Provocation: The use of imagery by some eNGOs to obtain an appropriate responses from customers

SASSI Provocation


I found this image today on the Ads of the World webpage. The ad was produced by WWF-SASSI (SASSI = South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative). This add also sits pride of place on the Freshly Vegetarian, Treehugger and Eccorazzi websites.

As ads go, this is a very good one. From a marketing point of view I think it’s impact is colossal, in that it reaches its brief of being extremely provocative (shocking even) – while keeping the messaging simple. Leading with the head of a dolphin is genius (the most charismatic or all charismatic mega-fauna). Also building the composite with the body parts of other recognisable charismatic fauna, that are the foundations of many eNGO causes célèbre is also extremely clever (I personally am very fond of turtles)Furthermore the carving out of only a small portion of the composite image and clearly indicating that small portion as tuna, is also not only very intuitive and intelligent design, it is very affective at providing us with the the intended message.

This ad provokes in me the requisite response; and I am sure it does in others. However I know it is both factually false and deliberately misleading.

The caption reads “Only a portion of the catch in long line tuna fishing is actually tuna.” however on the Ads of the World website the caption below the image read “Only a tenth of the catch in long line tuna fishing is actually tuna.”

This caption is categorically untrue.

Unfortunately as is the case of all statements, once the dye is cast… the clean up afterwards is always a difficult undertaking; and in my opinion a waste of time. Unfortunately, Government and industry have no option other than to counter these often baseless and vexatious allegations with evidence; eNGOs are free to come back again unfettered by fact and/or context. I am sure WWF-SASSI know this.

It goes like this – where Governments who are subject to voters, are held to the best available scientific information and are statutorily, administratively and constitutionally obliged to report facts to those voters; and where the Seafood Industry whose rights to harvest and utilise marine resources are subject to Government legal and regulatory regimes, are required to demonstrate compliance (such as accurate catch and by-catch recording and catch and by-catch reporting, lawful landing of catch (and by-catch), lawful processing and providing provision for government observers on board vessels etc); eNGOs in contrast are comparatively free to ‘drum their own beat‘ and do what they want, unfettered by any legal obligation to be ACCURATE (other than of course civil legislation).

In short eNGOs can say and do what they like. Represent things any way they like.

All they have to do is identify a perceived problem. DEVELOP the nature and scope of that problem. REPRESENT and MARKET the problem as a REAL problem (e.g. this image). And sell their ability to solve that problem. I should point out that there is no requirement to solve the “problem”. 

Below the image in smaller text it reads:

“Most commercial fishing gear is not completely selective. As a result many endangered sea animals are also captured.”

These two sentences are for the most part true. If only this message of ‘teh need for gear improvement and innovation to reduce protected species captures’ was the leading message instead of the misleading headline or the commercial messaging at the very bottom:

“To ensure the fish you buy is caught in a way that is environmentally friendly, text our fishms number (079 499 8795) with the type of fish and you’ll receive an sms back as to weather it’s in the red, orange or green category. Sassi”

Where can I find robust information on tuna by-catch?

For those of you who are interested in tuna long-line by-catch and the state of global tuna fisheries; and would like to read more. May I suggest an IUCN paper by E Gilman and C Lundin,  Minimizing Bycatch of Sensitive Species Groups in Marine Capture Fisheries: Lessons from Tuna Fisheries.

UntitledThis paper is produced by IUCN. The IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) is an IGO (made up of  more than 1,000 organizations, as well as 10,000 scientists and experts structured in six Commissions rather) than an NGO that drums its own beat. The IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, is in my opinion a good authority, and good place to start.

Another good paper is one produced by ISSF, Bycatch in the World’s Tuna Fisheries: An Overview of the State of Measured Data, Programs and a Proposal for a Path Forward. This white paper is another good start. It is problem based and goal orientated, and is an easy short read.

ISSF (International Seafood Sustainability Foundation) is a global coalition of scientists,  seafood industry leaders and environmentalists. ISSF features an independent Scientific Advisory Committee, an Environmental Stakeholder Committee, a By-catch Project Scientific Steering Committee, a Vessel Committee. ISSF’s undertakes science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing by-catch and promoting ecosystem health. ISSF are another good place to start.

4 thoughts on “Provocation: The use of imagery by some eNGOs to obtain an appropriate responses from customers

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