By obtaining and analysing the data on the 2020 fishing campaign in the Black Tuna The balance between the protection of bluefin tuna stocks and the survival of the ancient industry of tuna fishing hangs in the hands of the overseeing authorities, and most of all in the hands and eyes of their “men on the ground”, the observers. But the selection and training of said observers has been quickly monopolised by very few companies, one above all in Italy, which in some cases present dangerous conflicts of interests with the fishing and farming companies between Italy, France, Spain and
Italian and European authorities have opened investigations on the matter.
Download and organisation of big amount of data from the ICCAT website, namely all the reports from observers filed since 2016, analysis of such reports with extraction of data (the organised in excel tables on Google Drive) and highlight of infractions over the years, with consequent analysis of the type of infractions to have a timeline of such infractions and a description for the most common ones over the years, including which countries have more infractions and less respect for the rules. We have then used infographics to show the most important data of the project. Lots of these reports were incomplete, and thus data on the fishing campaigns isn’t fully reliable.
The Italian Ministry of the Environment denied access to these data.
We have managed to obtain, through FOIA, only the data about the call for tenders where we could figure there were big chunk of money missing from the financial reports.
What was the hardest part of this project?
This investigation was started after receiving a leak. The hardest part has been finding real evidence that could support the hypothesis, given the lack of transparency that characterises the bluefin tuna industry and context.
Initially, ICCAT would not release the data when we asked but we then managed to download the obersevers’ reports from their website. However, these reports are blackend in some sections: while the name of the observer is left visible, all the names of vessels are blackened and thus it’s really heard to understand what happened in the joint fishing campaigns, how many tons of fish were caught from which vessel and whether this was all regular.
Moreover, as soon as we sent FOIAs to the Ministry of the Environment on about the call for tenders as always being won by Oceanis Srl company, we were contacted by Oceanis CEO on our mobile phone.
Such intimidatory behaviour clearly shows how much the BFT industry isn’t used to have journalists nosing in and asking data.
What can others learn from this project?
How to ask and access data that aren’t easily accessible, how to stay safe while doing it, how to present such data in clear format and how to insert the datajournalism in a larger multimedia project.