Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Cooked You a Delicious Bass

Striped Bass Experiment -- Methods:

1. Brought home the nice filet provided by Professor Berman
2. Researched striped bass recipes on the Internet
3. Realized I can't cook and have never successfully followed a recipe in my life, disregarded information available on the Internet
4. Put the filet on a baking sheet with:
- a tiny bit of olive oil
- salt and pepper
- a little chili powder (actually too much chili powder)
- some lemon juice (to prevent scurvy)
5. Baked it at 350 until it looked doneish
6. Served it with a nice hoppy IPA to counteract the fact that I used too much chili powder

Ah, the bounty of the sea. It doesn't look that great in the photos but it was quite tasty. I've actually never eaten bass before, but now I don't know why. I like it very much, including as sashimi, and intend to eat more.

Now, about our fisheries exercise. As an imaginary fisheries scientist from the state of Virginia, I'm mostly neutral towards the proposed rule change to allow fishing in federal waters. The currently accepted model indicates that the striped bass population is sustainable with the current level of fishing, and fishing in federal waters farther offshore is unlikely to affect spawning in the Chesapeake Bay, considering that the closer territorial sea of Virginia is already being fished. However, there is reason to be cautious about any expansion of striped bass fishing -- recent juvenile abundance data within the Chesapeake Bay indicate that the number of young fish within the Bay is dropping suddenly, and the incidence of disease among them is increasing. Although this has not seriously impacted our current population projections, if the trend continues it will. Allowing fishing in federal waters is unlikely to have a negative impact on the striped bass population off Virginia, but there is an argument to be made that until the effect of the recent problems in the Chesapeake Bay are known, any potential for exacerbating the problem, however limited or unlikely, should be avoided.

As non-imaginary me, I feel pretty much the same way. I know part of the point of the exercise was to separate ourselves from our constituency, but in my case I personally believe that we should act based upon the best scientific data to ensure the long-term sustainability of the striped bass population. The importance of protecting this natural resource trumps the economic concerns of those who profit by exploiting the commons (commercial fishermen), and while recreational fishermen have a right to share in the value of this resource, they also have a duty to protect it by acting responsibly and limiting their catch according to whatever reliable information we can gather about the state of the population. We should do what we can to allow everyone to share in the value of the striped bass while keeping our take sustainable, and the determination of what's sustainable should be made according to the scientific method. So, basically, we should do what the fisheries scientists say we should do. My one addition to the position I put forth as a fisheries manager is that if opening federal waters to fishing could be leveraged politically to move some of the quota from Bay to coastal waters, that move should be supported as a hedge against potential changes in the Chesapeake Bay caused by pollution and disappearing food sources. Barring that compromise, though, we should not open federal waters. Even though the impact is likely to be small, once we lift the ban there is no guarantee that it will be politically plausible to reinstate the ban again if we find out the predictions were incorrect. Let's keep things as they are until we know what's happening among young bass in the Chesapeake Bay.

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