There is consensus. Too many big tuna fishing boats are chasing declining tuna populations. Environmentalists know this; the tuna industry knows it and governments, scientists and fishermen know that if we want fish tomorrow, we need fewer boats today.
Tuna fishing fleets, however, have continued to expand. The International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF), whose membership includes 80% of the world’s largest tuna companies, claims that the industry is committed to change.
The ISSF obviously has the muscle to promote such change. In spite of this ability, this grouping of tuna catchers, processers and brands made the surprising announcement that it had granted itself another six months to commission even more boats that would be built between now and June 2015.
So instead of taking action to rescue our oceans and ensure future tuna supplies, the industry is only talking about “limiting the growth” of fishing fleets.
We also know that fishing capacity cannot be simply measured in numbers of boats, but rather the real efficiency and catch potential of a fishing vessel.
This industry announcement makes no mention of the effect of wasteful Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in multiplying fishing capacity, nor has it promised to limit their use. Not only do FADs worsen tuna overfishing, but also result in shocking levels of by-catch – accidental catches of juvenile tuna, sharks and other marine life.
Is this new industry resolution actually doing anything to eliminate fishing overcapacity or merely bowing to its own members’ short-sighted plans?
The Spanish company Albacora, owner of some of the biggest purse seine fishing vessels in the world such as Albatun Uno and Albatun Tres, is planning to build two new so-called superseiners worth 24 million euros. The French and Korean tuna industry have each made similar announcements.
The industry seems keen to continue collective secrecy over its plans to increase tuna fishing capacity in the coming years as well as where the vessels will be fishing.
The ISSF is hiding behind a meaningless resolution and has failed to provide a public list of the vessels its members are planning to build between now and 2015, detailing who will build them and where they are going to be operating.
We have yet to see a plan with a timeline that actually begins to reduce the number of vessels ISSF membership collectively owns and a roadmap to make FADs history in tuna purse seine fishing. This is despite the fact some individual companies in ISSF have already committed to ditching FAD use in purse seine fisheries by 2016.
Billions of people are dependent on our oceans for food and jobs. What they need is a plan to take aggressive and massive fishing boats out of the water. It’s time for the ISSF to step up and take action.