Do you know what's in our tuna cans? It's a ridiculous question because it really should be just tuna, right? Well, these tuna fishers say otherwise

“...We are not being treated as humans, but more like animals.”

 

Over the last few months, Greenpeace exposed the true cost of the tuna we consume. It seems the tuna industry’s destructive fishing practices are not the only problem, but your canned tuna may also be a product of human trafficking and enslavement.

Call me naive but I lived on the assumption that as long as tuna cans are labelled “dolphin-friendly”, canned tuna is one of the best options to clean eating. They're also moderately cheap, accessible, and darn good tasty in a sandwich. But less than a week in my interim post at Greenpeace Philippines, I was thrown in the deep pool of Greenpeace’s #NotJustTuna campaign — exposing the dirty secrets of the global tuna industry. Namely, Thai Union.

Thai Union is the world’s largest seafood company and rather than leading the industry to a sustainable path, it is deeply embroiled in the scandal. Thai Union has multiple faces — John West in the UK, Chicken of the Sea in the US, and here in the Philippines, it is linked to Century Tuna.

Behind all these faces is the same story — trafficked individuals lured by a promise of a well paying job to support their family. What they encounter, however, are all forms of abuse not limited to inadequate or non-existent pay,

“It was about one and half years we worked for nothing. No salary at all.”

 


food deprivation,

“He was thirsty at 1am and there wasn’t any water. So he drank from the air conditioner.”

 

severe beatings,

“I saw his fingers. They were missing.”

 


and utter disregard for their rights as human beings.

“So when you’re sick, you’ll die. You’ll be put into plastic, you’ll be stacked with the frozen fish.”

 

These heart-wrenching testimonials bring to light on why we should question where our tuna comes from. Unfortunately, our local Philippine tuna canneries did not fare well and all scored poorly in transparency, sustainability, and equitability in Greenpeace’s Tuna Cannery Ranking Report. A clear indication on how the industry isn’t doing enough in adopting lower-impact fishing methods to avoid juvenile/endangered species bycatches (sharks, turtles, whales), to stop overfishing our depleting fisheries stocks, and protecting workers across its supply chain.

With Thai Union, our local tuna industry also needs to take responsibility. And judging from Greenpeace’s meeting with them last week, they are terrified of us, the consumers. We are their kryptonite. If we collectively demand for tuna that no abused worker had to suffer, no dead juvenile turtles bycatch were thrown overboard — then the tuna industry is left with no choice but to clean up its act.

So go ahead, take action. Demand sustainable seafood. Sign the petition. Our canned tuna should not be tainted with environmental and human rights abuse. It should be #JustTuna.

Jezreel Belleza is an interim Digital Campaigner at Greenpeace Philippines.