Monday, November 06, 2006

Accuracy? Go fish!

An article from the Seattle Times:

Global fishing trends point to a collapse of most wild seafood harvests by midcentury, according to a team of international researchers who pored through historical data, catch records and studies to document the decline of marine species all over the world...

"It's just mind-boggling stupid," said Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

"I'm worried about some areas of the world — like Africa — but other areas of the world have figured out how to do effective fishery management."

For example, most of the harvests in the North Pacific off Alaska — where most Seattle fleets fish — are not in sharp decline...

In a note to colleagues that was mistakenly sent to The Seattle Times, Worm wrote that the projection could act as a "news hook to get people's attention."

"One reason why nobody cares about marine biodiversity is that there seemed no clear end in sight," he continued. "... Well, it's time to wake up — IF the current trend continues we will see drastic consequences in our own lifetime."

When asked about the e-mail, Worm said the 2048 projection is accurate [editor's emphasis] , and he reiterated he is very confident that the trend could lead to a global fisheries collapse. He noted that the study's prediction of worldwide collapse is based on an average fishery of the future, and that some fisheries could end up well above the dismal average.

Why do stupid idiots scientists do this?In my experience (which is large) the `lies, damn lies and statistics' quote is correct, but the statistics are almost never perpetrated by professional statisticians, they're produced by someone in a different profession with a very large agenda.

So here we have an idiot (I use this term in the (statistical) professional's sense of someone with a malfunctioning critical sense) deperate for news coverage, doing the most stupid extrapolation (no doubt sophisticatedly non-linear, but completely reductionist in approach; that is to say, involving no study of causes or changing methods) who, when challenged, describes it as accurate!

Now, whatever it is, mate, I can positively guarantee you it's not accurate.

Incidentally, don't think that scientists do this purely for the sake of their subject. There are strong financial incentives to academics to get large positive news coverage.

Here's the sublimely accurate extrapolation.

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