Fishing News calls Greenpeace bluff

4th July 2013 in Media

A row has broken out in recent weeks as Greenpeace criticized Fishing News’ editorial policy as the paper refused to publish a lengthy letter in which it complained about not being given a voice in the industry publication.

Heated row as Greenpeace rejects FN offer to face questions from industry

Greenpeace rejects FN invitation to answer questions from the fishing industry

A row has broken out in recent weeks as Greenpeace criticized Fishing News’ editorial policy as the paper refused to publish a lengthy letter in which it complained about not being given a voice in the industry publication.

In a sometimes heated debate through emails, Fishing News stated that Greenpeace is not a fishing industry body, despite their alliance with one group of inshore fishermen, and that therefore the green group was not entitled to space on a regular basis in the publication when the majority of the UK’s 12,000 fishermen did not support the green group.

Greenpeace accused Fishing News of being “an NFFO mouthpiece” – a statement the paper rejects as articles from Ministers Benyon and Lochhead, the MMO, SFF and other groups appear in the paper more regularly than NFFO news.

The following is a summary of the email conversation between Greenpeace and Fishing News:

Greenpeace: It’s sad to see your publication parroting baseless accusations against Greenpeace by the NFFO. Your pages should give space to the variety of opinions held by such a diverse sector, rather than act as the mouthpiece of a powerful lobby.

Cormac Burke: Fishing News past, present and future will always support and defend any industry group or body when it is seen to be coming under unfair treatment by any group outside of the fishing industry.

An alliance with a small group of inshore fishermen doesn’t change the fact that Greenpeace is NOT part of this industry, and as such, is not entitled to have an input into how this industry is managed.

This publication has, long before Greenpeace took interest in the UK industry, been offering protection to inshore groups such as NUTFA and to larger bodies such as NFFO and SFF. It’s ironic that Greenpeace, who took an interest in the UK fishing industry less than a decade ago, should question the editorial politics of a publication that has been the supporting backbone of the fishing industry for over 100 years.

If Greenpeace only wants what is best for the future of the industry, and it appears that the main problem seems to be with the NFFO, why has Greenpeace ignored invitations from the NFFO for round table talks on the problems between NFFO and NUTFA? Surely if a solution is to be found, and Greenpeace want to be involved, they should be grateful of the chance to participate?As editor of Fishing News, I would be willing to help make arrangements for this meeting to happen, and to report on it.

GP: We don’t see any usefulness in having a meeting with the NFFO.

CB: I believe it would be in the interest of the fishing industry to hear why Greenpeace are not willing to participate in an open debate with NFFO. I would be happy to publish any statement you have on this matter.


Less than two weeks ago, Fishing News also offered Greenpeace the opportunity to openly face questions from the fishing industry. They initially responded that “if our contributions are treated in total disregard, then it will be impossible to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue with Fishing News”, but later responded that they would only agree to engage in a published debate between themselves and the NFFO through Fishing News’ pages.

This was rejected by Fishing News as the initial proposal was that readers i.e. fishermen and others in the industry, could submit questions to Fishing News – the top 12 most relevant ones would be selected and Greenpeace would have one week to respond. The proposal was not intended for Greenpeace to turn it into a mud-slinging match between itself and the NFFO, as an invitation for talks with the NFFO still remains, but is still rejected by Greenpeace.

Again, there is a certain irony in the fact that Greenpeace don’t seem too keen to bare its soul to the industry when it previously stated in a Guardian article that: “Ultimately, we need a fishing industry and organisations that believe in transparency. It is transparency we all want, from who representative bodies represent through to who holds fishing quota.”

Transparency indeed -- so one could be entitled to ask where is this transparency when it comes to Greenpeace’s own operations and agenda? This smacks of a ‘do as I say’ policy rather than a ‘do as I do’ one. Distortion of the agenda

Greenpeace are currently mounting a campaign for a trawling ban for small vessels in Denmark (the same type of inshore vessels they say they want to protect in the UK), whilst also commenting that gill netting is indiscriminately destroying fish stocks in southern oceans, that beam trawling destroys the sea bed, and that long lining is killing birdlife in other areas. In an article on their own website in July last year, Greenpeace said that they “welcomed a plan presented by the EU Commission to ban environmentally damaging fishing practices in the northeast and central Atlantic.

“Deep sea bottom trawling and gillnet fishing rank among the most destructive, fuel-intensive and subsidy-dependent fishing activities,” Greenpeace said.Yet, in an article in The Guardian last June, Greenpeace contradicts this statement regarding gillnets by saying: “Evidence shows that those who fish selectively and with least environmental impact offer the greatest benefits to the economy. A recent analysis estimated that for every ton of cod landed, trawlers delivered negative economic value ranging from -£116 for the smallest trawlers to almost -£2,000 for the largest.

“Gillnets (a lower impact fishing method) in contrast generated a net +£865 of value. Yet between 2006 – 2008, trawlers landed almost 6,000 tonnes of cod, while gillnets landed less than 3% of this – just 163 tonnes.”

Also last year, a related website article said that “longline fishing uses hundreds, if not thousands, of baited hooks hanging from a line that may be 50 to 100km long. The duration of capture for this fishing is long and fish caught on lines can remain hooked for hours, days, or even longer until the gear is hauled up.

“Long lines kill sea birds, sea turtles and sharks, as well as non target species. Sea birds such as albatross get hooked when the lines are near the surface and the birds are dragged underwater and drowned.”

Also, in a Greenpeace-assisted Guardian article in March of this year, the NFFO were accused of trying to deny inshore fishermen representation in Europe. The article, “Revealing the NFFO’s members – opening Pandora’s Box?” said that the findings were “shocking for an organization that claims to represent the interests of English, Welsh and Northern Irish fishermen” and that the NFFO is “dominated by foreign controlled fishing interests”.

The attack on one of the UK’s biggest fishermen’s organisations, be it justified or not, angered many in the industry as fishermen felt that an outside body like Greenpeace had no right to mount such an offensive on any fishing industry organization.

The irony here is that the NFFO, nor any other fishing industry groups who faced the many propaganda articles in the mainstream media platforms, were ever offered any right to reply – something that Greenpeace now deems as “poor editorial politics” when the shoe is on the other foot and they themselves are refused a right to reply in an industry publication such as Fishing News.

It’s also ironic that Greenpeace told Fishing News that the NFFO were being given ‘an advantage’ because they were “a powerful lobby group”. That Greenpeace should complain about someone else being a powerful lobby group would be funny if it wasn’t true.


In a ‘frequently asked questions’ on the Greenpeace website (right beside the ‘Donate’ button...), the green group talks about certification bodies and endangered stocks. Under the question “Do you have any examples of a sustainable fishery?” their response is:

“The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) runs a labeling scheme that 'certifies' fisheries that are sustainable. Greenpeace does not currently endorse the MSC scheme because under its rules, fisheries that are still unsustainable can be awarded the MSC logo.”

So, in conclusion, the statements of fact in this article, drawn from Greenpeace’s own comments in emails, newspaper articles and websites, show that Greenpeace does not approve of: (a) beam trawling; (b) general trawling; (c) pair trawling; (d) long lining; and (e) gillnetting.

To top this off, Greenpeace does not endorse the MSC certification - a system ensuring sustainability which is accepted in every seafood eating nation on the planet.

And these are the people who are demanding a voice in the future of the UK’s fishing industry?

Editor’s comment – page 4

Smoke and mirrors

Fishing News this week has come out against what is considered ‘a final straw’ as Greenpeace tries push its self-perceived ‘powers’ onto the editorial policies of a newspaper that has represented the fishing industry for over 100 years.

In a chain of emails that began politely but soon showed true Greenpeace form when making a veiled threat to report me to the Press Complaints Commission, it would appear that the green group certainly don’t like when they aren’t given page space to defend any bad press they receive – but don’t seem to mind that the fishing industry never gets a right to reply to the Greenpeace articles that regularly appear in the national press.

I am well aware that several hundred NUTFA members support Greenpeace involvement in the fishing industry and that is their right and the opinion they are entitled to. However, several hundred out of 12,000 fishermen and up to 20,000 people in onshore related fishing industry jobs is a far cry from the level of support that Greenpeace are trying to claim that they have.

Greenpeace recently got 110,000 members of the public to sign a petition – and then issued a press release along the lines of “we have the support of the UK’s inshore fishermen and we have 110,000 signatures”, thereby attempting to fool the public into thinking that somehow they have the backing of 110,000 fishermen.

Much of the Greenpeace fight is about the NFFO and how that body manages its operations. But the NFFO have offered to sit down and talk to Greenpeace several times – all of which were rejected by Greenpeace. Therefore I think that if Greenpeace are unwilling to talk to NFFO man to man, why should they be allowed do it through Fishing News? But I do think Greenpeace should be answerable to the industry through the proposed (and also rejected) offer for Greenpeace to face questions from fishermen.

Perhaps the majority of fishermen in the UK do actually want Greenpeace to have a voice in how our industry operates. I hope this Comment, and the article on page 2, will prompt fishermen to voice their opinions.

Anyone in the fishing industry who would like their comments published, please email

courtesy of Fishing News