The global challenges that we face as a human race will require collaboration from parties that can find common ground. This type of collaboration will many times involve the use of data so that all parties can have an agreed-upon baseline from which to develop plans to address a particular issue. We all have our own frames of reference and agendas that we bring to the table. Different parties may interpret data quite differently. Leveraging data and then using language to get a message out in a powerful and coherent way — and recognizing the inherent challenges that come from our own points of reference as potential roadblocks — is important to truly understanding an issue thus developing effective solutions.
An example of how a standard report that is meant to serve as baseline data has been interpreted in multiple ways is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) annual report, “The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture.” The most recent report, from 2014, shows that 10% of the world’s fisheries were “under fished”, 61% of the world’s fisheries were “fully exploited”, and 29% were “over exploited.” The terms under fished, fully exploited, and over exploited are scientific terms that indicate whether fisheries are within their biological sustainable levels. So the word “exploited” in scientific terms means that a fishery has the stock available for capture and of the quantity that is available for capture whether they have been under captured, fully captured, or over captured. In reviewing the infographic provided by the FAO, they interpret the data as meaning “71% of the commercially important marine fish stocks monitored by FAO are fished within biologically sustainable levels.” This 71% is an improvement from the 2012 report, when the sustainable stock fished within biologically sustainable levels was at 68%. Still, 29% of the fisheries being over exploited is something we need to continue to work on.
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