Tasmanian Times


Earthquakes and fishing


It seems to me there is a connection between the much-publicised trial of earthquake scientists in Italy, and the “background to the science” paper published on the small pelagic fishery by seven senior Australian fishery scientists.

In Italy, it appears that the scientific panel charged with informing the public on earthquake risk refrained from presenting a “full picture” of the risk quite deliberately, in order to counter what they perceived as “public hysteria”.

I fully support the Italian judge’s sentencing of the scientists. Although they perceived that their role included a responsibility to calm the public, this was a responsibility which they adopted quite voluntarily. In fact their charter was simply to provide the public with a balanced and comprehensive statement of the risk. They failed in this respect, with unfortunate results.

In the same way, the seven scientists authoring the “background to the science” paper, as I pointed out at length in the my submission (here) to Ministers Burke and Ludwig, deliberately refrained from disclosing the full picture – one presumes in an effort to quiet what they perceived as public hysteria in relation to the imminent arrival of the supertrawler “Margiris”.

In my view scientists should stick to science, and leave “calming the public” to politicians.


*Earlier on Tasmanian Times (includes links to bio of Dr Nevill):

Celebrations are premature over the Margiris

Borthwick fisheries review compromised?

First published: 2012-10-26 09:15 AM

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. abs

    October 26, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Reg P, i do not know what ‘suggestion’ you refer to (that “…. scientists should stick to science, and leave “calming the public” to politicians”)

    did you read the document ?(marineHonestFisheriesManagement_4.doc)

    (what about you George??? did you even read the document to inform yourself of what you dismiss?? i’d bet not!)

    Reg P, you dont have anything to address in it do you? are you simply interested in playing the man when you make comment about not finding any publications from Jon ?(this is a reflection of your ‘research’ skills, not Jon’s scientific credentials 😉

    for your info here is Jon’s bio-


    and some publications retrieved from Scopus
    (EXPORT DATE: 26 October 2012)

    Stein, J., Nevill, J.
    Counting Australia’s protected rivers
    (2011) Ecological Management and Restoration, 12 (3), pp. 200-206.

    Nevill, J., Ward, T.
    The national representative system of marine protected areas: Comment on recent progress
    (2009) Ecological Management and Restoration, 10 (3), pp. 228-231. Cited 3 times.

    Arthington, A.H., Nevill, J.
    Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy 2010-2020: Scientists’ letter of concern
    (2009) Ecological Management and Restoration, 10 (2), pp. 78-83.

    Nevill, J.
    Comment on recent progress in water-balance planning and the supply of environmental flows to ground water-dependent ecosystems
    (2008) Ecological Management and Restoration, 9 (2), pp. 145-148. Cited 4 times.

    Nevill, J.
    Groundwater reform in the Murray-Darling Basin: Policy without action
    (2007) Water, 34 (7), pp. 75-80.

    Nevill, J.
    Policy failure: Australian freshwater protected area networks
    (2007) Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 14 (1), pp. 35-47. Cited 9 times.

    Kingsford, R.T., Nevill, J.
    Urgent need for a systematic expansion of freshwater protected areas in Australia
    (2006) Pacific Conservation Biology, 12 (1), pp. 7-14. Cited 5 times.

    Kingsford, R.T., Nevill, J.
    Scientists urge expansion of freshwater protected areas
    (2005) Ecological Management and Restoration, 6 (3), pp. 161-162. Cited 8 times.

    Maher, M., Nevill, J., Nichols, P.
    Achieving river integrity through natural resource management and integrated catchment management legislative frameworks
    (2002) Water Science and Technology, 45 (11), pp. 127-131.

    Nevill, J., Phillips, N.
    Representative freshwater reserves: Better late than never
    (2002) Water Science and Technology, 45 (11), pp. 145-154. Cited 5 times.

  2. George Harris aka Woodworker

    October 26, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Thank you Bob and Reg. You restore my faith! With Dr. Kev gone there is hardly a reason to point the mouse in this direction now

  3. digital_dirt

    October 26, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Those Italian scientists should have taken lessons from Tim Flannery in scaring the public… 😉

  4. john hayward

    October 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    No matter what the field of science or technology, governments seem able to locate experts prepared to attest to the rightness of the government’s decisions.

    Professional detachment and impartiality are much harder to find.

    John Hayward

  5. Reg P.

    October 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Dear Ed. May I respectfully suggest Tasmanian Times gets to work on the suggestion of eminent expert fisheries scientist Dr Nevill (although I’m having trouble finding even one of his refereed publications – help please!). If it’s appropriate that seismologists are to be jailed following social media campaigns then indeed we should also be jailing fisheries scientists. Could not Tasmanian Times set up some sort of online poll for jailing specific scientists…hot or not style?

  6. bob Palendrome

    October 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    #1 John,

    This may come as a shock but I was just down at the waterfront in Hobart and it looks like there might be some boats down there that are going to go out fishing! Using nets!

    It’s an outrage and must be stopped. I also noticed some customers of clearly evil intent eating the fish. Just wandering around, smiling, like it’s OK to eat fish.

    No sign of remorse or self loathing that you think would be associated with this sort of activity. They are creating demand and should obviously be stopped. We should get some people on to this.

    I’m going back down there right now to steal the fish and chips off the first person I see committing such an atrocity.

  7. Reg P.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Editor’s note: comment deleted please see the TT code http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php/pages/legalbits points 1 & 2 and the legal section.

  8. Alexander

    October 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    It makes me wonder if the Tasmanian fox business might end up in the courts too? There are several similarities and also some key differences. At least no one doubts that the earthquake actually happened.

  9. john hawkins

    October 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    This is a classic example of the opportunity provided by the Internet to bring complex matters into public conversation.

    Dr Nevill would never be published by the Mercury or the Examiner and his expertise is beyond the the mind dumbing monologues produced by the ABC.

    We now know that the Minister has been appraised of a contrarian view by an expert.

    Without the Internet this view would pass unnoticed using via the Ministers delete button to the trash can.

    The out of left field power provided by the Internet is the earthquake that will bring these intellectually challenged pollies to heel.

    Well done Dr Nevill.

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