Back in February, Science magazine declined to publish Conservation International’s letter to the editor criticizing my first story reporting how the organization and its partner, President Anote Tong of Kiribati, were misrepresenting the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as a no-fishing area when in fact it is being industrially overfished.
This time, when a much longer piece appeared in the fall 2013 Earth Island Journal, with many more gory details, they took no chances. Greg Stone, the godfather of PIPA, first wrote a 1,400-word comment below the story.
Then he got the management to print a 600-word letter in the paper Journal and for good measure, added another 1,000 words that are prominently featured on the opening web page of the winter issue http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/issues/current/
In total, the three letters are nearly as long as the original story. I kept my rebuttal below 300 words. Here it is.
Dr. Stone’s comments on “Fishy Business” studiously ignore the story’s main point: that President Anote Tong of Kiribati, CI’s partner in its biggest project and a CI board member, has lied multiple times by calling the Phoenix Islands Protected Area “off limits to fishing and other extractive uses.”
Presenting himself as a great environmentalist has given added weight to Tong’s much-quoted (and, in Kiribati, much-criticized) warnings on sea-level rise and brought him several international awards and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination by Australia’s progressive Edmund Rice Institute. It has also allowed CI to claim that it has in effect “protected” an area the size of California. In a TED talk available online, Stone declares that when PIPA was created, “Kiribati has frozen extractive activities in its current state.” The website of the New England Aquarium, where Stone is also a vice president, until recently declared PIPA “safe from the threats of commercial fishing.” The implication is that the “protected” status has had physical, practical consequences that are beneficiary to the fish.
In fact, PIPA is not only being fished on an industrial scale, but overfished. The region’s official scientific advisors have called for years for the amount of tuna taken from the whole region, PIPA included, to be reduced. Instead, Tong, a former fisheries minister, last year ordered that twice as many fishing days be sold (including from PIPA) than its quota allowed, angering his regional partners. In addition, he signed a deal to sell Spain even more fishing days. The European Parliament’s development committee protested that it benefitted mostly Spain.
In his comments in this magazine, Stone calls Tong a “visionary” with “integrity and commitment.” Only when Tong finally makes PIPA “off limits to fishing and other extractive uses” will Stone be correct.