Shifting Baselines

Home Forums Due October 8 by 11:59pm Shifting Baselines

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    Shifting baselines is a term used to describe situations where over time baselines or something we perceive as being normal change from time to time. This term could be use for a multitude of situations to include things like populations, economy and ecosystems. With shifting baselines what may be a normal baseline for one group or generation could be abnormal for another.
    When it comes to the Northern Cod, one of the major errors that people didn’t take into consideration was shifting baselines. This was one of the major reasons for the cod collapse in that there were multiple baselines that were shifting at once and no one even considered them at first. One being that they were using stock numbers to form quotas however, the stock numbers were from previous years and didn’t take into account the almost exponential rise in the fishery. Another was after the fishery had collapsed cod were still being caught making people think that they had just moved but in reality the few cod left were just schooling in large numbers making it look like the stock was still high. If the fishery had looked at current data rather than old data and kept a vigilant eye on the behavior of the cod maybe the collapse could have been prevented.
    Shifting baselines are inevitable so in order to avoid following in the footsteps of the cod fishery people need to take a close look at current data vs multi year old data. Another thing that can help mitigate shifting baseline pit falls is for the people that are in charge to listen to the opinions of the people that actually have the first hand experience in the field. If the people setting the quotas had listened (or been held accountable) and taken into account what the inshore fisherman were noticing in Newfoundland maybe things would have been different.

    Kyleigh McArthur

    I said the same thing that shifting baselines is inevitable. It was a major mess-up on the management side of the cod fishery which caused downfall of the cod stocks. Another problem is that the management was already not in good hands and could’ve been managed a lot better.


    I agree that the management of all the cod fisheries had many ways of which they could improve upon. As you mentioned, one of their main errors was communication. If there had been more structure to guarantee communication between fisheries managers, fisheries biologists, and the people actually doing the fishing I think many of their problems could have been avoided.

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