The leading US tuna brands StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea are scrambling to keep their dirty little secret under wraps – but it's too late.
All three companies sent Greenpeace USA cease-and-desist letters in an effort to squash a 140-second animated parody depicting a fish, a bee, and a bad-tempered mermaid reveling in their destructive practices. Yes, that's right – they've made legal threats against Greenpeace over a cartoon.
Watch the video that these tuna companies don't want you to see.
Bumble Bee has even based some of its alleged claims on our statement that the company employs "destructive fishing methods." So, let me get this straight – Bumble Bee is saying that it is the kind of company that doesn't consider killing endangered turtles to be destructive? Because the longline vessels that catch your albacore do exactly that.
To make matters worse, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) – a muck-dwelling seafood industry lobby group that has been lobbying on behalf of environmentally irresponsible bottom trawlers, longliners, and other companies for years – has apparently hired an outside consultancy to confuse the issue with a PR campaign targeting Greenpeace USA. It seems the old guard will stop at nothing when it comes to keeping the reality of their destructive fishing methods from the American public.
Rather than focusing on the real issue- the future of our oceans and the people dependent on tuna for food and jobs, these tuna companies and their proxies at NFI are trying to create a smoke screen for consumers. Unfortunately for them, as the world’s largest canned tuna consuming nation, America has a right to know the truth behind our seafood options and to make informed and educated decisions at the grocery store – and in the end, no PR campaign can change the fact that we have the truth on our side.
Fact: Scientific studies have shown that bycatch rates can be up to 10% in purse seine fishing operations that use fish aggregation devices (FADs) compared to roughly 1% bycatch in FAD-free purse seine fishing.
Fact: Tuna longliners regularly kill turtles, sea birds, sharks, and other animals – hundreds of thousands of them a year.
Fact: FADs increase the incidental catch of baby bigeye and yellowfin tunas to an intolerable degree. Approximately 15-20 percent of canned “light” tuna that was caught by skipjack seiners in the Pacific Ocean is thought to actually be juveniles of these two highly vulnerable species.
Fact: Chicken of the Sea, StarKist, and Bumble Bee sell thousands of tons of tuna caught in FAD-associated purse seines and on longlines every year.
There's just no way around it.
I personally don't want to support any company that makes money off of dead sharks, turtles, and sea birds and puts the food security of millions at stake. In tuna rich coastal states in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, tuna is the economic lifeline and part of everyday diet. Policies that put corporate greed and short term profit over healthy oceans, people’s livelihoods and the future of tuna must be ended. There are better ways to catch tuna than with indiscriminate, highly destructive fishing methods like purse seine fishing using FADs and traditional long-lines that are unable to avoid bycatch of vulnerable species and that transfer their often illegal catches at sea.
Our oceans desperately need more protection if fish populations and other marine life are to recover (scientists estimate that 85% of commercially fish stocks are already depleted). We urgently need the global tuna industry to support the creation of marine reserves in the world’s oceans, especially in special areas of the Pacific Ocean called the Pacific Commons. Right now, less than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected, but a group of Pacific Island Countries have protected 4.5km2 of the Pacific Ocean from purse seine fishing. Tuna companies- if they are to survive, should back these and other efforts to allow fish populations to recover from decades of overfishing. The US fishing fleets are still allowed to fish in part of the areas the Pacific Island Countries want off-limits to destructive fishing and US tuna brands continue to sell tinned tuna with fish from these waters. We should support efforts by the region’s governments to decide the future of their tuna.
A sustainable tuna industry is not only possible – it is absolutely necessary if we are to have healthy oceans in the coming years. Just this year, all major tuna brands available in UK supermarkets have made commitments to abandon wasteful fishing practices and to support the creation of marine reserves in the Pacific Commons.
So, for those of you reading this who work for Bumble Bee, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea or NFI, hear this: we will not be silenced. Your legal chicanery will not dissuade us. The public deserves to know the truth, and your days of hiding your dirty little secret are over.
Casson Trenor is a senior oceans markets campaigner, based in Greenpeace USA's San Francisco office