USGS misrepresented report, scientist finds

05/16/2013

A scientist and entrepreneur friendly to Drakes Bay Oyster Company has filed a new scientific misconduct complaint alleging that the government manipulated data that was used, last year, by the National Park Service to find adverse impacts on harbor seals from Drakes Estero oyster farming. Dr. Corey Goodman said the Final Environmental Impact Statement’s conclusion was based on an analysis of 2008 photographs that initially found no impact by boats operated by Drakes Bay employees. The data was changed by U.S. Geological Survey officials to find a correlation between boat activity and some seal disturbances, according to documents obtained by Dr. Goodman through a Freedom of Information Act request. The government’s final report attributed the seal disturbances to boating activity. Dr. Goodman asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to investigate his claims, resonating with an old touchstone in the debate over whether Kevin Lunny’s oyster business harms the environment. Government officials took no action after the author of the data, Dr. Brent Stewart, confirmed his original findings to officials, according to documents provided by Dr. Goodman, which could not be verified. Dr. Stewart, a research scientist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, could not be reached for comment. “All I can do is say that the report has been peer-reviewed, and it is publicly available and posted on our website,” A.B. Wade, a spokeswoman for the Geological Survey, said. Wilderness advocates say the farm’s closure would benefit the fin-footed mammal, a historic inhabitant of the estuary.

Correction: In the print version of this article we mistakenly called the oyster farm's Final Environmental Impact Statement an Environmental Impact Report.