RESPONDS TO WALL STREET JOURNAL
JUNE 25 "FOOD FIGHT" ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS
CA - July 5, 2004
Executive Director Carl Rebstock responded to a news feature in
the June 25 issue of the Wall
Street Journal called "Food Fight" by reporter Eileen
Daspin. His letter to the editor, reprinted below, was sent today.
but astutely, journalist Eileen Daspin (see “Food Fight,” 25 June
2004) has drawn attention to a clash of titans—the environmental
and the seafood industries—and to those trapped in the crossfire
of conflicting rhetoric and scientific assertions, namely, home
shoppers. Both titans want abundant fish; both believe they know
best how to guarantee bountifulness.
crave simple, definitive guidance. But fisheries biology is an imprecise
science. Whatever unwavering advice this young discipline might
offer is difficult to distill. Moreover, the problem of dwindling
wild fish populations is as much economic and societal as environmental.
It is difficult to untangle sound science from political spin. Informed
and involved citizens will always be vital to nudging bureaucrats
forward. But, avoiding whimsical policy-making comes at the cost
of a cumbersome political process. The backlash by baffled consumers
is understandable. The burden of moving markets away from “bad”
fish and toward “good” fish cannot be borne principally by the public.
simpler consumer advice is warranted: buy what you please
but please learn about what you buy. This is not so much heresy
as a concession to our human nature: we want what we can't
have. Negativism will not entice disinterested consumers to consider
the impact of their purchases. Boycotts and bans may elevate public
awareness but generally do greater harm than good by disregarding
critical nuances. Activist efforts that marshal the public against
industry are divisive and less fruitful than market-based incentives.
Passionfish, a nonpartisan educational nonprofit, is creating enduring
change through education and corporate collaborations—moving commerce
and conservation together through armistice and into alliance.
one of the world's largest buyers of fish, and World Wildlife Fund,
one of the world's largest conservation organizations, partnered
to create a business-environmental partnership which would address
the crisis in the world's fisheries. That partnership resulted in
the Marine Stewardship Council,
an independent certifier of well-managed fisheries. It is a shining
example of what we believe offers the greatest promise of progress.
The MSC, after a rigorous scientific evaluation, awards an eco-label
to products meeting its sustainability criteria, thereby rewarding
fisheries in the marketplace and giving consumers confidence that
the products they purchase are not harming the environment.
Brad Warren, Passionfish board member and editor-in-chief of Pacific
Fishing magazine has written in a Perspective
on our website, “the real engine of change is opportunity, not
issues are more fractious or more urgent. The conflict over our
ocean's sustainability is being fought at sea, in scientific and
policy journals, and, as Wall Street Journal reporter Eileen Daspin
described, on the public stage through restaurants and the media.
Like the MSC, Passionfish is crossing these battle lines. We bring
together diverse stakeholders to discuss and pursue lasting solutions.
Not just prized species are in peril. Communities dependent
upon fishing are also threatened. Similarly, the health of habitats
is being compromised.
the fringes of our society will always be those who would gleefully
devour the last gasping Caspian Sea sturgeon, eggs and all. Thankfully,
most of us comprise a vast market that the seafood industry knows
it can only continue to tap if the supply of wild and farmed seafood
is sustainable. Safeguarding the future of fish and fishing is in
everyone's interest and is everyone's responsibility—but our greatest
allies can be those for whom it is most financially rewarding.
F. Rebstock, Executive Director
About us: Passionfish is for people passionate about the ocean,
fishing, and seafood! We are a nonprofit public education project
actively promoting sustainable wild fisheries and aquaculture. Founded
in 2000, Passionfish has developed an innovative approach for addressing
seafood and fisheries sustainability: forums that reveal common
ground amid contention, celebrations of seafood, broadcasts that
build awareness, and a unique book series aimed at inspiring adults
and children about ocean and seafood sustainability.