Tuesday, March 22, 2016

We're from New Jersey and We're Here to Help

Last month a group from New Jersey called the "Recreational Fishing Alliance" (RFA) made it their business to come to Florida to tell us how to solve the very difficult and complex problem how to handle discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Now, anytime a group from New Jersey shows up out of nowhere telling our legislature what they should do with our water . . . well . . . it gets our attention.

And any group seeking to shut down a 100 year old Florida Industry, flood a major portion of our state, uproot families who have been here for generations and relocate entire communities deserve a closer look - especially if they have virtually no connection to the state or its people

So, we've decided to learn more about the RFA and their business down here in the Sunshine State.

We start with the lead researcher and head scientist for the Recreational Fishing Alliance - John Depersenaire . . . He's their resident smart guy.  Presumably he provides the data and the basis for RFAs positions on complex issues like Lake "O"

Mr. Despersenaire has been with the group since 2002 – his bosses say  “his background has made him an invaluable member of the RFA team and the RFA Executive Director, Jim Donofrio called Depersenaire "one of the most honest people I know."
RFA lead scientist John Despersenaire

So how do they explain this ...

Depersenaire, was paid by the federal government to collect data used to manage fish stocks off the New Jersey coast (he was not with RFA at the time).  Depersenaire was paid to collect data on 59 trips at sea from ports in New Jersey between October 2001 and February 2002. 

Funny thing though . . . He lied.  He never left the dock. He never made the trips. He stayed at home. . .  He defrauded the Federal Government and ripped off the taxpayers - all in the name of science and research.

The current head scientist and researcher for the RFA  pleaded guilty falsifying RESEARCH DATA.  He was sentenced to five years probation while agreeing to pay restitution of $29,541, which is the salary he was paid to collect the data.  The case is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States . The data he was supposed to collect is used to assess the health and abundance of fish populations. 

Depersenaire even tried to make the reports look authentic by marring them with coffee stains and blood. He was caught when NOAA agents interviewed fishing vessel captains and they did not know who Depersenaire was. After being confronted, Depersenaire "spilled his guts" and admitted he went on only one of the 60 trips he was paid for.

But wait, there's more . . . Depersenaire blamed it all on 9/11 . . . "After 9-11 things got so bad I couldn't get trips anymore. I'd call and ask them and they wouldn't talk to me. It got to be a real hostile situation," Depersenaire said.  "It's scary to go out 30 or 40 miles in a boat with somebody that doesn't want you," Depersenaire said.  A NOAA spokesman said other observers went out and he never heard anybody use the excuse that the terrorist attacks caused a problem.

We found this excerpt from a 2012 article written for RFA by Depersenaire particularly ironic “The careful monitoring of landings data is important . . accuracy and timeliness of this information is critical.” 

And these people are telling us what to do with our water, and our economy, and our natural resources . . . in our state?

Next up, a look at the leader of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Jim Donofrio

Stay tuned . . . 

- joinfra.org
- The Press of Atlantic City, October 28, 2006

- Recreational Fishing Alliance, “Making Waves” August/September 2012