Posts Tagged Greenpeace

Jun 13 2016

Univ. of Washington Rejects Greenpeace Smear of Prof. Ray Hilborn, Says He Fully Discloses Funding

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  By John Sackton – June 13, 2016

When Greenpeace is caught denying scientific consensus, their reaction is to try and claim that the scientists are not independent, but simply mouthpieces for the industry Greenpeace is targeting.

This has been an effective tactic in fighting global warming, as there is evidence of a concerted campaign by the fossil fuel industry to fund the 1% of scientists who take a contrary view against the well-established scientific consensus on causes of global warming.

Greenpeace, after losing badly a public campaign claiming trawling was hugely impacting corals in the major Canyons of the Bering Sea, [Short answer: not coral habitat, and bottom trawling already prohibited]  tried to use that same tactic against renowned fishery scientist Ray Hilborn, who has led the building of a global scientific consensus about how to measure overfishing, and determine when it is or is not occurring.

They accused Dr. Hilborn of not following accepted professional guidelines regarding disclosures of research funding sources. Instead, they called him an “overfishing denier”, clearly trying to make the connection with climate change.

Just like with the Bering Sea Canyons, investigation showed the facts were not what Greenpeace claimed.

The University of Washington, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Science Magazine have all reviewed the charges Greenpeace made against Dr. Hilborn of non-disclosure and found there were no violations of University or Journal procedures.

For example, Dr. Mary Lindstrom, Vice-President for Research, University of Washington, said “In response to the inquiry regarding Dr. Ray Hilborn’s research, disclosure, and outside activities we have reviewed his funding types and sources, publication history and disclosures, as well as approvals for outside consulting against relevant University policies.”

“For the activities described in Greenpeace’s letter to Dr. Inder M. Verma, Editor‐in‐Chief of PNAS, dated May 11, 2016, we have not identified any actions or lack thereof, engaged in by Dr. Hilborn which violate University policies or procedures governing conflicts of interest or outside consulting.”

The University of Washington has received millions of dollars in support from fishing groups for several research programs Dr. Hilborn leads, and where that support has led to scientific papers the support is acknowledged. This funding has been used to help maintain sustainable fisheries, help protect fish habitat and to train students. The University of Washington’s Salmon program pioneered many of the key techniques used for Alaska salmon forecasts, and today contributes to the management of Bristol Bay.   Industry co-funding of research contributes to better fisheries management.

The reason the reality of industry support for fisheries in the US is so different than what Greenpeace claims is that the US Industry has fully embraced the concept that fisheries decisions have to be based on the best available science. Greenpeace cannot embrace that concept because much of its funding is based on claiming impending disasters that only they can stop.  If the science provides a different or more nuanced answer, their funding dries up.

Hilborn says “I have no personal financial arrangements with recreational or commercial fishing groups, but I have certainly done consulting projects for them in the past, and when that support led to scientific papers the support was acknowledged. I have also done consulting and research for groups and industries which are occasionally in conflict with fishing interests, including the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, WWF, Environmental Defense, the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, Exxon and agricultural interests. Where that work led to scientific publications the support was acknowledged.”

“Greenpeace wants to tar me with the same brush as climate change deniers. They clearly have not read my publications. The book “Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know” published by Oxford University Press in 2012 begins in the preface ‘So what’s the story? Is overfishing killing off ocean ecosystems or are fisheries being sustainably managed? It all depends on where you look.’

“Overfishing is a major threat to marine ecosystems in some places but in other places stocks are increasing, not declining and overfishing is being reduced or almost eliminated. I tell a complex story of success and failure, whereas Greenpeace simply cannot accept that overfishing is not universal. I seek to identify what has worked to reduce overfishing – Greenpeace seeks to raise funds by denying that many fisheries are improving. Indeed Greenpeace should acknowledge that they have had a role in reducing overfishing in some places – take credit rather than deny it is happening,” he says.

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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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May 14 2016

Greenpeace files complaint about UW fishery professor

Greenpeace takes aim at high-profile UW fishery scientist in a complaint alleging he has not properly disclosed industry funding in his academic articles.

Professor Ray Hilborn stands outside of the UW Fisheries Science Building on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

Ray Hilborn, a prominent University of Washington fishery scientist, is under attack from Greenpeace for sometimes leaving out mention of industry funding he receives in articles published in academic journals and elsewhere.

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.

In the letter to Cauce, Greenpeace unleashed a broadside against the scientist.

“The failure of Dr. Hilborn to fully disclose his ties to industry put both scientific knowledge and the reputation of the University of Washington at risk,” wrote John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA’s ocean campaigns director.

Since 2003, Hilborn has brought in more than $3.55 million in industry dollars to the University of Washington, representing about 22 percent of the total outside funding he obtained from all sources during that period, according to documents released to Greenpeace under a public-disclosure request.

Hilborn reviewed Greenpeace’s complaint and issued a response. He said his research threatens the repeated assertions by the environmental group that overfishing is universal and that the oceans are being emptied.

“Obviously they are getting desperate because they haven’t been able to mount any type of attack on the quality of the science that I and this large group of collaborators have produced,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “So they got to attack the messenger.”

Hilborn, 68, said he has not felt obligated to disclose industry funding unless it was specifically for the research that is the focus of an academic journal article. Hilborn said he has never deliberately left out mention of such funding.

Some of the biggest industry funding came from groups in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska helping pay for salmon research. The money also flowed from Washington-based seafood companies, a trade association called the National Fisheries Institute, and the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council.

Much of the money is used for staff and student salaries, Hilborn said.

Altogether, the documents obtained by Greenpeace indicate Hilborn drew research funding to the university from at least 69 different industry sources, as well as consulting payments from others.

Greenpeace’s Hocevar, in his letter to Cauce, cites more than a half-dozen specific examples of papers published by Hilborn that allegedly failed to include full disclosure.

This represented a “significant departure from the accepted practices of his research community,” Hocevar wrote.

Greenpeace’s complaint also criticizes an online fisheries-information service that reaches out to the media: Hilborn helped launch last fall with financial help from the seafood industry that is not noted on the website.

A UW spokesman said the Greenpeace complaint involves matters “we take very seriously.”

“We will be looking into the issues raised by Greenpeace to determine if problems exist and what steps might need to be taken to address them,’’ said Norm Arkans, the UW spokesman.

Money and disclosure

Amid shrinking public funding, university researchers often reach out to private industry to fund their work. Researchers also may do outside contract work, which at the UW requires prior approval.

The potential for industry funding to influence research has long been a topic of debate and controversy, and major journals have developed disclosure policies that attempt to lay out an author’s potential conflicts of interest.

For example, the journal Science asks authors “to reveal any financial relationships that could be perceived to influence the research,” according to a statement released by Science.

Hilborn has been published in many major academic journals, including Science, and is widely quoted in the media.

His research at the UW School of Aquatics and Fishery Sciences has focused “on how to best manage fisheries to provide sustainable benefits to human societies,” according to his website. He has helped to launch a global database of fish stocks, and his awards include the 2006 Volvo Environment Prize and, this year, the International Fisheries Science Prize.

He also has obtained funding from environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But Hilborn, over the years, has spoken out against what he portrays as the unwarranted gloom and doom pushed by some environmental groups, which he accuses of pushing bad news about fisheries to boost fundraising.

In a 2011 New York Times opinion piece headlined “Let Us Eat Fish,” Hilborn denounced “apocalyptic predictions about the future of fish stocks.” On his website and elsewhere, he has sought to debunk what he calls “myths” that include that most fisheries are overfished and that all fish stocks could be gone by 2048.

“On average, fish stocks worldwide appear to be stable, and in the United States they are rebuilding, in many cases at a rapid rate,” Hilborn wrote.

And in 2013 testimony submitted to Congress, he declared: “The major threat to sustainable jobs, food, recreational opportunity and revenue from U.S. marine fisheries is no longer overfishing, but underfishing.”

Critics and supporters

Greenpeace is attempting to label Hilborn an “overfishing denier,” comparing the professor to so-called climate-change deniers who are a minority in a scientific community that overwhelmingly accepts that fossil-fuel combustion contributes to global warming.

“This issue is analogous and no less important,” said Hocevar, who accuses Hilborn of downplaying the effects of overfishing.

Other researchers dispute Greenpeace’s comparison. They say Hilborn has been a leader over the decades in a wide range of important research projects in the North Pacific and globally.

“I think that in general Ray’s work has been highly acclaimed by many scientists. He is not sitting way on the edge,” said Gunnar Knapp, a University of Alaska-Anchorage fishery economist who has collaborated on research with Hilborn.

But some marine scientists have been at odds with him.

They include Daniel Pauly, a University of British Columbia marine biologist who shared the 2006 Volvo prize with Hilborn. Pauly has authored numerous papers about the global decline in fish stocks that have been attacked by Hilborn as lacking creditability.

In an interview, Pauly criticized Hilborn as an industry-friendly scientist who has failed to properly disclose his funding.

“We all are certainly affected by where we get money from, and certainly have to make that available for discussion,” said Pauly whose own affiliations include an unpaid seat on the board of Oceana, a major marine-conservation group.

Hilborn said he draws money from a wide range of sources, and rejected the notion that he has been swayed by industry money.

That money is not a problem “but a natural part of working on solutions,” Hilborn said. “They (industry) should be paying part of the bill.”

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