May 14 2016

Hilborn: Greenpeace attacks funding issue because science is sound


University of Washington fishery scientist Ray Hilborn has responded to Greenpeace’s accusation that he often fails to disclose industry funding when writing or speaking about the extent of overfishing.

In a letter sent Wednesday to university president Ana Mari Cauce, Greenpeace filed a complaint against Hilborn’s research practices, and asked for an investigation.

Hilborn, over the years, has been a critic of Greenpeace as well as other environmental groups and researchers he accuses of overstating the impacts of fishing on marine resources.

“Greenpeace is unable to attack the science I and my collaborators do; science that threatens their repeated assertions that overfishing is universal and that the oceans are being emptied,” he said in a response on his blog.

“On the contrary it is clear that where effective fisheries management is applied, stocks are increasing not declining, and this is true in North America and Europe as well as a number of other places. Overfishing certainly continues to be a problem in the Mediterranean, much of Asia and Africa.”

The timing of Greenpeace’s attack is not random, said Hilborn; in two weeks he will receive the International Fisheries Science Prize at the World Fisheries Congress.

This prize is awarded every four years by fisheries science organizations from a number of countries including the US, Australia and Japan. “In my plenary address I will be showing where overfishing is declining or largely eliminated, as well as where it remains a problem. This is a message Greenpeace seeks to discredit.”

As for failing to disclose funding from industry and other “corporate interests”, Hilborn said:

“Greenpeace seems to believe that industry funding is tantamount to a conflict of interest, regardless of its purpose. Thus, any time I discuss fisheries I would need to disclose each and every grant or contract I have ever received as a conflict of interest.”

If he were to disclose these — and all of the environmental NGOs, private foundations, and government agencies which have helped fund research — the list would be longer than the papers themselves, he said.

“This is one reason we acknowledge all funders of the research work discussed in each paper at the end of the document. The other, of course, is to give credit where credit is due.”

“The fishing industry, like environmental NGOs, government agencies, and public and private foundations, are actively involved in funding our research and education efforts that help create and sustain fisheries nationally and globally. In fact, it is in the financial interest of fishing communities and industries to find solutions that are sustainable and provide for healthy stocks into the future. And funding from these groups should be considered part of a inclusive, transparent and honest research process.”

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