Here’s a short quiz to test your tuna knowledge.
1. Do you know where most of New Zealand’s canned tuna comes from?
2. What else is being caught at the same time as that tuna?
Don’t panic if you don’t know the answers. Most people I’ve spoken to say they’ve never given it much thought to where their tuna comes from and, until recently, I was in the same boat.
So, today we’re launching a new phase in our campaign to raise awareness and help protect the Pacific tuna fisheries which are the main supply of the tuna (most of which is canned in Thailand) we buy for our sandwiches and salads.
That’s the good news. The bad news is these stocks are under threat of being wiped out by the more than 6000 industrial tuna vessels converging on the Pacific due to the decline of tuna around the rest of the globe.
To make things worse the main method of catching skipjack tuna, the most common species used in canned tuna, is also killing endangered sharks, turtles and tuna so young that they haven't had a chance to reproduce.
Industrial fishing fleets use fish aggregation devices (FADs) which are like floating death traps, to lure tuna – then they scoop up everything in the area with huge purse seine nets. As well as the intended tuna catch this method kills up to 10 times more bycatch than more sustainable methods.
As well as the intended tuna catch, purse seine fishing with fish aggregation devices (FADs) kills sharks, turtles, baby tuna and other ocean life – up to 10 times more ‘bycatch’ than more sustainable methods.
When consumers in the UK heard that this was the method used to catch much of their tuna their outrage was directed at the tuna brands and retailers. As a result, all but one of the UK’s major canned tuna brands have announced they will stop using tuna caught by purse seiners using FADs. This huge shift, in part due to Greenpeace rankings of tuna brands and pressure on companies, was described by major UK newspaper The Independent as “one of the most successful environmental campaigns in years.”
Now it’s the turn of New Zealand consumers to demand the same from our brands which are lagging behind many other parts of the world.
The message to our tuna brands is ‘change your tuna’. We’re challenging the brands to start sourcing truly sustainable fish and stop selling tuna that has been caught using destructive fishing methods which are killing endangered marine life.
The campaign is directed at Sealord, John West, Greenseas and the 'own brand' products of New Zealand’s two supermarket chains - Home Brand, Signature Range, Select and Pams.
You can help let the brands know selling tuna caught this way is not acceptable and that you want them to be offering you a choice based on sustainability. Join our online campaign to send this message to them.
To stop declining tuna numbers fishing vessels need to catch less. Banning purse seiners using death trap FADS will be a major step. We’re also calling on the New Zealand tuna boats fishing in the Pacific to stop this practice. We need our Government to support this ban as well.
Banning fishing in some areas and creating marine will also make a big difference. Last year our Government supported plans by Pacific Island nations to close four large areas of international waters. This proposal will be up for discussion later this year by the international forum which governs tuna fishing in the Pacific region. We will be challenging our Government to continue supporting this vital conservation measure.
One last question. What do you call a tuna fishing tournament when there aren’t any tuna to catch? No, this is not a joke but it’s the dilemma the Whakatane Sportfishing Club found itself in recently.
In the past tournament fishers targeted yellowfin tuna. Those fish were part of the same stock that is being fished in the Pacific with juvenile yellowfin tuna being one of the many casualties of death trap FADs..
It seems the impact of overfishing and unsustainable fishing methods in the Pacific is having a wide ranging effect.
The club has now changed the name of its tournament removing the word “tuna” from its title.
We need to take action now to ensure Pacific tuna don’t disappear forever.