Americans Demand Sustainable Tuna Too

by Paloma Henriques

August 28, 2013

Three years ago, before I started working with Greenpeace, I mostly knew tuna through sandwiches and sushi, with no concept of what they were like alive, apart from mayonnaise-y salads or pink slabs of flesh between my chopsticks. A vague fish shape was all that came to my mind, ignorant as I was of the true grandeur of this fish. Apart from being delicious, tuna are among the most highly evolved fish in the ocean. Some tuna are able to accelerate faster than a Porsche and swim up to 50 mph so good at moving through water that the best robot model of a Bluefin tuna cannot match the flesh-and-blood fish[1].
Though it would be a beautiful kindness of us to simply stop eating these extraordinary fish, its easier said than done. Right now, a billion people rely on fish as their principle source of protein[2]. The least we can do, and in fact what we must do if we are to continue eating fish into the future, is to use the least destructive methods of fishing and protect areas of our ocean so that we dont run out of our last wild source of food. When you buy a can of StarKist tuna, that tuna has been caught in some of the worst ways imaginable, bringing in sharks, sea turtles, sea birds, juvenile tuna, and other fish along with the tuna that winds up in your can. StarKist uses long lines fishing lines stretching for miles across the ocean with bated hooks at regular intervals and fish aggregating devices or F.A.D.s, which are essentially buoys floating in the open ocean that attract whole communities of fish and other sea life that is then enclosed in a net. Millions of sharks and hundreds of thousands of sea turtles are caught in these ways. Bycatch is typically thrown back dead or dying into the sea (or in the case of sharks, the fins are cut off and then the helpless body is thrown back). And when baby tuna are caught, they dont get to mature and reproduce in the ocean, and if that keeps up well have to make jellyfish salad sandwiches instead. To pressure StarKist to switch to pole and line fishing, and end the use of F.A.D.s and conventional long lines, a group of seven of us hit the streets in Hollywood on the popular walk of fame that celebrates the stars of film, TV and radio by memorializing their names in a star in the sidewalk. The streets were teeming with people shopping and snapping photos. Situated between a kiosk selling $3.99 sunglasses and a sculpture of Marilyn Monroe from Madame Tussauds wax museum, we got 100 people to take photo petitions in just two hours. We engaged people from all walks of life from a woman with a cardboard sign asking for donations for food to kids whose parents would lean down and explain to them why we were there. Some people had heard of the problem and most people agreed some things just dont belong in nets. Our event was just one of a dozen that took place on Saturday, August 24th across the country. Some cities collected photo petitions outside Ralphs (owned by Kroger, which is ranked 18th on our Carting Away the Oceans report), while others awarded champion ocean destroyer awards signed by hundreds of people echoing a similar action in Korea targeting StarKists parent company Dongwon. Today, I printed all the pictures to send to StarKist. Now its up to them to make the choice: keep fishing the way you are now and continue to play a leading role in the destruction of our oceans while alienating consumers or do what Safeway, Walmart and others have already begun, live up to your name as a real star of sustainable seafood, and give us F.A.D. free and pole and line caught tuna. Make your voice heard. Let StarKist and other tuna companies know what you think here.

[2] World Resources Institute

[1] Tuna: A Love Story by Richard Ellis

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