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A more precautionary approach to marine fishery management is much needed, but a central issue is how decisions are made when, as is usual, uncertainties are large. Reversing the burden of proof (showing that a given fishing level is safe before allowing it) is a necessary but not sufficient
condition for a precautionary approach. Several policy aspects of the burden of proof issue should be clarified: what the default decision will be; who bears the burden of demonstrating that a change from the default is justified; what metric is used to decide on a change; and what rate of
incorrect changes from the default is tolerable. Fishery decision making would benefit from more specificity about management goals, preagreement on how data will be used in reaching decisions, and an explicit linking of fishing levels to the degree of certainty of fish stock condition. Finally,
we argue that a truly precautionary approach requires a broader philosophical outlook than seeing the oceans as simply providing exploitable resources. Management should aim to maintain all marine species as functioning components of their ecosystems and to permit a proposed activity only
if it can be demonstrated not to have an adverse effect.
The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.