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A controversial BBC documentary was largely based on information coming directly from Greenpeace. (Photo: GNU License)

The seafood industry: an easy target for sensationalism

Friday, February 12, 2010, 23:20 (GMT + 9)

In recent years, the fishing industry has come under the media spotlight more than ever before, with consumers becoming more environmentally conscious and green organisations focusing more of their efforts on fisheries.

Many of these efforts have proved fruitful, such as the creation of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), dolphin safe certification and greater control over catch limits, among others. However, as often is the case with environmental organisations and the media, alarmism often supersedes the positive effects of their efforts.

A recent example is a BBC documentary entitled “Britain's really disgusting food: fish”, which came under the firing line for making alarmist claims such there being no fish left in the sea in the next fifty years. Not only are these claims irresponsible, they are wrong.

James Wood of Seafish has said that the BBC chose to “ignore the facts” in favour of “cheap sensationalism.”

“This documentary never attempted to gain a variety of opinion of fishermen in the field or even mention the failed Common Fisheries Policy that is main cause of so many issue,” said SNP Member of Parliament, Angus MacNeil.

One criticism which most mainstream news organisations did not pick up on was that during the entirety of the hour-long program, aquaculture was not mentioned once as a solution for overfishing, and was completely overlooked

Most of the information in the program appeared to have come directly from Greenpeace, and the only serious interviews conducted in the program were with members or spokesmen for the organisation.

“This kind of journalism is only meant to scare us as opposed to presenting real answers to real problems,” MacNeil went on to say.

The program also echoes Greenpeace's contradictory views on wild fisheries and aquaculture.

Casson Trenor, senior markets campaigner with Greenpeace USA, has repeatedly come out against the aquaculture industry and has praised a recent decision by a major supermarket to not sell farmed salmon, in favour of the wild-caught fish. At the same time, Greenpeace says that we should take every measure possible to protect wild stocks.
Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace. (Photo: Stock File)

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and pro-aquaculture campaigner, says that Greenpeace have “adopted a hypocritical position” on aquaculture.

“They have come out against salmon farming and shrimp farming even though this is one way to take pressure off wild stocks of seafood. Their position is entirely illogical but they get away with it because the media is also entirely illogical,” Moore told FIS.com.

Like in the BBC documentary, it is becoming an ever-growing trend for media to publish and broadcast information from NGOs without questioning the sources or carrying-out any further research. After all, what sells better “no fish left in 50 years” or a reasonable and well researched article on the current state of the fishing and aquaculture industries?

But with an industry as fragmented as the seafood industry with a lack of transparency and with no clear representational organisations, it not difficult to see why it is so often misrepresented. The industry is an easy target for both environmental organisations and the media.

Another example of this lack of balance are the assertions that the MSC 'has lost all credibility' for certifying the controversial British Columbia sockeye fishery. The success which the MSC has had in promoting sustainable seafood and that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) named it the best seafood eco-label, complying with 95 per cent of their criteria, is overlooked in favour of sensationalist claims.

Again, much of this one-sidedness seems to originate from Greenpeace: “Oh MSC, other than confusing eco-conscious consumers and placing further demand on ailing fish stocks, what have you done for the oceans lately?”, Sarah King of Greenpeace Canada posted on their website.

The fact is that the fishing industry, despite still having a long way to go, is now better managed than ever. The reforms being made to the Common Fisheries Policy (CPF) and the ban on bluefin tuna would have been unthinkable thirty or even ten years ago and with aquaculture becoming an increasingly sustainable and viable solution to wild fish shortages, it is becoming clear that if things continue to move in the right direction, the world's fish are going to be around for much longer than fifty years.

Related Articles:

- Fishing industry up in arms over BBC documentary
- Greenpeace founder defends shrimp, salmon farming
MSC faces official objection for Fraser sockeye certification
- MSC and FOS unendorsable: Greenpeace

By Michel Loubet
[email protected]




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