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Fishiest Science Yet

Fishiest Science Yet
Fishiest Science Yet

Breathe deeply.

Not that you could be blamed for screaming to the housetops about an outrageously dumb bag of junk science that has been conjured up by a Florida State University marine biologist and then run up flagpoles worldwide by the most powerful (though unknowing) media.

You may well have spotted coverage about the so-called research on CNN, The New York Times or any of many other leading news outlets.

Reuters, the grand old international news service that usually takes pains to be responsible, gave us this headline:

“Fishing Just for Fun Damages Stocks, Study Finds”

The gist of the article, like the others, claims that people fishing for sport do “far more damage to U.S. marine fish stocks than anyone thought.”

Inflammatory quotes from the lead researcher, FSU's Felicia Coleman, contend that regulations covering sportsmen have been “overlooked” and that they take much larger percentages of the total catch than the normally computed 4 percent or less.

In computing catch totals, she resorts to such clever distortions and omissions that one hardly knows where to begin answering.

For instance, she reveals the amazing fact that sportsmen take 93 percent of the redfish in the Gulf and surrounding states. What say? For many years now, redfish have been managed almost solely as a recreational species, ever since commercial over-exploitation was finally ended.

Next Coleman dwells on grouper and red snapper non-commercial catches, ignoring the fact that new restrictions are producing sharp upturns in the stocks. (They'd do even better, certainly, without the commercial overfishing, but that concept is foreign to the FSU report, which stands as the most bizarre insult to alleged science I've yet encountered.)

Coleman goes on to suggest that the number of recreational fishermen should be limited in some sort of lottery system, as, she says, it is done in some hunting programs.

That completely misses the point that all of those limited-entry systems involve a few special species, such as elk, that are never taken in quantity commercially.

Imagine a family-level angler not being allowed to fish while the Acme Fish House brings in tons for the market.

Coleman's caught farthest off base with a persistent claim that sport fishing isn't well regulated. Good grief, has she been on this blue planet for long?

Dozens of limits and regulations have done a sensational job in fostering growth of top species such as striped bass, snook, seatrout, sailfish and a host of others, not that improvements aren't possible (see flounder coverage this issue).

Behind the flawed Coleman research is an obvious and transparent goal, that of promoting total no-take zones. Proponents desperately want to eliminate all manner of fishing in these reserves, whether or not a particular type of fishing, such as family outings, causes a depletion.

Fortunately, a number of eminent marine scientists already are protesting the Coleman research, which we'll cover in more detail next month.

Meanwhile, folks such as our senior editor Vic Dunaway, must suffer the embarrassment of this lame research coming right out of his alma mater.

In a letter to all people in his FSU world, Vic exposed the problems and said “the study is so flawed as to be totally absurd.”

But Vic managed not to sputter. And I'm doing my best not to either.

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