November 1, 2013
The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) “Share the Scare” campaign, released today for Halloween, encourages the public to share scary environmental “Halloween horrors” with their social media networks. These horrors include the claim that “9 out of 10 of the world’s large predatory fish HAVE BEEN SO OVERFISHED THAT THEY COULD DISAPPEAR FOREVER.”
What is really frightening this Halloween night is the tendency of some in the environmental community to use disproven and erroneous hyperbolic claims in their attention-grabbing “issue campaigns.”
EDF has respected scientists on its staff, so one can’t help but wonder about the approval process on the publicity and fundraising side of the house that allowed this campaign to spread the inaccurate claim that 90 percent of the world’s large predatory fish, like tuna, have vanished.
This global urban legend arose from a mistaken estimate in a 2003 study by marine scientists at Dalhousie University in Canada, which extrapolated data from longline fisheries only. The study did not consider the fact that longlines are by nature selective gear that primarily target larger fish. As a result, the paper contained an inflated number that, although disproven, is still used in scare tactics by many environmental groups today.