Over the past few years we’ve seen increased consumer demand for sustainable tuna products. At the moment, the best option on the shelves is pole and line caught skipjack tuna, the population of which is still relatively plentiful. Pole and line is a simple technique that catches tuna one by one. If we want ample tuna supplies tomorrow, we need global investment and support for sustainable fishing methods such as pole and line today.
There is now a new ally in reforming tuna fisheries for the benefit of the oceans and the millions of people dependent on them for food and jobs. The recently launched International Pole and Line Foundation will bring together coastal states, market players, fisheries development experts and scientists, IPNLF will be able to hasten the transition of the fishing sector to truly sustainable and equitable fishing. This launch is proof of the momentum our movement has in creating a future of healthy oceans.
Generally, pole and line fishing allows coastal communities to participate in not just catching tuna, but also in profiting from it. Most of the world’s tuna fisheries take place in the waters of some of the most vulnerable and poorest communities in the world. By choosing pole and line fishing over more destructive fishing such as mainstream tuna methods of purse seine fishing on FADs, the tuna industry can ensure jobs and food for the future, avoid bycatch of sharks, dolphins and turtles.
In order for pole and line fishing to succeed on a global scale, it needs sustainably caught fish used as bait. We are working with IPNLF to ensure that baitfish fisheries are managed better so that when you buy a can of tuna, you can be sure it is completely responsible.
These aren’t just issues of tuna, the tuna industry employs millions of people who need long-term jobs. Without fish, billions of people will have no future. It is likely that the price of pole and line caught tuna will be more than tuna caught using destructive methods. But we believe that it is time to pay a price to avoid hunger, empty oceans and increased unemployment. You can help by asking your government to end all subsidies of wasteful fisheries and support pole and line fishing in your country. Leaders should be supporting ocean conservation measures such as those championed by Pacific island nations who are leading the way in another arena of sustainable tuna fishing FAD free purse seine fishing and keep the fishing profits in the hands of those who need them most: fishing communities, not huge industrial fishing companies.
Sari Tolvanen is a Greenpeace International oceans campaigner based in Amsterdam.