A recent article by environmental activist Tim Zimmermann at Outside Magazine raises the question, “what fish can I eat?” Disregarding the overwhelming scientific consensus, Zimmermann gives the answer, “you should eat no fish at all.” Below are the top four things Outside Magazine got wrong about tuna.
1) Ahi tuna? “Almost all of it is caught on pelagic longlines, which are 40-plus miles of floating line dangling a baited hook every three feet. Longlines catch everything else in the habitat.” That’s called bycatch, a somewhat bloodless term for a fishing method that indiscriminately hooks as many as 150,000 sea turtles annually, along with tens of thousands of seabirds, whales, sharks, dolphins, and porpoises.
Tuna is caught using several different methods, and, according to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation can rate among the lowest bycatch rates for mass caught commercial fish. Furthermore, the United States canned tuna industry has long applied strict guidelines to reduce bycatch, including adhering to a stringent dolphin-safe practice that pledges companies “do not and will not utilize tuna caught in a manner that harms dolphins.”
2) Take albacore tuna. If it was caught by trolling or with a pole, in the North Atlantic or Pacific, Seafood Watch rates it a Best Choice. But if it was caught anywhere in the world on a longline—except off Hawaii and in the U.S. Atlantic, which have strict bycatch limits—it gets a red Avoid rating. Will the person selling you the fish know how it was caught and where, and can you be sure that person’s information is accurate?
Groups such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation [ISSF] are dedicated to ensuring that tuna stocks remain healthy and viable for future generations to enjoy. ISSF is made up of acclaimed scientists, leaders in industry, and environmental champions, all of whom work with the tuna industry providing technical support and the latest scientific work. Independently, the American tuna industry also works to maintain sustainable standards of fishing and have taken pledges to prevent harm against non-targeted fish.
3) There are a multitude of coastal zones around the globe where mussels can grow in abundance. And while they don’t pack the omega-3 wallop that salmon does, they do deliver a shot—three servings a week gets you to the recommended minimum. Another bonus: being low on the food chain, mussels have little mercury, more than 30 times less than larger predator species like swordfish and tuna.
There has never been a case of mercury poisoning, as the result of the normal consumption of commercial seafood, found in any peer-reviewed medical journal in the U.S. The scientific consensus points towards overwhelming evidence that increasing the amount of fish Americans eat would lead to better overall health.
4) I realize that an interesting thing happens when you approach seafood with sustainability and health in mind: you end up eating a diverse diet that pushes you lower down the food chain and away from the rut of salmon, shrimp, and tuna, the most commonly eaten seafood in the U.S.
One of reasons why tuna is so widely consumed is that it is accessible and versatile. Canned tuna represents a perfect combination of affordability, taste, and nutrition that few other products can match. By asking for the American public to stop eating as affordable as canned tuna, Zimmermann is asking for many to stop eating fish altogether, which would have serious health consequences.
Overused and ineffective rank’n’spank system makes another appearance
March 9 2014 – WASHINGTON, DC – Greenpeace has released a new fund raising campaign designed to rank U.S. canned tuna companies and solicit donations from supporters. The list itself follows the model Greenpeace has used for years: rank companies based on a system for which the scoring methodology is totally arbitrary and hidden, then promote those rankings in the media—rank’n’spank.
The non-scientific, non-transparent and completely subjective rankings are one of the thinnest offerings Greenpeace has ever promoted. While other annual rank’n’spank campaigns have been largely dismissed as ineffective sideshows, with a target audience of donors and institutional supporters Greenpeace has at least made an effort to make those operations appear robust. This latest promotion is anemic at best.
sustainability. The Foundation, a partnership between global tuna canners (including Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea and Starkist), scientists and WWF, is the premier tuna conservation group. Reporters and producers might find it odd that Greenpeace doesn’t even acknowledge a group whose mission is to undertake science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks yet they will rank companies who participate in such group.
The media is advised to research Greenpeace’s strategy and push for scrutiny on its unpublished methodology. Further it’s urged to recognize the timing of Greenpeace’s fundraising pitches and the release of such rankings. When you click to “add your name” to what appears to be an online petition, notice two things 1.) Only the three top branded tuna companies are addressed in the “petition” despite ranking fourteen 2.) You are required to give them your name and email address to sign on – we encourage reporters to test this system and watch your inbox begin to fill up with donation requests almost right away.
Greenpeace is a multinational behemoth with a $300-million a year operating budget. It has spent a grand total of zero dollars on tuna science, yet continues to use tuna as a poster child for its fund raising efforts.
While Greenpeace brass—with their mega-yachts, hot tubs, and helicopters—certainly live like financial fat cats, currency speculation seems like an odd line of business for a non-profit allegedly focused on making the world a better place, considering some of the disastrous effects speculation has produced for large swaths of the world in the past. Then again, Greenpeace has a long and storied history of questionable and hypocritical practices.
They’ve recently come under fire when it was revealed that despite their long campaign against the high carbon-footprint of air travel, they paid for a senior GPUK executive senior executive to fly 250 miles twice a month for his“commute” between Luxembourg and Amsterdam.
And, of course, readers of this blog will know that Greenpeace frequently stoop to advancing questionable and downright harmful “research” to promote their ulterior agenda against eating fish.
Sadly, Greenpeace’s gaffes should come as no surprise. They are an organization that is perversely proud of promoting faulty science, sending out dozens of fundraising emails every week bragging about “successes” like sending costumed teenagers to harass customers at local supermarkets.
If these juvenile antics and commitment to shoddy science aren’t enough to convince fence-sitters to stop giving Greenpeace attention—and money—perhaps the tone-deaf, jet-setting hypocrisy and riverboat gambler’s approach to budgeting will.
Perhaps feeling the pressure from consistent criticism of their juvenile and immature methods, Greenpeace’s latest Carting Away The Oceans “report” represented a touching effort to show that they could act like grownups by putting out a document that included relatively few full-page pastel illustrations and zero cartoonish fish in top hats. Of course, they never bothered to address the core critique of their previous reports: that they never explain how their policies would actually help the environment, and provide zero transparency on their completely arbitrary scoring system.
The report is still a step up from their usual tactic—getting teenagers in plushy fish costumes to harass families at grocery stores—but the blip in maturity was short-lived. This week representatives from the major tuna companies and sustainability partners are meeting in Bangkok to host discussions on the current state of ongoing efforts. In the name of contributing to the conversation, Greenpeace has decided to… don those plushy costumes again and direct messages at the tuna industry filled with profanity. While this is a family-friendly blog, we can say that both a Twitter campaign and a number of harassing phone calls have made liberal use of a four letter word that starts with ‘F’ and ends with a ‘K’.
Some habits appear hard to break, and for Greenpeace, ignoring the science and succumbing to the lowest common denominator is such a habit. While the people who actually care about sustainability are hard at work, Greenpeace is content to further marginalize themselves with base comments and streetside harassment. Is it any wonder no one takes them seriously?
Something that doesn’t get talked about often, perhaps because it doesn’t happen often, is the courage and confidence it takes for a company to stand up to its detractors, and to tell its customers why. In the era of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube, most companies fear controversy more than ever, and instinctively hunker down at the hint of any bad publicity, irrespective of the truth. Not only do companies want to avoid confrontation, but they refuse to hold activist detractors’ accountable, validating customers’ suspicions that the detractors may be on to something after all.
That’s why we have to applaud Bumble Bee’s employees for standing up to Greenpeace’s bogus ocean allegations, in full view of its employees and San Diego VIPs including Mayor Kevin Faulcone and Ron Fowler, Chairman of the San Diego Padres. Undeterred by worries over negative PR, Bumble Bee employees seized the opportunity to go “sign to sign” with Greenpeace, calling out the group’s fundraising motives and the lack of scientific data behind its sustainability accusations against the company.
Even local businesses are showing they are not afraid to stand tall against false, and inflammatory claims about the dealership’s business practices. Recently, when a local union picketed one Wichita Subaru dealership for allegedly employing unfair labor practices during their remodeling, the dealership hit back with its own banner and flyer, and posted both on their website along with a detailed explanation of the dispute for their customers. The dealership’s customers stood up in support of the dealership, in large part because they went “banner to banner” against their detractors, and told their customers why the union’s allegations were false.
More companies who have been wronged by unprincipled adversaries can learn a lesson from the likes of Bumble Bee and Subaru of Wichita.
Well, we hate to say we told you so but Greenpeace’s tongue-lashing of Tesco’s introduction of a new tuna label with a predictable supply and a price tag the average UK family can afford should come as no surprise. Three years after many UK retailers decided it was better to commit to an unsustainable and unpredictable pole and line tuna product than challenge Greenpeace’s sustainability accusations, Tesco is feeling the heat from a new public relations campaign from the green monster with even harsher hostility.
We don’t like to see Tesco in this situation. But not only was the latest “rank and spank” of Tesco predictable, it serves as a cautionary tale to American retailers that there is no appeasing Greenpeace. Greenpeace makes demands, retailers acquiesce only to find themselves in the PR spotlight they sought to avoid when Greenpeace claims they can’t keep their promises or worse yet, meet new Greenpeace’s demands because what they did before is no longer enough.
We have a name for this pattern-the Greenpeace Cycle of Abuse. In simple terms, Greenpeace makes demands, the retailer cooperates and then Greenpeace turns around and asks for more.
How do you avoid getting drawn into this vicious cycle? It sounds simple but just say no. Greenpeace claims the moral high ground and threatens media attention. But the media, when confronted with the science and Greenpeace’s extreme antics and fundraising modus operandi, are not so quick to buy in to Greenpeace claims of destructive fishing practices. Talk to your canned tuna suppliers about the serious and ongoing commitments they are making in the future health of tuna partnering with marine scientists and conservation groups including WWF through the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation. When Greenpeace comes calling, you can feel a whole lot better about saying no to being a victim