Baby whale shark shows true cost of our tuna choices

Feature Story - 24 November, 2010
Disturbing photos of a juvenile whale shark being hauled on board a tuna fishing boat reinforce the urgent need for Australian tuna brands to source their tuna sustainably.

Whale Shark on Board a Purse Seiner ©Greenpeace

The photos, taken on a fishing boat in the Western and Central Pacific ocean, is just one example of the terrible toll Fish Aggregation Devices (or FADS) are having on a wide variety of marine life.

"These fishing boats actually use living and dead fish - including whale sharks - to attract massive schools of fish into their nets" says Greenpeace oceans campaigner Genevieve Quirk. "They are death on an industrial scale, with 2km nets scooping every living thing out of vast areas of the ocean."

"Even worse, it's common for fishers to use the whale sharks themselves as FADS, setting their nets on the whale sharks to catch the surrounding tuna."

Fish Aggregation Devices can be any floating item, from a tyre to more sophisticated devices with sonar and radio beacons. They lure diverse marine life, such as tuna, turtles and sharks. Most Australian tuna brands admit to using both FADS and the enormous purse seine nets.

New research, released today by Greenpeace International, reveals that FADs are the key reason one third of tinned tuna tested from a variety of international brands had serious inconsistencies in their contents.

Some contained multiple species of tuna in the same tin, or different species in different tins of the same product. Sadly the research also found tins containing overfished species such as Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna.

"The use of FADS has such an indiscriminate and devastating toll on marine life, from endangered sharks and turtles to juvenile tuna" says Ms Quirk.

Pacific nations are struggling to regain control of their fishing livelihoods, and have put up a measure to the International Tuna Commission to ban the use of whale sharks as giant fish lures.

"Without 100% traceability from our tuna brands, consumers have no choice in whether they become part of this terrible cycle of ocean destruction"Ms Quirk says.