Swede's Dock

Fisherman's Revolutionary

Challenge Letter to the Fisheries Establishment

Last spring (2010) I sent this letter to Nils Stolpe who puts out a commercial fisheries oriented newsletter. http://www.FishNet-USA.com)


As you well know there is probably no one more upset with the whole "overfishing" narrative than me. It's been eating at me for more 30 years. It just intuitively makes sense to most people as it is the sum total of dozens of small truths that add up to a large "misconception" ("Big Lie", though more accurate, is too strong a term. It's an emotion evoker.).

And, of course as we both well know, there's a HUGE community of interests (NOAA, NMFS, State Department, uncountable colleges, PHD's, politicians, ecozealots, universities, ocean documentaery producers, ...) invested, some very heavily, in having the narrative accepted. Many/most even to the point they have accepted it *unquestionably* themselves.

The narrative has become so thoroughly ingrained even (younger) commercial fishermen themselves believe it.

No need here to go into specific details here with you as you know exactly what I'm talking about. We don't agree on (some/many) regulations, regulatory schemes, and a few other things regarding fishing but you know what I'm talking about.

And for all of those 30 years I've been trying to convince people but to no avail, the narrative has become so ingrained in our entire culture. The real problem with me is I am so emotionally invested that many just chalk up my reasoning to personal passion and natural bias. Blindness to the "facts" (the small truths). I'm sure many of my friends don't engage me on the topic as they view it on a par with trying to convince a committed atheist of the existence of a life after death. "Just don't say 'overfishing' in front of Gösta."

(And here is a good place to (re)state I don't believe there haven't been past, even continuing, abuses by commercial fishing. I know there have. Been there a little myself. And I don't endorse them. It's just the narrative is that commercial fishing is fervently believed to be the primary, often only, reason - oceans, fish stocks, coral reefs, ..., are in tough shape. And that's far far from the facts. Fishing is well down the list.

Pollution, marsh and estuarial degradation, toxic dumping, development of riverfronts, misguided regulation, species specific targeting by regulators, ..., a veritable legion of other factors are involved. Just try to imagine how many 1,000's or 1,000,000's of tons of minuscule microscopic tire dust particles end up into the ocean each year, or sulphur particles from coal generated electric plants, or ... or ... or ... Then tell me (again) it has no "significant" effect on reproductive capacity in the foodchain of ocean or river life.)

After reading the TED talk: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6474 - it finally rammed home to me just why I've been so unsuccessful. This guy, intelligent, articulate, well spoken, sincere, engaging, educated, credentialed, laying out all the "small truths" in an extremely convincing compelling fashion. There's really no hope of ever changing anyone's mind.

The overall problem is so complicated/intertwined/complex with uncountable variable inputs, it's unreasonable to expect anyone with no vested interest to spend the time it would take to get a real handle on it. Experienced fishermen understand it intuitively. (Fishermen don't always agree on details but we understand it.) It's like David going up against a Goliath in an Abrams tank with air support.

People are generally angry about many environmental conditions of the world, and we should be. In this case it's just really easy put the blame somewhere, on commercial fishing. It doesn't cost anything. We have no resources to make our case. We can't argue against the numbers, "they" are the ones who supply the numbers. (NMFS could give cooking lessons to AIG bookkeepers.) The intensely individual independent nature required by our business pretty much mandates we can't band together to represent our group interests (except in the very smallest groups, and then usually only for short periods).

And then it occurred to me, what if the "scientific" community could be enticed into challenging themselves? What if "Jeremy Jackson the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography" could be engaged (intellectually, not financially) to launch/oversee a study to "prove" overfishing is not the culprit we've all been led to believe. To challenge the robustness of the underlying "science".

Why would he do that? If someone could appeal to his vanity (or integrity) to somehow act like a vigorous defense attorney say defending a presumed guilty client. If the scientific case against overfishing is so solid it should be easily able to withstand a challenge from even the very best in the field (as he no doubts considers himself).

Now I could go up to him in my inimitable and long established style and ask as nicely as I am able, but somehow I don't think "Hey, motherfucker, you know you're full of shit!" is gonna impress him.

However you could do it Nils. At least if anybody could. You have the educational and scientific background. And the superior academic writing skills necessary as evidenced by your many newsletters exposing the fallacious underpinning of many regulatory schemes and rationales. Your latest newsletter, ( http://www.FishNet-USA.com) pinning the tail on NOAA is an outstanding example.

Jeremy is an older established tenured guy, he's got nothing to lose really. If he "loses" the case, then he has proven the integrity of the scientific community (A hero to his peers.).

If he "wins" (proves fishing is not a primary bad guy), then he demonstrates the ultimate integrity/objectivity of the scientific community (a hero challenging the establishment despite great personal risk to his standing in the scientic community. An exemplar of the best principles of science.) And almost certainly get the scorn of those whose grants might be affected, though no doubt they will spin it to their advantage somehow.

Just some thoughts,


End Challenge Letter to the Fisheries Establishment

"He can compress the most words
into the smallest idea of any man I know."
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

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