An old math mistake: crab boat buyout

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I was just looking some stuff up on Google (always eager to find math mistakes in the news), and I ran across this story from June 2004 of a math mistake that caused all sorts of trouble in the crab boat industry. Apparently there was a program in which federal fishing authorities would buy back crabbing boats [to compensate for their being too many boats for the amount of crab available], with the buyouts related to the fishing history of the individual boat. The problem occurred with boats that had multiple owners: if a boat had three owners, for example, then the catch was counted three times (once for each owner) and the boat’s total was incorrectly listed as being three times as large as it actually was. The article continued:

This led to another mistake. The NOAA officials then used the flawed history totals to calculate how much crab would be divided among the remaining boats — and how the fleet would repay the buyback loan.

According to a later article the mistake was apparently rectified and 25 boats bought out (compared to the original 28 that were planned).

Speaking of math mistakes, on God Plays Dice last week there was a quote from The New York Times which referred to 300,000 million Chinese playing basketball. That’s a lot of people.

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