Commerce Dept. Moves to Hide Overfishing Data from Public
The U.S. Department of Commerce has been accused of trying to conceal scientific data about fish populations, which could make it harder to avoid overfishing.
A 2009 study by The World Bank and the United Nations noted that there are 17 different species that are overfished in the United States. In 1976 Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which allows scientific observers to board fishing vessels and monitor resource management. The data they collect has been available to the public. (Private information, such as the names of businesses and the exact location of where they fish is not made public.)
Instead of obtaining statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service, as current law allows, “the public might have to go through private fishing companies to access information about their fishing and its impact on the ecosystem,” according to OMB Watch.
This change could create a conflict of interest, OMB Watch adds, because fishermen might be afraid to reveal details about their catches.
“Restricting public access to fisheries data could erode scientific integrity, transparency, and public participation in government decisions and eventually lead to poorer management of fisheries,” the watchdog organization wrote.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Confidentiality of Information; Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) (pdf)
More Than Half of Tuna Species Endangered, but Overfishing Continues (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Commerce Dept. Forbids Biologists from Releasing Data Regarding Gulf Dolphin Deaths (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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