Improving fish forecasting

Oct 31, 2002, vol. 25, no. 5
By Carol Thorbes

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Bill de la Mare (left), Randall Peterman (centre)and Sean Cox make up a new SFU centre dedicated to improving fisheries management.

The vagaries of mother nature and the impact of humans can make fisheries forecasting as frustrating as weather forecasting, but a trio of scientists at Simon Fraser University is working to change that.

Randall Peterman and the newly hired Bill de la Mare and Sean Cox head up a recently created lab dedicated to improving both the scientific understanding of fisheries and fisheries management strategies.

The laboratory for fisheries risk assessment and management in SFU's school of resource and environmental management (REM) is the first of its kind in Western Canada.

Historically, sudden weather shifts, such as El Nino (warming of water and weather), and human intervention, such as over-harvesting, contribute to the failure of fisheries management strategies.

“One of the main problems with past fisheries management,” says de la Mare, “is that it usually has not properly anticipated how uncertain conditions can stymie management strategies. We come up with reactionary strategies to turn a bad situation around, but wait a long time before seeing any substantial improvement.”

Along with graduate students in their new lab, de la Mare (a fisheries scientist) Peterman (a population ecologist) and Cox (an ecosystem management expert) are trying to improve the scientific advice used to evaluate management options.

They are using their extensive knowledge of ecosystem-based management, aquatic conservation and quantitative fisheries stock assessment methods to develop complex computer models.

They simulate a multitude of environmental and man-made conditions to help develop better fisheries management strategies that can anticipate and correct problems before they seriously affect fish and fisheries.

Peterman is using his funding as a Canada Research Chair in fisheries risk assessment and management to enhance SFU's already strong research collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and other natural resource management agencies.

The trio is developing and teaching new graduate courses to train the next generation of fisheries managers and scientists.

Peterman will deliver a lecture, Fish population dynamics, uncertainty, and the precautionary approach to fisheries management, as part of the President's Faculty Lecture series, on Nov. 5, 4:30 p.m. at the Halpern Centre, SFU, Room 126.

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