The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), in collaboration with Greenpeace, Birdlife International, and The Nature Conservancy, has released a report – Best Practices for Reducing Bycatch in Longline Tuna Fisheries – focused on minimizing bycatch in longline tuna fisheries. Perhaps the best thing the report does is draw readers’ attention to the important work already being done by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to mitigate bycatch. But where the report veers into editorializing it distorts reality and misleads readers.
Take for instance a comment about the lack of “political will to achieve broad industry uptake of best practices.” While we can safely guess which of the collaborators inserted this language, it directly contradicts the report’s commendation of ISSF, which has for years been working with the industry to implement mitigation best practices, even as Greenpeace has refused a seat at the table.
The report also distorts bycatch statistics in crucial ways. For instance, the standard definition of bycatch includes species that commonly end up in markets, including “undersized tuna, marlin and swordfish” (p. 8). But the report focuses instead on wildlife unrelated to fisheries, such as birds. This may stir the emotions of some of the collaborator’s donors, but it obscures the fact that bycatch rates overall are at historic lows, thanks in large part to ISSF and industry efforts.
This context is important because, as is noted in the report some bycatch mitigation tactics meant to help one species could detrimentally impact another, and sustainability experts must weigh options to avoid doing more harm more than good.
Meanwhile, buried in the report, and left out of the summary and press release, is a citation from ISSF noting that longline tuna fisheries only account for about twelve percent of the world tuna supply.
That’s right. This 26-page report focuses only on a small fraction of the industry, and has nothing to say about skipjack, which comprises the majority of the canned tuna market. Perhaps the certain authors avoided that conversation because world tuna stocks, including skipjack levels, were deemed healthy by top researchers.
The work of fisheries experts, scientists, and industry stakeholders to ensure the continued sustainability and health of global tuna stocks is ongoing, and to the extent that this report highlights and directs interested parties to that work, it’s welcome. But for collaborators with a history of hyperbole and fundraising attached to their naysaying we’ll be watching how you use… or misuse this report.
Last week, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)—a group of scientists, fisheries experts, and industry leaders working together to implement sound fishing practices that support the long-term health and conservation of fisheries around the globe—highlighted two encouraging pieces of news. Thefirst was the remarkable progress made in innovating environmentally friendly—and even biodegradable—Fish Aggregating Devices (or FADs), in an encouraging marriage of efficiency and sustainability, science and commerce. The second was a report on how ISSF is working with scientists in food-insecure parts of the world to turn previously discarded fish called “bycatch” into sources of critical nutrition.
Around the same time, the notorious global fundraising behemoth Greenpeace announced a “ranking” of Canadian canned tuna brands based on subjective criteria and a hidden methodology. It received little coverage in the press.
The contrast here is instructive.
The National Fisheries Institute and the Tuna Council created Tuna For Tomorrow because the health of our fisheries is our highest priority. As part of our commitment to meeting global tuna demand in an environmentally sound way, we work with organizations like ISSF to make sure we’re doing all we can on that score. In our part of the ocean, the news is good: stocks of skipjack and albacore are plentiful, and are being fished sustainably.
But while we’ve been engaged in this important work, irresponsible activist groups like Greenpeace have spent decades making scientifically baseless claims about the seafood community, raising millions of dollars by creating the false impression that tuna stocks are endangered while ignoring countervailing evidence, and using threats, boycotts, and reckless publicity stunts to push for methods that are neither sustainable nor practical.
We created this platform in part to hold such groups accountable for their actions in the public discourse. In the years since we began this mission, more and more stakeholders—from retailers and consumers, to community groups and local and national governments—have come to recognize Greenpeace’s distortions for what they are. But there is much work left to be done. In particular, we believe the environmental and industry press has an ethical and professional responsibility to confront false, misleading, and irresponsible information as it arises. But all too often, coverage centers on agenda driven claims and gross mischaracterizations made by radical activists. These claims mislead consumers and we have a duty to correct the record.
Specifically, we believe these issues deserve closer examination:
Despite their professed regard for the environment, Greenpeace’s preferred methods are often impractical and environmentally inferior to current strategies. A University of California study found that the fishing methods favored by Greenpeace are extremely carbon intensive, consuming approximately three to four times more fuel than boats using more efficient methods Greenpeace opposes. Is Greenpeace comfortable recommending fishing practices that create significantly more pollution?
Each year, Greenpeace issues a rating system for tuna companies based on a shifting set of criteria. Yet in a departure from established norms in the scientific and academic community, the organization refuses to release its methodology. Why?
The practicality of the fishing methods Greenpeace prefers also raises questions about the organization’s motives. The consequences of the broad adoption of fishing methods preferred by radical environmentalists would be to drastically limit global supplies, making it more difficult for consumers to access one of the most affordable, nutritious forms of seafood there is. Does that bother Greenpeace?
Greenpeace’s calls to eat less seafood are at odds with recommendations made by the Food and Drug Administration as well as leading groups in the medical and scientific communities—all of whom warn Americans are already consuming dangerously little seafood. Peer-reviewed research has shown low seafood consumption is responsible for up to 84,000 preventable deaths each year, and is associated with poorer cognitive and developmental outcomes for young children. How does Greenpeace justify its advice in light of this expert consensus?
As long as these issues persist, Tuna for Tomorrow will be a place where they are discussed openly, honestly, and with an invitation to all comers to participate in the conversation. While we’ve made great progress, both in advancing sustainable fisheries and combatting misinformation from opportunist activist groups, our work is far from done. And we aren’t going anywhere.
Oceanographer and National Geographic “Explorer-in-Residence” Sylia A. Earle made a bizarre claim about tuna on Twitter:
“Did you know that it takes 100,000 lbs. of plants to grow one lb. of tuna? A pound of chicken takes two pounds of plants!” Earle wrote in a tweet dated November 25.
We’re not sure where Earle learned math, but not only are her numbers wrong—her premise is faulty. None of our tuna is “grown” on farms the way the chicken she uses as an example is. All of our tuna is wild-caught, just as mankind has caught fish for eons. There is some experimentation in tuna aquaculture (you may have heard it called “tuna farming” or “tuna ranching”) but in those cases, tuna are fed small baitfish like sardines, herring, and anchovies, not plants. And the “feed conversion ratio”, which is the phrase farmers and ranchers use, is exponentially smaller than the 100,000-to-1 ratio Earle cites.
It’s possible that Earle gets the 100,000 number by counting not just everything tuna actually eat, but everything eaten by everything tuna actually eat, and everything eaten by everything eaten by everything tuna actually eat, and so on, all the way down the food chain to plankton. If you find this a confusing and odd choice, you’re not alone.
The fact is that, unlike the chicken in Earle’s inapt analogy, we don’t “feed” our wild-caught tuna anything in order to “grow” them. Mother Nature determines the tuna’s diet, not us, and they would eat what they eat whether or not we fished for them.
Greenpeace’s canned tuna distortion campaign continues unabated with increasingly frantic and desperate appeals that suggest its campaign might be bringing in the requisite number of robo-signatures but not the green it’s intended to produce.
Today the distortion engine is revved up and sees Greenpeace claiming that it’s tried to start a “constructive dialogue” with tuna companies and been rebuffed. This is more than it’s usual shading and twisting, it’s an outright, bold-faced lie. Greenpeace has been offered a seat at the table with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, along with all the other responsible international environmental groups, and has simply refused to join that dialogue.
Greenpeace also claims that the New York Times has opined that it would be easy to support a tuna boycott. What? A food blogger reprints Greenpeace talking points and Greenpeace claims that’s a New York Times endorsement? Not to put too fine a point on it but… how stupid do they think people are? If a New York Times opinion blogger said Mickey Mouse would be a good chief executive would Greenpeace suggest the Old Grey Lady had endorsed a cartoon character for the presidency?
The fact is Greenpeace is used to lying and getting away with it, while using those deceptions to raise cash. Perhaps this campaign isn’t bringing in the bucks and frustrations are running high so they’ve charged up the ole deceit-o-meter.
Watch this space for more on Greenpeace’s funding and falsehoods.
It has only been three days since fundraising juggernaut Greenpeace bombarded its followers with an e-mail claiming that it “urgently” needed to raise $60,000 for its mounting public campaign to “garner media attention.”
Well, apparently that wasn’t enough.
This morning, not even a full pay period later, Greenpeace is asking hardworking Americans for money, yet again. “We need to hit our goal of $60,000 within the next 48 hours to keep the pressure up. Please, rush us your most generous contribution today…”
Apparently the sun never sets on Greenpeace’s fundraising campaign.
Greenpeace launched a campaign to coerce America’s three favorite canned tuna brands into changing the way they fish for tuna. The consequence of such a change would effectively eliminate this nutritious staple from grocers’ shelves.
By creating a crisis — a sustainability crisis that does not exist for the species used in canned tuna — Greenpeace hopes to generate donations from unsuspecting environmentalists. It kicked of its campaign with the release of a sophomoric cartoon called “The Tuna Industry’s Got a Dirty Little Secret,” which has spurred dissent even among their most ardent supports.
For the science-based truth on the robust population of tuna like skipjack and albacore (marketed as “chunk light” and “solid white” respectively) and the truth about by-catch and sustainable fishing methods, watch (and share) this video.
How important is canned tuna? It’s delicious. It’s nutritious. It’s affordable and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. That’s four reasons this weekend that Americans from North Carolina to New England have been stocking up as Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast.
Friday August 26, 2011 (Picture courtesy of shopper in Williamsburg, VA)
Posted by TFT-Staff
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Greenpeace says “globally tuna populations are in trouble,” and insists that tuna is being pushed “to the brink of extinction.” That’s not true. When you go to the grocery store, canned tuna is always easy to find, and there’s plenty of it available at an affordable price. That’s because virtually all of the nation’s canned tuna supply comes from species that are plentiful.
That conclusion is the consensus of global marine fisheries scientists. One of those scientists, Professor Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington, says that there are almost as many tuna in the world’s oceans as there were 60 years ago. Light tuna, known as skipjack tuna, makes up 70% of the canned tuna eaten in the U.S. All skipjack stocks around the world are healthy and abundant.
Posted by TFT-Staff
Thursday, August 18th, 2011
The USDA’s new nutrition guidelines state unequivocally that Americans need to eat more fish. But if Greenpeace has its way, there won’t be enough canned tuna to go around.They want tuna companies to fish with poles and lines, a method that only produced 4 million cases last year. Meanwhile, Americans ate 50 million cases of canned tuna.
Recently, we traveled to the Georgetown waterfront to ask real people what they thought about canned tuna and Greenpeace’s campaign to get it removed from store shelves. We got some very interesting answers.