Thesis ID: CBB693602665

Prophets of Plenty: How Scientists Ignored Natural Complexity and Overpromised Sustainable Fisheries, 1863-Present (2023)


In this dissertation I argue that fisheries science overpromised and under-delivered large sustainable catches. Fisheries scientists’ presumption of plenitude encouraged them to ignore important aspects of fish ecology like population fluctuations and species interactions. Along with challenges acquiring reliable population data, these ecological factors generated inherent uncertainty and posed barriers to large sustainable catches. By ignoring these ecological factors and assuming abundance when confronted with uncertainty, scientists systematically set catches high enough to incur substantial risk of fishery and ecosystem collapse. This presumption of plenitude emerged from the field’s purpose as a technoscientific method of maximizing sustained catch for benefit of the fishing industry and fish consumers, and despite advances in science and policy, has remained an anchoring concept for fisheries science in ways that put marine ecosystems at continued risk of collapse.

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Authors & Contributors
Finley, Carmel
Bijker, Wiebe E.
Chappells, Heather
Hébert, Karen
Klenk, Nicole L.
Medd, Will
The Journal of Transport History
The Bridge: Journal of the National Academy of Engineering
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Journal of Historical Geography
University of Chicago Press
Arcade Publishing
Island Press
Rutgers University Press
UBC Press
Public policy
Fisheries; fishing
Natural resource management
Environmental sciences
Carson, Rachel Louise
Leopold, Aldo
Thoreau, Henry David
Volterra, Vito
Wilson, Edward Osborne
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
19th century
18th century
20th century, late
United States
Great Britain

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