New Zealand fires back at New York Times

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council on Wednesday wrote a letter to New York Times Science Editor Laura Chang regarding its story questioning the health of the country’s hoki fishery.

Titled “From Deep Pacific, Ugly and Tasty, With a Catch,” the story was written by William Broad and ran on 9 September.

In the letter, the council addresses numerous omissions, errors and distortions in Broad’s article. It points out that while Broad quoted four different environmental groups, he neglected to contact the council, any of its member companies or the Marine Stewardship Council, which certified New Zealand’s hoki fishery as well managed and sustainable.

The letter cites eight specific distortions in the article, including Broad’s use of outdated documents instead of interviewing scientists to get the most up-to-date information, misattributing quotes from environmental activists and scientists, incorrectly comparing the current hoki situation to the plight of orange roughy, and failing to denote New Zealand laws that protect hoki stocks.

“It is very clear to us that Mr. Broad, by errors of omission or commission, has fallen prey to a common communications tactic used by environmental activist groups — to publicly attack the world’s best maintained and managed fisheries without regard to the facts and the clear consensus view of the world’s marine scientists,” said Eric McErlain of CounterPoint Strategies on the council’s behalf.

The council asked the Times to publish a correction or clarification resolving the omissions, errors and distortions.

In response, Chang said the newspaper felt it was more important for the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries to be contacted, rather than the council. “We feel the article was fair and accurate,” she said.

The council rebutted once again, this time with an open letter and press release to additional editors in hopes of getting a more a substantive response. The second letter chastised the Times for neglecting to contact any sources involved in the actual harvesting of fish, when it is a story about fishing practices.

This is not the first time the seafood industry has cried out against the Times. In January 2008, the National Fisheries Institute challenged the newspaper to get the story on mercury in fish right, and the Times ran a correction.

In July, NFI sent an open letter to media outlets urging them to provide fair and balanced coverage of the seafood industry and to view with skepticism information from environmental groups. The letter sited examples of inaccurate or misleading reporting about seafood from the Times, USA Today and several other news outlets.

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