Societal Constraints

Members of the fishing sector have different, often conflicting, goals. For instance, most industry members want to maximize their short-term profits; regulators want to conserve the resource for future generations, but also want to keep their jobs (as they recognize the power of the industry to get them fired); and banks want positive returns on their investment. These conflicting goals lead to the "political" use of the scientific information such as climate forecasts. For example, during the 1997— 1998 ENSO event, those industrial fishing firms that had many outstanding loans tried to coerce some scientists to claim that it was going to be a strong ENSO with a very negative impact on the fisheries. Their logic was that the banks would then be willing to refinance under more favorable conditions or temporarily suspend interest payments. In contrast, firms waiting for loans pressured scientists to downplay the potential severity of the event in order not to scare the bankers out of making the loans for fear of a collapse and several years of low catches. In addition, two of the largest firms had begun issuing bonds immediately prior to the event and were afraid of scaring off potential investors with doomsday predictions of a fish stock collapse.

Attempts to sway economic decisions based on expectations of the evolution of the ENSO event were played out in the media, which also capitalized on the sensational aspect of a looming "disaster." The media also served as the venue for competing forecasts issued by different Peruvian scientific institutions, each one of which was vying to be the voice of authority on the event. A successful forecast could help them to get funds from the state to further research and monitor the event. With public servant salaries relatively low, individual scientists were tempted by industry's incentives—often negotiated under the table—to interpret uncertain information for the benefit of industry objectives.

Another constraint on the management of the Peruvian fisheries in light of the 1997-1998 ENSO event results from geopolitical border politics. Peru shares the southern anchovy stock with Chile, and during ENSO warm events, the stock tends to migrate further southward into northern Chilean waters. As the Peruvian quota was reached in the south, there was extreme pressure put on the regulators not to halt fishing in the south, the argument being that Peru should not stop fishing, since the fish were just going to go to their Chilean competitors. After much heated debate, and being accused of antinationalist tendencies, the Peruvian authorities did ban fishing in the south for a period of time, although it was only after increasing the original quota.

When considering the potential impact of forecasts, an additional factor that arises is that some groups may be more susceptible to negative impacts of climate forecasts and »¡«forecasts than others. For example, a small-scale fisherman who normally fishes close to shore and has little personal savings may receive a forecast of an ENSO event and decide to sell his gillnet and buy a longline net in anticipation of the arrival of tropical species. If the event does not occur with the anticipated intensity, however, he is left with useless gear that no one will want to buy. An example from the industrial sector may be that, if owners have prior information that fishing may be poor in the upcoming months, they may fire plant workers in advance in order to reduce their potential losses. For a discussion of who may benefit from climate forecasts at the expense of others, see Pfaff et al. (1999).

These scenarios suggest that the way climate information is disseminated plays a critical role in how society makes use of it. A forecast provider should be aware of issues of equity when making a forecast publicly accessible. Merely putting information on the Internet, for instance, may allow access to only a limited few in Peru, such as the industrial owners and managers. In contrast, many of the rural fishing villages receive information via short-wave radio, which presents a different dissemination challenge for forecast providers. Groups also have differing capacities to understand probabilistic forecasts, thus necessitating that varied types of training and education accompany the distribution of these forecasts.

We have entered a new phase in meteorology, where operational climate forecasts are being generated, and much effort is being put into disseminating this information in the United States and abroad. If any country stands to gain from this information, it is Peru, a nation directly impacted by ENSO-driven interannual climate variability. Maximizing the societal value of this information, however, necessitates communication and cooperation by those generating the predictions, distributing the forecasts, and the end users of this information. Only this approach can assure the equitable distribution of information in the proper form, with the proper training, to various decision makers at different socioeconomic strata of society.

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