(Part II) NBC Nightly News Airs Seafood Sustainability Scare-Story

First credit where credit is do– NBC Nightly News Executive producer Alexandra Wallace personally responded to our concerns about Anne Thompsons report on seafood and the oceans.

However, she skirted the issue of data distortion and NBCs failure to put those apparently staggering statistics about how much fish is taken out of the ocean into its proper perspective. Then she suggested that NBCs report did not indict the entire seafood industry but only highlighted specific harmful practicespractices NBC never gave the seafood community the opportunity to discuss. Also unaddressed in her letter was the fact that Ms. Thompson used bluefin tuna as the poster child for unsustainable fishing practices but never mentioned that the seafood community has actually been vocal in calling for a moratorium on its fishing in the Mediterranean. Why? Thatd be because of unsustainable fishery management. Far from encouraging the destruction of the Mediterranean bluefin stock the seafood community is actively working against its demise.

Then, in an ironic rhetorical crescendo she takes a shot at NFI when she says her producer was told by Oceana that the doctor featured in Time magazine extolling the virtues of a seafood rich diet was, supportedand partially funded by The National Fisheries Institute. This is patently false– more evidence of Oceana pedaling faulty information as fact when it serves their purposes.

She says theyre now working on another story with input from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) huh, I wish we had suggested that

NBCs Letter to NFI Below:

Dear Gavin,

Thank you so much for contacting us about your concernsregarding Anne Thompson’s story on troubles in the ocean. I appreciate your attention to detail so let me address your issues. Let me start with your belief that the story relied solely on distorted data and rhetoric supplied by eco-activists. It did not. The half billion pounds a day statistic comes from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Report.In 2004, 95 million tons were taken from the world’s oceans, five times the amount taken in 1950. I would suggest to you that shows a significant increase.

You accuse us of blatant disregard for balance and objectivity. Those are serious accusations. The report did not indict the seafood industry at large. It mentioned specific practices that scientists say are harming thehabitats of the fish we eat. Those practices are bottom trawling, by-catch and overfishing and they continue to occur around the world.If there isa scientist who believes those practices are good for the environment,we would be very happy to talk to them.

Thevideo you mention was shot by Oceana and identified as such. Oceana provided this rare footage and offered us additionalvideo and stills demonstrating these practices. Thebycatch video was shot in the Gulf of Mexico, the bottom trawling in the IrishSea and the dead sharks and turtles in Hawaii and Alaska. All the video was shot within the last ten years.

It might surprise youto know that Anne recieved a call from a representative ofthe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association todaythanking her for the story we aired. This person thought it waswell balanced and informative. We were told about the “Fish Watch” program and are working with NOAA on another story.

We certainly did not leaveviewers with the impression that the only way save the oceans is to eat fewer fish. If anything, we gave them information on how toeat fishthat are caughtin a sustainable manner. That’s why the story mentioned the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWatch card and the Marine Stewardship Council’s seal of approval. Using this information people can continueand are encouraged topurchase and consume seafood.

Oceanaexplained to Christiana(Anne’s producer) that Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian’s research is supportedand partially funded by The National Fisheries Institute. He is thedoctor cited in the letter.

This was a story about problems that still exist in the ocean. We are always interested in success stories and would be happy to look into any ideas that you send our way.Weare very interested in hearing about theseafoodindustry’s sustainability efforts.

Again, thank you very much for taking time to contact us. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and ideas with us as we cover the environment.


Alex Wallace

Executive Producer

Nightly News with Brian Williams