Mar 7 2015 Replaces Reality, Regulation and History with Hyperbole

Original post: | © 2015 National Fisheries Institute | Published with permission.


A story this week on about the state of the seafood industry is packed with sensationalism and hyperbole, yet absent much of the real science, facts and figures that drive actual sustainability.

To begin, U.S. fisheries are among the world’s best managed and most sustainable. Though not referenced by name a single time in this article, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, regulates U.S. seafood with headquarters in Washington D.C., five regional offices, six science centers and more than 20 laboratories around the country and U.S. territories.

Author John Roach, however, perpetuates doom and gloom throughout this piece, asserting “voids” left by cod, halibut and salmon that need to be filled by other fish. We’re guessing Mr. Roach isn’t aware that salmon shattered modern-day records in 2014, returning to the Columbia River Basin in the highest numbers since fish counting began at Bonneville Dam more than 75 years ago. Could you tell us again about that void?

Mr. Roach also intones a narrative of sustainability disaster for popular predators like tuna but forgot to mention groups like the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a coalition created through a partnership between WWF, the world’s leading conservation organization, and canned tuna companies from across the globe to insure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks. In an article that claims the sky is falling for species like tuna it’s odd that ISSF gets nary a nod or even a mention.

Switching gears, Mr. Roach goes on to blame giant trawlers “armed” with technology and massive nets as part of the reason we’re “running low” on fish. As in any industry, technology gets better by the day, creating more efficient ways to do business. However, new technology is by no means exempt from standing national and global fishery regulations, such as catch-limits, by-catch laws, compliance, and so forth. To suggest that enhanced technology or “bigger or faster” boats are causing our fish supplies to dwindle ignores the impact of technology on sustainability and even regulatory oversight. There are pros and cons to every catch-method and there is no one-size-fits all solution to sustainability challenges but to blame technology without recognizing its contribution to solutions is folly.

Hyperbolic rhetoric about sustainability continues to be discounted by legitimate fisheries experts in the scientific community. In fact, one “report” forecasting empty oceans by 2048 was challenged by a number of independent researchers who described the study that promoted the statistics as, “flawed and full of errors.” Including Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle whose research into the study lead him to say, “this particular prediction has zero credibility within the scientific community.” After Hilborn’ s analysis the author of the original study himself explained that his research was not in fact predicting worldwide fish stock collapse at all but merely examining trends. Articles like this track along precisely with the discounted, overblown storyline that gave birth to the empty oceans by 2048 nonsense.

Whether you’re a “natural optimist” or not, there is no question that seafood harvested from U.S. fisheries is inherently sustainable as a result of NOAA’s fishery management process and global fisheries management is far from the wild west scenario bandied about.  Things aren’t perfect and there’s work to be done but the “game” is not “almost over” and those who suggest it is, willfully propagate that narrative not because it’s accurate but because bad news sells.

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