fisheries (DoFWA).
Upon looking into the matter I found that seven boats fishing a total of 220 traps with 160 days annual access were said to be overfishing a shelf area in excess of 200,000 square kilometres in the heart of some of the highest primary productivity waters around Australia.
I also found that:
After my report drew attention to these and other disparities, an independent review was agreed upon. Jim Prescott, a Senior Field Manager from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, was chosen to conduct the review.
Mr Prescott has a wealth of experience but is not a computer modeller and the high level of certainty claimed for the department’s stock modelling was the central issue. However, if he was expected to skim over the modelling and approve it without really being able to critically examine it, a bad judgement was made.
When Mr Prescott realised the modelling was the key issue, he sought the assistance of an expert modeller from New Zealand, D. Nokome Bentley.
Before permitting examination of their model by Mr Prescott and his expert, DoFWA then required signing of a confidentiality agreement which, “Ensures that draft versions of final reports will be made available to DoFWA for review through the chair of the review panel, allowing DoFWA to ensure that conclusions and analyses are consistent with other analyses so that issues pertaining to limitations of the data are consistently dealt with,” and which, “ensures that all copies and versions of DoFWA's data, models and model-derived outputs are destroyed at the completion of the review to ensure confidentiality of data and intellectual property of the model”.
Science employing what amounts to censorship, secret methods and results which cannot be disclosed is a travesty of the fundamental principles of science.
Worse yet, there are no extenuating circumstance for such secrecy. These are public servants using public funds to manage a public resource.
The public, and especially those whose livelihoods are at stake, have a clear right to know what is going on. The intellectual property claim is patent nonsense. The basic model used was developed elsewhere and is openly available.
DoFWA can only lay claim to their own implementation of it, the most important value of which would seem to be as a cautionary example of mistakes to avoid.
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