Fishing industry takes PBS to task for misleading promotion


THE SEAFOOD COALITION “Promoting science-based marine resource conservation and management”

March 3, 2015

Paula A. Kerger, President and CEO Public Broadcasting Service 2100 Crystal Drive Arlington, VA 22202

Dear Ms. Kerger,

We in the U.S. commercial fishing industry have for the most part become inured to the distorted, mean spirited and too often self-serving attacks on domestic fish, domestic fishing and domestic fishermen that if not encouraged are definitely facilitated by a “news” industry that seems to put a much greater premium on shock value than on journalistic integrity. However, like most of our fellow citizens, we have felt that PBS has remained above that particular fray, being fortunate enough to be the recipient of significant public support.

Speaking for our membership, which is composed of the leaders of trade organizations that represent fishermen, processors and dealers who handle well over half of the fish and shellfish landed by U.S. vessels in U.S. ports, we were shocked by a promotional spot for your new series Wild. In it researcher Jeremy Jackson indicted by implication every U.S. fisherman – recreational, commercial, or party/charter – and the federal fisheries management system that we are and have been heavily invested in making the best in the world since the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976.

Dr. Jackson started off by displaying three photographs of anglers, boat crews and dead fish. The first showed a dozen or so very large grouper. The second showed perhaps fifty not so large grouper, snapper, jacks and porgy. The third showed seven fish, possibly bonito. He then said “there’s just no way that one can misinterpret what’s happened here, which is that we’ve eaten all of these (first picture) and we’ve eaten all of these (second picture) and now all we have left is these (third picture). These are emblematic of a panoply of gigantic creatures that used to live here.”   In fact it’s very easy to misinterpret what’s happening anywhere with anything based on an analysis of three photographs taken over a period of maybe 50 years with no information other than what’s depicted in those photos. And it’s apparent that’s what Dr. Jackson did.

The large grouper in the first photograph are goliath grouper. Their harvest and possession has been prohibited by federal and state law since 1990. Since this total moratorium was put in place the stock has recovered to such an extent that these large grouper are interfering with other fisheries and the managers are being pressured to open a restricted fishery on them. But since 1990 it would be illegal to have even one goliath grouper on a dock.

Of the four taxa of fish that predominate in the second photograph, the various species are now managed by size and possession limits and most have closed seasons as well.
A brief and easily accomplished review of the commercial and recreational catch data or of the more difficult to understand assessment data would reveal the true condition of the various stocks with significantly more accuracy than would holding three undated, undocumented photographs in front of a video camera. That’s why in the U.S. we spend tens of millions of dollars a year to collect that data.

We have not caught and eaten all of the big fish, nor have we caught and eaten all of the medium sized fish. In fact, from a resource perspective our fisheries are on the whole in much better shape than they have been in since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act became law in 1976 and our management system is one of the most effective in the world.
Particularly considering the fact that PBS is in large part publicly funded, we would expect you to put more reliance on fact checking and less on sensationalist hype. There are fisheries scientists and professional managers whose objectivity is accepted by fishermen, the management establishment and other researchers who we would be eager to put PBS in touch with at any point in the future.

Sincerely, Nils E. Stolpe (for the Seafood Coalition) [email protected]386 409 0675

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, American Albacore Fishing Association, Atlantic Capes Fisheries, At-sea Processors Association, Blue Water Fishermen’s Association, California Wetfish Producers Association, Coalition of Coastal Fisheries, Columbia River Crab Fishermen’s Association. Coos Bay Trawlers Association, Directed Sustainable Fisheries, Fisheries Survival Fund, Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative, Fishermen’s Marketing Association, Garden State Seafood Association, Groundfish Forum, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Monkfish Defense Fund, National Fisheries Institute, North Carolina Fisheries Association, Oregon Trawl Commission, Organized Fishermen of Florida, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative, South Carolina Seafood Alliance, Southeastern Fisheries Association, United Catcher Boats, Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, Washington Trollers Association, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Western Fishboat Owners Association

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