Picking up an old magazine can transport you back to a time littered with embarrassing fads and fashions.
A colleague of mine, Sam, experienced this recently in downtown, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where he is a campaigner. He picked up an old 2011 copy of New Zealand produced Good magazine and came across an advert we ran urging Sealord to change to more sustainably caught tuna.
The full page ad was modelled on the old school seafood poster that used to be a feature of every fish ‘n’ chip shop in New Zealand. We’d altered it so it looked like a load of different sea animals were called ‘tuna’. We did it to show that the boats that Sealord buys its tuna from use a destructive fishing method that can’t tell what’s tuna and what’s not. Tuna? In the net. Sharks? In the net. Turtles? In the net. Sealord’s tuna was being caught using fish aggregating devices (FADs) and large purse seine nets which catch and kill many other species.
But, despite the distant location, the dog-eared magazine in his hands and the retro looking advert, Sam, had the feeling that somehow time had stood still. He felt this because in the last two years Sealord hasn’t moved on. It’s as though New Zealand’s largest brand of canned tuna is stuck in a time warp clinging on to the bad old days.
In 2010, none of New Zealand’s tuna brands offered sustainably caught tuna. Now four of the five big brands have said they’re phasing out tuna caught using that indiscriminate fishing method which kills around 200,000 tonnes of other marine life every year. And across the Tasman all the big Australian brands have pledged to do the same along with all major brands and retailers in the UK and Safeway in the US.
That’s moving with the times. Shoppers around the world are saying they don’t want tuna caught that way and the companies which sell canned tuna are listening and changing the way things are done. We now have choices in New Zealand. Pams has changed most of its range to FAD-free and pole and line caught tuna. Ceres, a much smaller player, introduced the Fish 4 Ever range of pole and line caught tuna more than a year ago and Countdown says it will change its Select range to pole and line caught tuna by the end of the year. John West and Greenseas have pledged to make similar moves over the next two years.
All this makes Sealord look out of touch despite its expensive PR campaign trying to convince us otherwise. It’s made one small step by signing a pledge with WWF to try and reduce bycatch levels in its supply chain but that’s not enough in this day and age. If it’s really serious about sustainability it must remove tuna caught by purse seiners using FADs from its supply chain.
Sealord should have been the first to change to more sustainably caught tuna but history will show it was the last. But it’s not too late to catch up. Tell Sealord to drop those embarrassing FADs of yesteryear and move into 2013.
Meanwhile, back in Papua New Guinea, Sam has laminated our magazine ad and is using it explain the work we’re doing to protect the ocean for future generations of Pacific Island people who rely on tuna for food and income.