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June 30, 2010

Flawed science behind new fishing rules

The message that many environmentalists would have you believe is this: We're catching and eating the oceans bare.

"There is an end in sight" for fish, a 2006 Science magazine paper proclaimed. The paper even put a date to the end time: the year 2048.

The paper was produced by a team of scientists headed by Boris Worm, a professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Worm's idea that the world's supply of seafood would be exhausted within the lifetime of many alive today caused a sensation. The "2048" prediction gave it a news hook that made headlines around the world.

The idea that the world's fisheries were on the verge of collapse was not new. In 1998, in another Science magazine article, University of British Columbia professor Daniel Pauly predicted overfishing would consume every species until nothing was left but "jellyfish and plankton soup."

A decade later, the same theme was sounded by "Oceans of Abundance," the 2008 policy paper prepared for the incoming administration of Barack Obama by a team convened by the Environmental Defense Fund, the leading advocate of the current catch share system of fisheries management.

The team included marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, who last year was picked by President Obama to head the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

"Evidence is overwhelming," the policy paper said. "The global oceans are being emptied of seafood. ... There is scientific consensus that fishing is fundamentally altering ocean ecosystems, which are increasingly likely to yield massive swarms of jellyfish rather than food fish."

That "scientific consensus" was the justification for the catch share system imposed on the New England fishery by Lubchenco as NOAA administrator.

In fact, the claim of a scientific consensus was as questionable as the claim that manmade global warming was "settled science."

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