Tuesday, 10 January 2017

It's not just fishermen who get bullied by NHOs and those not qualified.

Bashing experts is not new. But, in this era of post-truth politics more and more of us are becoming increasingly unaware of the 'truth', largely as a result of personalised news feeds via social media, or simply denied access in seeking the truth behind any story as every mainstream source of news becomes increasingly exposed for bias of some sort.

This is not helped by our mainstream media largely controlled by a handful of men keen to see the global companies and regimes who provide the advertising revenues and other income needed to run their operations - even the BBC, for many the gold standard of unbiased newscasting is increasingly being exposed for supporting western, especially US viewpoints or closer to home, suporting the right. NGOs, especially the Greenpeace will nuance any story or situation to help rattle the collecting buckets in order to raise funds for 'good causes'. As a result, some journalists and editors see fit to increase or maintain their readership (more readers = better NRS figures = attracting more advertisers = more revenue) through using sensational headlines where the sensation matters more than the truth

Even the Sunday Times (sistership to the 'Thunderer', as the Times was often referred to) once independent but now owned by Newscorps - Murdoch's global media empire generally sway their allegiance to the governing elite of the day. In 2012 the fishing industry felt the full force of thier biased media attention when the Sunday Times' front page ran with the headline, "Only 100 cod left in the North Sea".  This was particularly galling for many of the North Sea fleet who had long since realised that they could control stock levels by fishing responsibly and the signs were there even than that cod stocks, far from consisting of 100 geriatric examples were in fact growing year-on-year.

More recently, Greenpeace used the plight of small (Under 10m) fishing boats - who between them catch just about every species of fish available in the North Atlantic - and matched it against the might of the largely British flagged but Dutch owned freezer trawler fleet who only catch mackerel, scad and herring in huge quantities - by using the tonnage as the statistic of comparison for very low value fish, little of which goes for human consumption - eg the Cornelis Vrolijk catches 23% of the UK fish quota - in reality, there is little connection between the two fisheries so to compare them is meaningless - other than to sensationalise the story with inappropriate statistics when the situation came about after fish quotas were awarded monetary value in the UK by dint of the licensing system based on individual track records for fish caught - and, of course, through owners who sold their licences to fish out of the UK.

In recent years fishermen and scientists have begun to enjoy the positive results of a better communicated world thanks to the internet - it is easier for scientists to talk directly with individual fishermen using social media - and it is easier for fishermen to join in the debate at every stage of development through open forums - some organisations are at last making use of largely free technologies to livestream meetings and conferences to widen participation and inclusivity.  As a result, more fishermen and more members of the public are becoming more aware of how organisations like PEW and the Oak Foundation fund and influence directly or indirectly the activities of NGOs (like Greenpeace, WWF) to meet their own ends.

While science is not everything it would like to be it is there to give confidence by supplying evidence based on data gathered in a scientific way and letting the numbers do the talking. Fishermen supply their own catch data from vessels over 10m - live, via satellite for every vessel over 15m and this is potentially a far more powerful source of data to lobby compared with that gathered by a handful research vessels constrained by budget and opportunity.

So it is important, as this article from the USA elaborates, to be mindful of the interests and lobbying power of those environmental organisations that are all too ready to use rather than the industry when it serves them. As the writer Dr Sally Lutcavage says;
"How do you react to false, deceitful accusations from non-experts, from unethical individuals, from persons or NGO’s with books to sell, or a point of view to peddle to an unsuspecting public or community, or politicians. Points of view, that when challenged by facts and data, get in the way of fund-raising campaigns, messages to the media, book sales, rich donors, and perhaps the most insidious - attempts to influence US fisheries and ocean policies."
This is typical of the sort of abuse shown by non-experts:

The more open the debate, the more accurate the data and the more the industry will develop its scientific credibility with all sectors - aside form a handful of over-zealous activists of the kind you can find in any sphere of human activity.