The ocean is one of the most dynamic and yet most under-reported food systems on the planet. Close to one billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and, collectively, the nations of the world catch around 90 million metric tons of wild fish and shellfish from the oceans annually. But for journalists working on stories about often distant oceans and fisheries, engaging the general readership can be difficult.
Journalists need to educate readers about the basic metrics of the sea when reporting. How much seafood comes from wild fisheries? How much from farming? Who owns the oceans? How is it governed? What are the primary ways fish are caught? How do these methods affect the environment? How are fish and shellfish farmed? Which methods are the most sustainable?
The need for better reporting on ocean and fisheries issues is particularly great in China, which is now the center of the world’s seafood processing industry, and where consumption of fisheries products is already high and growing. But a study by Hong Kong University researchers commissioned last year by the Earth Journalism Network (EJN) revealed that oceans and fisheries topics are not well covered and of low priority in the Chinese media.
To assist reporters in answering these questions, the Earth Journalism Network has been working with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to produce an issue guide for media called Covering the Sea. This issue guide takes an in-depth look at the state of the fisheries industry, the rapidly growing aquaculture business, the oceans’ environmental stressors, and potential solutions for a sustainable seafood trade.
You can also view an interactive PDF:
Authored by veteran journalist and best-selling author of Four Fish, Paul Greenberg,Covering the Sea offers detailed overviews of the fisheries industry, sections that outline where to find sources, links to further readings, journalism tips for engaging audiences, and definitions of key terminology helpful for understanding jargon.
For Greenberg, the story of ocean is one of remarkable resilience. “In spite of all of the abuse humankind has thrown at the ocean, the ocean is still alive – alive enough to produce more than 80 million metric tons of seafood each and every year. It is this statistic that the reporter covering the ocean must keep in mind with every interview conducted and with every site visited. We were born into this world with a living, nourishing ocean at our disposal. It is our responsibility going forward that our children have the benefit of such wealth in the future.”
To further assist reporters in China, EJN worked with the Global Ocean Commission last month to bring Chinese reporters to a meeting of the commission in Hong Kong, where they explored a wide range of marine issues, took part in a training workshop and produced stories on ocean topics. EJN also held the China Fisheries Forum that brought journalists together with Chinese fisheries scientists and related experts.