The Global Reporting Program’s investigation into the global fishmeal industry wins gold for Best Digital Editorial Package from the Digital Publishing Awards. The latest win comes alongside several nominations and wins from prominent journalism awards.

Earlier in the spring, the project also won best multimedia production at the Emerge Media Awards, received a special mention for the Student Award at the One World Media Awards in the U.K., was a finalist in the Online Journalism Awards’ Pro-Am Student category, and was nominated for the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) award for the Student Award of Excellence.

‘The Fish You (Don’t Know You) Eat’ uncovered a supply chain that is polluting the ocean, causing food insecurity in coastal communities, and risking the collapse of fisheries. Fellows produced an in-depth multimedia website, as well as a short documentary for NBC Nightly Films.

“This was a challenging project but the students who worked on this investigation successfully captured the complexities of this underreported supply chain,” said Peter Klein, who directs the Global Reporting Program and co-taught the course with senior instructor Kathryn Gretsinger.

It can take hundreds of wild fish to make enough fishmeal to raise a single farmed fish. These fish farms – which were supposed to curb the overfishing of the world’s oceans – may actually be contributing to the collapse.

The team spent a year uncovering this lesser known supply chain: documenting the growing demand from China – where most of the world’s fish farms operate; the supply from Peru – the world’s largest producer of fishmeal; and increasing resistance to the industry by coastal communities in West Africa.

The students’ reporting reveals environmental degradation and the destruction of coastlines. They also gathered and tested effluent from a fishmeal factory, which contained dangerously-high levels of toxic heavy metals. 

This project was a global collaboration involving sixteen journalism, three fisheries and two medical students.

“With fellows from Canada, China and Colombia working together, this was a truly global project, and it’s gratifying to see their hard work recognized,” Klein said.