We Do Not Seem to Learn From Our Mistakes: The Broken Record of Overfishing

by salmond on November 9, 2017 - 3:12pm

In this article written by Matthew Berger, it was discussed that the Blue Fin Tuna population was predicted to rebound and become very economically valuable and it actually showed the opposite. The stocks returned with numbers well below predicted values, indicating unsustainable fishing practices. Discussed in this blog will be some ideas why the overfishing phenomenon keeps repeating itself, like in the case with Blue Fish Tuna, and what can be done about it.

The biggest issue with the Blue Fin Tuna is scientific uncertainty. This uncertainty plays a large role in the outcome of the fishery, its regulations and overall sustainability. The two types of uncertainty evident in this article are both uncertainty and indeterminacy. Uncertainty is simplified as not having knowledge of the system due to insufficient data or not trusting the data that was acquired (Roth, 2017). While indeterminacy is when the deep fundamental understanding of the system is unclear (Roth, 2017). These pose major issues in resource management. The reasons for these uncertainty is the vastness of the oceans where the research is being done. The ecosystems are so complex and so large with interactions and variables that the degree of uncertainty is quite large in comparison to things like forests of Southern Ontario. Where it is more controlled and smaller, making it easier to collect sufficient, reliable data. Trying to collect data on the Blue Fin ends up being quite unreliable due to these complexities and variables unknown by scientists. This uncertainty then translates quite clearly into management decisions and regulations. How do they expect to manage the populations of Tuna and create sustainable catch quotas when the uncertainty is so high? Regulatory instruments used such as taxes and catch quotas have to be made and decided off of scientific data. But when the data has large error present so will the regulatory instruments, so it is not at all surprising that numbers came back low and evident of poor sustainability and practice. 

It is mentioned in the article that consevationalists want science to be produced without politics (no co-management). is this a good idea? depends on who you ask. Often multiple ideas and perspectives are best in decision making. Combinations of knowledge usually leads to good coverage of issues. But what is considered good in deciding to co-manage or not becomes a conflict of values and interest. Depending on who you ask may value economics of a state or they may value sustainability of the tuna. These conflicts make it clear that this is why there is mismanagement in the fisheries, and a decline in Blue Fin. Some people want things others do not value and working towards the same thing with a different goal in mind, creates errors and is a bad approach to management. 

The root is uncertainty and conflict, which will both always exist. They will not be eliminated but desperately need to be minimized. What needs to be done is to have these parties compromise and work for both sustainability and economic benefits. We need to find better, more accurate, data collections to really prevent over fishing while being conscious of economics. 


Roth, R. (2017). Resources, Uncertainty and Conflict [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from https://courselink.uoguelph.ca/d2l/le/content/477584/viewContent/1692773...



Berger, O.M, (2017). Something Fishy? Blue Fin Tuna Not ecovered; Regulators Say Catch More. URL: https://www.newsdeeply.com/oceans/articles/2017/11/09/something-fishy-bl...


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