I have a long history of doing daft things. I also have a long history of a doing whatever I can to protect our precious marine life. So, when I heard Sealord was one of the sponsors of the Tough Guy ‘n' Gal challenge at the weekend, I saw a great opportunity to combine both.
I wanted to draw attention to a problem, one much larger than me getting my nails dirty and losing my shoes in a swamp. So I put on a bright blue t-shirt which read ‘Change your tuna’ on the front and ‘C’mon Sealord don’t be last’ on the back and, along with my Greenpeace team mates, I ran, slid and crawled my way around the demanding and muddy course.
Think that’s daft? Well, how about this?
Until recently most of the canned tuna sold in NZ was caught using destructive fishing methods with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems and wildlife. Despite tuna brands around the world and in New Zealand changing their sourcing policies Sealord appears to be stuck in the mud and is refusing to shift to more sustainably caught tuna.
Sealord buys its tuna from vessels which use fish aggregating devices (FADs) and purse seine nets. FADs are used as lures, and marine life congregate around them – think rugby fans around the TV in a bar. Everything is then scooped up in the purse seine net – from which very little escapes – and hauled on board. Sharks, larger fish, juvenile tuna, and occasional turtles are all caught and often thrown back into the sea injured or dead. In the thousands.
I’m a diver and a biologist, and seeing these amazing animals alive in the ocean is a thrill. Seeing them caught in nets, and dying is devastating - as is seeing them dismissed as mere ‘bycatch’.
Sealord says its suppliers use sustainable methods of fishing, but it is clear to me that they don’t.
That’s why I ran the course, making a muddy spectacle of myself. I wanted to make people more aware of the devastating impact of the use of FADs, and draw attention to Sealord to ask - in public - that they move to more sustainable sources of tuna. And I want to encourage you, with your consumer power, to do the same.
Other brands are shifting to FAD-free and pole and line caught tuna - methods which have far lesser environmental impacts - so why can’t Sealord? Why is Sealord trying so hard to come last?
I managed to get out of the obstacle nets on the course (I did get my head stuck in one, don’t ask!) and cross the finish line, but very little escapes the deadly combination of FADs and purse seine nets. It was great to see the support after the race. But we need more. Please show yours by sending Sealord an email and choosing FAD-free and pole and line caught tuna the next time you buy canned tuna.
Photos: Greenpeace / Annabel Chaston. Top: Catherine Cassidy, left, with team mates Lucy Caldin and Amanda Briggs-Hastie calling on Sealord to clean up its act.