2020

How Chinese Seafood Giant Zoneco Lies about Its Scallops

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: China

Organisation: The Paper

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 17/12/2019

Credit: Kong Jiaxing, Du Haiyan, Wang Yasai, JiangXin‘er, Hang Shengjiang, Li Yuequn, Lu Yan

Project description:

Zoneco is one of the most famous aquaculture companies in China, not because their products are of great qualities, but rather due to a series of scandals it has mired in. When we talk about this company, we always know that something is wrong there. But not many of us can exactly point out the problems. And this is where our project comes in handy.

Impact reached:

This is one of the projects of a series of coverage about Zoneco by the Paper. Shortly after the publishment, CSRC sent out an inquiry to Zoneco, which requires the company to explain the problems that pointed out by us. 

Techniques/technologies used:

With the help of previous media coverage, CSRC(China Securities Regulatory Committee) investigative reports, and Zoneco’s financial reports, we have the ability to finally understand what Zoneco did behind the scene and explain it to readers in the most intuitive way. First, we showcase the Zoneco’s stock chart from 2007 to 2019, with annotations of many significant events that happened during the years, such as mass die-off in October 2014 because of a cold water mass, and other repeated scallop crop failures in recent years. 

After that, we explain how Zoneco plays with the numbers to polish its financial report. On the chart, we highlight how normal scallops crops count and how Zoneco reduces its actual catchment area to make its profit number look beautiful. Then, we demonstrate how Zoneco lies about its spot surveys in the sea–where its ships have been and where they haven’t. By reading all these interactive graphics, even readers who haven’t read any financial reports before would fully understand the secrets behind Zoneco’s numbers. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

Our goal is to point out factual and logical flaws of Zoneco’s reports, and restore the reality under the flawed numbers. 

The hardest part is to sift through hunderds of CSRC(China Securities Regulatory Committee) investigative reports, and Zoneco’s financial reports, and find out the numbers that tells a consistent story, and point out Zoneco’s lies with its own numbers.

What can others learn from this project?

Zoneco’s scandals were like TV dramas over the years. Most readers can spot the absurdity of Zoneco’s claims: scallops starved to death, or scallops escaped. But it’s hard to understand what actually happened.

By reading all these interactive graphics, even readers who haven’t read any financial reports before would fully understand the secrets behind Zoneco’s numbers. 

Project links:

h5.thepaper.cn/html/zt/2019/12/zzd/index.html