Sobering words from a fisheries biologist

Fisheries management usually involves trying to "restore" a fish population, or a particular stream or river, to some former, better level.

But at a three-day science conference about the Delaware Estuary, Jim Uphoff, a biologist for Maryland's Fisheries Service, said they've started using the word "revitalize" instead.  In other words: In some cases, restoration just isn't possible.

He also said managers "need to dispell the notion that all we need is best management practices" to revitalize some fisheries. It's just not enough.

Increasingly, managers of all kinds of wildlife are realizing they need to use the ecosystem approach, rather than just focusing on one species or one element.

I remember back in 2004, when I was writing about hourse shoe crab management by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Service, this view was just taking shape. Officials knew that there were enough crabs to sustain the crab population, but apparently there were not enough to sustain the population of a small shorebird called the red knot, which eats crab eggs.

So, for the first time, one official told me, the service was taking into consideration the needs of a bird.

Now, such things are becoming much more common. 

Along the same lines, Uphoff is pushing for the authority to consider cumulative impacts in environmental reviews. He said of environmental reviews that look at just one facet of an ecosystem:
That's not very effective. That's just busywork."

The conference, being held in Cape May, is hosted by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. About 250 scientists, policymakers and others are attending.