The Rest of The Story: What The New York Times Doesn’t Want You To Read

When it was time to talk about commercial seafood The New York Times didn’t call the seafood community, it called Greenpeace. Then it gave Greenpeace a 586 word column to spout their misinformed fundraising rhetoric and when we called them on it and asked for equal space they offered us a 200 word blurb in the comment string. Thanks New York Times, that’s a tremendous demonstration of journalistic balance. What follows is what we would have contributed had the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” section actually had room for real debate:

There is a rich irony that comes with Greenpeace lecturing anyone on “standards of responsibility.” The group that recently trampled on Peru’s famed Nazca lines, a stunt that “scarred one of the country’s most treasured national symbols,” uses this forum to attack commercial fishing with its usual brand of unchecked hyperbole. Far from “ruining” the oceans, the seafood community not only sets high standards it drives adherence to those standards and pushes for the innovations that will be the future of fishing.

Tuna companies, often the focus of Greenpeace’s attacks, have zero tolerance for illegal labor practices. They recognize the challenges associated with labor in some areas of the seafood sector, while demonstrating a consistent commitment to taking on those challenges and pushing governments to focus on enforcement. For responsible companies like Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea and Starkist these are real world issues they are dedicated to addressing, not fund raising fodder that whimsically peppers opinion columns.

Greenpeace does a tremendous job of pointing out things they have a problem with but make no demonstrable effort to offer solutions.

The seafood community and its reasonable NGO partners are committed to both identifying challenges and working to address them. The very same tuna canners that Greenpeace vilifies have partnered with WWF to spearhead the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF.)

On these pages Greenpeace complains about turtle and shark bycatch but fails to note that ISSF invests literally millions of dollars every year in at-sea research aimed at bycatch mitigation. Now more than 90% of turtles caught by tuna purse seiners are released alive. And best practices designed for sharks can save 960,000 a year, in the Indian Ocean alone. Those committed to real seafood sustainability bring results to the table not just rhetoric. But then again the scientific experts at ISSF have more than 342 years of collective experience in fisheries management.

While Greenpeace complains about traceability methods it conveniently ignores the fact that ISSF already requires companies to maintain credible traceability systems.

Credibility and responsibility go hand in hand. Incredibly irresponsible commentary based on thinly sourced rhetoric serves to do nothing for the conversation about seafood sustainability but everything to marginalize an activist group that has been relegated to making noise in the parking lot while others are making real advances.

Gavin Gibbons

Vice President, Communications

National Fisheries Institute