High Profile Science Debunked: Trawling Carbon Impacts and MPA Benefits for Fisheries Food Production

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Major findings from two high profile scientific papers published in 2020 and 2021 on marine protected areas, fisheries food production and trawling carbon emissions generated by sediment disturbance have been comprehensively debunked.

Remember the claim published in Nature that trawling disturbance releases more carbon than the whole airline industry?  The estimate upon which it is based is at least an order of magnitude too high according to a response led by Jan Hiddink of the University of Bangor.

This and flaws found related research is reported on by Max Mossler of Sustainable Fisheries UW.

Another high profile paper that the Nature paper depends on that claimed closing an additional 5% of the ocean to fishing would increase catches by 20% was found to have seriously flawed assumptions about the connectivity of global fish populations which meant for example that MPAs in the Atlantic could benefit fish in the Pacific.  A further assumption on fish birth rates (density dependence) assumed dependence on the whole world population when in fact they can be only dependent on the specific population of a particular species; North Sea Cod has no relation to the breed success of Gulf of Maine Cod.  Serious data errors were also identified one of which overegging the food benefits of MPAs.  The paper was retracted after it emerged that the person responsible for assigning peer reviewers had collaborated with the authors and was a lead author of the Nature paper.

This follows a trend in publishing  predictions using limited sets of assumptions in high profile journals, courting high profile media that is then used for advocacy for ocean protection to limit fisheries.

Read Max Mossler’s full article