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Science No Help for Fisheries Without Transparency

The first global survey of fisheries management reveals a poor state of affairs. Just 7% of coastal nations conduct rigorous scientific assessments of fish stocks, but even fewer do a good job of putting that advice into practice. And only 1.4% of countries manage fisheries in a politically transparent manner.

That's important because "variations in policymaking transparency led to the largest difference in fisheries sustainability," according to the paper, published online today in PLoS Biology.

Scientific robustness by itself didn't boost the odds a fishery would be sustainable, say Camilo Mora of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and his co-authors. "This may be because, in the process of policymaking, scientific advice may be overridden due to socioeconomic costs and political or corruption pressures," they write. 

Mora notes that science is also largely irrelevant for nations that want to be extremely cautious; they simply ban fishing. Research matters when policymakers and managers—working in a system of good governance—want to know exactly how many fish can be caught without unduly jeopardizing future harvests.