I first noticed the now-infamous Al Gore/seabass story over at Shifting Baselines yesterday, and I generally didn’t think anything of it. Would I prefer that Gore abstained from eating a fish that’s in trouble? Sure, but my opinion of him doesn’t hinge on what kind of fish he eats at his daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. If he specially ordered in for sautee of panda cub or soup served in an elephants foot with an ivory spoon, yes, then I would be pretty pissed off, but the initial story seemed to have too few details to be of any consequence. Nevertheless, in the comments of Jacquet’s post, the term “hypocrite” (among others) was thrown around, the tabloid report of what Gore was served hurting his credibility with some. I have always found this interesting about “eco-heroes”; they are in favor just so long as they are “green” and appear to toe the line, but given the diversity of opinion on environmental issues, it’s impossible not to piss somebody off. I’ve even run into this myself; when I posted about the horror of the annual rattlesnake massacre in Sweetwater, Texas, I was chastised by some vegans/vegetarians for eating meat (their assumptions were right even though I didn’t answer their off-topic queries), being that I apparently couldn’t point out something that I felt was wrong but still enjoy a hamburger every now and then.
Thankfully, Tim Lambert at Deltoid actually did some digging on this issue and found it to generally be blown out of proportion. While the toothfish Gore consumed is endangered as a species, it has been reported that the fish provided at the dinner came from a sustainable source. I’m not enough of an expert to know whether this is true or not, but what if, just for a moment, we entertain the notion that Gore just didn’t know the fish he was eating was representative of an endangered species? When people think of endangered species, charismatic megafauna usually come to mind first, the closest to fish being whales. Gore is an environmental spokesman now, yes, but are we expect him to be able to list every endangered species by heart? I’m not trying to be a Gore apologist, I don’t particularly like or dislike him, but all I see going on is a bunch of internet gossip that doesn’t produce anything good (I liked the Angry Toxicologist’s response to this as well).
The only good I could see coming of this is if it was used to increase the visibility of the problem with the toothfish populations and fisheries, but that doesn’t seem to figure into most bloggers accounts. Most of the reactions are concerned with either defending Gore or calling him a hypocrite, but why not use this piece of journalistic B.S. to bring the problem of overfishing to the attention of more people who otherwise might not have any idea? I honestly didn’t (although the fish is too far out of my price range even if I had any interest in eating it), but now I’m aware of the problem and I’ll look up some information on it (perhaps a post could be made of such a learning experience…). This sort of thing belongs on supermarket tabloids, not the front page of ScienceBlogs.