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User-editable version of Blind Freddie's Fishery Management GlossaryEdit

Originally, this glossary was an extract from "Blind Freddie's Guide to Fisheries Management" by Tim Adams (1993 - and still in prep, naturellement). It has been transported to the Fisherymanagement wikicity with the permission of the author in the expectation of attracting more diverse (and hopefully equally scurrilous) viewpoints.

Disclaimer: Apologies to those who may feel offended by some of the definitions. However, please take the time to note that there is something rude about EVERYBODY in here. The bottom line is - if you don't like it, edit it!

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right" - slogan of New Zealand educational institution.


Key: (PI) Politically incorrect, (CI) Culturally insensitive


Abyssal - the depths to which some trawlers will go (CI)

AIDS – medical problem, evidently transmitted by exchange of seamen (PI).

Adaptive management – is what you call the process of poking something and stepping quickly backwards to see what results. Sometimes this is a death-rattle.

Angling – see Recreational fishing. Lord Byron did not think much of recreational fishing. He reckoned angling to be "a solitary vice" (George Gordon Noel Byron, in Don Juan (canto 13, stanza 106))

Aquaculture – possibly the basis for huge future subsidies. The phrase "European Common Aquaculture Policy" has a fine ring to it (CI).

Allowable catch – something that is "determined from time to time" to be almost exactly what the domestic fleet is currently catching, with none left over for allocation to foreign fleets

Artisanal fishing – does not involve the use of a super-seiner. Related terms include: Artesian fishing which occurs, of course, in a well, whilst Tisanal fishermen take a lot of tea-breaks.

Assumptions – the basis for biological, economic, ecological and social, indeed any extremely complex system, modelling. Assumptions stick together the bits of the model that the data doesn't cover. Unfortunately, many assumptions turn out to be mythical, and the model falls apart.

Best available science (a) – the most plausible wild guess, or, that which is presented in the thickest brown envelope. When hauled before an international tribunal (see fly, when pigs) for rape and pillage on the high seas, claim that the best available science at the time indicated that it wouldn't do any harm. 

Best available science (b) – the only available science. For all the criticism fired at the amount of money spent on fisheries research it is still only a drop in the ocean. (Although some argue that the reason only a drop reaches the ocean because the rest of it is pissed into the wind). See "precautionary approach". 

Biodiversity - a measurement of the range of the differences contained in a unit of life, from a natural gene-pool to an ecosystem. This measurement usually has strong human values implicitly attached to it, usually wrongly. Biodiversity is reduced by an equal amount whether a large mammal is removed from an ecosystem or a microbe, and a stable climax ecosytem can contain fewer species than a disturbed weedy ecosystem. Biodiversity is likely to have an optimum adaptive level, or range of stable optimum levels, for different units of life under different circumstances (see genetic load).

Blind Freddie (PI)– Blind Freddie is the standard against which competence is measured in certain parts of Australia. Blind Freddie can see things which persons only a little thicker than two short planks might miss. As in "B***** me Trev! Even Blind Freddie could see that fishing it down to 3% of virgin biomass would be asking for trouble".

"Bottom-up approach" – self-explanatory (ex: "bend over boss. There’s a delegation of stakeholders to see you"). The bottom-up approach suffers from "chain of command attenuation" whereby the views of stakeholders are progressively diluted by other views as they progress towards the top bod, who then selects the view most palatable and sends it down to the Fisheries Department to implement (see "top-down approach"). In some systems the views of stakeholders are also short-circuited by lobbyists at the political level. Consequently the bottom-up approach only works well in small countries where everyone knows which bar the Prime Minister drinks in, or where stakeholder concerns can be taken into account and acted upon relatively low in the heirarchy.

Building permit, coastal - has the same effect on coastal fish stocks as the issue of an additional fishing licence, except the resultant reduction in the stock is permanent.

Buy-back scheme, fishing vessel – (a) a mechanism for giving government money to people who otherwise believe passionately in the free-market system; (b) a means of assuaging public guilt about having encouraged capacity expansion in the first place; (c) the most economic way to get rid of your 45-years old rusty bucket.

Bycatch – a synonym for incidental catch. Bycatch can be either retained or discarded. Sometimes called "bi-catch", by people who have only ever caught one fish (see unipiscatorial person). Bycatch is so-called because it is usually introduced to observers or creel-samplers through the phrase "by the way" (As in: "Oh, by the way, Trev, we caught this dirty great penguin/ sperm whale/ dose of clap on the way in. Is there a reward?") 

Bycatch, retained – that portion of the catch that is hidden by the crew from the vessel-owner and sold on the informal market. See nasty bities.

Bycatch, discarded – discards are always returned to the sea alive, apparently.

Catch and release – what fat cats do

Change – Bad for ecosystems. Good for human institutional systems (apparently). Both the prevention of change and the promotion of change have to be managed though, and employment is thus generated all-round.

"China factor" – phrase coined at a meeting of SPC member countries in the 1980s after noting the high likelihood that any complaint from a Pacific Island community about the overexploitation of a domestic reef species, when investigated, will turn out to be result of a high volume of external trade to Chinese-speaking areas of the world. It is the high and effectively insatiable demand that exists for certain rare or vulnerable marine organisms that became known as the "China factor". Note: it will also usually turn out that this trade is carried out or made possible by one or more members of the island community itself. (CI) 

Collaborative approach – a dysfunctional arrangement designed to ensure that nobody gets more than their fair share of the cake, even if it results in huge inefficiency.

Collaboration, optimum level of – like biodiversity (qv) and heterozygosity, collaboration between public organisations has an optimum level. No collaboration is bad, particularly if someone else is working on the same thing, but more collaboration is not necessarily good, particularly if it involves more time and money in committees, communication and meetings than in doing the actual work. Unfortunately, nobody knows how to work out the optimum level of collaboration yet, since it involves people. 

Commercial fishing – an activity where money changes hands as a result of fish being taken from the water or otherwise interfered with. See Recreational Fishing

Compliance - polite euphemism for "enforcement". It is the job of Compliance Officers to try and persuade fishermen that it is in their own best interests to comply with the new fisheries management measures dreamed up by distant bureaucrats advised by academics, or else. It is a highly stressful occupation, as is any job that includes implementing political decisions on real people.

CPUE – Capacity for picking up excrement. “Looks like Trev’s scored a high CPUE today. The fishing lobby was in the House at Minister’s question time”.

Creel sampler – Handbag snatcher (term originating in the fishing village of Crail, in Fife, where the wifies carry their shopping around in baskets resembling lobster pots. Term usually attached to a small, fly, man smelling faintly of mackerel). 

Crystal balls – possibly a term for transparency in government scientific research processes.

Destructive fishing – The phrase has a number of alternative definitions, depending on the user: 1. Any Fishing Whatsoever (attributed to dive-shop owners) 2. Pole-and-line baitfishing (reef fishers) 3. Purse-seining (pole-and-liners) 4. Trawling (purse-seiners) 5. Longlining (trollers) 6. Driftnetting (longliners) 7. Reef gillnetting (reef handliners) 8. Dynamiting (reef gillnetters)

Ecosystem approach (to fisheries management) – Nobody actually knows how to do this yet. When asked about it in the bar, smile knowingly, and reveal that it "requires the conservation of the bathwater as well as the baby". (And when asked what is to be done with all this bathwater, point to the beer. The bartender will chuckle appreciatively, possibly). To whaling nations, the ecosystem approach means that all components of the marine ecosystem should be cropped proportionately, particularly the very largest components, to avoid ecosystem peturbation. To anti-whaling nations, the ecosystem approach suggests the avoidance of ecosystem peturbation by banning all fishing whatsoever across large areas of the earth's surface. Most users of this term forget that pollution and coastline development may affect ecosystem.

Entrepreneur, local – The same as a foreign investor, only with fewer scruples. Occasionally known to take the Prime Minister hostage at gunpoint when attempts at wealth-creation fail.

ENGO – noisy or strident – as in “you’ve pressed the ENGO button on the stereo again, haven’t you Trev? Turn it down a bit. I can't hear my Rice Krispies!”.

Environment – that which surrounds you (hopefully not the smell of brimstone). The preferred environment of some environmentalists is the sound of applause. Some prefer to ignore humans as components fo environment.

EFH – Essential Fish Habitat. All aquatic habitats are essential to the life of some organism or other. The ecosystem approach to fisheries management requires that everything be taken into account. Therefore EFH under the ecosystem approach includes "everywhere".

Exotic species introductions – otherwise known as international travel. OK for humans. Not OK for all other species. It is not often acknowledged that introduced species actually enhance local biodiversity. They also often cause change, thus promoting evolutionary adaptation and the progress towards "higher" life-forms (via a period of catastrophe that may last as little as a million years).

Extinction – something which happens to birds and animals, not marine fishes. And if it does happen to marine fishes, it is caused by habitat alteration, never fishing. This marine fisheries biology rule of thumb, which has never been observationally falsified, is suspected to be qualified both by Occam's Razor and Sod's Law.

FAD – (acronym) Fisherman Aggregation Device. An anchored or free-floating oceanic raft which, for reasons not completely explained by science, attracts fishing vessels. The next generation of FADs will be much larger, carrying duty-free bars and "recreation" facilities, and have their own exclusive economic zones

Fast-tracking investment proposals – Procedure by which economic planners allow foreign investors to bypass restrictions on the exploitation of overfished species, otherwise they might as well have invested their money back home.

Fisher – Abusive term for an American female fisherman (CI)

Fisherman – Abusive term for a New Zealand female fisher (CI)

Fisherman, recreational – someone who would rather torture a fish than allow anyone else to eat it;

Fisherman, commercial – someone who kills far more wildlife than he can eat;

Fishery management science – an oxymoron. Fishery management is not a science, it’s an art. Science breeds technical processes which can be followed like a recipe book to yield predictable results. But fishery management is a skill that can only be learned by long experience, and some people are much better at it than others (like fishing itself - see highliner). Note: nobody has yet written a technical manual detailing the exact steps to follow in order to avoid stuffing up a fishery (see fishery, stuffed) any more than there is a manual on how to avoid economic recession. There are a lot of case-studies and new theories out there though. It’s a pity that some of them have already been hard-wired into detailed legislation.

Fishery Management Unit – a more appropriate (i.e. less precise) term for that which is often called a fish stock. Unlike fish stocks, fishery management units are easy to define thus saving an immense amount of time in meetings, and scientist's wages. Unfortunately the frequent lack of coincidence between the fishery management unit and the stock may invalidate the basis for biologically-based management. However, the fact that much biologically-based management is invalid anyway, because it does not take sufficient account of wider environmental and social factors, probably provides at least as much credibility to the concept of the fishery management unit as to the concept of the stock (albeit in different circles).

Fishery Stock Assessment – A science with wide confidence limits, when it bothers with confidence limits at all. Fishery stock models need to include a lot of assumptions (as in "We assume that this model is such an accurate reflection of the real world that we can predict how many fish will be in this patch of sea next year, even though we don't know whether they spawn once or twice a year; even though we suspect that the catch is being under-reported by 90%", and even though there is a good chance that there will be an algal bloom that will decimate a major prey species lower down the food-chain). See crystal balls.

Remember: "Seven-eighths of anything can't be seen". Marshall's Generalised Iceberg Theorem (South Pacific Institute of Nolledge) 

Fishery Economics – A black art, based primarily on political ideology, backed up by mathematical or digital models composed primarily of assumptions (as in "we assume that there is no linkage at all between indefinite economic growth and the natural resource base")

Fishery Management – A black art, based primarily on wishful thinking. Due to this lack of rigorous underpinning, many governments indulge in seat-of-the-pants management whilst gazing at their crystal balls.

Fishery manager – charlatan (govt.), spawn of Satan (env.), incompetent deskbound meddler (ind. bankrupt), ignorant buffoon (sci.), sexually-attractive allocator of catch quotas, licences and subsidies (ind. leader)

Fishery scientist – fence-sitter (manag.), Judas (env.), incompetent deskbound nerd (ind.), hopelessly shortsighted redneck (biol. pure), hello stranger (fisher.), sexually-potent allocator of research contracts (biol. appl.)

Fishery, stuffed – A useful catch-all term for a fishery that has become overcapitalised, overfished, been wiped out by urban sewage, nile perch, gigantic mutant water-gerbils, consumer distaste for plutonium, or otherwise gone down the gurgler. As in "This fishery is stuffed, Trev. Tell you what. Why don't we slap an ITQ system on it? That should sort the bastard."

Fishing Industry – Collective term for a bunch of rabid individualists who cannot sit in the same room for more than five minutes without stabbing each other in the back. Jim Crutchfield asserts that: "There are two things American industry won't stand for - one is monopoly and the other is competition" (see ITQ)

Fishing Methods, Indiscriminate - According to one theory, non-selective fishing methods are the finest kind for ecosystem management, because they harvest all species in their path in the same proportion as they occur naturally. Selective fishing methods, on the other hand, unbalance ecosystems. Unfortunately, this theory assumes that groupers and corals grow back just as fast as sardines and plankton

Fishing methods of mass destruction – developed by rogue fishing states to carry out acts of fish terrorism in the EEZs of eco-sensitive nations (see walls of death).

Fishing Rights Owner – piscatorially-oriented member of the aristocracy. In the traditionally communal jurisdictions of the Pacific Islands most fishing rights owners are also fishworkers.

Fish Stocks Agreement – formerly known as "UNIA", the "UNCLOS Implementing Agreement on highly migratory and straddling stocks" has become the "Fish stocks agreement". Misleadingly, it only covers that small fraction of fish stocks which are either highly migratory or, indeed, straddling international boundaries. Most fish stocks fall under purely national (or in some cases purely local) jurisdiction (although there is a useful obligation under UNCLOS to make any "surplus of the allowable catch" from your EEZ available to other States). Interestingly, nobody seems to have yet agreed what should happen to a stock that occurs solely on the high seas, although UNCLOS provides some helpful guidance, suggesting that "States" should "take measures".

Fishworker – piscatorially-oriented member of the proletariat. In the traditionally communal jurisdictions of the Pacific Islands most fishworkers are also fishing rights owners.

FMP – "Foolishly Massive Project ". Unfortunately, this mechanism for straitjacketing decision-making by in fishery governance is usually overridden by the courts on trivial technicalities picked out by special interest groups who would rather spend money on white-anting goverment (cf: throwing the baby out with the bathwater) than on tackling the roots of a problem. Remember: "Too many clauses spoil the FMP"

FOC – dirty word referring to vessels flying the flag of convenient countries which maintain an open register, thus allowing the registration of vessels with foreign ownership. If the flag country has minimal, or unenforced maritime standards, then "irresponsible activities" can take place on the high seas with impunity.

Foreign Fishing Vessel – eats roots and leaves

Foreign investor – the Holy Grail of Government Economic Planning Units, which haven't quite twigged that the only reason people go looking to set up business abroad is either (a) they can't cut it back home in the face of domestic competition, (b) they are impractical romantics, (c) they want to make a fast buck using unscrupulous practices that wouldn't be permitted back home, or (d) they are multinationals wanting to shift capital and production as rapidly as possible to areas where they can maximise profit whilst spending the least amount possible taking account of local sensitivities. On second thoughts, perhaps they are not entirely unaware of items (c) and (d).

Genetic load – possibly something to do with the burden placed on the rest of the crew by the one guy who habitually stands with his foot in a coil of rope when the FAD is being deployed, or who insists on wearing a feather boa while snapping on branchlines.

Gratuity – a gift or politeness that is expected in the course of normal service in certain cultures. OK for New York City bell-hops. Not OK (but sometimes inavoidable) for fisheries officials in developing countries.

HACCP – Huge Anti-Consumer Corporate Promotion

Highliner – Not a kind of make-up, but a vessel or a skipper that is much better at catching fish than the rest of the fleet. A fine example of why the phrase "fishing industry" is an oxymoron. Fishing is not an industrial process, but relies strongly on intuition, and the experience of individuals working on changeable and largely unknown ocean.

"No man is born an Artist nor an Angler" - Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, 1653 (Preface)

Highly Migratory Species – By definition, a species listed in Annex 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Excludes turtles, jellyfish, iguanas and basidiomycetes. If there weren't any highly migratory species, there wouldn't be any international or regional fisheries management organisations.

High Seas – Often make you sick.

Inter-Governmental Organisation (IGO) – According to private consultants, IGO staff are really just consultants whose salaries bear no linkage to the quality of their advice. IGOs are the diametrical opposite of NGOs. Not only can they not contradict the government point of view but they have to support only the points of view which are held in consensus by ALL of their member governments. This narrows the field somewhat and consequently the only effective IGOs are either those which ignore their member governments, or which represent a small group of countries with many common interests.

International community – journalist-speak usually referring to the source of any decision agreed, or opinion expressed, in a meeting involving national representatives to the United Nations or any other IGO of global scope. Sometimes refers to opinions expressed by the officials of the UN (or other IGOs of global scope) themselves, with or without the support of a consensus of member countries.

Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) – According to theory, the ITQ is a mechanism by which market forces can be brought directly to bear on questions of fishery allocation, thereby relieving government of any obligation to manage fisheries. When government has no responsibility for managing fisheries then it has no obligation to provide compensation in cases of fisheries collapse due to inadequate stock assessment by government laboratories (see Fishery, Stuffed). The acme of ITQ theory is for government to be relieved not only of the responsibility for managing fisheries, but also to be relieved of paying for the science and stock assessment necessary to make ITQ systems work, through user-pays systems for funding research by government laboratories. Some think that ITQs are the only long-term solution for fisheries management. Others consider ITQs to be the work of the devil. Both are wrong.

International Fisheries Convention – Career-building opportunity for Foreign Affairs officials. The main drawback of Conventions is that they consist of negotiated text based on geopolitical imperatives and straitjacketed by precedent conventions (see UNCLOS).

Greenpeace – In the bar say, "Good at tackling the big problems whilst everybody else pussyfoots around. Like a bull in a china shop when it comes to delicately-balanced negotiations". Not directly sponsored by the Government of France.

ICZM - Integrated Coastal Zone Management (usually implemented through "Incredibly Complex Zero-sum Meetings"). A planning process initiated by the government, the results of which the governement would never implement.

Much time is wasted by the international community arguing about exactly what this concept should be called. Some people don’t like the use of the word "zone", and some don’t like the use of the word "coastal", most people are going off the word "management", and "integrated" gets some backs up. Whatever the name, the concept of getting planners to take into account the inter-relationship of land and sea, particularly land-based effects on the nearshore marine environment, is probably going to be far more important, over the long run, in maintaining viable coastal fisheries and balanced marine ecosystems than any amount of fishery management. Unfortunately, nobody has figured out how to make ICZM work. Most implementations of the concept lead to the sort of result that Beethoven might have achieved if he had slipped a trio of ferrets down his trousers whilst composing his 5th symphony. Its difficult to get people whose primary aim is short-term human welfare to agree priorities with people whose primary aim is long-term ecosystem welfare. And since different government departments have to talk as equals, you are onto a loser from the start. Best to throw out all the fishery biologists, all the town planners, all the social scientists and environment advocates and get the people who make the mess to talk directly with the people who have to live in the mess. Quite often these two groups turn out to be one and the same. It’s only the government departments that are different.

International waters – under the Law of the Sea, international waters are waters outside the control of any individual nation. For the purposes of the Global Environment Facility, international waters evidently include all waters in which any individual constituent water molecule may have crossed an international boundary at some point in its existence

IUU fishing – Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (note the "and", which international legal experts swear does not restrict the concept only to fisheries that come into all three categories at once). A buzzword coined by the international community to, essentially, describe any fishing that is not according to a fishery management plan (see FMP). However, the concept of IUU fishing arose from the problems that "flag-of-convenience fishing" causes international fishery management organisations, and is usually associated with that issue.

Note 1: The actual definition of IUU fishing is much broader than FOC fishing, and small-scale traditional fishing may also be considered IUU fishing until such time as the international community recognizes unwritten but locally-enforceable rules and verbal unwritten reporting to the local community, or otherwise restricts the IUU concept to international or extranational aspects of fishing.
Note 2: The action verb associated with IUU fishing is always "to combat".

Licencing system – mechanism by which legitimate users fill the coffers of government whilst illegitimate users fill the pockets of the licencing officer.

Logframe – sometimes expanded to "logical framework" but is actually an acronym for a "load of gobbledegook frequently rejected after much energy-wastage". A logframe is a shorthand way of logically describing a project or time-bound, or goal-terminated activity, starting with problem definition, through goals that will help solve the problem if achieved, through strategies to achieve those goals, and activities to implement those strategies, all with measurable benchmarks and outputs and (if you’re lucky) a mention of constraints and risks. Like fishery management itself, logframe-writing is more of an art than a science. If it were a science, just about everyone would agree on how to do it. And like modelling any aspect of the real world, logframes make a lot of assumptions which are not always recognized. Where inflexible logframes are too slavishly followed, these unaccounted assumptions can lead to startling anomalies when viewed from outside the project. Logframes are two-dimensional and the format has problems coping with inter-project relationships, particularly where other projects were designed to a different methodology. That having been said, the process of drawing up logical frameworks, like digital or mathematical models, can produce some useful insights. Just be sure to tear up the logframe afterwards and throw it away though.

Longlining – (PI) fishing method designed to catch more than one fish per set

Marine Biodiversity Conservation – does not mean an attempt to maintain the current mix of marine genotypes, species, and ecosystems, as one might think (see fishery management) but is usually an attempt to maximise the numbers of certain rare, anthropomorphically interesting, or otherwise notable species of the "higher" evolutionary orders, with little regard to other components of the ecosystem (see aquaculture)

Marine Biodiversity Manager – Marine Park Warden

Marine Protected Area (MPA) – A misunderstood term which actually means whatever the person using it thinks it means, provided a written definition supporting the user can later be dredged up from an obscure crevice of the literature. In cases where your argument, that MPAs are the best thing since perforations were invented for toilet paper, is proven wrong, say, "Actually, you appear to have misunderstood what I meant when I used the term MPA. Of course it wouldn't work if you were expecting to optimise trans-boundary recruitment. I was talking about MPAs as Holistic Ecosystem Refugia". Some think that MPAs are the only long- and short-term solution for all fishery problems. Others consider MPAs the be the brain-child of tree-hugging pinko wimps, bent on destabilising established society. Both are correct.

Maximum Economic Yield - the number of vessels licenced in the fishery multiplied by the average catch per vessel over the course of the season

Maximum Sustainable Yield - the annual tonnage landed by the fishery, averaged over the last 5 years

MCS - although the business end of the fishery compliance (qv) regime is often known as "Monitoring, Control and Surveillance", it actually stands for "Mandatory Custodial Sentencing", and is usually carried out by gunboats.

Memorandum of Understanding – bureaucratic mechanism for allocating blame.

Modelling – the process of deriving parameters to explain the behaviour of a complex system under certain circumstances. Usually, the only circumstances under which a model produces results that match experience are so unrealistic as to be laughable. In the future, fishery management measures will be designed to constrain fisheries so that only the special cases that can be explained by the model will be possible. Awaits the invention of weather-control.

"Modelling fish populations and their dynamics is a wonderful way to expand our awareness of relevant factors - the trouble starts when the client begins to believe the numbers!" (Peter Larkin)

Nasty bities – phrase apparently used by Erroll Flynn (see: in like ...) to announce the presence of sharks. "After a millennium of unsuccessful attempts to eradicate them, mankind has suddenly woken up to the fact that these magnificent predators will soon be completely extinct" (see: Sea, rat of the). 

Negotiated text – the lowest common denominator. Usually the result of a series of trade-offs that are unbalanced with respect to the subject at hand, as in: “Tell you what Trev – we’ll let your clause go though on increasing observer coverage from 0.1 to 0.2 percent if you don’t veto our proposal to abolish the nuclear test ban treaty at the next meeting of the security council”.

NEI – Not Elsewhere Included. International trade statistics shorthand for "Taiwan": a word which is unmentionable within the International Community. The euphemism "misc." is also often found in fisheries statistics, whilst the phrase "fishing entity" is usually used in international fisheries negotiations, and "customs district" is found in the reports of some international trade meetings. Regional IGOs of which China is not a member are under no direct obligation to pussyfoot around the word "Taiwan" but usually have to accede to pressure from certain member countries to use the phrase "Chinese Taipei" on meeting nameplates.

Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) – unelected representatives of a segment of the public interest. Sometimes NGOs represent an extremely small segment of the public interest indeed, and occasionally consist of just one megalomaniac individual, but that is what democracy is all about. NGOs are adapted to succeed in an environment of ambiguity and paradox. In some cases global NGOs even use the pan-global internet to fight globalisation. Most NGOs are actually AGOs (Anti-Governmental Organisations) whilst others have either sold out, caved in or are otherwise in the process of sucking the nipple.

Observer – Salaried seagoing holiday, or "an experience consisting of bouts of seasickness interspersed by threats of physical violence"? Ten years from now, the crew of fishing vessels will consist entirely of observers.

Open Register – Polite euphemism for the maritime registry of a country which sells its flag to vessels of any origin, often without taking responsibility for the activities and standards of those vessels. The problem is that, under the principle of flag-state responsibility, international fishery management bodies cannot take action directly, but have to ask member governments to take actions against vessels transgressing the rules in an international fishery management area. Whilst some open registry countries DO take responsibility for all vessels flying their flag, some conspicuously do not.

Participatory Planning – often combines the most cumbersome aspects of the "bottom-up approach" with the worst aspects of project planning methodology, then covers the whole mess up with a boatload of jargon that stakeholders can’t understand. Investigate any heavily-criticised project and you’ll usually find it was based on an intensive methodological theory-driven planning process. Note 1: Whilst unconsidered processes usually lead to poor outputs, it does not automatically follow that elaborate processes lead to good outputs. Note 2: "output-based reporting" is not intrinsically any better than "activity-based reporting" if those activities have a definite and easily-understandable outcome. Note 3: "Goals", "aims", "objectives" and "targets" are pretty much synonymous to the average joe, as are "outcomes", "outputs" and "results". Note 4: Highly competent, well-motivated people are much more important to the success of a project than a procedural straitjacket. If your project managers don’t deliver, then fire them. If you buy a dog then you don’t need to bark yourself. Note 5: The logical framework (see logframe) is a language that is only really understood by other project planners. Note 6: the cynical might conjecture that, like "change-management", participatory project planning (and reviewing) is primarily a self-sustaining mechanism for keeping specialists and consultants employed. Note 7: The biggest problem with participatory planning methodology is that it often dispenses with facts and relies entirely on perceptions - OK for processes require people's consent and buy-in, but you can't negotiate with nature and ecosystems.

People – the wild card in all models, plans and policies, due to their pesky diversity of personality. (Unfortunately, the science of Psychohistory will not be invented by Hari Seldon for another 5,000 years).

Pirate fishing – term used by Greenpeace to describe fishing by vessels flying flags of convenience (see open register). Greenpeace publications do not usually mention the fact that the only place that flag of convenience fishing is a problem in its own right is on the high seas, and that vessels flying flags of convenience are subject to the jurisdiction of the coastal State within EEZs. Often they may be subject to even tighter attention within zone than vessels which have a fishing State to negotiate terms for them.

Piscatorially-oriented person (POP) – currently the only culturally sensitive term for a fisherman (CI) or fisher (CI)

Piscatorially-uninclined kid (PUNK) – fisherman's son (PI, CI)

Precautionary Approach (a) – manoeuvre adopted by the Minister when entering a fishing industry meeting to announce a moratorium

Precautionary Approach (b) – a mechanism for getting fishing prohibited even when there is no evidence of a problem apart from the public concern stirred up for the purpose of getting attention. Usually forgets to apply the concept of reasonable doubt.

Precautionary Approach (c) – when there is doubt about the carrying capacity of a fishery ecosystem, to set the initial level of exploitation at a lower-than-intuitive level, and to only increase the level if rigorous monitoring shows that essential ecosystem components are not being adversely affected. Suffers from the difficulty of defining "essential components", and "adverse effect".

Precautionary Reference Points – Glorified rules of thumb. When its target reference point is reached a fishery is said to be fully exploited ("overexploited" to environmentalists and "optimally exploited" to economists) and requires active management if it is not to become stuffed. When its limit reference point is reached the fishery is already stuffed (see Fishery ...) and warrants a large torpedo being fired in the general direction of the Fisheries Minister's crystal balls.

Private consultants – people who provide advice to decision-makers but have no stake in the success (or otherwise) of the results. According to fisheries IGOs, private consultants are people who get paid for using other people's data and conclusions.

Phytoplankton bloom - excess capacity in the sewerage industry

Recreational fishing – ALL fishing is recreational. The really lucky ones get paid for doing it (whilst the unlucky ones do so well at it that they have to sit ashore managing their fleet). See angling.

Red-list – A useful list of species which population assessment has shown to be rare, embedded within a much less useful list of species for which little population information is available and which are thus assumed to be threatened based on political and aesthetic criteria. Includes all sea-horses but no Turbo species..

Reef-raper – see Foreign Investor

Rule of thumb – something referred to by fisheries managers when unable to locate the seat of their pants, even with both hands on their crystal balls (see Precautionary reference points)

Sea-Plod – MCS (qv) Practitioner. As in "I'd push that good-looking dugong back overboard if I were you, or Mr Policeman Plod will be on your case". [Pronounced Plô in French, les flics are classified according to two éspèces - les Plods-de-terre et les Plods-de-mer.]

Sea, chicken of the – Term used by advertising agencies to try and persuade consumers to buy any species of fish that is bland or tasteless.

Sea, cockroach of the – Skipjack tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis. Not considered to be the worlds most fragile or vulnerable species.

Sea, rat of the – Blue shark, Prionace glauca. Species implied as being on the verge of extinction by unscrupulous members of the fishing community when trying to mobilise public opinion against certain other sections of the fishing community in the hope of gaining long-term commercial or political advantage (see fly, when pigs). Also of use in diverting attention away from real conservation issues. 

Seat-of-the-pants management – a more realistic way of saying "adaptive management". At its best, seat-of-the-pants management involves common sense. At its worst it involves the advice of consultants.

Shrimp farming – not to be confused with chimp farming, which involves keeping the trees

Slather, open – a sudden absence of enforcement, or regulation, as might be encountered on taking your factory-trawler to a developing country and bunging the local chief a couple of outboard motors. The heady feeling resulting from open slather is something that can only be experienced by those accustomed to heavily regulated fisheries. In places where government control is traditionally light, fishermen organise their own rules, which are usually only stuffed up by outsiders to the system (see foreign investor) and renegades (see entrepreneur, local)

Spearfishing - the most highly selective fishing method of all.

Stakeholder – In the Middle Ages, much feared by vampires and their relatives. In the modern world stakeholders can be difficult to define. In fisheries, the definition can range from "anyone who has ever imbibed a molecule of water" through "anyone who will be affected by any fishery action or inaction" to "anyone who fishes for a particular species". However, most of these definitions are preferable to the previous definition: "anyone who is the Director of the Fisheries Department". Since the stakeholder concept arose from the social sciences, it is often forgotten that fish are also stakeholders (although in the eyes of many biologists, fish are the only stakeholders). Remember: Too many stakeholders spoil the FMP.

Stock – A misnomer for any single-species fish population. The use of the term "stock" confuses fishery biologists and managers to such a degree that they start thinking that they can manipulate a wild fish population the way they might run a stock of goats. Although it is a legally undefined term, it nonetheless defines fisheries management units under UNCLOS and the Fish Stocks Agreement. Defining the boundaries or ecological limits of an individual stock of fish can provide days, or even years of interesting debate at international fisheries meetings. In biological terms a "fish stock" is a panmictic population, but say this to a fishery scientist and you will get a blank look. In practical terms a "fish stock" is usually a "fishery management unit".

Subsidies – OK for Governments to provide grants for protecting indigenous endangered species. Not OK for Governments to provide grants for protecting indigenous endangered industries. Loved by companies when they get them, hated by companies when the competition gets them. The creation of a "level playing field for global trade" consists of arguments aimed at retaining your own subsidies whilst getting everyone else’s subsidies declared illegal.

Subsistence fishing – hand-to-mouth fishing (where fish go from your hand to your, or your family's, mouth). Does not involve longliners, middlemen or HACCP, and rarely involves Shimano reels and Sea Ray cruisers.

Tobacco Industry, the – Environmental activists occasionally accuse the fishing industry of espousing the same moral values as the tobacco industry. Before saying "piffle", or "pass me another chunk of smoked turtle, Charlene", just consider:- there is only a finite number of catchable fish in the world, just as there is only a finite number of smokers, and both numbers have pretty much reached their limit (ignoring of course, seasonal variations in recruitment, and mortality). Fishing companies, like tobacco companies, can thus only increase their future share in the industry by chiselling away at each other. Expect to see more and more fishing industry brand names plastered over racing cars and footballers, and the smell of fish to be banned in government offices.

"Top-down approach" – the usual way. In democratic systems (not to be confused with money-driven oligarchies masquerading as democracies) the "top-down approach" at least has the saving grace that decisions made at the top have to be moderately representative of the majority’s wishes, if re-election is to occur (see bottom-up approach), but it’s not exactly direct feedback.

Toss, do not give a – phrase describing the "six-fingered midriff salute" permitted under UNCLOS to skippers of distant water fishing vessels flying flags of convenience in international waters.

Tragedy of the Commons – 1. To commercial fishers: Recreational fishing 2. To economists: That which results from the absence of an ITQ system (see open slather) 3. To the British: The fact that Guy Fawkes failed.

Transgenic organism – an organism that contains genes derived from another organism through processes not involving sex. However, like sex, the production of transgenic organisms may lead to unforeseen and unwanted side-effects, and since transgenic modification bypasses most of the limitations that sexual reproduction places on genetic exchange, these side-effects may be potentially huge. And like sex, certain fishery scientists are unlikely to be able to resist it. "Fish fingers? No probs, Trev".

UNCLOS – United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. An international legal instrument that was largely obsolete by the time it was opened for signature, and took 10 more years to come into force. The fishery provisions of UNCLOS are based on the principle of Flag-State Responsibility under which vessels fishing in international waters are subject only to the authority of the government whose flag they bear. Vessels flying flags of convenience, whose flag states do not give a toss (qv), are doubly blessed. UNCLOS promotes the forward-looking co-management principle of trying to give international fishers as much say in the management of fisheries as those who live amidst the waters through which the stock passes, even when those fishers are based thousands of miles away and are able to relocate to other fisheries at the drop of a hat.

User-pays – A system whereby the cost of paying government fishery manager salaries is borne by the fishing industry instead of by the general taxpayer. A common result of introducing a user-pays system is having to put up with a user-says system whereby "he who pays the piper calls the tune". On the one hand, the industry has to put up with funding however many government salaries and laboratories the government deems necessary, and on the other hand the general public loses the moral right to have a say in the aims of fishery management. This is not necessarily considered a great problem by government since the general public is not generally in the habit of sending round a case of single malt at Christmas.

Virgin biomass (PI) – mythical beast used to frighten laymen. Usually accurate to within a couple of orders of magnitude. (This was written in 1999. See Myers & Worm (Nature, 423:280-283, 15 May 2003), for a fine example after the fact)

VPA – Very Provisional Assessment (Ray Beverton)

Walls of death - Possibly the places outside government fisheries offices where the smokers gather at teatime.


Originally, this glossary was an extract from "Blind Freddie's Guide to Fisheries Management" by Tim Adams (1993 - and still in prep, naturellement). It has been transported to the Fisherymanagement wikicity with the permission of the author in the expectation of attracting more diverse (and hopefully equally scurrilous) viewpoints.

Disclaimer: Apologies to those who may feel offended by some of the definitions above. However, please take the time to note that there is something rude about EVERYBODY in here.


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