When will the Media party correct the facts regarding the fishing industry hit job?

Several weeks ago a group of Kraut eco-terrorists working in collusion with so-called scientists, including Labour party president Nigel Haworth, launched an attack on the fishing industry and on McDonalds.

Their attack centred on some shonky report that wasn’t even peer-reviewed with anecdotal evidence and no actual physical data.

Now the true story of these activists is starting to emerge but the complicit Media party has failed to hold them to account for their shabby and blatantly wrong report.

It is not possible to have a sensible science-based discussion around the Simmons report (Simmons et al 2016) because the data and methods used remain unclear.

For science to be of value to society it must be impartial, transparent and repeatable. Their report demonstrates none of these hallmarks.

In early 2015, after the authors of the Simmons report publicly presaged their results, industry asked for a copy of their work and for the underlying data and computations. They declined. We subsequently found a copy of their ‘draft’ report on Pew’s website. Their ‘draft’ findings did not align with those in other publicly available independent assessments. Following this, we met with the authors, provided them with copies of the existing work and invited them to have their work independently reviewed by a recognised scientist of standing, such as Sir Peter Gluckman.

To date, they have declined to have their work independently reviewed in New Zealand.

So they launched the report to the BBC and foreign media, attacking New Zealand industry and a multi-national business with no facts that can be independently verified.

The major findings in the final report released in May 2016 are indistinguishable from those in their ‘draft’ final report from 12 months earlier. NIWA’s studies are referenced in their final report, but the authors do not appear to have materially considered them in their findings.

In New Zealand, before any scientific information can be used to inform decisions on the sustainable management of New Zealand’s fisheries it must first meet the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Research and Science Information Standard for New Zealand Fisheries (MPI Information Standard).

If the authors wish their findings to be considered in the management of New Zealand’s fisheries, then they should submit these, along with the methodologies, for peer review through MPI’s science working groups, alongside all of the other science supporting the sustainable management of our fisheries.

We have asked them to do this. They have yet to do so.

The dishonesty is impressive. The Media party are a party to that dishonesty as well.

It appears that their desired effect is to create sensation, rather than to seek solutions that will create positive changes to New Zealand’s fisheries management.

The deliberate leaking of a confidential study by the Ministry for Primary Industries (a pilot study designed to assess the level of interaction with protected species in inshore fisheries) coincidentally with the release of their final report, and the misuse of this report to give credence to their catch reconstruction speaks volumes of their intentions.

The authors have further revealed their intentions through their collusion with NABU, a European environmental organisation calling for a boycott of New Zealand seafood over the alleged cover-up of an endangered Maui dolphin death in 2014.

This call by German-based Dr Barbara Maas targets McDonalds, which uses New Zealand hoki because it is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, was timed to coincide with the release of the Simmons report.

Dr Maas claims that a Maui dolphin’s death was suppressed and provided a press release to the BBC and to other international news organisations. The fact is Dr Maas’s claim is untrue.

Has this been acknowledged by Simmons and their eNGO followers? It has not.

And the media breathlessly reported it, and the left-wing commentariat declared the report to be gospel, when it was nothing but a sham and full of false claims. Headlines over substance.

The substance of the report is most concerning.

The question that should be being asked here is: “Why is a publicly funded institution, the University of Auckland’s Business School, and publicly funded researchers colluding to misconstrue information, the effect of which is to undermine a vital export sector?” Is this simply self-promotion or is it political as well?

The Simmons report is deeply politicised – one only needs to view the list of authors, their affiliations and their actions.

Highlighted by the inclusion of Labour party president, Nigel Haworth, on the authors list.

The Simmons report is part of an international project The Sea Around Us, headed by Dr Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia and funded by the Pew Charitable Trust.

Dr Pauly is well known for his anti-fishing stance and is on record for sensationally claiming the world’s oceans will run out of fish by mid-century and all we will have to eat are jellyfish. There is no scientific evidence to support this. These claims are based on a fundamental misunderstanding that catch levels can be used to assess the status of fish stocks, claims that do not accord with the science. These claims have been strongly refuted by many experienced, international fisheries scientists.

The catch reconstructions in the Simmons report cover 61 years, drawing heavily on anonymous interviews with 300 subjects, 200 of who were former crew on foreign-chartered vessels complaining about their treatment.

Historical stories from those who are discontent are no substitute for rigorous, quantitative, scientific enquiry.

The role of science is to put data before opinion, not the reverse.

What the report’s authors appear to have done is to compile every account of non-reported catches they could find, to arbitrarily transform these accounts into quantities of fish, and to then extrapolate these guesses across the entire industry to create their inflated figures.

Their bias is demonstrated in choosing to dismiss detailed studies by independent researchers, such as NIWA, which demonstrate the overall discard rate from observed vessels since 1991 is around 6.6 percent in the offshore fisheries, where the bulk of fish are caught.

The authors make claims that the actual catch is two to three times higher than the reported catch. If the authors’ findings seem incredible that is because they are, simply put, not credible.

When it comes to objective quantitative records of what actually occurred, if one had to choose between the written records of trained government observers and the memories of the disaffected on historical events, it is a no-brainer.

Because the authors are so vulnerable in this respect, since the report’s release Simmons has been publicly attempting to discredit NIWA’s findings. He claims NIWA’s findings are not accurate because they “do not tell us how much was dumped when the observer was asleep”. This is desperate stuff. The fact is all offshore vessels that MPI deems to require more scrutiny have two or more observers onboard for 24-hour coverage.

The other telling point is that nowhere in their release do the authors state that their estimate of the level of non-reported catch across all New Zealand fisheries over the most recent five years (2005-10) is around 38%, because spurious claims of 270% is a far more sensational claim, one that they hoped would grab the headlines.

So they have run with sensation, rather than with science.

And the media ran with that?

This whole saga is an indictment on the NZ Media, who all breathlessly ran the story despite obvious flaws in the report. They have given scant regard to the facts and may have aided and abetted an act of industrial sabotage against an entire industry. Shame on them.


– Deepwater Group


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.