Given the current and continuing controversy over the future of gillnet fishing in Alabama it is time to remind the players involved that information, not opinion and money, are what should drive the making of fishing regulations.As a society we are obsessed with numbers. We have phone numbers, social security numbers, a number on our house, a license plate number, an age, our annual income and others. These numbers give us a place to measure from – a gain or loss, up or down and right or left. It is the same in biology.Biologists need to know where something is before they can tell where it is going. All science is based on having a place to start measuring.Every now and then we take a look backward with longing for a better time. Back then we were younger there weren’t so many regulations and fish kept jumping into the boat or so I’m told. The water was pure, air clean and the sea held all the fish that anyone could want, all there just for the taking.Since it is impossible to attach numbers to our feelings surveys are needed to determine the health of the fish stocks.Marine scientists spend an inordinate amount of their professional lives collecting data on marine species in order to manage them. Surveys are used to sample fish in order to obtain data, which includes the number and weight of the catch from recreational and commercial fishermen.Fish are measured and body parts like otoliths removed for analysis. Other surveys are done to sample juvenile fish to determine year class strength.When anglers are interviewed they are asked, among other things, how long they fished, where they fished and what gear they used. All of these data are analyzed and put into reports called stock assessments.As part of these reports the analysts make recommendations for future fishing regulations in order to preserve the stock of fish and to prevent collapse of the fishery. These regulations usually involve a decrease in the numbers you are allowed to catch, an increase in the length limits and a decrease in the fishing season.When you are interviewed by survey personnel it may seem like you are giving them the rope to hang yourself with but you’re not. Without adequate data the regulations will err on the conservative side, which will make them harsher. So, if a person comes up to you and asks you for information related to your fishing trip it is in your and the fishes best interest to provide accurate information.The numbers tell it all.
Think Global – Act Local!