Greenpeace is touting the latest in its long line of opaque, subjective, and hopelessly flawed “reports” on retail seafood. This year’s model may have lost the juvenile aesthetic and top hat donning cartoon fish of previous iterations, but the substance—or lack thereof—remains much the same. It is still first and foremost a fundraising tool and evidence of that can be found in its erratic methodology and narrative.
Where Greenpeace’s “CATO report” does break new ground it is highly troubling. No longer content to hide its dangerous ulterior agenda behind a thin veneer of inference and insinuation, Greenpeace is now openly calling for Americans to “eat less seafood.” This not only destroys whatever shreds of credibility Greenpeace had left, but puts its fringe activists at odds with just about every medical and nutritional expert in world including the Food and Drug Administration.
It’s one thing to advocate for misguided shopping practices, but when it actively abets an ongoing public health crisis that is impairing fetal cognitive development and contributing to tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year, Greenpeace is crossing a dangerous line.
The rest of the “report” consists of the same kind of unsupported and ideologically motivated reasoning we’ve come to expect from Greenpeace. The document purports to rank seafood retailers according to objective empirical standards (right down to the decimal point), but provides zero explanation on how scores are actually calculated. This is especially ironic considering “transparency” is one of the criteria on which retailers are judged, a value Greenpeace appears to support only selectively.
Where Greenpeace does give readers breadcrumbs about its methodology, it openly contradicts itself. Consider for instance that the “report” essentially admits that Greenpeace’s seafood “Red List” is useless. The list is “not comprehensive” while at the same time fish appearing on it can be sourced in a “responsible” manner, by the group’s own admission. In other words, if a fish is not on the list it can still be bad, and if it is on the list it can still be good.
Similarly, in virtually the same breath, the “report” goes from urging retailers to source from Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) to saying that sourcing from FIPs just isn’t good enough. As anyone who has ever tried to engage Greenpeace on seafood sustainability knows, nothing is ever good enough. That’s why they have refused to take part in the invaluable sustainability work of the scientists, fishery experts, and environmental stakeholders at the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
In this year’s report Greenpeace editorializes on labor practices without noting that our members do not and will not tolerate labor abuses or unfair practice, either inside their companies and or among their suppliers and partners.
Retailers are starting to realize the futility of dealing with the strong-arm tactics and capricious standards of Greenpeace, and have wisely stopped participating. There is simply no upside to negotiating with activists who are happy to rake companies over the coals whether they cooperate or not.
Worst of all, even as Greenpeace unscientifically and arbitrarily ranks retailers for their practices, it refuses to conduct environmental or economic impact studies of its own preferred fishery policies—perhaps because they know the methods they favor would hurt both the environment and ordinary American consumers.
The latest “CATO report” proves that Greenpeace has yet to learn from years of embarrassing missteps, and that they’ve moved onto even more dangerous ground in encouraging Americans to eat less seafood at a time when low seafood consumption is already putting Americans at risk. Retailers and the press have begun to take notice. Greenpeace donors will likely be next.
Never one to leave a fundraising opportunity un-exploited Greenpeace has seized on the, now famous, Shark Week in order to try to raises funds. This time the group is targeting canned tuna brands with unchecked rhetoric about shark bycatch. Its latest fundraising email tells would-be donors, “supporters like you have made great strides to protect sharks in the past few years.” What they omit from this solicitation is that the canned tuna brands support for the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is where actual, not just fund raising, strides have been made.
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?