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That is according to Steve Urbon, who writes a twice weekly column for the The Standard-Times of New Bedford, MA and echoed on-line at

His May 4th item was largely an entirely welcome objection to the know-nothing anti-science mobs opposed to evolutionary biology, and climate change research, plus a reference to a poll of professionals, and students in "higher education."

But tacked on at the end, Mr. Urbon wrote,

The trouble is, if Americans are doubting or despising science, a part of it is the fault of the scientists — or some of them, at least. How many of them are employed by industries seeking to evade the oversight of the government, or to duck accountability for environmental damage, or to get a drug approved?

How many scientists write reports for tobacco companies for fat salaries? How many write research papers for such things as environmental organizations fueled by the oil industry?

I direct your attention to biologist Jane Lubchenco, the head of NOAA, who in her previous job at the Environmental Defense Fund, asserted that because of overfishing, the ocean was in imminent danger of being full of nothing but jellyfish.

Her self-serving scare mongering was quoted around the world, and is driving fishing policy in this country.

But in February, a team of researchers at the Dauphin Island (Alabama) Sea Lab totally debunked Lubchenco's claim earlier this year, saying there's no evidence at all to back it. Yet I will bet that even if you are in the fishing industry, you are reading it here for the first time. What does that tell you?

For openers, few Americans other than professional scientists ever read a science journal. What little science they are exposed to comes from the news media, pseudoscience crap from the Discovery Channel, or re-runs of The Big Bang. There are whores with PhDs. They are a tiny fraction of one percent of professionals. The largest concentration in the USA are in the Heartland Institute, a nest of radical far-right vipers (apologies to vipers everywhere). Then, there are the creationists who work for the anti-science gangs of the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis Ministries, or the Institute for Creation Research. These people are not necessarily whores- most are more likely mentally ill.

But, Mr. Urbon goes off into the ozone by associating Dr. Jane Lubchenco with the likes of the Heartland biostitutes, or creationist Disco'tutes.

Let's start with the biography of Dr. Jane Lubchenco. She received her doctorate in biology from Harvard University, and taught at Oregon State University from 1977 to 2009 when she was appointed to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is past-president of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), the International Council for Science, and the Ecological Society of America. She is one of the most highly cited, and respected scientists of her generation. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society, and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Europe and Chile.

Mr. Urbon lied. Dr. Lubchenco was on the Board of Directors of the EDF- it was hardly her job.

A bibliographic search for Dr. Jane Lubchenco and jellyfish finally revealed an Environmental Defense Foundation report, (link opens a PDF) "Oceans of Abundance." This 10 page report had 28 co-authors. It had the following sentence, "There is scientific consensus that fishing is fundamentally altering ocean ecosystems, (5) which are increasingly likely to yield massive swarms of jellyfish rather than food fish (6). A press release from the EDF opened with, "Will jellyfish replace our favorite kinds of seafood? That appears to be the way we're headed — but a 2008 report, Oceans of Abundance, from leading U.S. policy makers and fisheries experts, says this does not have to be."

Mr. Urbon lied some more; The EDF report didn't claim the oceans were "in imminent danger of being full of nothing but jellyfish." Even the rather florid press release didn't go that far.

The relevant cited article from the EDF document is, "Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean," (Jackson, J.B.C. 2008. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 11458-11465). Jackson makes an entirely data driven observation of the biomass of the hypoxic “dead zone” covering ≈20,000 km2 ~500 km west of the Mississippi delta. The major large species surviving those conditions are jellyfish, and has wiped out a formerly productive commercial fishery.

The recent jellyfish article indirectly mentioned by Mr. Urbon was, "Questioning the Rise of Gelatinous Zooplankton in the World's Oceans," (Robert H. Condon et al, BioScience, Vol. 62, No. 2 (February 2012), pp. 160-169).  In no way could it have "totally debunked Lubchenco's claim." For one thing, it was never her claim. The paper never even cited any publication by Dr. Lubchenco, nor the EDF. The authors did note that popular media accounts, like Mr. Urbon's, were far different from the scientific studies. They also concluded that much more funding should be provided to jellyfish experts like themselves so that they could do much more research. Reading the actual studies he is 'interpreting' to the public will apparently be a new experience for Mr. Urbon.

Mr. Urbon is losing his grip on reality.

But, he is not alone. A Google search on +fishing, +Jane Lubchenco, +jellyfish, will return hundreds of links to how the hateful librule(sic) fisheries scientists have lied to destroy America.

Originally posted to Hunting and Fishing Kos on Sat May 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Science Matters.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I do love jellyfish (or jellies, as I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    suppose I am now supposed to call them) but there can certainly be too much of a good thing.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Sat May 19, 2012 at 12:02:34 PM PDT

  •  This complicated back and forth definitely makes (6+ / 0-)

    it difficult For even science lovers like myself.  Who to believe, how many sources do I have to track down, how much time is it worth to me.  It's sad, but very human, that even scientists are ready offer biased information to match an agenda.  In the long run, it has led to a lot of the disbelief in science.  Though not nearly as much as the crazy fundies.

    Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

    by Smoh on Sat May 19, 2012 at 12:14:40 PM PDT

  •  So what to make of the recent excerpt in Newsweek (4+ / 0-)

    of Callum Roberts new book, "The Ocean of Life"? The overall thrust of the article is that we need to stop overfishing in order to produce more fish for fishing ("A World Bank report titled 'The Sunken Billions'...calculated that major fish stocks of the world would produce 40 percent more if we fished them less.").  One of his assertions is that jellyfish have no problem thriving in the "dead zones" we humans seem to be creating at an alarming rate and that unless we make some major changes to how we treat the waters around us, we're facing the prospect of seas full of jellyfish.

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Sat May 19, 2012 at 12:48:18 PM PDT

  •  I find a real problem with the reporters. (7+ / 0-)

    They are looking for controversey and usually find it by taking a few lines out of context sometimes not bothering to read the entire report or honing in on the dissenting opinion. I realize that sometimes the writing is dense but the footnotes serve a purpose and should always be read as well.  I know many newspaper articles that just get the studies plain wrong and they then propagate and they become the truth.

  •  There's no doubt fishing is destroying the oceans. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, foresterbob, FarWestGirl, G2geek

    Along with gigatons of toxic/plastic waste and global warming, of course.

    Drift nets wipe out pretty much everything in cubic miles of ocean water. And even more 'targeted' fishing has nearly wiped out populations of many large predator fish.

    My suspicion is that international agreements to limit fishing are largely ineffective, as fleets of giant factory fishing ships compete to suck up the last stocks of lucrative fish species before the populations crash.

    •  There are many interconnected problems (5+ / 0-)

      Imagine that you are a commercial fisherman off-shore for high quality market fish. You have a limited fuel capacity, and a limited hold-space. You set your nets, and on the retrieve you have 1000 pounds of market fish, and 5000 of "trash." The "trash" can only be sold for fishmeal at prices that won't cover your fuel costs if you fill your hold with them.

      The fewer "good" fish there are the better their market price. But, you'll need to re-power with better engines, add extra fuel tanks (eventually losing space in your fish hold). You'll need to stay out longer, go further, and fish with smaller crew, and less sleep in worse conditions. The better market price is eaten up by higher costs, and so you need to fish harder. Repeat, repeat, repeat...

      This is version of what economists call the "tragedy of the commons." The "best" market choices lead to disaster.

      •  Yep. It gets worse. Here in the U.S., fishermen... (0+ / 0-)

        are mostly entrepreneurs, often forced to work harder & harder to pay off the loan on their boat.

        But in Japan, it's a colossal industry heavily subsidized by the Government in an effort to preserve what's seen as something essential to Japanese national identity. The result is gigantic factory ships served by flotillas of trawlers. And since they do their work hundreds of miles out at sea, there is essentially zero enforcement of fishing limits, and powerful incentives to take whatever they can.

  •  Scientific Literacy has become a lifestyle choice (6+ / 0-)

    and an increasingly rare one, sadly.  Though a physical and not biological scientist, I was up on this issue (re: overfishing, jellyfish) beginning a few years ago, thanks to Science News and a passle of scientific journals -- plus NatGeo TV and PBS.  Fortunately, my education allows me to identify objective sources to which non-professionals may not have access.  As long as K-12 teachers of science have too little time to teach content and far too little time to educate themselves, students will come out increasingly confused about what science is; convinced that scientific fact is culturally relative, on a par with faith; and wary of scientists and our uncommon ways of reasoning.  

    It's a tragedy, this loss of awareness of and trust in science; and outside of another Sputnik moment, I don't know if or how it can be addressed.  At very least, we should all educate ourselves as fully as we can in every possible way, in every possible subject -- and find ways to communicate what we learn to receptive others.

    •  Public school teachers have had 20% (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, Larsstephens, G2geek

      of their classroom instruction time stolen by mandatory testing. When their students do 20% worse, they take the blame.

      •  Exactly! Over the years, isn't it... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        far more than 20%?  Maybe I'm myopic, but aren't parents the ones most responsible for the education of their children?  I believe that's what "parent" means:  it's not just a privilege to parent; it's more a job.  Teachers, in my view, are best as facilitators and guides -- and sources of inspiration.  But then, I grew up in the 1950s with a house full of books and two HS-educated, Depression-era adult but very intelligent parents (no siblings). Very possibly my view is unrealistic.

        I'm very curious about your view of standards-based K-12 education (in math/science/engineering).  I was a small player in the development of NAS standards for math and physics, and I'm a spectator now as geology tries it.  Do such standards, if rigorously enforced, produce much the same effect as testing-based curricula?  Would like to hear more from you.

    •  encourage curiosity and teach the method. (0+ / 0-)

      When science is taught as a collection of unrelated facts, the result is scientific illiteracy.

      But when it's taught by focusing on scientific method and encouraging kids' natural curiosity, and providing them with opportunities to use the methods to answer their own questions, they grow up not only science-literate, but with the methods firmly embedded in their entire paradigm and worldview.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sat May 19, 2012 at 11:35:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are teachers given enough time to teach that way? (0+ / 0-)

        When I worked with pre-service teachers, it really appeared they did not, or didn't think they did.  

        In  my intro courses for undergrads, I used to introduce the Scientific Method via "Oh, no!  My car won't start!!  What's wrong with it?  What should I do now?"  

        What mattered to me most was getting across the ideas that (1) most of what we call "theories" aren't -- they're hypotheses; theories are SUCCESSFULLY TESTED hypotheses; and (2) theories are subjected to (and must survive) continual retesting.  

        There were Los Alamos physicists regularly running their gravimeters down by my office.  Still testing Newtonian gravity, a theory now about 400 years old.  Anyway, that impressed me.

  •  I've just begun reading the blog of the Ecologic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, BachFan

    Society of America and it led me to stuff by the new chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy who had quite a few things to say about the left side of modern environmentalism that rang true with me. I don't think the anti science right are the only ones with problems.

    I'm often frustrated with the hyperbole and doomsday ism I read here at DK.

    As a non scientist it's really hard to sift one's way through it all. And bear in mind 100% of what the general public thinks about matters scientific is determined by journos, often with 0% science background. Often I google the writers to see who they are and where they are coming from, often enough they are from advocacy groups.

    Hope my kids get a BS not a BA.

    “Some students of natural history want no predator control at all, while many hunters and farmers want as much as they can get up to complete eradication. Both extremes are biologically unsound….” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat May 19, 2012 at 07:51:13 PM PDT

  •  Did you send (0+ / 0-)

    a letter to the editor and author?

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Tue May 22, 2012 at 04:29:12 AM PDT

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