Change Your Tuna

A few months ago we started investigating canned tuna in South Africa and where it comes from.

We worked with several retailers and brands in order to collect this information for you, but there is still a long way to go for industry if they are to secure a future for ocean stocks and accordingly, their business.

The Good:

The Bad:

The Ugly:

It’s up to YOU to create the change!

Globally, we must end our use of destructive fishing methods if we are to reverse the decline of our oceans.

Some tuna brands are taking ocean protection seriously and switching to sustainable fishing methods, such as pole and line, and abandoning the use of FADs with purse seine nets. With pole and line fishing, each fish is individually caught, reducing the impact on tuna stocks and on the level of by-catch. Pole and line fishing also brings more employment opportunities for local fishing communities.

In both the UK and Australian the tuna industry has committed to switch to sustainable tuna methods. There is no reason the South African industry cannot do the same – after all, South African consumers want it.

It's up to us to pressure pure retailers to stock sustainable brands. We need to make the right decisions today so that we can all have tuna tomorrow. Always put your buying power in the right place.

The Problem

Tuna are in trouble. These are some of the world’s favourite fish, and the staple protein of millions, but tuna populations are declining globally.

→ Why is there a problem? Click for more info

Every year there are more boats chasing fewer tuna. There simply aren't enough fish to sustain the world's voracious appetite for tuna. Rampant overfishing and pirates stealing tuna are making these once abundant, ocean giants harder and harder to find.

The three blue fin tuna species as well as big eye tuna are those that are in the most immediate danger.

And it's getting worse. Advances in technology mean larger ships - floating factories - are now able to take as much tuna in two days as whole countries can take in a year. Increasing practices of tuna ranching are further aggravating the crisis.

Pirate fishing is also rampant in high value tuna fisheries, literally stealing tuna from the plates of some of the poorest people in the world. But even the legal tuna fisheries are partaking in the robbery. The so called "sweetheart deals" that fishing nations and rich multinational corporations negotiate with coastal states for access to fish tuna in their waters are incredibly unfair. Only around 5% of the value of the tuna is given to the resource owners, often denying coastal communities much-needed employment and neglecting the responsibility to fish responsibly.

Your Tuna

How can we stop the tuna from disappearing? Insist on pole-and-line caught or FAD-free, sustainably fished brands.

→ Know what you're eating. Click for more info on different tuna

The tuna that’s most likely to end up in supermarket cans at the moment is skipjack. While skipjack is not yet overfished, if fishing continues at current rates it won't be able to sustain itself. What's more, the methods used to net skipjack all too often catch young yellowfin and bigeye tuna, threatening these species further.

Yellowfin, a much more commercially valuable species, makes up 28% of the world's catch. The majestic bluefin only represents just under 1% of the landed volume of tuna, but its value is astronomical. In January 2013 a bluefin tuna sold for a record 155.4 million yen (USD$1.7 million) at a Tokyo auction – nearly three times the previous record set in 2012.

Just because there’s more skipjack than albacore or yellowfin, that doesn’t mean we should continue using the harmful fishing practices that take too much and leave too little for communities and smaller fishing fleets.

How It's Caught

“Killed alongside the skipjack tuna that finds itself in your tin is almost the entire cast list of 'Finding Nemo’.”

→ Which fishing practices are the best? Click to find out

One of the most important things tuna brands can do is stop using fish aggregating devices (FADs) with large 'purse seine' nets. FADs act like giant fish magnets. They draw in marine life to be scooped up in a purse seine net. This fishing technique threatens tuna stocks because of the large incidental catch of juvenile tuna from species that are at risk. This level of bycatch, that also often includes sharks, rays, and even turtles, can be ten times higher than fishing without FADs.

Pole-and-line-caught tuna is the most sustainable way of fishing because it is highly selective, meaning that bycatch is kept to a minimum.

More about the fishing techniques used by the industry.

Happy Oceans, Happy Tuna!

Tuna companies and retailers must stop the use of FADs with purse seines and source from more sustainable sources such as pole and line or FAD-free.

→ Whose examples can we follow? Click to find out

In Australia and the in the UK, every major brand and supermarket has pledged to end destructive tuna fishing practices. In the UK for example, John West has committed to end their use of F.A.D.s by 2016. It is time South Africa joined the likes of UK, Australia and New Zealand and pledged to only source sustainably caught canned tuna - you can help us make this happen!

Tuna in South Africa and What You Can Do