Acclaimed science writer Wilson da Silva wrote not too long ago, “Greenpeace was once a friend of science, helping bring attention to important but ignored environmental research. These days, it’s a ratbag rabble of intellectual cowards intent on peddling an agenda, whatever the scientific evidence. Greenpeace’s current campaign against canned tuna is another effort in which it ignores the very same science da Silva references but takes its insolence a step further by refusing to participate in tuna sustainability work with responsible, mainstream environmental organizations.
These days Greenpeace has America’s canned tuna in its cross hairs, and its usual chorus of misinformation and offensive attacks is front and center. Greenpeace has one hand outstretched, in search of donations, and the other swinging wildly in hopes of landing rhetorical punches. Once innovative campaigners, it now simply repeats tired old campaigns of yesteryear with predictably middling results.
You don’t have to be Nostradamus to know that next Greenpeace will rank the tuna brands, and then it will rank the retailers and spank them both for not living up to Greenpeace’s arbitrary sustainability model. It’s tired, it’s old and it’s been done in Europe and elsewhere, but for Greenpeace this campaign is a little different. Greenpeace has found that we don’t take misinformation and bullying lying down and consumers here see Greenpeace for what they are: eco-extremists who do an exemplary job of marginalizing themselves.
Distortions have been a hallmark of Greenpeace’s current effort; it’s a practice Greenpeace has readi admitted to in the past. Instead of calling it lying, it calls it “emotionalizing the issue.” Here’s a peek a how the group’s rhetoric and reality aren’t always on the same track. One of Greenpeace’s main talking points is that “FADs [Fish Aggregating Devices] increase bycatch in the skipjack tuna industry by between 500 per cent and 1,000 per cent when compared to nets set on free-swimming schools.”
Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Five hundred to 1,000 per cent is a big number, isn’t it?
Bycatch from FAD fishing averages around 5 percent of the entire catch, about the average or a little less than most fisheries. Bycatch from FAD-free fishing is around 1 per cent of the entire catch. So, we’re actually talking about a change of about 3 or 4 percentage points, as opposed to the artful “1,0 per cent” constructed by Greenpeace rhetoricians. And to reduce that small number even further the global canned tuna community is working with scientists and conservation groups and sponsoring on the-water research.
Regardless of the picture Greenpeace paints, the reality is its campaign against canned tuna is simply part of a scare story, a scare story it’s shopping to consumers who it hopes won’t have all the facts. This effort will do nothing for tuna sustainability, but it will needlessly drive the price of canned tuna up for hardworking American families.
While the three most popular U.S. tuna brands and tuna companies from around the globe have chosen to partner with environmental groups that use real science to work on tuna sustainability issues, Greenpeace has again chosen confrontation over cooperation. This path is the same one that da Silva found Greenpeace taking when he described the group as, “a sad, dogmatic, reactionary phalanx of anti-science zealots who care not for evidence, but for publicity.”
History repeats itself.