Letter: NFI off the mark on sustainability


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
April 13, 2011

Editor’s note: The following is a letter to the editor submitted by John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA. The letter is in response to a blog written by the National Fisheries Institute’s Gavin Gibbons, titled “Greenpeace’s retailer rankings a tired tactic,” and the 11 April article “Safeway, Target top Greenpeace report.”

Oh, NFI. You coulda been a contender.

Sadly, you abdicated that role long ago. There really is a need for someone to advocate for the seafood industry. Someone who could offer sound advice about how to avoid some of the dire scientific predictions of collapsing fisheries. Someone who could look at the best available science and provide real vision for how to respond to the startling revelations of recent years, such as the loss of 90 percent of the large fish, the hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins killed as bycatch each year, or the amount of habitat destroyed by trawling. Someone who could tell the story of our disappearing fishing communities and mobilize people to stand up and fight for new policies to ensure that we’ll have healthy oceans capable of sustaining fisheries for generations to come.

But no, NFI, you chose a different path. You have been perpetual defenders of business as usual, even though business has been far from usual for many seafood businesses for a long time. Instead of setting a standard enabling seafood consumers to feel confident about their purchases, you have sought to shoot the messenger time and time again, attacking researchers raising concerns about mercury, overfishing and spoiled food.

In the course of producing our “Carting Away the Oceans” reports, we talk to a lot of people in the seafood business.  NFI, you might be surprised to hear how many of them have lost faith in you. The companies who you should be championing — those who have shown real leadership in taking on the sustainability challenge — are those who have ignored your advice. Meanwhile, the few companies who heeded your advice are increasingly isolated and left behind as the rest of the industry moves forward.

Looking at the top companies in our retailer ranking, you’ll see companies who have worked closely with organizations like FishWise, Environmental Defense, Greenpeace and the New England Aquarium. Unless you start catching up to where the industry has is going, how long will it be before you start losing clients, some of which have already stopped listening to you?

One of your more bizarre claims is that we’re just in it for the money. If you really think anyone will believe we work on orange roughy and pollock fisheries because they’re good fundraising topics, you are more out of touch than I realized. Greenpeace accepts no funds from corporations or governments to help ensure we maintain our independence.

More than ever, the seafood industry needs a visionary advocate for healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries. Someone who can work collaboratively with conservation organizations and more forward-thinking trade associations. Someone who can bring NGOs and seafood businesses together to tackle pressing concerns about improving chain of custody, moving away from destructive fishing practices, rebuilding fish stocks and protecting habitat.

To sum it up, NFI, you haven’t served your clients well. The fact is, if you’d done your job, Greenpeace wouldn’t be working on seafood sustainability at all, because it wouldn’t be necessary. We’d have no problem with people eating five times as much seafood as they are right now, because it would be coming from fisheries and farms that don’t jeopardize marine ecosystems.

So instead of spending your clients’ money attacking NGOs, maybe it’s time to get on with the real work of restoring the health of our oceans, and the fishing communities that depend on them.

John Hocevar
Greenpeace USA

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