Shifting Baselines

%7BD9A41AFC-C78D-43AF-BE5D-A2.jpgAl Gore’s daughter got married last week and apparently the event was so sacred it called for eating one of the world’s most endangered fish: Chilean sea bass (which is not actually a ‘bass’). Now Gore is justifiably under scrutiny by the media and charged with eco-hypocrisy.

The D.C.-based National Environmental Trust launched the Take a Pass on Chilean Sea Bass campaign in 2002. Maybe Gore was still busy treating the wounds after the ill-fated 2000 campaign, but really: how can someone so in tune to the problem of global warming be so in the dark about Chilean sea bass?

Even Randy I’m-still-eating-fish Olson found this to be a shocking PR blunder by Gore.

**update**: A sigh of relief from all Gore supporters: the Telegraph ran an updated story today (July 19th) that Al Gore’s dinner turned out green. Shifting Baselines will have more on this subject tomorrow…

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Powell
    July 18, 2007

    Maybe it was sustainable chilean sea bass from South Georgia? Has anyone asked Mr. Gore? This might actually be highly sophisticated messaging that identifies and supports some fishermen doing better in the context of an unsustainable world. Or not.

  2. #2 DeanOR
    July 18, 2007

    This fact-challenged story is on the same level as the story about John Edwards’ haircut: a silly political potshot.

  3. #3 Mark P
    July 18, 2007

    Well, maybe it happened and maybe it didn’t. And maybe they were responsible and maybe they weren’t. And maybe they knew what would be on the menu and maybe they didn’t. But basically the story is a political hatchet job. And thank you for joining up.

  4. #4 Alan Smithee
    July 18, 2007

    “Fact-challenged story?” Chilean sea bass, along with roasted crab, was part of a six-course menu created by Crustacean restaurant Executive Chef Helene An.

    You, sir, are a fact-challenged dolt. Al Gore is a hypocrite, plain and simple. It’s okay though, I’m sure he purchased a bunch of “endangered animal credits.”

  5. #5 jay lewis
    July 18, 2007

    Are there really endangered animal credits? If not, does anyone know how to go about setting up a credit-granting organization?

    I see possibilities for synergy between West Coast fusion restaurants and the economically backward communities of the Desert Southwest, which can issue credits for endangered food. Much like the relationship between the industrial and developing world envisioned in the Kyoto Treaty.

  6. #6 Mark P
    July 18, 2007

    Al Gore’s current public campaign is about global warming. What the f*** does this story have to do with what Al Gore has said about global warming? WTF does this story have to do with Al Gore? I mean other than being a personal attack on Al Gore based on what is said to have occurred in the presence of his daughter?

  7. #7 Mike Vaughn
    July 18, 2007

    Is Chilean sea bass “one of the World’s most endangered fish”? Is it even on the “threatened” list? I can think of several other fish species, both fresh and salt water, that are way ahead (or behind) of the Chilean sea bass in this regard. At least their are still many countries trying to manage (in some fashion or another) this fishery. And, give Al Gore a break. Maybe he ordered Chilean cheesecake and the caterer got confused (wink).

  8. #8 Benson
    July 18, 2007

    “Al Gore’s current public campaign is about global warming. What the f* does this story have to do with what Al Gore has said about global warming? WTF does this story have to do with Al Gore?”

    Because he also talks about conservation. If you want to get into global warming, let’s talk about his Live Earth concert, shall we? In order to reverse the damage done by it, over 100,000 trees would need to be planted. Gore’s house uses multiple times the amount the average American’s does. One of the performers at Live Earth, Madonna, has 9 houses, a private jet, and several cars.

  9. #9 Mark P
    July 18, 2007

    Oops. I thought this was a scieneblogs post. I didn’t realize I had stumbled onto a wacko site.

  10. #10 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 18, 2007

    I guess when talk heads toward politics (Gore) rather than science (overfishing), things are bound to get ugly. I hadn’t realized that Gore was so high on a pedestal he was beyond reach of all scrutiny. I staunchly defended Gore as people attacked him for burning fossil fuels traveling around the world. But I cannot reconcile the fact that he seems to only take global warming seriously (and speaking of seriously, I imagine that endangered meal credits would really take off) without considering other conservation issues. He has built himself as some eco-champion and now he has to be prepared to live at least somewhat accordingly (and, if not, suffer the PR consequences).

    As for Chilean sea bass, they are indeed in danger. They are not on the federal list (they are not exactly under U.S. jurisdiction) and have the great misfortune of being under the regulating body of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which has very little bite and very little enforcement. Bruce Knecht’s book Hooked has more on the subject and is a good read.

  11. #11 Jason
    July 18, 2007

    So how many trees will Gore have to plant to make up for all those fish?

  12. #12 Mike Hirshfield
    July 18, 2007

    The offending fish were served at the rehearsal dinner, which was organized and hosted by the inlaws. One can debate about whether or not that should make a difference, and whether Gore had an obligation to push the hosts on the menu (assuming they knew what was on the menu), but, as someone who had a daughter married recently, I would have eaten almost anything rather than engage in a conversation with my soon to be inlaws about their part of the wedding. (I’m told the Gores did not eat the Chilean seabass). see link
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/

  13. #13 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 18, 2007

    Hi Mike,
    Great to see you on the blog and thanks for this link. Gore may have been only a guest–perhaps trying not to ruffle any feathers–but he does know the liabilities of a precariously green reputation.

    So who told you that the Gores did not eat the bass? Is it a reliable source? To have eaten or not have eaten: this is a crucial point. And I find it wonderful that it matters and the public even cares. After all, the Patagonian toothfish is not exactly cute and cuddly (like the polar bears Gore usually champions).

  14. #14 Todd
    July 18, 2007

    Does this bear repeating?
    Algore is a hypocrite, when it comes to environmental matters! Always has been!
    These things, these demands, that he preaches that we all do, to “save the earth,” are meant for us to follow, not himself!

  15. #15 Molkien
    July 18, 2007

    “And I find it wonderful that it matters and the public even cares.”

    Oh please, the public could care less, the only reason this is even in the news is to make Gore look bad, just like the story of his son’s possession of pot.
    As if pointing out Gore’s fallibilities somehow disproves the science around global warming.

  16. #16 Greg
    July 18, 2007

    Hey no problemo. He owns a company where he sells
    Chilean Sea Bass Credits.

    So he is actually helping the planet.

  17. #17 Hank Roberts
    July 18, 2007

    You’d probably have to ask the caterer or restaurant.

    Heck, odds are the caterer knew it was a wedding event where nobody raises any issues they can possibly avoid! Wanta bet whether they substituted any cheap whitefish and just _charged_ the price for the 150-year-old deepsea fish? You know it happens.

    But it’s possible, per the ABC blog mentioned above:

    “The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an independent non-profit body dedicated to sustainable fishing practices and ocean health, recently certified a fishery operating out of South Georgia Island for the sustainable harvesting of Chilean sea bass. This island is near the South Sandwich Islands located in the extreme southern Atlantic, where harsh prevailing weather conditions and active volcanism make it difficult for fishermen. While poaching remains a serious threat to Chilean sea bass in other areas, this remote fishery has proven itself to be a responsible one dedicated to sustainable practices as documented by the MSC.”

  18. #18 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 18, 2007

    Assuming it IS a politcal hack job (and I don’t believe this at all calls into question the validity of global warming), this still indicates some sort of victory for fisheries conservation. Ten years ago (when Patagonian toothfish were first showing signs of trouble) this same event could have happened and the media wouldn’t have published it because the readers wouldn’t have been aware of any faux pas around Chilean sea bass. Much in the way that price premiums for wild salmon point to successful communication of anti-farmed salmon campaigns, the Gore story points to some effective communication around one ugly fish.

  19. #19 Molkien
    July 18, 2007

    effective communication
    I’m sorry, I just don’t see how you can see this as a plus side for conservation. The media reporting this, and most of his critics DON”T CARE about the Chilean sea bass, it is simply meant to diminish Gore’s message. It’s the same story when they comment on his weight, or how John Edwards spent $400 for a haircut…

  20. #20 Ian Gould
    July 19, 2007

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilean_sea_bass

    “The Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a large fish found in the cold, temperate waters (from 50 to 3850m) of the Southern Atlantic, Southern Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans on seamounts and continental shelves around most sub-Antarctic islands. A commercial fishery exists for Patagonian Toothfish; the meat is sold under the trade names Chilean Sea Bass in the USA, Merluza Negra in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay where it is relatively cheap, and mero in Japan, where it is sold at high prices. A close relative, the Antarctic toothfish, Dissostichus mawsoni, is found farther south, around the edges of the Antarctic shelf.

    The illegal capture and sale of the Patagonian toothfish has led to several arrests and fines. Illegal overfishing threatens the species in some areas, as it is slow-growing, reaching maturity between ten and twelve years of age. The longline fishery has also been criticised for drowning thousands of seabirds, including albatrosses.

    In the last few years the management of several fisheries has improved, however, with increased patrolling for illegal vessels and stringent regulations for legal operators. Although overfishing and illegal ‘pirate fishing’ are still problems in places, the Marine Stewardship Council has certified the fishery in South Georgia for sustainable management. South Georgia has the largest Toothfish fishery, with a TAC (Total Allowable Catch) of around 3000 tonnes per year, taken by approximately ten vessels.”

    Bring on the next bit of propaganda.

  21. #21 decrepitoldfool
    July 19, 2007

    So basically Gore attended someone else’s party where they served fish. Not being a jerk he didn’t grill his inlaws on environmental issues at a family event.

    Really, the slope of the “hypocrisy” playing-field tilts one way. Most of us are lucky to achieve even middlin’ control over our own parties – try exerting control over someone else’s party, after the food is already on the table.

  22. #22 Mike Hirshfield
    July 19, 2007

    see link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/07/19/eagore119.xml

    “But the fish enjoyed by the Gores were not endangered or illegally caught.

    Rather, the restaurant later confirmed, they had come from one of the world’s few well-managed, sustainable populations of toothfish, and caught and documented in compliance with Marine Stewardship Council regulations. The Gores’ spokesman, Kalee Kreider, admitted that the fish has been on the menu, but said: “The Gores absolutely agree with the humane society and the rest of the environmental community about illegally caught Chilean sea bass. The problem is huge. This is unfortunate, we have been in touch with the society today. The really important thing is that people become more aware of this issue.”

    Now bring on the “should the MSC have certified any toothfish fishery?” debate!

  23. #23 Tim Lambert
    July 19, 2007

    It is interesting to examine how this became a story.

  24. #24 Jim RL
    July 19, 2007

    I read Shifting Baselines and your SciBling Deltoid for the first time today. Yours was a hit-and-run hatchet job, whereas Mr. Lambert actually decided to research the story before issuing ad hominem attacks. Guess which one I’ll read again? But hey, the whole kneejerk “Al Gore is a big fat hypocrite.” angle will certainly bring in audience members to replace me.

  25. #25 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 19, 2007

    It was said that the Gores did not eat the fish. Why wouldn’t they eat an MSC-certified fish?

  26. #26 Mark M
    July 19, 2007

    I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t like fish.

  27. #27 Sheril Kirshenbaum
    July 19, 2007

    I think this has demonstrated our need to improve communication strategies in the marine conservation realm. Especially regarding sustainable seafood choices.

  28. #28 mgr
    July 19, 2007

    Sheril, I disagree, this issue is already before the public, and has been so for some time. Ignoring dolphin safe tuna, for a moment–

    1.) Monterey Aquarium has performed the yeoman’s job of disseminated the information as to which seafood is appropriate to eat.

    2.) Current consumer law requires idenficiation of source of a food. This currently applies only to seafood, due to lobbying delays with other foodstuffs.

    to say this is entirely due to conservation issues is to ignore the parallel occurance of chilean sea bass upon a state dinner menu involving our current president and the queen of england. That no outrage registered should indicate that it is no conservation of the oceans that is the button.

    Mike

  29. #29 August J. Pollak
    July 19, 2007

    You, sir, are a fact-challenged dolt. Al Gore is a hypocrite, plain and simple.

    You’re a liar who looks like an idiot now, Alan Smithee.

    Authors of this blog planning on posting an update anytime soon?

  30. #30 Jim RL
    July 19, 2007

    That is a good question August. This non-story has been debunked for several hours now, and the author posted a commented well after it had been debunked. Everyone gets taken in every once in awhile, but where’s the acknowledgement of the error?

  31. #31 Mark P
    July 19, 2007

    Some people have a hard time understanding that a reputation takes a long time to change. If a blogger gets a reputation for sloppy “journalism” it will take a long time to live it down.

  32. #32 Mark P
    July 19, 2007

    I just noticed the update. Even that reeks. It’s not an admission of error or of jumping to conclusions, it’s “a sigh of relief from all Gore supporters.” Jennifer, it has nothing to do with supporting Al Gore. It has everything to do with responsible journalism.

  33. #33 monson
    July 19, 2007

    maybe as penance you could post an informative article about these sea bass and the farming of them etc.

  34. #34 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 19, 2007

    This blog is a mix of reporting on edited, fact-checked stories, such as those in the Telegraph and some first-hand accounts (in my own vein of research). I will not apologize on behalf of the Telegraph, to whom all comments on sloppy journalism should be directed. And I will address the issue of toothfish confusion in an article that will be published (rather than blogged) hopefully tomorrow.

  35. #35 Jim RL
    July 19, 2007

    That last comment has to be the sloppiest thing in this entire post. Your aren’t responsible for the news reports that you parrot? If you are just a stenographer in this whole thing then why did you call Al Gore an ass? You shouldn’t really add commentary when you don’t check your sources.

  36. #36 Mark P
    July 19, 2007

    Well, not much point in reading this blog. It appears the author doesn’t bother to check into a story before posting, and refuses to take responsibliity for that failure.

  37. #37 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 19, 2007

    Mark P,
    You seem to be filled with an endless rant of wisdom that I can see would be invaluable for the blogosphere as a whole, which is notorious for lacking fact-checkers (and paychecks). Please impart how bloggers can “check into a story” and still blog pertinently (i.e. that very day or even hour) in the midst of their real work. I was under the impression that task still fell to editors, paid to do this task, such as those at the Telegraph.

  38. #38 Jim RL
    July 19, 2007

    Jennifer, I recommend you read how the other scibloggers addressed this issue. This whole thing smelled like a hatchet job from the get-go. Tim Lambert posted not longer after you and the story had already been unraveled. You bought and parroted shoddy reporting. This blog is your space, and you should take full responsibility for what gets posted here. You obviously haven’t learned anything, and are quite happy to pawn your mistakes off on others.

  39. #39 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 19, 2007

    Deltoid did a very nice job indeed of summarizing the media aspects of this story (I am still more interested in the fish angle) and he made the additional, impressive effort of calling Keeble and getting some first-hand information. But Tim blogged about the story most definitely after the ‘MSC-angle’ had been released.

    I did buy the reporting (I read the Telegraph story and corroborated it against another media outlet and thought it fit within the vein of this blog) and I equally buy the follow-up. But the politics and media are not particularly interesting for me or this blog, which–as both are interested in fisheries conservation–prefer to center on the amount of press one ugly fish can raise. And the issue is one of consumer confusion, again to be discussed in length tomorrow when you will find a link to my real ‘reporting’ on the subject and can judge its merits then.

  40. #40 Hank Roberts
    July 19, 2007

    > Please impart how bloggers can “check into a story”
    > and still blog pertinently (i.e. that very day or even hour)

    Google is your friend. Saying “I’ve heard, but not yet been able to confirm” is helpful. A certain level of suspicion is a good sign that you’re writing with some familiarity with what else is going on _in_ the blogosphere. A bit of skepticism along with clever searches will help you recognize allusions to situations that may otherwise seem just weird ideas.

    Being the first person to _repeat_ some PR firm’s carefully crafted bogosity is not a sign of good blogging. It’s a sign of credulous parroting. Eschew naivete.

    > I was under the impression that task still fell to
    > editors, paid to do this task,

    Well, no. First, they don’t, as you have learned by reading other bloggers on the same thread.

    Second, fact-checking is one of the basic lessons of childhood and one of the core tasks of civilization for adults, to ask why you’re being told something, who said it, whether they’re reliable, and whether you can confirm it — not to merely gossip and repeat rumors.

    Checking before you pass on unsubstantiated stories is how you separate yourself from those who would use you badly.

    Rushing to merely repeat others’ opinion isn’t blogging. Having your _own_ opinion, an a reason for it, that’s blogging.

  41. #41 Megan
    July 19, 2007

    Most of us don’t have endless hours to be double and triple checking everything we read. I visit this blog to see what’s current news in seafood/fisheries/oceans etc. I don’t read it and run to the world pretending that I am wise for having visited the site. But the fact that Jennifer is spending her (free) time trying to share news and ideas is great, and I admire it because I don’t have the time to do it myself, nor the patience to put up with the crap that goes along with it. If you don’t like the blog, then don’t visit and read it. Move on, and don’t waste your time harping on someone who is doing their best given their resources. I certainly wouldn’t demand an apology for reporting something that ran in an edited news source. So Jennifer jumped quickly, to try to keep us all up to date. Get over it people and move on to the issues that are actually important.

  42. #42 Molkien
    July 19, 2007

    Jennifer, politics and the media don’t interest you, yet you still felt compelled to post a nice little fat cartoon picture of him, and call him out for looking like an ass, when in the end, the only one looking like an ass is you.
    Since politics and media aren’t your thing, but you still feel compelled to make posts about such things, let me give you a word of advice. If something comes from the media that is given in such a way that is supposed to paint Democrats in a negative light, the story should be met with a healthy bit of skepticism before gleefully reprinting it. Actually, anything coming from the media should be met with skepticism, especially if Drudge’s name is attached to it.

  43. #43 Jennifer Jacquet
    July 19, 2007

    Maybe one day I will step down from a Presidency I rightfully won then decide to make a fancy PowerPoint about global warming and win an Academy Award, and I, too, will be above reproach, indeed beyond discussion, and have a dyed-in-the-wool following of bleating sheep. Until then, I’d rather be an ass.

  44. #44 Molkien
    July 20, 2007

    Awesome! Write a hit piece, using articles loose on facts, and then when you get called out for it, instead of apologizing, you blame everyone else, and on top of that whine about how the target is somehow above reproach when someone points out your criticism was without merit in the first place.

  45. #45 Hank Roberts
    July 20, 2007

    > I’d rather be an ass.

    Now _that_ is blogging. It’s your opinion, it’s an opinion everyone can check, and hey, it’s human and recognizable. We know none of us are experts outside of our own very narrow field, if even there, so we all can empathize and recall being asses ourselves in some similar situation where it was our own knee-jerk rapid reaction that got us off base.

    Welcome to the world.

    By the way, if you would relax enough about the political differences you may have with Mr. Gore, you will probably find he would be a serious ally with you in conservation work, assuming that’s your real heartfelt concern.

    If you’re in the ocean fishery area for business reasons, to increase harvesting for profit, he won’t like what you’re doing . But you’re not. You can’t be, as a scientist.

  46. #47 MK
    July 22, 2007

    “So Jennifer jumped quickly, to try to keep us all up to date. Get over it people and move on to the issues that are actually important.”

    So a prominent blogger on a prominent website “jumps quickly” to perpetuate a falsehood about a prominent political/environmental activist who has been beset with these types of attacks for ten years or so (see The Daily Howler archives) and she appears to be blaming everyone but herself–as pointed out by Hank Roberts and Molkien–and you say we should all just “get over it.”

    Alrighty then!

  47. #48 Mark Powell
    July 22, 2007

    Mark P in this comment thread is NOT Mark Powell.

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  50. #51 bursa
    October 8, 2009

    Al Gore’s current public campaign is about global warming. What the f* does this story have to do with what Al Gore has said about global warming? WTF does this story have to do with Al Gore? I mean other than being a personal attack on Al Gore based on what is said to have occurred in the presence of his daughter?

  51. #52 bursa haberleri
    October 8, 2009

    Hey no problemo. He owns a company where he sells Chilean Sea Bass Credits.

    So he is actually helping the planet.

  52. #53 hosting
    October 11, 2009

    By the way, if you would relax enough about the political differences you may have with Mr. Gore, you will probably find he would be a serious ally with you in conservation work, assuming that’s your real heartfelt concern.

  53. #54 sohbet
    November 16, 2009

    1.) Monterey Aquarium has performed the yeoman’s job of disseminated the information as to which seafood is appropriate to eat.

    2.) Current consumer law requires idenficiation of source of a food. This currently applies only to seafood, due to lobbying delays with other foodstuffs.

  54. #55 Tatil
    December 17, 2009

    As for Chilean sea bass, they are indeed in danger. They are not on the federal list (they are not exactly under U.S. jurisdiction) and have the great misfortune of being under the regulating body of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which has very little bite and very little enforcement. Bruce Knecht’s book Hooked has more on the subject and is a good read.

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  56. #57 Who escaping
    February 26, 2010

    Awesome! Write a hit piece, using articles loose on facts, and then when you get called out for it, instead of apologizing, you blame everyone else, and on top of that whine about how the target is somehow above reproach when someone points out your criticism was without merit in the first place.

  57. #58 sex hikaye
    August 10, 2010

    Move on, and don’t waste your time harping on someone who is doing their best given their resources. I certainly wouldn’t demand an apology for reporting something that ran in an edited news source. So Jennifer jumped quickly, to try to keep us all up to date..

  58. #59 film izle
    August 10, 2010

    WTF does this story have to do with Al Gore? I mean other than being a personal attack on Al Gore based on what is said to have occurred in the presence of his daughter?

  59. #60 save fuel
    August 19, 2010

    I just noticed the update. Even that reeks. It’s not an admission of error or of jumping to conclusions, it’s “a sigh of relief from all Gore supporters.” Jennifer, it has nothing to do with supporting Al Gore. It has everything to do with responsible journalism.

  60. #61 formen 21
    November 9, 2010

    I just noticed the update. Even that reeks. It’s not an admission of error or of jumping to conclusions, it’s “a sigh of relief from all Gore supporters.” Jennifer, it has nothing to do with supporting Al Gore. It has everything to do with responsible journalism.

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    Even that reeks. It’s not an admission of error or of jumping to conclusions, it’s “a sigh of relief from all Gore supporters.” Jennifer, it has nothing to do with supporting Al Gore.

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