Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Friday, September 09, 2011

TODAY'S LOGIC QUIZ


Yesterday, Matt from Florida phoned in to “Talk of the Nation,” National Public Radio's weekday call-in show. The topic concerned the effects of government policies on hiring in the private sector. Here's the excerpted transcript of Matt's conversation with host Neal Conan:

MATT: I am a dock photographer, or I own the dock photography businesses down here on the marina. Two years ago - my last two didn't really count, with the oil spill. But three years ago, we had 72 days of snapper season, which is a busy time of the year. Almost every boat goes out and charter fishes. This year, we only had 48 days. So I had two less employees. We're 30 less days this year because of federal regulations.
CONAN: And that's presumably to prevent overfishing?
MATT: Presumably, yes. The fish were - have never been bigger, and have never been more plentiful as they have been this year. I actually went on a scientific mission with the Florida Wildlife - Fish and Wildlife here. And in an eight-hour trip, we caught 302 red snappers. I caught 50-some that day. These were all catch and release. But they were very plentiful out there. Hopefully, the science will catch up with the regulations soon enough. But, yes, directly because of federal regulations, I don't have two more employees for 30 extra days this year.


He wasn't called on it, but what's the critical error in Matt's thinking?

A transcript of the entire program can be found here.
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illustration: THREE MORE WORLDS--RAINBOW TROUT & OSPREY (2000) acrylic on illustration boards 30" x 20"

2 Comments:

Blogger john said...

Presumably, the fishery was closed down for two years because of the oil spill. If so, that is why the fish were bigger, because they had a temporary reprieve from the usual overfishing.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

I heard this exchange on the radio. My immediate gut reaction was that, his anecdote really provided no meaningful information about the health of the fishery. While "300" something fish in eight hours might sound like a lot, without the broader perspective of what that number means in terms of long-term standing population, attrition and recruitment rates it doesn't really mean anything.

Their ability to catch so many fish in such a short interval might actually prove the point that without careful management a handful of boats could fish the population in to oblivion. This is precisely why we need management organizations with established protocols and government oversight rather than relying on some fiction of self-regulation.

After reading the transcript I also notice that he doesn't mention whether they were marking captures so they might easily have been catching the same fish over and over.

John's point that the last two years of heavy fishing restrictions might explain the apparent health of the population is also a good one.

I had a similar reaction hearing a spokesperson from the American Petroleum Institute citing increasing air-quality over the last few decades as a reason why we need to relax air-quality regulations. Rick Perry has made similar comments. Totally mind boggling.

12:53 PM  

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