4 Reasons the Tuna Industry Is Out of Control

by François Chartier

May 2, 2016

On World Tuna Day, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza is at sea stopping the destructive fishing practices of the largest tuna company on the planet – Thai Union.

A yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) breaks the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

A yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) breaks the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

© Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

On World Tuna Day, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza is at sea stopping the destructive fishing practices of the largest tuna company on the planet – Thai Union – which owns popular tuna brands like John West, Petit Navire, Mareblu and Chicken of the Sea, and supplies huge companies like Walmart.

Thai Union is a threat to the health of the world’s tuna, but it’s not just tuna that is being hurt. This World Tuna Day we need your help to protect these magnificent species, and to protect our oceans and the people who rely on them.

Here are four of the biggest reasons to stand up against Thai Union’s destructive practices:

1) Bycatch – marine life that is caught but that isn’t tuna – is killed as collateral damage.

The fishing gear we’re currently pulling out of the Indian Ocean, Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), results in an estimated 104,000 tonnes of tunas, sharks, billfish and other animals being caught and then discarded back into the sea – dead or dying – every year. Near-threatened species like silky sharks are just some of the victims. Healthy marine life that keeps our oceans thriving is being needlessly slaughtered.

2) Social injustice. Industrial fishing fleets are literally stealing sustainable fishers’ livelihoods out from under them.

We’ve spoken to fishing-people in coastal towns around the world, and their stories were the same as what we heard in the port where we departed for this expedition. They spoke of large foreign fishing vessels gluttonously scooping up vast amounts of tuna and selling them to companies like Thai Union, leaving the local economies to struggle.

 3) Overfishing. Plenty of fish in the sea, there are not.

Aerial view of a FAD (fish aggregating device) at night.  Greenpeace is in the Indian Ocean to document and peacefully oppose destructive fishing practices.

Aerial view of a FAD (fish aggregating device) at night.

A staggering 4.8 million tonnes of tuna were caught in 2014. This breaks the record 4.6 million in 2013. There are more and more fishing vessels in our oceans, and with that, more destructive gear thrown into the sea. Three out of four of the world’s bigeye and yellowfin tuna populations are now overfished, including in the Indian Ocean where we on the Esperanza are doing our best to dismantle all the destructive fishing gear we can.

4) Pollution. Seriously, do we really need more of it in our oceans?

FAD being removed by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza

Destructive fishing gear like FADs are barely regulated and underreported. An estimated 81- to 121-thousand FADs were released in 2013, worldwide. Parts of these death traps are organic matter like bamboo, but they also include plastic nets and electronic beacons made up of plastic, metal and batteries. If it wasn’t bad enough that plastics don’t biodegrade, the batteries are a life-threatening toxic hazard.

These FADs wash up on beaches and get caught in coral reefs where they are left unrecovered. Just last week, while passing the Glorioso Islands, we spotted one stuck on a reef.  We alerted the authorities who said they would clean it up, but there are thousands more contributing to our already polluted oceans.

We need your help to stop Thai Union! Tell Walmart, a major Thai Union customer, to commit to sustainable tuna!

By François Chartier

François Chartier is oceans campaign leader for Greenpeace France.

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