Shifting Baselines — Big Fish Getting Smaller


Great article to be brought to people’s attention. The shifting baselines syndrome applies not only to fisheries, but to all kinds of wildlife and landscapes. The baseline gets shifted, and each generation shoots for a lower and lower conservation target. For a great read that deals with the shifting baseline syndrome and how it applies to fisheries, check out “The Unnatural History of the Sea” by Callum Roberts. Thanks Dr. Ogle!

Dr. Derek H. Ogle

The “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” is the idea that what appears “normal” or “acceptable” shifts over time.  As an example, what we now consider to be a “trophy” fish is very much different than what previous generations considered to be a “trophy” fish.  NPR recently posted a story about research that examined the “big fish boards” from charter excursions in Key West, FL.  The study found that the size of the “big fish” had declined dramatically in the last 50 years.  See the pictures and story here for dramatic evidence (one picture is below).  The scientific paper that the NPR report is based on is here.

A proud fishing family in 1958 stands before several prizewinning fish much bigger than a human 5-year-old. A proud fishing family in 1958 stands before several prizewinning fish much bigger than a human 5-year-old. Courtesy of Monroe County Public Library

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