Wolf Song of Alaska News

Bombshell!   Alaska Loses Representation On Cook Inlet Beluga Recovery Science Panel Because ADF&G Scientists Can't Tell The Truth

May 9, 2011

AK Voices / Anchorage Daily News

Reader Comments:   http://community.adn.com/adn/node/156950

Rudy Wittshirk

According to an Alaska Public Radio Network article by Lori Townsend, “Two Removed from Cook Inlet Beluga Recovery Science Panel,” April 29, 2011: The State of Alaska has lost its representation on a vital science panel because the State is not allowing its scientists to tell the scientific truth about Fish and Wildlife.


That the Alaska Department of Fish & Game has had its science representatives kicked off the Beluga Science Panel because they could not be “objective” is shocking news. That is, assuming Alaskans know what science is. And assuming Alaskans care about science. And assuming Alaskans actually know what the word “objective” means.

Even for those who don’t give a hoot about science, this is still shocking news because real scientific representation for the so-called “stakeholder’s panel” that represents oil and gas industry members, conservation groups and the state of Alaska---has also been curtailed and limited.

According to the article:
“Concern over the autonomy of scientists on the Cook Inlet Beluga recovery science panel has prompted NOAA’s [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS] to remove the two panel members who work for the state of Alaska. The issue arose in January when Commissioner Cora Campbell wrote to NMFS saying despite the terms of reference laid out by NMFS stating scientists must serve on the panel independent of their respective agencies, ADF&G [Alaska Department of Fish & Game] scientists would adhere to department policies and not act independently. Doug Mecum is deputy administrator for NOAA fisheries in Alaska. He says the state’s scientists were taken off the panel last week…”

What our new Commissioner, Cora Campbell, is saying is this: That despite the terms and stipulations of participation in the NMFS panel---that representative State scientists must be "independent"---she says they will not be independent. Furthermore, she is saying that despite any scientific findings they might make, the scientists who represent the State cannot share those scientific findings with the science panel, presumably unless they represent the interests of the commercial and business developers of Cook Inlet projects. What Commissioner Campbell is saying is that State scientists cannot be objective but rather, must be political. In even more simple terms, Cora Campbell has gotten two State scientists kicked off the Beluga panel because she has stipulated that they cannot agree to the panel’s requirements that these scientists remain independent of direct political control


To those of us who have been saying for years that the Alaska Department of Fish & Game has given up on science (fish and wildlife biology, for instance), this is not especially shocking or surprising.
For those of us who have known for years that the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is directly controlled by commercial business interests, this is not especially shocking.

For those of us who have pointed out that the Alaska Department of Fish & Game has openly renounced science in favor of commercial and recreational exploitation of fish and wildlife, this is not especially shocking.


Objectivity is the root, core, fundamental, basic characteristic of science. Objectivity is also the basis of any agency activity even pretending to be fact-finding and truth-seeking. Objectivity is also the basis of truth as we define it. To be “objective” means you can’t make up your own facts. To be “objective” means you can‘t deny your own scientifically-derived findings---even if those findings do not fit with the business and political agenda currently driving everything the State of Alaska does under any guise. Objective means facts, evidence, truth and logic. Objective does not mean political.

The Alaska Public Radio Network article continues:
“It’s not yet been decided how that participation [in the Cook Inlet Beluga Recovery Science Panel] will be managed. Doug Vincent Lang is the deputy commissioner for the state’s fish and game department and also the endangered species coordinator for the state. He says the decision to remove the state’s scientists is disappointing.”

"Disappointing?" Well, that’s what you get when you try to jigger the science to fit the profit-motive of developers who want to develop no matter what. That's what you get when your only goal is to shove Alaska's fish and wildlife resources out the door to suit private interests rather than the interests of the people of Alaska. That's what you get when biology is determined for the State by private business interests and not by scientists.


A local biologist on the panel has stated that he was glad that this happened because he was being asked to take positions he could not defend from a science viewpoint. The biologist also stated that Doug V. Lang (deputy commissioner for the state’s fish and game department and also the endangered species coordinator for the state) was wanting to control the flow of information and have records kept by them of everything people said. 

In other words, the State wants to keep its own scientists from doing science and is keeping tabs on them to make sure they say nothing contrary to the interests of the development industry. What this means is that the State of Alaska has effectively been taken over by private industry and business interests.

For Alaskans who would like to see some remaining fish and wildlife left over after the recreational and commercial extraction interests have had their way, having the State's preemptively censored scientists kicked off the beluga panel is actually a ray of hope.


This requirement of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game---that its scientists reflect the views of the extraction interests and not the scientific facts---has been even more blatant in the State’s killing frenzy known as “intensive” predator control.
In the most simple terms possible, what this all means is that scientists working for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game are being required to lie and/or omit the truth about scientific findings they may make; are required to reflect the views of the commercial fish and wildlife extraction interests (or keep their mouths shut); and are officially required not to tell the truth. This is nothing new, of course. Nor could it be more blatant. Now, however, it is official. The State of Alaska cannot do science and cannot tell the truth.

- Rudy Wittshirk


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