What is really frightening this Halloween night is the tendency of some
in the environmental community to use disproven and erroneous hyperbolic
claims in their attention-grabbing “issue campaigns.”
**Editor's note: Since the original publication of this story, the
Environmental Defense Fund has modified its fisheries graphic. The new
version can be viewed here**
WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) October 31, 2013 -- The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) “Share the Scare”
campaign, released today for Halloween, encourages the public to share
scary environmental “Halloween horrors” with their social media
networks. These horrors include the claim that “9 out of 10 of the
world’s large predatory fish HAVE BEEN SO OVERFISHED THAT THEY COULD
What is really frightening this Halloween night is the tendency of some in the environmental community to use disproven and erroneous hyperbolic claims in their attention-grabbing “issue campaigns.”
EDF has respected scientists on its staff, so one can’t help but wonder about the approval process on the publicity and fundraising side of the house that allowed this campaign to spread the inaccurate claim that 90 percent of the world’s large predatory fish, like tuna, have vanished.
This global urban legend arose from a mistaken estimate in a 2003 study by marine scientists at Dalhousie University in Canada, which extrapolated data from longline fisheries only. The study did not consider the fact that longlines are by nature selective gear that primarily target larger fish. As a result, the paper contained an inflated number that, although disproven, is still used in scare tactics by many environmental groups today.
Saving Seafood recently interviewed international tuna management expert Dr. Victor Restrepo, who helped dispel this myth by presenting research that more accurately accounts for the complexities of large fish populations. A new study by Dr. Maria José Juan-Jordá, who recently completed her Ph.D. at the Universidade da Coruña in Galicia, Spain, analyzed stock assessment results from 26 populations of tuna and tuna-like species from around the world. This research concluded that the decline of large predatory fish is actually closer to 50 percent -- a figure that tuna fisheries scientists, like Dr. Restrepo, have long considered to be a more accurate estimate.
For actual frights, EDF might look to the New England and Mid-Atlantic coastlines. Since 2001, active groundfish vessels in the Northeast have declined by over 60 percent. Many historic communities and families are struggling from severe quota cuts stemming from decades of poor data and fisheries mismanagement. Only timely, science-backed data will help ensure the well being of both the ocean environment and the people who rely on its resources.
Several times in recent years, EDF has taken thoughtful positions and worked with fisheries groups in a positive manner. Their position on harbor porpoise management comes to mind. The organization has also urged the inclusion of fishermen and non-government scientists in the stock assessment process.
We urge EDF to continue to take positive, cooperative, and collaborative actions such as those noted above, and hope that today’s failed effort at Halloween spooking was the result of overzealousness and a failure to check facts on the “campaign” side of the house.
Don’t get tricked!