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Is End of the Line “Fair and Balanced?”

Whole Foods Market’s Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator takes issue with the powerful new documentary about over fishing “End of the Line.” See the trailer!

So what do I make of their criticism of this important film?  Here is the response I posted, which may or may not be approved…

 

Glad to hear that you saw the film, as supermarkets have a vital role to play in the recovery of our oceans. The dinner plate is many people’s most tangible connection to the ocean. It is time (in fact long-overdue) for the public to be exposed to the hard realities of what is happening on our oceans.

90% of the world’s stocks of large predatory fish stocks are gone! 80% of the world’s REMAINING fisheries are fully to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse! Scientists predict the end of commercial fishing by 2048 if things don’t change. It’s shocking. And people need to know what is happening, and that they can make a difference simply by eating lower on the seafood chain and avoiding over-fished species.

IMHO, asking End of the Line to also “tell the story” of the one of the few fishery recoveries reminds me of the press’ flawed coverage of global warming (where “balanced” coverage actually resulted in inaccurate coverage and the misrepresentation of the facts). With global warming, the journalistic norm of balanced reporting gave the impression that the scientific community was divided on whether or not humans were contributing to global warming, when in fact the evidence was clear we were. Likewise, your desire for End of the Line to show more “fairness” or “balance” or “accuracy” by including information about fishery recoveries strikes me as a sneaky way to introduce ambiguity into the issue. Suggesting that fishery recovery is common or that it could take place on a widescale under current fishery management systems is immensely misleading.

As we begin to pay the price for the “balanced coverage” that helped delay efforts to cut carbon emissions, can’t we just skip the “debate” this time and get to work to address overfishing? For example, even Atlantic swordfish was not saved by “telling both sides of the story.” It was saved in a large part by public awareness of the plight of swordfish, a boycott by prominent buyers, restaurants, and consumers, and public pressure for better management. I can only hope End of the Line will spur similar efforts.

In the meantime, helping Whole Food customers eat lower on the seafood food chain, avoiding over-fished species, and eliminating seafood that results in the bycatch of sea turtles, whales, dolphins is a powerful solution to this problem. Whole Foods needs to re-consider its seafood policies and support efforts it has opposed in the past, such as when you refused to carry turtle-safe shrimp. While Whole Foods may have better seafood policies than other large supermarket chains, that is of little consequence when all that means is you are last in the race to the bottom, a bottom that is a world without fish.