Tensions in the communication of science advice on fish and fisheries: northern cod, species at risk, sustainable seafood
ICES Journal of Marine Science
Providing science-based advice can be challenging. Personal in its reflections, the story that follows asks throughout: What constitutes an appropriate model for the communication of science-based advice that best serves society? The first "front line," in 1992, involved tenuous hypotheses on the collapse and recovery of Newfoundland's Northern cod (Gadus morhua), raising troubling questions about political influence on science-based advice and on its integrity. These questions subsequently
... vated a critique written with two colleagues on the communication of science to decision-makers, provoking a telling invective from a government department in defence of the status quo. The story transitions to my 2000–2012 tenure as a member and then as chair of Canada's national body advising which species should be on the legally binding national at-risk register, illustrating how politically sensitive science-based advice can be objectively, effectively, and independently communicated, unfiltered by vested interests. Since 2009, I have served as independent science advisor on the sourcing of sustainable seafood to Canada's largest food retailer, providing a meaningful, impactful opportunity to advise their decision-makers. Science-based advice, free from political and advocacy-driven vested interests, is a requisite return for tax-supported investments in science. If provision of such advice is a "moral imperative," as argued more than 60 years ago by C.P. Snow, then scientists are obliged to be the best advisors that we can be.