Inspiring people to care about endangered species…
and then kill them

The fundamental flaw in National Geographic’s “partnership” with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is rapidly becoming too big to ignore. Specifically: Our Society seems to have no control over what News Corp produces using National Geographic’s (once) good name.

Perhaps the most alarming red flag is the testimony of people who have long admired the Society, but who now are telling the world that they feel “betrayed, heartbroken, and sick” by what this “partnership” is producing.

For example, here’s National Geographic News — which, as of this writing, is still controlled by our Society — sounding the alarm about the endangered bluefin tuna:

NG News bluefin tuna eleventh hour

But here’s the National Geographic Channel — which is majority owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — announcing a new reality series called Wicked Tuna, which transforms the killing of the endangered bluefin tuna into “intense and compelling” adventure television:

Hollywood Reporter Wicked Tuna

Save the bluefin! … Kill the bluefin! 

How can the National Geographic Society maintain any semblance of credibility while playing this game?

More to the point: How soon before lots of people begin connecting the dots the way Virginia Willis just did? A chef, cookbook author, and a longtime fan of National Geographic, Ms. Willis just posted Wicked Tuna: A Deal With the Devil. An excerpt:

“… To this day, I don’t read National Geographic magazines – I relish them. Each issue is a journey and exploration into a whole new world. National Geographic fulfilled its mission with me; it inspired me to care about the planet.

Virginia Willis portrait 274x300

Virginia Willis

Yet, today I feel betrayed, heartbroken, and sick. The National Geographic Channel will debut a show this spring called “Wicked Tuna”, a reality series that follows the lives of tuna fisherman in Gloucester, Massachusetts…. 

It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s wicked in the true sense of the word, evil and morally wrong…. 

National Geographic is capitalizing on and exploiting the very species they have declared to be on the verge of extinction….

As a chef and food writer, I care about the food I prepare, the food I eat. I work to educate my students and readers about responsible and sustainable food. As the National Geographic Society mission states, I work to inspire people to care about the planet.

John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society should hang his head in shame. At minimum, he and the National Geographic channel have some serious explaining to do. If you’d like to let the National Geographic Society know what you think of Wicked Tuna, please shoot them a note to comments@natgeochannel.com

Sincerely,
Virginia Willis
Chef and cookbook author

CC:
Editor, the Washington Post
Editor, the New York Times

_____

Dear John:
Any thoughts for Ms. Willis?

John Fahey National Geographic 150x150

  • Travellover60

    Feeling “betrayed, heartbroken, and sick”: Try working here. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      I know it’s hard (if not impossible), but: Work for change from within. Turning NGS around is not a hopeless cause; if it was, I would have shuttered this site long ago. 

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      I know it’s hard (if not impossible), but: Work for change from within. Turning NGS around is not a hopeless cause; if it was, I would have shuttered this site long ago. 

  • davemarciano

    Bluefin tuna ” ARE NOT LISTED ” as endangered species. She sure is a good liar
    This is from the “face of evil ” one of the fishermen who supported his famy year round commercial fishing . catching bluefin I’d part off our year . What she preaching here is hate and contempt for people who work hard and obey the laws put in place to protect bluefin tuna . That is just plain EVIL. attacking amercincan working families so she can hock a few cook books . Truly despicable ….,

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks very much for stopping by — and for your note. 

      I’m not a fisherman, nor am I gourmet cook, but I do find this odd: National Geographic sounds the “11th hour” alarm about bluefin, and then produces a TV show about killing bluefin tuna. You must admit that’s sort of odd.

      Also, you say bluefin “are not listed as endangered species.” What, then, is this: 
      http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21860/0

      Finally, I think it’s a stretch to say Ms. Willis is attacking “working families.” Yes, I know that limiting tuna fishing will have a serious impact on fishermen. But won’t an ocean without bluefin tuna have a real impact on fisherman too?

      Thanks in advance for your thoughts…

      best,
      Alan

      • davemarciano

        Well Alan we have been restricting the catch for bluefin tuna in this country for over 25 years now . We protect our access to
        Bluefin by having the largest minimum size limit in the work 73″ This according to the science allows the fish to spawn several times before you harvest . This also assumes every fish we land from our yearly allocation us only at that minimum size . Here’s a built in safety buffer for the fish . Most of the fish we catch are in the 300 to 500 lb class . Those fish have spawned maybe 15 or twenty times in their life prior to harvest . US commercial fishermen are leaders in the world when it comes to fisheries management .no matter what species we ate talking about . I am a commercial fisherman. And part of the project that is being filmed .

        To be honest I was skeptical when approached for this project . Usually from groups NGOs ( non government organizations ) fishermen like myself are constantly under attack to justify our jobs . We obey laws that we at times disagree with for being far too conservative . With bluefin tuna we have been enjoying the results of all the strict measures that have been in place over the years . Increases in yearly quotas. Increases in daily
        Bag limits from 1 fish a day for a good many years to our current three fish a trip . .I have not looked at your link yet I will respond after I do

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Dave,

          You sound like a reasonable guy. And I know there are restrictions on fishermen that are designed to help sustain bluefin. 

          But, again, this is the alarm that Nat Geo sounded in their News Watch piece:

          “ICCAT has both let current quotas for bluefin catches go unenforced as well as ignored growing evidence of massive underreporting of fishing for this imperiled species. In fact, it has been estimated that in 2007, 61,000 metric tons of Atlantic bluefin were caught in the Eastern Atlantic, although the quota was set at 29,500 metric tons–which itself represents a level twice what scientists have advised as sustainable.”

          If that’s true, why would it be wise — for the health & sustainability of the fishery (and the credibility of National Geographic) — to turn bluefin fishing into a reality TV show?

          When you get a chance, let me know what you think about the IUCN listing….
          best,
          Alan

          • davemarciano

            Try it from my standing in my boots .
            I can’t prove it but because of how the US has protected the bluefin stack may be the reason they are not extinc already . Maybe Nat Geo could use this in a positive fashion to show how these other countries . Dho are in clear violation of international law should manageing the stock . Rather than kick the tens of thousands of US famlies whom are dependent on a healthy stock and have worked to achieve that end . Not only ate there commercial fishermen like myself who benefit from this resource but the charter for hire or recreational sector is a much larger component of this fishery . When you look at all the
            People involved marinas , hotels , restaurants , truck drivers Tackle dearlers ect ect ect your talking about thousands if jobs . I agree the other countries have been a bone of contention for US fishermen for a long time . We created fish by our strigent regulation and they migrate out of US waters and other countries have a free for all . There needs to
            Be a political solution here embargos tariffs ect I do not know I’m not a politician . But bashing US fishermen as being evil and the devil is just plain wrong and extremely offensive . Rather than kick us all why not hold the US fishery up
            To the light and shame the other countries into better management practices . Maybe this is the angle Nat Geo is shooting for . I cannot speak for them I do not know . I am just one of the subjects who agreed to let them look over my shoulder . And yes I was offered some money otherwise I would have not been interested . I got about the equivalent of 1 fish I did not catch so it was simple business . And hey it was fun too . I’m a nobody these guys just wanted to look over my shoulder while I was gonna go do my job anyway . I have no idea what will actually air . I have only seen a four minute sizzle reel . But if one thing that comes out of this opportunity is we as fishermen finally get to tell our side of the story . Wich is different than the slash and burn mentality the actually listing bluefin tuna would to to thousands of families who depend on these fish for a living and for recreation . I’m just getting in from fishing now my its around 10:00 pm my alarm is set for 2:30 am to go back out and do it again . When I get a day off due to bad weather I get on the computer and check out that link . But if it’s like most extreme sites that are out there it will do little to sway me from what I believe to be actual fact based on eye witnessing what’s really going on . Not assumption . So again I agree there is problems but I disagree with casting the evil description unpon the men and women of this country who have worked very hard and have done Sao much to unsure a healthy bluefin resource for generations to come . I tend to judge people by their actions not hot topic words . And many fishermen who came before me lead the way in the context of protection of Giant Bluefin Tuna .

          • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

            Dave,

            You’re a good spokesman for the cause, and I do understand what you’re saying. I grew up outside of Boston… spent a lot of time on the Cape & the North shore… so I saw, and I appreciate the link between the local economy and the sea. (I have fond memories of fishing with my family on a boat outside Plymouth harbor, and going right through a school of mackerel. What a dinner we had that night….) 

            I can’t speak for Ms. Willis, but it’s worth noting that she points a finger less at the local fleets in Gloucester, and more at fishermen in Europe: 

            “[B]luefin stocks, especially of large, breeding-age fish, have plummeted, and international conservation efforts have led to curbs on commercial takes. Nevertheless, at least one group says illegal fishing in Europe has pushed the Atlantic bluefin populations there to the brink of extinction.”

            I guess my point is this: You know all the fine points of bluefins, and you have years of experience that gives you insight on whether the fishery is healthy or badly depleted. But viewers of the show will see one thing, and one thing only: Guys on a boat pulling in a fish species that the IUCN says in an endangered species. Everything else is fine print no one will ever read. You can talk on camera until you’re blue in the face, but the fact is: No one is listening. They’re just watching. That’s TV. 

            This is perhaps my favorite example of how pictures overwhelm words. It’s from Lesley Stahl of CBS News:   

            Stahl recalled one of her most famous stories for “60 Minutes” — an expose on the 1984 Reagan re-election campaign that aired the night before the election. In a blitz of images showing a benevolent Reagan appearing at nursing home openings and hospitals, Stahl narrated that Reagan had, in fact, cut the budget for such projects.      

            Stahl feared the backlash of the White House the next day; instead, phone calls of praise began to pour in from Reagan’s administration thanking her for the “positive” newscast and free advertising the night before. Stahl was befuddled. Her broadcast was obviously meant to question Reagan’s budget cuts. It was then that she was told a stark reality that the news media had not been aware of before: “No one heard what you had to say in that piece,” Reagan’s staffer told her. “They just saw the pictures.”      

            It was then that Stahl realized the pure power of pictures. “Pictures drowned out my words,” she said. “Pictures are emotional and passionate and are capable of influencing viewers much more than mere words. We form judgments about what we see, and our leaders are aware of this. Visual images are much more powerful and remain with us longer.”

            That’s why I think Wicked Tuna won’t – and can’t — deliver any subtle messages about sustainable fishing practices in Gloucester. If the program is filled with fisherman killing an endangered species, that’s pretty much the only message that will hit home — despite all the good intentions of fishermen in Gloucester. 

            I’m not pointing a finger at you. My issue is with National Geographic: They understand how pictures work. And if the bluefin tuna is endangered, and it’s the “eleventh hour” (per NG), then I’m not sure what they had in mind when they commissioned this series — other than a New England version of The Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” that will pull in a lot of viewers (and advertising dollars).

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this… and for obviously caring a great deal about the health of both the Atlantic fishery — and the health & well being of folks in my home state. 

            Keep in touch…

            best,
            Alan

  • Fish Killer

    Alan,

    Pull up the endangered species list and show me where bluefin is on the list.  All you people cry we are killing the bluefins but yet you eat sushi.  Call a spade a spade.  I bet it would be safe to say you also drive an SUV also, much like Al Gore preaching to the world about green house gases as he travels solo in his private jet.  

    We follow the most strick regulations out of any country in the world with regards to bluefin tuna fishing.  Not only is there a size limit, but there is also a limit on how many a day we can catch.  If it was an endangered species do you really think our government would allow us to fish and export bluefin to other countires?  All you people need to educate yourself before you put out inaccurate and misleading information.

    We earn a hard living from catching tuna and stay well within the limits of the regulations. 

     

     

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Fish Killer - 

      Thanks for your note.

      Here’s the IUCN Redlist for bluefin: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21860/0 

      But as I note in this post (above), my issue is mainly with National Geographic, not you. Specifically: If it’s the “11th hour” for bluefin, then it seems wrong to launch a new TV show that glamorizes the killing of bluefin… don’t you think? 

      I know you guys work hard. I grew up outside of Boston, and, when I was a kid, I spent many weekend afternoons w/ my brother in a 13′ Boston Whaler zipping around the outskirts of Gloucester harbor, riding & slamming the waves that the fishing trawlers left behind. I haven’t actually done the sort of work you do, but I’ve seen you heading out to do it. 

      Thanks again for stopping by… and for your comments.

      best,
      Alan

      P.S. I drive a Ford Taurus station wagon.

  • Robert McManus

    Think about it this way.Environmental groups have tried to get BFT listed as endangered twice in the last couple years.The SCIENTISTS at NMFS have said NO, both times.
        “Ted Danson says so”, is NOT sufficient evidence to close a fishery.

  • Brian A Burke Jr

    I consider myself fair minded I suppose. The NMFS is the policy maker. The IUCN Redlist is there to convey there findings to the NMFS to try to change there policy. The NMFS hasn’t changed any policy.  Strange?  Probably because there is a method , obviously that the Fishermen have to abide by. You know Rules and regulations that the Government adopts so they don’t get extinct. What Fisherman would want the BFT extinct?  As for Ms. Willis’s comments about National Geographic and her comments and opinion. I consider it propaganda and she ought to get her facts right.  I support you National Geographic, The “Wicked” Tuna Fisherman, and the Tuna. Its not like they’ve got draggers out there scooping the fish out fifty at a time. Stick to the kitchen lady.  Let the Fishermen and National Geographic work.

    Brian Burke Jr

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Hi Brian,

      I hesitate to tangle with a fellow Red Sox fan (based on your email address), but here are a few thoughts….

      1. I’m sure there is a method, rules & regulations, that the government adopts to prevent bluefin from going extinct. But as I just noted elsewhere in this thread, National Geographic sounded the alarm about enforcement of those rules & regulations: 

      “ICCAT has both let current quotas for bluefin catches go unenforced as well as ignored growing evidence of massive underreporting of fishing for this imperiled species. In fact, it has been estimated that in 2007, 61,000 metric tons of Atlantic bluefin were caught in the Eastern Atlantic, although the quota was set at 29,500 metric tons–which itself represents a level twice what scientists have advised as sustainable.”

      If that’s true, why would it be wise — for the health & sustainability of the fishery (and the credibility of National Geographic) — to turn bluefin fishing into a reality TV show?

      2. Fishermen obviously don’t want bluefin to go extinct, and their livelihoods to disappear. But what guides fisherMEN isn’t necessarily what drives a fisherMAN. It’s the old “tragedy of the commons,” which is “a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.”

      3. It seems like Ms. Willis and the fishermen are really on the same team: Fishermen want to sell fish, Ms. Willis wants to buy & cook fish. A healthy fishery is good news all around, isn’t it? 

      Thanks for stopping by — and for your comments. 
      best,
      Alan

      P.S. Am I the only Sox fan who thinks the Roy Oswalt move would be a mistake?

      • davemarciano

        Tragedy of the commons. That is a whole different discussion altogether . Privatize the resource to sell to the highest bidder is nothing more than a criminal act

      • Redsoxburke

        Hi Alan,

        Oswalt’s coming off an injury and he’s getting up there in age. I’ll have to agree with ya. I’m thinking mistake too. I understand Ms. Willis is upset about the idea the BFT will go extinct, but, I’m pretty sure our Government is on top of it. The guidelines are in place in this country, and are enforced. NMF agents actually go on board working fleets to implement the rules. Maybe if she protested other countries and their behaviors rather than her neighbors, who are law abiding and have been beaten into submission by Big Brothr. As for Nat Geo and the “Wicked Tuna” show maybe the idea is to educate the mainstream about how well our BFT stocks are doing compared to other stocks in countries that have no rules.

        Best of Luck
        Brian A Burke Jr

        Go Patriots!

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Brian – I’d like to think that maybe Wicked Tuna is about comparative fish stock management (West vs. East), but trust me — it’s not. It’s about guys catching big fish under challenging circumstances. Look at another Nat Geo fish story — Shark Attack Live. Is it about educating people about shark behavior? Or is it about seeing young, attractive women in bikinis in the water with sharks, and wondering if they’re gonna get ripped to shreds? “This is not a stunt.” Uh huh. 

          As for the Red Sox, I’m preparing for another dry spell — though I hope I’m wrong. 

          And the Pats? It’s their year (I think).

          Thanks for writing…
          best,
          Alan

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Brian – I’d like to think that maybe Wicked Tuna is about comparative fish stock management (West vs. East), but trust me — it’s not. It’s about guys catching big fish under challenging circumstances. Look at another Nat Geo fish story — Shark Attack Live. Is it about educating people about shark behavior? Or is it about seeing young, attractive women in bikinis in the water with sharks, and wondering if they’re gonna get ripped to shreds? “This is not a stunt.” Uh huh. 

          As for the Red Sox, I’m preparing for another dry spell — though I hope I’m wrong. 

          And the Pats? It’s their year (I think).

          Thanks for writing…
          best,
          Alan

  • Fish Killer

    The 11th hour was back in 2010,  it’s now 2012 and a lot has transpired since then and maybe NG has done their research before thinking of airing this show and changed their tune.  All the new research and date show strong stocks and growing stocks.  At the curent growth rate and current ICCAT quotas stocks should be completley rebuilt within the next 10 years.  Yes we abide by the rules here in the US and fish within the rules and yes many participating ICCAT nations in the Eastern Atlantic and Med have exceeded their quotas for many years.  With the threat of the enadangerd listing you speak of back in 2010, many nations are now playing by the rules.  Some countries have suspended fishing and their government has payed their fishermen to stay home, other have opened up pens with thousands of fish to swim for another day and many countries have admitted to not enforcing quotas when they were reached (turning a blind eye).  Maybe this threat is just what was needed to turn things around in the Eastern Atlantic and the Med.  At the meeting the new and updated science showed just this… http://www.fish-news.com/cfn/editorial/editorial_11_10/US_must_embrace_bluefin_stock_news_at_ICCAT.html
    Because of this, the bluefin were not listed as an endangerd species and the fishing continues.  Hopefully fishing continues with the Eastern Atalntic and the Med playing by the rules as they now have for the last two years.  Yes there will always be a few that don’t.
     
    You look at science from many different sources, you can choose yours and I will choose mine wheter it be ICUN or NOAA or any other source.  What I can tell you is that if you were on my boat or any other boat for example you would see it a different way.  That is good real science.  I live out there and I can say I have seen more bluefins showing up each year both big and small.  On any given day I can talk with other fishermen in Maine, New Hampshire, Mass, New Jersey and the Carolinas and they all say the same….schools and schools of bluefins.  In my opinion a far cry for an EAS listing, but what do I know.
     
    Maybe this program is good for the rest of the world to see, if the other countires play by the rules like we do here in the US, we will have a sustainable fishery for generations to come.
     
    Are these the intentions of Nat Geo…I cannot say for sure.  Maybe it’s for ratings maybe it’s for other things.  Keep in mind it Nat Geo is a business and it’s all about the money either way you look at it whether it’s for entertainment or an informational program.    
     
    There are many bluefins worldwide, most countries are playing by the rules and the stocks are strong and growing.  With that said maybe Nat Geo has changed their tune on what they saw back in 2010 and what is now 2012.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Thanks for this background, Fish Killer. Sounds as though conditions have changed since 2010, but that leaves me wondering why the IUCN still lists the bluefin as endangered: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21860/0

      What are the intentions of National Geographic? Tell a good story. Pull in a big audience. Sell a lot of advertisements. (See: The Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.) Nothing wrong with any of those goals. My main concern is that the National Geographic Society doesn’t end up with egg on its face. And based on the buzz that surrounded the show’s announcement, the piece by Carl Safina, and the IUCN listing — well, something struck me as sort of fishy. 

      Thanks again for casting some light on this….

  • Fish Killer

    Alan,

    On one more note after reading your response to other posters, please discontinue with  misleading comments about bluefin being an endangered species .  You will not find bluefin anywhere listed as an endangered species.  If you can find it please post it. 

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Here the endangered species listing per IUCN:  http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21860/0

  • Susie Willis

    In reading the article you referenced regarding bluefin tuna being an “endangered species,” I noticed radical differences for Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Stock as compared to Western Atlantic Stock:

    Western Atlantic Stock

    … there has been an estimated
    less than 1% decline in SSB (spawning stock biomass) over the past 21
    years (1988–2009).

    Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean
    stock

    … there has been an estimated 30%
    decline in SSB over the past 21 years (1988–2009) .

    Gloucester, Massachusetts fishes the Western Atlantic Stock which is highly controlled not just in relation to size and number, as Mr. Marciano has pointed out, but also in method of fishing. It seems to me that differentiation must be made as to location rather than accepting sweeping statements regarding the state of the species.

    • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      Hi Susie,

      I’m not a biologist, so I’m a bit over my head here. But what does this mean? 

      “In the Eastern Atlantic stock, current fishing mortality is far above maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and estimated SSB is far below MSY. The Western Atlantic stock has experienced severe declines in the past, is also below MSY, and has not recovered under current fishing regimes. ”  
      (from the IUCN report)

      Doesn’t that mean the Western Atlantic stock is still in trouble?

      • davemarciano

        Brilliant point Susie
        She is expaining sustainable fishing in action for 21 years on the US side of the fence .

        That disproved the whole tragedy of the commons right there as well

        Spawn stock Biomass is I’m not a biologist either just an ignorant fisherman with a high school diploma
        Basically considered to be the number of large spawning aged fish out there
        The most recent reports Wich are soon to be published will show an increase in SSB .
        What that means is for that entire time period
        I the evil commercial fisherman gave been out there killing fish I ad well as a great many other people . Some catching more than me some catching less the beauty of the commons . Each of those years we have been taking hundreds of tons of fish in all the aspects of the bluefin fishery and the overall abundance is getting larger . Pretty much what I was trying to say just said with a hole lot I’d scientific mumbo jumbo mixed in to
        Bury the facts .the eastern stock may collapse Wich would probably benefit those fish because of the out of control nations . When a stock is considered collapsed it simply means there is not out there to
        Be commercially viable . While not great that just means fishermen willstop fishing for them because they can’t make money
        The fishermen in Europe will go out of business and then the stocks will recover but not go extinc . The western stock the the US fishermen protect is in great shape . From a political standpoint Wich is where you and virgina seem to be going with this . It’s just the usual left . Now it makes sense I’m surprised I missed that .

      • davemarciano

        Brilliant point Susie
        She is expaining sustainable fishing in action for 21 years on the US side of the fence .

        That disproved the whole tragedy of the commons right there as well

        Spawn stock Biomass is I’m not a biologist either just an ignorant fisherman with a high school diploma
        Basically considered to be the number of large spawning aged fish out there
        The most recent reports Wich are soon to be published will show an increase in SSB .
        What that means is for that entire time period
        I the evil commercial fisherman gave been out there killing fish I ad well as a great many other people . Some catching more than me some catching less the beauty of the commons . Each of those years we have been taking hundreds of tons of fish in all the aspects of the bluefin fishery and the overall abundance is getting larger . Pretty much what I was trying to say just said with a hole lot I’d scientific mumbo jumbo mixed in to
        Bury the facts .the eastern stock may collapse Wich would probably benefit those fish because of the out of control nations . When a stock is considered collapsed it simply means there is not out there to
        Be commercially viable . While not great that just means fishermen willstop fishing for them because they can’t make money
        The fishermen in Europe will go out of business and then the stocks will recover but not go extinc . The western stock the the US fishermen protect is in great shape . From a political standpoint Wich is where you and virgina seem to be going with this . It’s just the usual left . Now it makes sense I’m surprised I missed that .

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Dave & Susie - 

          I went looking for more information re: SSB, and found this @ NMFS“The spawning stock biomass (SSB) of the western stock is estimated to have declined steadily between the early 1970s and early 1990s. Since then, SSB is estimated to have fluctuated between 21 and 29 percent of the 1970 level, but with a gradual increase in recent years from the low of 21 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2009. .”
          And from what others have suggested here, those numbers will get better in 2012. Is that enough evidence for conservation biologists to remove the bluefin from the IUCN Redlist and declare victory? I doubt it. My guess is they’d say shows like Wicked Tuna send the wrong message at the wrong time; that after years of trying to reduce demand for bluefin, it would be counter-productive to put a program that romanticizes bluefin fishing on primetime TV. Thanks to you (and others in this thread) for sharing our expertise on these issues. 

      • Susie Willis

        The point I was trying to make was that Ms. Willis may have benefited from thoughtful reading before writing her reaction to what seemed to be conflicting points of view.

        Perhaps some of the confusion around the “endangered” label is that

        while the “IUCN Red List of
        Threatened Species” lists the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna as endangered,
        they also state that: “The Center for Biological Diversity
        petitioned the U.S. Government to list the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
        under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The U.S. government agreed to
        conduct a status review for this species, but decided not to list it
        as Endangered or Threatened but as a Species of Concern with plans to
        review its status again in 2013.” Also, 

        the sentence following the two you quoted states, “Management of the Eastern Atlantic stock is essential to the
        future of this species, as it represents the majority of this species
        global population.” My point was simply that rather than looking at a label assigned by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a thoughtful reading of their report should be part of the exercise. Differentiation between Eastern and Western Atlantic situations is a must.

        Speaking of thoughtful reading, the article in National Geographic to which Ms. Willis points said, ” In fact, it has been estimated that in 2007, 61,000 metric tons of
        Atlantic bluefin were caught in the Eastern Atlantic, although the quota
        was set at 29,500 metric tons–which itself represents a level twice
        what scientists have advised as sustainable.
        Moreover, a recent report by the International Consortium of
        Investigative Journalists found evidence of massive fraud and illegal
        fishing of bluefin, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea… This pattern of gross mismanagement and blatant disregard for science can’t be allowed to continue.” Also in the article is this: “Unfortunately, it’s now or never for bluefin tuna. If we take action
        now, a thriving and sustainable bluefin fishery may be possible once
        again in both the western and eastern Atlantic.”  A recommended step to take was to “Prohibit the take of Atlantic bluefin tuna in their spawning grounds in the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.”

        Again, less emotion and more thought would be beneficial to all…

        • http://societymatters.org Alan Mairson

          Susie - 

          I’m seeing the distinctions, West vs. East. They’re important. And given what you, Dave, and others have said, they are paramount to fishermen in New England, who don’t want to be punished for the behavior of European fishermen. 

          But look at this from the point of view of someone watching TV. Everything you’ve described is the fine print. Important to remember, but a footnote to the program. Yes, the East-West contrast will no doubt be mentioned. Maybe there will be a map. But I can’t help but wonder what the overall impression will be in the minds of viewers re: the health of the global bluefin fishery. They’ll see guys on boats. They’ll see a battle with the elements. They’ll see huge fish pulled from the water. And that picture story will say… what? That the European bluefins are in bigger trouble than their distant relations off the coast of New England? Hmmm… I doubt it. 

          I spent years working for National Geographic magazine, and if there’s one lesson I learned, it’s this: Pictures speak at a volume of 10; words at a volume of about 2. At least at National Geographic, where the pictures always come first. 

          Thanks again for stopping by… and for giving me an education on bluefins.

          best,
          Alan

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