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Capt.Castafly

Antidotal Facts versus Scientific Data

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I’ve been to a number of regional ASMFC meetings on fish assessments and stock allocations in my time, just recently in Boston last month.

My feeling is this, “How quickly they dismiss the data from other recreational fishermen presented before the board.”

I feel the board is just being polite just to listen for a few short minutes.

It falls on deaf ears, always under the category of hearsay with them.

They never considered it valuable enough to be imputed into the assessment formulas.

 

Annecdotal Information

 

Fishermen record data each trip

Compile data throughout the entire season

Use sophisticated electronics to find the stock

Compile the freshest data with daily fish reports

Fish where the fish are

Cover the entire eastern seaboard

Number in the hundreds of thousands

 

Scientific Study

 

One of (I think) two scientific surveys used by ASMFC

 

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)

 

Currently, the survey samples waters from 18 historically sampled sites (index stations) and 22 auxiliary sites along the shores of the James, York, and Rappahannock rivers.

 

Field sampling is conducted during 5 approximately biweekly sampling periods from July through mid-September.

 

 

 

TITLE CORRECTION ANNECDOTAL SHOULD REPLACE ANTIDOATAL

Thanks Jon and Steve for pointing that discrepancy.

 

 

 

 

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NMFS has good intentions, but the end result is that they are so blinded by their own "science" and their unshakable need to manage fish for the commercial industry that they are incompetent. I don't say that with sarcasm intended. I believe it is the sad truth.

 

 

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NMFS has good intentions......

 

I think you are being way to kind.

 

How does giving commerical fishing 97% of the total catch alottment for tile fish and recreational fishing 3%; 100% of the catch allotment of lane snapper for commercial and 0% for recreational do anything to help those fisheries?

 

Noaa and NMFS ARE the commercial fishing industry. It's no different than if Hunt and Heinz were on a board that allocated the number of tomato plants allowed to be grown by homeowners and agribusiness.

 

 

 

 

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You're absolueley right - NMFS was, is and always shall be commercial in its orientation and barely pays lip service to the recreational fishermen and the industry they support. Consider this one seemingly small, but significant point - NMFS technically considers fish released or tagged and released as "discards." That term may describe commercial fishermen shoveling undersize fish over the side, but it surely doesn't accurately describe the highly-motivated, thoughtful conservation act of releasing a gamefish back to the water. They are two totally different concepts - but not to NMFS.

 

Then there is the description of overfishing. To the average recreational fisherman, overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than can be replaced by natural reproduction. To NMFS it describes a condition when a theoretical mathmetical goal is not met, evebn if a population is expanding. Again, two distinctly opposing concepts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here's some info that I copied from a study that I read someplace. It made enough of an impression on me to copy it down, but unfortunately I didn't copy down the source, and I've forgotten where I'd seen it.

 

"Commercial fishing, taken as a whole, generates sales in the U.S. of about 25 percent more than recreational fishing.  However, this greater value is almost entirely centered in fisheries which have no recreational fishing component.

 

The value of recreational fishing is many times greater than commercial fishing in EVERY fishery that has both a recreational and commercial fishing component".

 

 

 

 

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Capt.,

 

Anecdotal OBSERVATIONS versus "Scientific" OBSERVATIONS.... NOTE the avoidance of use of the term "facts".

 

I don't think anyone gave you much of an answer to THAT part of your question.

 

The answer is very complex. Unfortunately, the human brain and sensory organs are some of the most UN-reliable equipment on the planet. If we took multiple, repetitive anecdotal observations at face value...Bigfoot is alive and well in all 50 states and there are several thousand alien abductions WITH sexual penetration and impregnation every year. IN SPITE of the fact that virtually everyone is now walking around with a video and still camera in their pocket....no one has been able to provide ANY confirmatory information.

 

The truth is that "scientific" FACTS and TRUTHS are VERY DIFFICULT to come by. And that is when everyone is trying to apply scientific method and principles in design right from the start. In 40 years as a doctor of watchig Medical "facts" and "principles" come and go from the enormous churn of the research and drug establishment...one reaches the conclusion that about 1/3 or less of the NEWEST BREAKTHROUGH TRUTHS, DRUGS, CAUSES OF DISEASE, ASSOCIATIONS, etc., etc., stand the test of time and RE-TESTING more than 10 years. It takes an ENORMOUS amount of time and energy to sort out fact from fantasy from placebo effect from the "mass anecdotal report" that vitamin X prevents/shorten colds, Chondroiten cures arthritis, on and on. There is a continuous deafening background NOISE of anecdotal "observations" regarding health issues which seriously complicates and confuses the ability of the public to sort out what is even presented as real science, as suspect as even THAT needs to be viewed.

 

ANd in some cases it doesn't even matter. Even when multiple, neutral, highest level scientific bodies have examined the evidence and concluded, for example, that silicon in breast implants caused NO increase in negtive health effects (ABOVE and BEYOND the rate of problems experienced by similarly matched women WITHOUT silicon or even ANY implants).....In spite of massive SCIENTIFIC evidence to the contrary.....multi-million dollar damage awards CONTINUED until the billion dollar international company went bankrupt !!! Now, 30 years later....silicone is again being chosen as an implant filling.......becuse it has been so proven to be harmless!

 

The current fear about childhood immunizations is another example of mass paranoid delusion in the face of 50 years of good, multi-confirmed scientific fact.

 

The are always truths, of sorts, in mass anecdotal reports. ANd there are ways of organizing such reports to start gaining some traction as value. But hen, from the very start, it is so very hard to get good SCIENCE...using good scientific principles........the return on the energy, time, and money needed to sort out the wheat from the chafe of anecdotal reporting just doesn;t work. Better to try and design a study method from the ground up... fine tune...re-confirm...etc..

 

I once was part of the rule change on the Deschutes river in OR that STOPPED all stocking of hatchery trout in favor of promoting and protecting an all native trout fishery....with very limited "take". I had to sit through hearing after of hearing of angry, ANECDOTAL reports that , without stocking, THERE WERE NO FISH AT ALL IN THE DESCHUTES!!!! We knew there were 2000+ fish per mile averaging 15".......but the hoardes of anglers who had grown up fishing only for hatchery trout simply did not know HOW to fish for or catch wild trout. Their observations were correct...to them...and they considered their "truth" a FACT. But.....explainable mass delusion.

 

It IS frustrating, when so many people seem to be seeing and documenting the same thing, even faithfully recording their observations. The fact that all this is classified as "ANECDOTAL" does NOT mean it is WRONG.....just that it cannot be trusted....as much as scientifically designed observation....which still cannot be absolutely trusted....and must be continuously re-tested and re-confirmed.........but which SHOULD be at least marginally better initially and improve thereafter.

 

Yeah, I don't trust their science either, and I do not agree with thier goals and endpoints. But I know why they give so little consideration to unorganized angler reporting.

 

When it comes to massively reported ANECDOTAL observations, just remember Bigfoot, Nellie, alien abduction, and the Deschutes River left totally devoid of trout.

 

Peter Patricelli

 

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Well said, Peter.

 

Anecdotal evidence is some of the most unreliable and inaccurate data. I have gotten first hand reports from people that told me that the fishing is good or terrible, and then gone fishing and experienced exactly the opposite. I have even experienced this on party boats (head boats, for you east coasters). I have been on trips where my buddy and I caught more fish than the other two dozen anglers on board. I have also been on a boat where everyone on either side of me was slaying them, but I could not buy a bite, even when they rigged up their rod and let me use it.

 

Weather, water temperature, location, bait abundance, and a host of other conditions all play roles in the number of fish present and the number of fish caught. By themselves, anecdotal reports are next to useless because the information is general in nature and is often reliant on human memory, which is selective and not very reliable. An example of the problems with anecdotal info is the fishing at Montauk this year. I was thehe for a week in October and experienced fantastic fishing for most of it. We caught lots of stripers and albies, but few bluefish. I read the reports for subsequent weeks (on SOL) and was surprised to see mostly reports of slow to terrible fishing, starting about one week after we left. Was the fishing great, terrible, or somewhere in between. I suspect that we caught the migration at its peak, but really could not say without much more information. Any report that I made would have been relatively useless. Fish move around following bait, changing water temperatures, changing weather, etc. They may be offshore and not in the surf, or vice versa.

 

Conversely, if more detailed information (such as specific location, time, date, temperature) was captured from many fisherman was captured and used to form an historical database, the total information could supplement the existing scientific data. Out here in CA, the Dept of Fish and Game sends out surveyers who record the catch of each boat at the harbor. They measure and weigh fish, record catch location, time, water depth, number of anglers and number of hour fished. By recording this along the entire coast they can get a reasonably accurate picture of catch rates that is less dependent on faulty memories. This is also scientific data rather than anecdotal. They also worked with a local fishing club that complained about the lack of accurate data. They came up with a trip report form that club members could fill out for each trip, even when skunked. This more accurate scientific data provided more local data that helped shape some of the regs for local fish species.

 

Anecdotal evidence may tell you when a specific person did well or did poorly, but it rarely tells you anything about the entire population or how to manage it.

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It's actually important to realize how few fishermen actually keep factual details about their fishing...like number of hours fishing spot x under a nw wind and a dropping tide...never mind throw in water temps or time of year or time of day. But its still a shame trends observed cannot be put to use due to potential for bias.

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NMFS refuses to use recreational angler data, labeling it anecdotal, and therefore unreliable in their view, yet they rely on dockside intercepts by people with NO knowledge of fishing to gather recreational catch data from those same individual anglers, which is now considered "scientific" because a NMFS employee wrote it down. Intercept data and random telephone intercepts are used to gather data on stripers, fluke, tuna, etc, and EVERY YEAR show substantial catches of these fish during periods of storms and hurricanes, yet NMFS believes this data is better than all the data of anglers who stayed home and waited for the weather to clear. Party and charter boat catch logs have better data than NMFS. Weekly fishing magazines have better data than NMFS. Fishing clubs with tagging programs and catch reports have better data than NMFS. Fishing tournaments with annual catch tallies have better data than NMFS. Individual anglers who keep log books and computer spread sheets have better data than NMFS.

The point is that BOTH data should be analyzed and factored into the catch totals to get the best possible picture. When NMFS runs a sample trawl in an area where no one catches any fish, how can this data be accepted as better than anglers who fish where the fish actually live? Dockside intercepts by students who don't know the difference between a longfin and a bluefin, a bluefish or a little tunny is worse data than an angker's logbook. When I charter fished, I had to buy permits and fill out daily log book catch reports, filled out in quadruplicate, mailed to an office in Woods Hole where these catch reports are NEVER ANALYZED. They are wasted money, time and effort, yet a potential rich source of data that NMFS ignores. To my knowledge charter skippers are still required to do this; for every trip, every year, yet receive zero benefit.

In total, the anecdotal data is superior to the MNFS' "scientific" data because it is so broad based, so all encompassing. It should not be ignored.

It's also important to remember that NMFS horribly biased data is used to regulate the lives and livelihoods of tackle shops owners, party and charter boat captains, lure manufacturers, rod builders

and everyone else, local or national, that makes a living from this precious resource. NMFS decisions, when based on only their data, has severe financial repercusssions to those who make their living from this industry. They deserve better and so does everyone who fishes the coast.

Sorry to do a soap box thing here, it's a fly fishing forum after all, but after many years on state and federal management boards and committeess, and as an ICCAT committee member, I've seen first-hand how NMFS data is weak, which was the primary point first raised by Capt Castafly. His comment is right on target and reminds us how NMFS doesn't really give two hoots about the recreational fishermen, whether he waves a fly rod or trolls with a big Fin-Nor.

Thanks for listening.

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NMFS refuses to use recreational angler data, labeling it anecdotal, and therefore unreliable in their view, yet they rely on dockside intercepts by people with NO knowledge of fishing to gather recreational catch data from those same individual anglers, which is now considered "scientific" because a NMFS employee wrote it down. Intercept data and random telephone intercepts are used to gather data on stripers, fluke, tuna, etc, and EVERY YEAR show substantial catches of these fish during periods of storms and hurricanes, yet NMFS believes this data is better than all the data of anglers who stayed home and waited for the weather to clear. Party and charter boat catch logs have better data than NMFS. Weekly fishing magazines have better data than NMFS. Fishing clubs with tagging programs and catch reports have better data than NMFS. Fishing tournaments with annual catch tallies have better data than NMFS. Individual anglers who keep log books and computer spread sheets have better data than NMFS.

The point is that BOTH data should be analyzed and factored into the catch totals to get the best possible picture. When NMFS runs a sample trawl in an area where no one catches any fish, how can this data be accepted as better than anglers who fish where the fish actually live? Dockside intercepts by students who don't know the difference between a longfin and a bluefin, a bluefish or a little tunny is worse data than an angker's logbook. When I charter fished, I had to buy permits and fill out daily log book catch reports, filled out in quadruplicate, mailed to an office in Woods Hole where these catch reports are NEVER ANALYZED. They are wasted money, time and effort, yet a potential rich source of data that NMFS ignores. To my knowledge charter skippers are still required to do this; for every trip, every year, yet receive zero benefit.

In total, the anecdotal data is superior to the MNFS' "scientific" data because it is so broad based, so all encompassing. It should not be ignored.

It's also important to remember that NMFS horribly biased data is used to regulate the lives and livelihoods of tackle shops owners, party and charter boat captains, lure manufacturers, rod builders

and everyone else, local or national, that makes a living from this precious resource. NMFS decisions, when based on only their data, has severe financial repercusssions to those who make their living from this industry. They deserve better and so does everyone who fishes the coast.

Sorry to do a soap box thing here, it's a fly fishing forum after all, but after many years on state and federal management boards and committeess, and as an ICCAT committee member, I've seen first-hand how NMFS data is weak, which was the primary point first raised by Capt Castafly. His comment is right on target and reminds us how NMFS doesn't really give two hoots about the recreational fishermen, whether he waves a fly rod or trolls with a big Fin-Nor.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

Now that's what I'm talking about. Right to the point.

 

If ASMFC are like any other government organizational meetings, their minds are already made-up. They are in most cases meeting the spirit of the open meeting laws. Not much wiggle room unless the bill gets rescripted after a descending vote.

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Capt.- The gov't. organizations follow the money and make the decisions that help the money they are following. Its the same with all the politicians- no money yields a better gov't., but put money on the table and they follow it like dogs after a T-bone.

Ron

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While I agree with almost everything Snookfly says about NMFS and ASMFC, I can't agree on his opinion on where the "accurate" data resides.

 

The two most common casues of "BAD" science (which means data driven conclusions) are SAMPLING ERROR and OBSERVER BIAS. Sampling error would be, for example, for just those people who had a bad season, or a series of bad seasons, to show up with their carefully annotated "observations". How many people who had a good season show up to complain? Or even are moved to keep diary. Observer bias is the tendency to see what you believe to be happening. When fishermen, across the board, inflate the size of their fish and catches 20-30% (when bragging) how can they be trusted to give accurate data when they already believe the fishing is lousy? The BEST recorder is someone who know nothing about the fishery and has NO axe to grind...thereby the "dumb.clueless" data recorders. It ain't perfect but it is much better.

 

The THIRD cause is DATA PICKING. About 90% of all "scientific" data tends to prove the bias of the inquirer...what he set out to "prove". Actually, that is more commonly because of observer bias, but data picking does happen...often. I think we all know what conclusions NMFS and ASMFC WANT to reach.

 

Actually, I don't see, given that the ASFMC data admits an almost 30% drop in the past four years, that they are saying anything that much different than the fishermen. The biggest difference, as I hear (and personally believe) it is WHAT that means, how bad that is or isn't. For Maine fishermen, if a 30% reduced, aged population means NO fish make it up that far...that is a 100% disaster. For a NJ comm fisherman, that means, for awhile at least, still good fishing...no reason to change anything.

 

The BEST data must be standardized, PROSPECTIVE (meaning starting NOW and recording into the future....no going back and relying on past, non-standardized data), global in sampling (everyone, not just the disgruntled). or more manageably, a statistically neutral and verified SAMPLING ....and on and on. There IS a way to take and make excellent data out of the energy now going into griping about "anecdotal" evidence being discarded.

 

The most frightening question is, if we could present to ASMFC concrete, iron-clad evidence that THEIR DATA is flawed and the fishery is failing,......would they act any differently??? They already admit it is down 30% and an aged, more off-shore fishery...and by their biological standards (given the yearly variation in spawning "recruitment") that is an easily "recoverable" down-blip. Sooo...yeah, we know, it , it is on a downcycle, too bad for the inshore and far north guys, that is the luck of the draw. But we are NOT going to manage this fishery for ,....well....., a maximized REC fishery (which would produce the greatest economic value). The standard will be to MINIMIZE te disruption of the traditional mix of comm and rec fishery even if that means a total population walking the statistical tightrope of collapse. And THAT is stating it all in the most positve manner.

 

Unless you play their game, and use THEIR KIND of DATA, you are not even in the game....if there is really a "game".

 

Peter Patricelli

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Peter brings up many excellent points, all of which NMFS is guilty of - sampling errors, observer bias and data picking. I'd add another - changing the goals - although a scientist might have a better name for it. When the results don't meet NMFS expectations or assumptions, or when they get caught with erroneous data, they change the formula, or goals, and start over again. It's like moving the goal post in a football game. NMFS currently uses Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) data originally designed to ideintify angling catch trends, and it is notoriously inaccurate. The weekly fishing reports of a regional fishing magazine covering eight states provides more accurate data. So do the catch reports of charter and party boats from Florida to Maine, which NMFS allows to pile up in a dusty corner at Woods Hole. They do a terrible job of manging fish for, and providing services for, recreational anglers.

And I agree 100% with Peter that we are not in the game unless we play with NMFS' data, and that's why the recs will never achieve meaningful results from NMFS - it is their game.

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The National Academy of sciences published a scathing report on the "science" used by the NMFS a couple years ago (which I can no longer find on the internet). I did find a long report from that organization now stating,instead, that NMFS / NOAA doesn't have nearly the funding required for any meaningful assesments. It was basically a plea for more money and power as usual.

 

But all this is totally irrelavent anyhow since the introduction of "Individual Transferrable Quotas" to commercial "fishermen" in "finite" numbers. The results are predictable, of course, with the result that these ITQ's are being bought up by the wealthy, usually under the Korporate Umbrella with it's own "Constitutional Bill of Rights' without responsibility - including the "Right" not available to peon citizens, of Imminent Domain for the "Common Good".

 

"Foulhook" (Bob Filger) posted a video and link to a Charlotte Newpaper and TV News show with photos and live coverage of just what we can expect from korporate commercial fishing interests exercising their ITQ "rights". Miles of discarded stripers floating behind one of the korporate trawlers - all perfectly legal.

 

As the Korporate fishing industry continues to collect ITQ's, you can bet the Catch Share Allotments will continue to swing toward them and away from recreational fishermen. The people actually doing the catching for those korporations will continue to see their incomes plummet and the redistribution of wealth will continue - upwards.

 

What else would you expect from a "democracy" in which the citizens - during yet another huge wave of bank, mortgage and insurance fraud - have a choice for President between "Goldman Sach's Million Dollar Man" or "20% of the Keating Five" - the latter of which should have been in the "Big House" and not running for the White House ?

 

Regulating marine fisheries through actual science with the former "rights" of individuals (as have existed since the Magna Carta through the 1960's or '70's) protected to even a tiny degree, will never return to this country short of a revolutiion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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