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What does sustainable harvest mean to you?

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Sample1
#1
Nov8-09, 04:10 AM
P: 19
Regarding: wildlife management, calling all biologists...

I'm having difficulty completely understanding the term "sustainable harvest" as it pertains to wildlife management. Specifically, I question whether the word "sustainable" in State Fish & Game parlance is rather more of a political term instead of a scientific one.

I'm questioning if the word sustainable is merely synonymous with "continued practice" rather than what I thought was supposed to be an attempt at maintaining ecological homeostasis with human endeavors? For example: can the term be used legitimately when a managed game species population is in decline? Could a biologist ever call a management plan involving harvesting North Atlantic right whales sustainable and be taken seriously?

I look forward to your thoughts.
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Moonbear
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Nov8-09, 05:31 PM
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UC Davis has a well-regarded ag school, and a very good explanation on their website. Just a very brief excerpt that cuts directly to the point:

Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals--environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. A variety of philosophies, policies and practices have contributed to these goals. People in many different capacities, from farmers to consumers, have shared this vision and contributed to it. Despite the diversity of people and perspectives, the following themes commonly weave through definitions of sustainable agriculture.

Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities, and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term.
http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/Concept.htm

It's a lot about finding a balance between current needs and future needs. It's not so much about seeking "homeostasis" which is really impossible with nature (nature is always changing), but about ensuring that things we do now to put food on people's tables doesn't do so much damage to the environment to jeopardize future generations.
Sample1
#3
Nov9-09, 06:36 PM
P: 19
So, if I am reading this right, sounds like "sustainable harvest" as it relates to biological management practices refers to the concept that taking a few, carefully selected animals (ie males of a certain age) does not affect the current status of the population of that species. Rather than meaning, "managing sustainability" which would indicate that the population itself is sustainable and harvesting contributes to that sustainability.

This stemmed from a seminar I recently attended where biologists referred to sustainable harvest relating to Polar bears. Sounded like folks who hear sustainable harvest get upset at the biologists when the facts are pointing to the entire population not even being sustainable, so how can a harvest contribute to a sustainability that doesn't seem to exist in the plausible future? I personally have a degree of confidence in our State ADF&G numbers, but understand when the general public hears about a harvest on a species in decline, calling that harvest "sustainable" seems quite inflammatory. - Wife of Sample1

turbo
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Nov9-09, 07:05 PM
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What does sustainable harvest mean to you?

Sustainable harvest is a catch-phrase that is misused by regulators, harvesters, conservationists, etc. It is too complex a concept to be addressed in ABC terms, in part because the dynamics of weather, ecology, habitat, and harvest pressures often change faster than studies can track them. In Maine, we have running battles over the regulation of ground-fishing, lobstering, scallop-dragging, trapping of bait-fish, etc, etc, etc, and the arguments get more convoluted by the year.

Less controversial, perhaps, are limitations on the killing of antler-less deer this year, since the central part of the state got well over 10 feet of persistent snow last winter and the winter before, resulting in mass starvations of fawns, yearlings, and under-sized deer in general. We can all see the effects of long-term weather patterns on the deer herd. It's tougher to judge the effects of more efficient fishing techniques on marine populations, since studies are expensive and hard to quantify, and the feedback from the fishermen is (likely) heavily skewed by their desire to make the boat payments and feed their families.
Moonbear
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Nov9-09, 10:45 PM
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Quote Quote by Sample1 View Post
So, if I am reading this right, sounds like "sustainable harvest" as it relates to biological management practices refers to the concept that taking a few, carefully selected animals (ie males of a certain age) does not affect the current status of the population of that species. Rather than meaning, "managing sustainability" which would indicate that the population itself is sustainable and harvesting contributes to that sustainability.

This stemmed from a seminar I recently attended where biologists referred to sustainable harvest relating to Polar bears. Sounded like folks who hear sustainable harvest get upset at the biologists when the facts are pointing to the entire population not even being sustainable, so how can a harvest contribute to a sustainability that doesn't seem to exist in the plausible future? I personally have a degree of confidence in our State ADF&G numbers, but understand when the general public hears about a harvest on a species in decline, calling that harvest "sustainable" seems quite inflammatory. - Wife of Sample1
I think you have the gist of it. Though, I can envision situations where "harvest" (which sounds like a euphemism for hunting) of animals might help the population overall. I don't know enough about polar bear behavior or ecology to know if it would apply to them. But, for example, if males cannibalize the young, or older males near the end of their lifespan are driving off the younger males, then maybe a selective hunt for just males of a certain age range at the end of the breeding season could allow more cubs to survive.

I wouldn't actually apply the term "harvest" or sustainable agriculture to a wild population though. If they aren't being farmed or domesticated, then it's not agriculture. Instead, it's wildlife management.
Sample1
#6
Nov9-09, 11:18 PM
P: 19
Thanks for the insight/experiences. Sustainable obviously isn't a universally agreed upon definition which supports my original suspicion that the word, as it was used, is almost meaningless if not stupid. :-j


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