In the following comment post vegan and activist Jamie Newlin, a very welcome and regular contributor to Talking Naturally, discusses the way the fishing industry is using press-releases to spin the “sustainability” of a new population of Orange Roughy, a once abundant deep-ocean fish brought to the brink of extinction through overfishing (see eg The Australian Marine Conservation Society).
NZ: Beleaguered Orange roughies back in the frying pan?
Jamie Newlin, July 2012:
Recently we read the news from New Zealand that:
” …The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has discovered a new group of orange roughy… ”
Now we see a headline:
” …Putting Orange Roughy back on the sustainable fish menu… ”
Scarcely a week has passed, and the drumbeat is on to fish for more orange roughies.
We found some more, so let’s fish some more.
And guess what they’re “sustainable”!
Even though we fished all the other populations to the point of decimation.
See, it SAYS they’re sustainable right in the article here below…
Or, at least it strongly implies they’re sustainable…
” …Good news about substantial new Orange Roughy stocks and World class technology should see Orange Roughy back on the sustainable fish menu in the near future…. ”
The stocks are substantial.
And therefore they will be back on the sustainable fish menu soon.
The stocks are substantial… That might be true. But probably not for long.
And therefore they will be back on the sustainable fish menu soon. That’s for sure.
You couldn’t say the stocks were insubstantial and then claim to be putting them on the sustainable fish menu.
That wouldn’t look good.
So any new population of fish, (found by a fishing industry/govt/academic research expedition), is going to need to be labeled
in order to then claim it is
in order to line it up for “green” commercial exploitation.
This is standard, boiler plate operating prep for exploiting a fish population. That “sustainable” prefix has to be in there somewhere. And the “substantial” prefix is a smart move too, because it is used to justify the “sustainable” prefix (to those who won’t think about it too hard).
So who decides what is substantial?
What is substantial?
A population that is not yet commercially extinct.
Being able to profit from fishing a population proves it is “substantial”.
And when the population stops being substantial, due to the fishing to put it on the “sustainable fish” menu?
We’ll do more surveys.
In other places.
When we get the money for fuel for the boat, to go that far out and that deep.
Maybe there’s more out there.
The fact of a fish population being substantial makes very little difference to the fate of the population, even if the population really is substantial as defined by disinterested parties.
Indeed, it pays to be rare (or at least the equivalent of commercially extinct) if you are a fish species being viewed by humans. It’s hard to develop a market for an uncommon fish, especially a big globalized market supplied by vacuum-the-seas mega-trawlers.
Thus the idea that a “substantial” fish population is a good candidate for the “sustainable” fish menu, because it is labeled “substantial” by commercially interested parties is pretty bizarre. Unless you’re just interested in creating a justification for a new fishery out of evidence that, if put in historical contest, argues against further fishing.
Cod and tuna, for example, have or have had (depending on the particular populations) much more “substantial” numbers than Orange roughy ever had, and yet they are in trouble exactly because they are/were substantial in numbers. Indeed fish that have (or had) substantial populations are in trouble all over the world, precisely because they have (or used to have) substantial populations.
What’s a “green” choice on the “sustainable” fish menu? It’s the fish that will soon be replaced by another “green” choice once it too has become unsubstantial, population-wise, due to all the managed fishing aided by modern technology.
Think I’m being too cynical here? Take a look at Europe. Callum Roberts, in his book The Unnatural History of the Sea, states that:
“…In relation to true unexploited population sizes, we probably have today less than 5 percent of the total mass of fish that once swam in Europe’s seas…” (p. 195)
This is the unacknowledged backdrop to all the fights over “responsible” fish management in Europe, and we should remember this when we read about European fisheries interests proclaiming how green they are, and how they want to help Africa manage its fisheries (and help do the fishing too), and how they are so advanced as conservationists. Europe is fighting over and praising itself for playing musical chairs with the last five percent of the biomass of fish in European seas.
The southern oceans, New Zealand included, are by contrast a sort of wild west of fisheries, where new stocks (“substantial” ones) and even some pristine habitats are still being discovered, but then these discoveries are lined up for exploitation, including bottom trawling, behind various modern certification facades just as in Europe.
And thus the Orange roughy may soon be on the “sustainable” fish menu again.
Would that they had avoided detection by humans.
So the news item here below tells the literal truth as far as it goes, that a “susbtantial” (by somebody’s definition) population of Orange roughy will be put on a “sustainable” (by somebody’s definition) fish menu. But all this gets people to think that this means something else (that the fishery will be sustainable), and thereby it promotes destructive consumption.
And it looks intentional to me. The piece here below has fisheries PR feed article (to hand to news networks all ready to print) written all over it.
The article, as far as I can tell, was first published by Voxy, a NZ web-news company that you can send news articles to for publication:
” …To submit news tips to Voxy please email firstname.lastname@example.org… ” (/www.voxy.co.nz/about-voxy)
And Voxy got the article as an input from a related organization called Fuseworks Media.
Voxy (www.voxy.co.nz ) is a subset of Digital Advance (www.digitaladvance.co.nz)
“…Voxy is owned by Wellington based online publisher Digital Advance Limited…”
“ ..Voxy’s primary sources of content are its community of bloggers and the Fuseworks real-time news management platform – though everyone with something to say is encouraged to contribute…” (/www.voxy.co.nz/about-voxy)
And Digital Advance tells us:
Our press release writing service is headed by Simon Randall (/www.digitaladvance.co.nz)
Who also contributes to Fuseworks, for example:
“How Not to Write a Press Release” (fuseworksmedia.com/blog/how-not-write-press-release) which feeds news to Voxy (owned by Digital Advance, where Simon Randall is head of content):
• Head of Content at Digital Advance
• Co-Founder at Fuseworks Media
Voxy’s press release writing service is Digital Advance’s press writing service.
Randal Simon is the chief press release writer: (/www.voxy.co.nz/about-voxy
I’m not writing this to implicate Simon Randall, or his organizations, in any particular fisheries collusion. He’s a PR guy doing what PR guys do, which is to help people who want to say something to say it better, and to get it distributed. If he personally even did that in this case…
The article here below was certainly written by someone with extensive PR experience, it’s upbeat and slippery and avoids all the downsides to the fishery. It could have been written or at least polished by Digital Advance/Fuseworks/Voxy, or it could have been written by an industry or government PR professional insider and submitted to Digital Advance/Fuseworks/Voxy. The first sentence of the version here below is a tad awkward from my view, but as a fisheries booster piece, it does the trick.
My point here is that the media industry generally doesn’t know much about the fishing industry, and therefore it is very easy for a “respectable” group (respectable in the sense of having money and position) like the fishing industry, fisheries academia, or a government fisheries agency, or some combination of these to submit a puff piece to the news and get it polished and published and then republished by other news outlets without anyone in media questioning it.
And that is great news for fishery business-as-usual.
You just send in the industry line to a news outlet, and you can get it spread all over from there.
Notice the article below isn’t credited to anyone but Fuseworks Media via Voxy. The article isn’t credited to the fisheries industry, even though the article amounts to a preparatory campaign for renewed Orange roughy fishing. Which is an important point, given the very different reception such an article would get if it was signed “By Your Orange Roughy Extraction Company” or “By Your Government Facilitators of Orange Roughy Extraction”, or by the “Bottom-Trawlers Public Relations Council”, or some such.
For $500 dollars, or for a lot less if you write it all yourself, you can get an article that justifies a whole new war on a newly discovered fish population, an article that looks like an independent third party news piece.
” …Press release writing service: With news media increasingly using press-releases as a primary source of information, getting noticed by editorial decision makers has never been more important. Presenting information in a form media can easily and quickly digest can only increase the chance of a release being used for an article. ….Prices range from $250-$500 to craft each release, depending on the amount of
research required. (/www.digitaladvance.co.nz/pr-services/press-release-writing-service/)
* * *
Any fish stock is “sustainable”. That’s why they’re still there when you discover them. When you say that a stock is sustainable, as in:
“Good news about substantial new Orange Roughy stocks and World class technology should see Orange Roughy back on the sustainable fish menu in the near future”,
it doesn’t mean a thing.
It’s not the fish stock that needs to be sustainable, or that has a problem with being sustainable, the problem is the fishery. And being substantial is not much of a recommendation of exploitation either, as mentioned, since the fishing industry is specifically geared to decimate substantial stocks.
So when some bottom-trawling known-population-decimating fishing outfit comes and tells you, all shiny-smiley good-newsy oh-golly-goshy, that they have found a “substantial fish stock”, and that therefore it’s going to be on the sustainable fish menu, tell them, “Oh yeah, you mean like all those other ‘substantial’ and ‘sustainable’ fish stocks you’ve decimated within my lifetime?”.
While we’re at this, it might be good to ask ourselves exactly what “sustainable” means.
Does it mean that a diminishing number of fish can be had for a number of years longer, at great cost to habitat and the rest of the undersea environment in the area being fished? That’s what’s happening here.
The only sense in which these fisheries are sustainable is in that they can keep pulling up a few fish year after year from the ravaged habitat that is left. Orange roughy is frequently gotten by bottom-trawling.
“See, we pulled up some fish. So it must be sustainable. Never mind the barren rubble-fields down below.”
Orange roughies were getting near commercially extinct by the time they received protection. And the populations that went commercially extinct and had to be protected were all sustainable stocks…until we started fishing them. And now we’re supposed to believe that the fishery is sustainable after all, because the fishing industry missed a population on their previous rampage?
Saying you’ve found a “sustainable stock” puts the whole focus on the fish species being victimized, not on the fishers and consumers, and so is a way of “never having to say that you’re sorry”. It’s a worthless general truism, you can say it about any fish stock anywhere. Bluefin tuna stocks are all sustainable. They still are. Yet we overfish them. Steller’s sea cow stocks were sustainable, but they’re now completely
extinct. On the island of Mauritius, the dodo stock was sustainable. Right up until we ate the last male or female.
The only thing saving a lot of marine organisms from total (as opposed to commercial) extinction is the remoteness and depth of their habitats. We might miss a few spots. But even that is changing. For example, in the article here below, we are told that:
“Using a towed multi-frequency system it is possible to separate out Orange Roughy from other species. Mounting an acoustic optical system (AOS) provides detailed information about the species.”
No doubt this technological advance will be greenwashed as being a way to help “manage and conserve’ fish species, but that isn’t what is going to happen. The record so far is unequivocal, flashy acronyms (‘We’re using AOS…’) notwithstanding. Advances in technology are used to profit from other organisms until they disappear, not to conserve them.
Remember all the depleted Orange roughy stocks before this one? They were all sustainable too. And then we found them.
All fish stocks are sustainable until we find them. And they’re even “sustainable” while we’re obliterating them.
So let’s tweak the PR-infected definition of the word “sustainable” to give it some actual, practical conservation meaning. A sustainable fish stock is one that we cannot or will not access. And a substantial fish stock? It’s an opportunity to do the right thing, by leaving it alone.
Putting Orange Roughy back on the sustainable fish menu
03 July, 2012
Good news about substantial new Orange Roughy stocks and world class
technology should see Orange Roughy back on the sustainable fish menu in
the near future.
Sealord’s FV Otakou vessel is on a voyage with a team of scientists who
will be using state of the art acoustic equipment to count Orange Roughy
more accurately than ever before.
The scientists from the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research
Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia and the New Zealand Ministry of
Primary Industries (MPI) are on board the vessel as it surveys the
Northwest Chatham Region east of New Zealand’s South Island.
The Survey Plan outlining the voyage and research to be undertaken
reveals the technology being deployed will provide more valuable and
uniquely accurate data:
“Using a towed multi-frequency system it is possible to separate out
Orange Roughy from other species.
Mounting an acoustic optical system (AOS) provides detailed information
about the species.”
Sealord has partnered with the CSIRO for many years and is delighted to
be providing the vessel that makes this research possible.
The FV Otakou has joined another Sealord vessel Thomas Harrison, on the
Challenger Plateau to do a joint survey with MPI on this recently
reopened Orange Roughy fishery.
According to New Zealand Fish General Manager, Doug Paulin, supporting
this research is vital to ensuring the health of the Orange Roughy
stocks is confirmed.
“A growing body of evidence is showing Orange Roughy stocks are in good
health, and we know discerning consumers are looking for sustainable
fish,” said Paulin.
This new research programme follows the recent release of the MPI
Fisheries Assessment Report. Principal Fisheries Science Advisor Dr
Pamela Mace said the highlights in the report include ‘a new and
substantial group of Orange Roughy on the Chatham Rise’.
END FIRST ARTICLE
• Head of Content at Digital Advance
• Co-Founder at Fuseworks Media
END SECOND ARTICLE
Voxy’s press release writing service is Digital Advance’s press writing
Randal Simon is the chief press release writer:
END THIRD ARTICLE
Randall Simon is a co-founder of Fuseworks Media:
,”Fuseworks co-founder Simon Randall mentioned today.
END FOURTH ARTICLE
Voxy.co.nz is updated throughout the day, seven days a week, with the
latest NZ entertainment, sport, lifestyle, health, national, business,
politics, and technology news.
Voxy’s primary sources of content are its community of bloggers and the
Fuseworks real-time news management platform – though everyone with
something to say is encouraged to contribute.
Voxy is owned by Wellington based online publisher Digital Advance
Limited, which also publishes Guide2.co.nz (personal finance news and
‘how to’ guides), expert and community recommendations
website,Recommended.co.nz and competitions and giveaways search engine,
Contact Voxy and Submit News
To submit news tips to Voxy please email email@example.com. For
all corrections or suggested changes to content on this site please
If you need help crafting your message, contact us for information on
our press release writing service.
For website feedback, business development opportunities or advertising
enquiries, team Voxy can be contacted by emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone – (04) 889 0188.
For other contacts please see the About page of Voxy publisher Digital
END FIFTH ARTICLE
Press release writing service
With news media increasingly using press releases as a primary source of
information, getting noticed by editorial decision makers has never been
Presenting information in a form media can easily and quickly digest can
only increase the chance of a release being used for an article.
Having read, written and used thousands of press releases, we have a
good idea about how to craft a release the right journalists will
Our press release writing service is headed by Simon Randall, an
experienced journalist and communicator who has reported and edited for
news agencies (NZPA and the UK Press Association), newspapers on three
continents (including The Times (UK)), websites (This Is Money, Voxy,
Guide2) and radio.
He has also used his extensive experience to write about writing press
Prices range from $250-$500 to craft each release, depending on the
amount of research required.
To find out more, please contact Simon via email, or phone (04) 889 0474
Feature photo copyright AFMA, and taken from http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/oceans_and_marine/marine_threats/overfishing/