To the surprise of conservationists, in 2001 the New Zealand hoki fishery was recognised as a sustainably managed fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council. Yet conservationists have continually raised concerns over how the fishery could possibly be sustainable when bycatch rates of NZ fur seals and seabirds are so high and the bottom trawling equipment used by the fishery is so damaging.
In September 2009 the New York Times gave these concerns international attention by highlighting that the hoki industry may not be the picture of ocean sustainability it claimed to be. Hoki (Macruronus novaezealandiae) is the primary ingredient in Filet-o-Fish and McDonald’s branches worldwide rely on it.
The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council found this hard to stomach and acted by buying google adwords for kewords like New Zealand, hoki, New York Times and Laura Chang (the New York Times editor).
This apparently comes at a cost of $300-500 per day, but with McDonald’s buying millions of dollars of hoki each year, the investment in managing the information available to consumers is obviously worth it. One of the benefits of this PR investment was that it enabled the Seafood Council to link the word hoki in the New York Times article to a Seafood Council web page, which essentially provides their rebuttal to the article.
Each year the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society publishes a consumer guide, which ranks the ecological sustainability of seafood from our commercial fisheries. Forest and Bird ranks hoki an ‘E: Red – worst choice’ in it’s Best Fish Guide 09-10, which frog posted on earlier.
The guide is becoming increasingly popular and this year gained the support of nationwide burger chain, Burger Wisconsin who followed Forest and Bird’s advice and switched from deepwater dory to the more sustainable tarakihi. The Seafood Council has recognised the influence of the Best Fish Guide in it’s own way. The Council bought the URL www.bestfishguide.com, which now links – you guessed it – to a Seafood Council webpage with a ‘Great Fish Guide’ – a guide on the best ways to prepare and eat seafood!
I’d much rather the Seafood Council invested their PR money in researching ways to manage truly sustainable fisheries.