Politics can only fly in the face of rational scientific evaluation for so long. I have followed the debate on North Sea fisheries since my undergraduate times in Edinburgh. There was some optimism that progress would be rapid at the end of the nineties. However the narrowness of the political agenda seems to have prevented any common sense from being exercised and a policy review in 2002 was not comprehensive.
Biologists and fishery scientists cannot be expected to take into account all the social implications when advising governments. At the same time, short sighted policies aimed at placating a local electorate over a short political horizon are no way to ensure sustainability.
Previous policies have led to large amounts of scarce edible fish of reproductive age being dumped back into the sea dead, against all logic. Yet the basic premise of EU policy, that fish stocks have to be regulated at a transnational level, have always been sound. This is quite paradoxical.
So I was encouraged to read of what seems, on the face of it, to real be signs of a serious movement towards a fisheries policy based on science and common sense. What took so long?
The relevance of fisheries for a forest ecologist is that both have a tendency to suffer from the tragedy of the commons. I found this follow up on the BBC regarding individual transferable quotas extremely interesting