"Bad Science" Constrains My Purpose, "Good Science" Facilitates It E-mail
Written by Allen Sansano   
Friday, 22 February 2013 00:00

kfmlogoIt's a never ending battle between the forces that wish to take away our rights to fish, and those that fight to preserve it. In many cases, the fight comes down to the Best Available Science, a key buzz phase in modern fisheries affairs. But how do we determine what is "good science" and what is "bad science"?

In a recent fight in the state of Washington, a rule proposal was put forth to the Commission to limit the fishing season in Marine Area 4B. The proponents of this rule proposal were basing the closures on what they pushed as the Best Available Science. Marine Area 4B is a popular, important fishery amongst the Washington kayak fishing community, being one of the few open areas that offers a lingcod fishery accessible to kayak anglers. In a press release dated October 16, 2012, The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) stated the following:

The raw field data from WDFW's 2011 test fishery reveal a major problem: an unacceptable amount of "protected" rockfish by-catch occurs during recreational bottomfishing trips:
• For each legal Lingcod caught, thirty-five "protected" rockfish were caught.

Their claim is that too many protected rockfish were being caught, and subsequently perishing, for every legal lingcod caught. They goal was to shorten the Marine Area 4B fishery to 6 weeks from all summer long. Those of us that have fished this location on a regular basis knew these "facts" to be false. There is no way that many rockfish were caught for every legal ling caught.

Let's dive into this one step deeper to truly understand that science behind this. In conversations with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), WDFW staff conveyed to us, "WDFW did not use 2011 test fishery data because the test fishery only covered two months (mid-July – mid-Sep) of 2011 fishing season. It does not provide adequate temporal information for evaluating this rule proposal."  Furthermore, the test fishery being conducted was primarily targeting rockfish in an effort to study the rockfish fishery. Well, target the rockfish and rockfish you will catch. Experienced fishermen in this region know that different techniques are used to target lingcod, with those techniques also limiting the number of rockfish caught.

To their credit, the WDFW understood the issue with the WFC data and put forward their own data based on year round dockside sampling. This data is accepted as statistically significant and showed that the WFC was using data that was off by 23 times. There were only 1.5 rockfish encountered for every legal lingcod caught, with many of these rockfish surviving being caught and released. In this case, the WFC's Best Available Science was just Bad Science. The kayak fishing community at NorthWestKayakAnglers.com (NWKA) worked with the WDFW to understand the real data and use it to oppose the unjust closure proposal. NWKA also worked closely with a local fishing advocacy organization, Puget Sound Anglers.

There is a lesson to be learned here. There are many organizations out there that believe that closing fisheries is the means to fisheries recovery. While they may have good intentions, these organizations will use whatever Best Available Science they can in order to further their claims. Sometimes this science is wrong. As conservation oriented kayak anglers we can get involved by understanding the science, questioning it when it doesn't seem right, and working with other organizations to provide better science. At the national level, organization such as The American Sportfishing Association and The Recreational Fisheries Association are championing our fishing rights; and there are countless organizations active at the local level. By working with organizations aligned with our beliefs, we can ensure that accurate science is being used when justifying actions that may affect us.

 

 

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