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

For willingness to enter into a dialog about the issues we have with their story, NBC gets an A. For constructive, factual arguments in their correspondence… well, let’s just say they get less than an A.

NFI Letter to NBC Below:

June 10, 2008

Alexandra Wallace, Vice President, NBC News

30 Rockefeller Plz
New York, NY 10112

VIA Email

Dear Ms. Wallace,

Thank you for your prompt response to our concerns about Anne Thompsons report on seafood and the oceans.

For clarity, the data distortion I mentioned did not center on whether the half billion pound statistic was accurate. As I mentioned in my original letter, it centered on the fact that it was not put in its proper perspective. And while your suggestion that there has been a significant increase in fishing is accurate, given the available biomass, it is not anywhere near as shocking as Ms. Thompsons report would have viewers believe.

My accusation of a failure in balance is highlighted by your note that only, specific practices that scientists say are harming the habitats of the fish we eat were examined. Misuse of bottom trawling, excessive by-catch and sustained overfishing are things that responsible fisheries work to avoid and stand against. Had the seafood community been included in Ms. Thompsons package, your viewers would have been made aware of that.

Additionally, as I noted in my first letter, with her example of bluefin in mind, the seafood community has been vocal in calling for a moratorium on bluefin fishing in the Mediterranean because of poor fishery management. This omission leaves the audience without a key fact: Far from encouraging the destruction of the Mediterranean bluefin stock, responsible members of the industry are actively working to preserve it.

I am happy to hear that you are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on another story. NOAAs staff and the FishWatch group in particular are important independent resources that we always encourage journalists to work with, and I would hope you would give NOAA and its spokespeople as much attention as youve already given the activist community.

Finally, you inadvertently highlighted a glaring example of your staffs poor sourcing when you wrote, Oceanaexplained to Christiana(Anne’s producer) that Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian’s research is supportedand partially funded by The National Fisheries Institute. This is patently false.

Theresearch Dr. Mozaffarian co-authored that the Time magazine article references as–“one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the impact of fish consumption on human health” –was funded by a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health grant. NFIs Fisheries Scholarship Fund, a non-profit donor-supported fund thatcontributes toresearch about seafood and health, did not contribute to this or any other studiesauthored by Dr. Mozaffarian. Oceana is wrong, and as you can see by this example, is in the business of passing off false information as fact when it serves their purposes.

Thank you for your willingness to engage in a dialog about this matter.


Gavin Gibbons

National Fisheries Institute

cc: Brian Williams, Managing Editor NBC Nightly News

Bob Steele, Poynter Institute