PolitiFact calls claims of menhaden declines “Mostly False”, is completely wrong

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A menhaden, image courtesy Pew Environment Group

A menhaden, image courtesy Pew Environment Group

Despite their small size and plain appearance, menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea” because numerous coastal fish species rely on them for food. Although they aren’t typically eaten by humans, there is still a huge fishery for them for bait, aquaculture food, and oil. That fishery has been essentially unregulated, allowing fishermen to take as many as they want. Recently, there’s been a campaign among certain environmental groups to fix this problem and put catch limits in place for menhaden.

I was surprised to see PolitiFact, a non-partisan political fact-checking website, address this issue. I’ve checked PolitiFact pretty regularly for years, and I’ve never seen them cover a topic like this before. They focused on a claim by the Pew Environment Group that “In recent years, menhaden numbers along our coast have plummeted by 90 percent.” While I admit I am not familiar with specific details of menhaden population trends,  anyone who has paid any attention at all to the ocean knows that we’re overfishing at alarming rates. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 1/3 of all global fisheries are depleted or overexploited, many by more than the 90% referenced for menhaden. Shockingly, PolitiFact called the claim by Pew “mostly false”. Their reasoning for this ruling is even more ridiculous than the ruling itself:

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Hope for Fiji’s Sharks?

Check out this trailer for “Shark Hope”, a soon-to-be-released documentary chronicling efforts to make a National Shark Sanctuary in Fiji!

This movie is a partnership between Shark Defenders, the Coral Reef Alliance, and the Pew Environment Group. The movie will be released in Fiji later this month, and will soon be available online.

Save the krill!

The conservation movement is full of organizations whose stated goal is to protect  specific organisms (i.e. “save the whales” or “save the sea turtles”) or to protect certain ecosystems (i.e. “save the rain forest” or “save the coral reef”). While these groups do admirable work, I can’t help put notice that they primarily focus on charismatic, likable organisms and ecosystems that are considered beautiful. The reason for this is simple- it’s easier to get the public to support conserving these things.  Any conservation is a good thing, but when we focus exclusively on what we like instead of what’s important to the environment, it can lead to ecological disaster. That’s why I was so excited to learn of the existence of the “save the krill” movement.

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Innovative Conservation: Shark Attack Survivors Speak About Saving Sharks

Last Monday, the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign arranged for a brilliant PR stunt – they arranged for survivors of shark attacks to speak about shark conservation outside of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Though very few people are ever bitten by sharks, many fear them, which makes it difficult to generate public support for their conservation. Having survivors of shark attacks speak about the need for international legal protection for sharks is a great move. As participant Debbie Salamone said, “If a group like us can see the value in saving sharks, can’t everyone?” The Pew organizers also made sure that this event was covered by the press- dozens of friends sent me this Yahoo News article, and several event participants were featured on CBS’ the Early Show.

The timing couldn’t be better. According to the Underwater Times:

“U.N. member countries have an opportunity this week and next to address this problem when they refine their annual resolution on sustainable fisheries and review the Millennium Development Goals, which include a target to reduce biodiversity loss. This is also the International Year of Biodiversity. At a press conference, meetings with U.N. missions and a panel discussion at the U.N., the survivors will ask that delegates use these opportunities to advance shark conservation.”

I hope this helps. At the very least, it resulted in some positive media coverage for sharks.

~WhySharksMatter