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Terry Haines

Terry Haines is a Kodiak deckhand and representative for Fish Heads, an advocacy group dedicated to preserving the vitality of Alaska's fishing communities.


"Scotty Matulich, Scientist for Hire"

Remember the gunslingers of the old west? Dusty saddlebums with nothing but a rusty six shooter would kill anyone you wanted. For a price. Well, today's gunslingers are nerdy academics with nothing but a dusty diploma, and Dr. Scotty Matulich just rode back into town.

"Have gun, will travel" was the motto of the amoral killer of the frontier. "Have shaky presupposed assumption, will support with questionable data" is the motto of the scientist for hire. Whether it's proving that global warming doesn't exist or that weapons of mass destruction do, or that a profitable drug doesn't kill people and neither did O.J., the pattern is the same.

Good science follows the facts and finds the truth. Bad science starts with the "truth", whether it is witches are made of wood or the earth is the center of the solar system, and then it picks and chooses the data to support the desired claim. For a price.

Case in point: the widely disputed paper entitled Efficiency and Equity Choices in Fishery Rationalization Policy Design: An Examination of the North Pacific Halibut and Sablefish IFQ Policy Impacts on Processors. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game paid sixty thousand taxpayer dollars to Dr. Scotty to cough up this wad of science phlegm. It seeks to show that processors were unfairly disadvantaged when halibut IFQs broke the headlock they had on the industry.

Our federal Government Accountability Office said this about it: ".we identified a number of concerns with the study's assumptions, representiveness, and potential for participant bias that brings into question the reliability of the study's estimates." The GAO goes on to point out that Dr. Scotty assumes all production costs remain the same for seven years when "this assumption would not be appropriate for a period as short as a year, and is clearly unjustified for the seven year period evaluated." Also that "Factors other than the IFQ program's implementation could also have contributed to changes in the economic well-being of processors." What? They don't operate in a vacuum? The GAO notes that, try as they might, they found it impossible to duplicate Dr. Scotty's results.

Most importantly though, the GAO suggests that Dr. Scotty chose the base years of the study to tweak the findings, and then worded the survey form to get the responses he wanted.

Dr. Robert Halvorsen, in an overview of research done about processor quota that he presented to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, said this about Dr. Scotty's survey:

"The material accompanying the questionnaire noted that Professor Matulich was the principal investigator, that he had written an article showing that the type of program used for halibut and sablefish transfers wealth from processors to harvesters, and that the purpose of this survey was to see if that was true empirically. It was further noted that the purpose of the study was to obtain information for use in evaluating future rationalization programs; in particular to help policy makers to avoid unintended distributive effects, and that distributional impacts would be based on measuring changes in processors' total revenue minus various processing costs."

"This material would have made it clear to the processors how their responses could benefit or harm them in the future when other fisheries in which they participated were rationalized, and this would have provided an incentive for strategic misrepresentation. At a minimum, processors that had benefited from the IFQ program would realize that reporting this might be harmful to their future interests, and therefore have simply not participated in the survey."

It should be noted here that processors representing only 52% and 61% of the catch did choose to supply data for Dr. Scotty's cherrypicked sample years.

Dr. Halvorsen lists the many errors and pre-supposed assumptions the GAO found in Dr. Scotty's work and goes on to say: "My own review of this study leads to the even more negative conclusion that critical defects in its theoretical and empirical methodology invalidate its results."

Even so the NPFMC approved processor shares based on Dr. Scotty's brainchild. And now Alaska's Department of Fish and Game has hired him again, this time to work on Gulf of Alaska groundfish rationalization. Why? Well it might be worthwhile to note that the last person to head ADF&G, Kevin Duffy, now works for the At Sea Processors, who coincidentally hold a seat on the NPFMC (See my last post). I wonder what Mr. McKie Campbell's next job will be.

Let's face it. For the processors, it's a case of "Beam me up, Dr. Scotty!"

Posted 2/20