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Posted on Dec 9, 2011 in Next Cast
Numbers Games
by Chris Woodward

For whatever reason, I've become quite a skeptic. I think that's partly because I see constant evidence that guesswork lurks behind a lot of "data and statistics." Politics and agendas lurk behind altruistic statements.

And now, federal analysts are telling me that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year probably won't damage bluefin tuna stocks as badly as we had thought? News articles this past week (including this AP report) said the spill would likely result in a 4 percent reduction in future spawning. Doesn't sound too bad, right?

But the stories go on to explain that the NOAA analysis is based on an assumption that one in five baby tuna was taken out of the potential spawning population because that's the ratio of the spill zone within the spawning area. That also assumes that the juvenile fish distributed themselves equally throughout the spawning area.

I am not a scientist, but - call it intuition - that just doesn't seem right. The source goes on to say that the estimates may even be high; a 2-percent reduction figure might be closer to reality.

As a skeptic, my eyes cross at that. In addition, this analysis deals only with the status of juvenile fish, not adult, spawning populations. But also - as a skeptic - I'm quick to say that I don't have the evidence or the data in front of me. Opinions are easy to dish out without facts. 

So, I'll continue to be an optimistic skeptic. I'll continue to hope that the tragedy of April 2010 does not play out to be the ecological disaster we all expected - but I'll keep my doubts. And I'll continue to support conservative regulations for bluefin tuna.