Shifting Baselines

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

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    Ron Sheldon

    The theory of shifting baselines is the natural tendency to judge things as you experience them and not necessarily over their entire history. When we look at things in this way it causes us to start our evaluation from the “where we are now’ perspective rather than “where we came from’. This applies to a lot of things in our everyday lives and not just fisheries and fisheries management. For an example I will try and explain how the baseline of how we all communicate has shifted. Most people under 25 cannot remember a time where cellphones and e-mail were not a normal part of everyday life. However, if you are old like me, as my daughters would say, then you remember a time where you could only make a call from home on a landline and there was no such thing as a home computer. I you wanted to write someone you had to do it on paper and send it through the mail. So what? Well, if you came into a world with these items you probably would have a hard time if they disappeared. This problem affected northern cod in the reverse manner. As stocks of cod declined lower and lower the fisheries managers didn’t look back far enough in history to judge population levels. To revisit the cellphone analogy, if you looked back 10 years at the number of cell phone users you would get a different perspective than if you looked back 25. When managers didn’t look far enough back in basic stock assessments it caused them to have an unrealistic picture of the population. One way of avoiding this natural tendency is to seek out as much information as possible before making management decisions. With a full understanding of the entire history of a fishery, managers will be better armed to make informed and sustainable decisions.

    Isabella Erickson

    I agree that managers should gather as much information as possible before making decisions. It seems like there were a lot of people who were purposefully ignoring information about the cod population, and did not realize that by doing this they were actually hurting their future selves.


    I definitely agree that managers should gather more information before making management decisions. Where do you think this information should come from? Is getting information about past populations from people who are still alive today going back far enough?


    I agree that there should be more communication and information gathering before decisions are made by managers. I also like your analogy of communication before and after cellphones, I remember those times well.


    Loved your analogy of communication with cellphones and millennials and the generation after millennials, ESPECIALLY that generation…it would be heartbreaking for them to not have cellphones and some intense taking time to get used to.

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Fish and Fisheries in a Changing World