The recent news from Australia that Aldi, the last of the major companies in that market holding out against introducing sustainable tuna, has now decided to join the growing band of progressive companies delivering sustainable tuna to their consumers is huge news for Greenpeace's global campaign to transform the way tuna fisheries are operated.
With Aldi now committed to phasing out the use of destructive FADs (fish aggregating devices) with purse seines, all of the major brands and retailers in Australia are now committed to supplying sustainable tuna to their customers. Australia now joins the UK in having all of its major tinned tuna brands and retailers signed up to these far-reaching reforms.
All of this change is due to the growing number of consumers world wide who are demanding tuna caught in a way that does not empty our oceans. In Australia alone, some 50,000 consumers took action in recent months by writing to tuna companies asking them to stop using destructive fishing practices. This is proof that individual action can deliver vitally important change!
The changes taking place in Australia, the UK, the United States, Canada, Italy, New Zealand and in many other markets are clear signs of a tuna industry increasingly divided between those taking serious action to address sustainability and those whose heads remain resolutely stuck in the sand. Consumers are demanding an end to the use of FADs with purse seines in favour of FAD-free or pole and line caught tuna and growing numbers of companies within the industry are responding.
Against the back drop of this growing mood for change and action, some companies are clearly stuck in the past, determined to stick with practices that are unsustainable and even, in some cases illegal. Recent allegations against Dongwon Industries that the so-called fishing licences it has been using to fish in African waters were forged, meaning that the company had no right to fish in those waters, are a good example.
Of equal concern is that the company implicated in these activities is affiliated with a company with membership of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), the industry body supposedly working to ensure the highest standards of sustainable and ethical practice. Not only do the companies involved in this activity have questions to answer, but so too does the ISSF.
The ISSF must now state categorically that all of its member companies and close affiliates are not sourcing illegally fished or sourced tuna.
Membership of the ISSF is not an endpoint for tuna companies. Signing on the line and paying the membership fees is not the end of the journey to sustainability. Quite the opposite. It is just the start. And the ISSF must be clear that this is the case.
This message is clearly currently lost on major tinned brands like Sealord in New Zealand and Clover Leaf (owned by Bumble Bee) in Canada – both ISSF members. Both have been under pressure from consumers for some time to drop the use of FADs with purse seines but, like other dinosaurs in the industry, are refusing to budge.
Pressure on them is growing. The recent changes in Australia and changes by the four other major brands in New Zealand, for example, leave Sealord looking increasingly isolated. Consumers in New Zealand and Canada continue to demand change – maybe this year these companies will listen to them?
The growing mood for change and action on sustainability in the tuna industry, demonstrated so clearly by the recent changes across the Australian market, is good news for consumers. But it also good news for the industry. Many companies now realise this, but many still do not. Anything short of operating sustainably, however, is equivalent to a long and slow suicide.