Probability: “The quality or condition of being probable; likelihood.”
Probable: “Likely to happen or to be true.”
These are a few definitions fronted by the Free Online Dictionary.
Generally, most of us use probable to suggest that this event, or that event: is probable. However, in fisheries ‘management’ on the West Coast of North America – and specifically salmon management – we now use probable in the opposite way. We now say that certain ‘forecast’ numbers are ‘probable’ to not occur.
Here’s an excerpt from the latest Pacific Salmon Commission news releases regarding Fraser Sockeye:
Thus, the suggestion is that there is a 75% probability that the run will not be at the 8.595 million level, and will in fact be below that.
So here’s a great way to make predictions sound fantastic “there is 100% probability that the Fraser Sockeye run will be at or below 40 million”. Say that every year and then down the road it sounds like you’ve been right every time.
Here’s my suggested new ‘financial’ management language:
However, this is my favorite quote from the news release, and hence the cartoon above:
Last time I checked… a dead fish is… well… a dead fish.
Won’t be long until we have ‘probability’ forecasts for ‘impacts’ of fisheries. And, yet, the great irony in all of this is that the ‘management’ actions only continue to grow as the ‘available’ catch shrinks. The classic human folly in natural systems…
The more we learn… the more we learn we don’t know. The more we don’t know… the more we figure we need to know, and thus “gentlemen, start your research engines…” – (rinse and repeat if necessary).
When it comes to most fisheries worldwide – as the allowable catch shrinks… the ‘research’ agenda, and ‘management actions’ grow. (rinse and repeat if necessary).