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Mussel Industry Complaint About TVNZ Broadcast

19 July 2004

Formal Complaints
PO Box 3819

Dear Sir/Madam

One Network News, 6pm Bulletin, 18 July 2004 – Kiwi Teen Takes Environmental Award

This letter is to formally complain about the article aired during the 6pm News Bulletin on Sunday 18 July about 17-year old Marlborough teenager Max Hardy’s winning environmental essay.

The New Zealand Mussel Industry Council Ltd (NZMIC) is the national stakeholder organisation representing the New Zealand Greenshell mussel industry.

Your news article presented a biased report when it erroneously represented Max Hardy’s essay findings as ‘fact’. Nowhere in the news article was any attempt made to balance Max’s opinion by including the significant findings of published research which show that the New Zealand mussel industry has little or no benthic effect on the marine environment. The entire article relied on the findings of a 17-year old boy.

The Marlborough Sounds mussel farms have been well researched over the past 15 years with regard to any effects on the marine environment. This research has been carried out by New Zealand’s leading marine scientists including NIWA, the Cawthron Institute, Leslie Bolton-Ritchie (Victoria University) and Alison Leslie (Otago University). This research shows that when well sited (above a muddy bottom) mussel farms have a minimal and quickly reversible effect on the benthic environment directly beneath and no more than 15 metres from a mussel farm. NIWA have found that the shell drop-off on a muddy bottom creates an artificial reef and encourages marine life, including fish, where it would not have been before. NZMIC would be happy to make these findings available on request.

In addition the dual processes involved prior to setting up a mussel farm ensure rigorous examination of the issues involved with positioning that farm. Before a farm is given the go-ahead it must receive resource consent (local regional council) and a fisheries permit (Ministry of Fisheries). Both approval processes carefully examine potential effects on fisheries resources in the surrounding marine environment. Both approval processes invariably ensure that farms are sited above muddy bottoms and not above sensitive or unique fisheries habitats.

The article also failed to mention the New Zealand mussel industry has a comprehensive Environmental Management System (EMS) comprising a policy and code of practice. This EMS is recognised globally as the world’s leading shellfishery environmental programme and will be presented in New York, USA next month as part of the World Wildlife Fund’s discussions into certifying mollusc aquaculture as environmentally friendly. To quote, ‘the WWF recognises that the relatively benign nature of mollusc aquaculture gives it great potential to be certified as environmentally friendly’. The purpose of the event is to engage in discussions about possible certification programmes with the New Zealand mussel industry’s Environmental Management System playing a bench-marking role.

Indeed global environmental watch-dogs including the Monterey Bay Aquarium Society and the Blue Ocean Institute put farmed shellfish at the top of their Seafood Lovers Guides. This means that these are the most environmentally friendly seafood choices that people can make.

The article used strong and negative language when discussing the ‘environmental threats’ of mussel farms. This was nothing more than scaremongering. The alleged ‘environmental threats’ were clearly identified in the news article as being of a similar environmental menace as stoat attacks on native bird life. The article completely failed to balance the context by including any of the significant industry characteristics outlined above. This biased report has the potential to damage one of the most environmentally friendly industries the country has.

NZMIC believes that this article was spurious and damaging to the New Zealand Greenshell™ mussel industry’s reputation as an environmentally sustainable and world leading industry. NZMIC requests a formal publicised apology to the New Zealand mussel industry including information to balance the tone of the article.

Yours sincerely

Rebecca Clarkson
Executive Officer


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