Greenpeace tuna campaign nets victory in Italy

by Guest Blogger

March 6, 2012

BlogpostbyGiorgia Monti, Greenpeace Italy

Pole and line caught tuna arrives on UK supermarket shelves. Coming soon to yours?

Today we have good news! Thanks to campaigning by Greenpeace and our supporters, leading Italian tuna brand Mareblu has decided to abandon destructive fishing methods in favour of sustainable practices by agreeing to source tuna only from pole and line and FAD free purse seining operations by the end of 2016. The move is a huge victory for ourTonno in trappolacampaign and is a significant first shift in the Italian tinned tuna market. Mareblu has shown that when a company really wants to commit to taking action to save our oceans, it can do it. Now that the standard has been set, there can be no more excuses- all other major brands and retailers must follow.

Since Greenpeace Italys campaign to change the tuna industrys sourcing policies began in 2010 with our Italian tuna ranking la Classifica Rompiscatole (breaking cans), the major brands had only taken small steps. At the end of last year, we exposed the lack of transparency in the industrys labelling practices by releasing an investigation called The secrets of tuna: what is hidden in a tin? At that time, no brands were offering 100 percent sustainable tinned tuna in Italy.

But now this has changed. Mareblu, the third largest tuna brand (by sales) in Italy, is part of the MW Brands group, owned by Thai Union Frozen, the worlds biggest seafood company. After a year of pressure they have decided to adopt for Mareblu the same sustainability commitment previously made for their UK brand John West. We look forward to the same commitment for its French brand Petit Navire.

Most of the tuna in the world is caught by a fishing method which uses vast nets called purse seines along with fish aggregating devices (FADs). FADs are floating objects often equipped with satellite-linked sonar devices. Tuna instinctively gather around them, but FADs also attract a host of other species, including sharks, juvenile tuna and turtles, all which are also scooped up by the purse seines. On average, every time this method is used, 1kg of other species will be caught for every 9kg of tuna .

Phasing out FAD use is a vital step forward if we are to protect our oceans, overfished tuna populations and, in turn, guarantee a sustainable future for the industry.

Pole and line caught skipjack tuna in Indonesia.

Mareblu has also signed up to support marine reserves, and will no longer source fish caught in the Pacific Commons. Furthermore, as most of the tuna sold in Italy is yellowfin, a species in crisis and among the most threatened by FAD fishing, the company has committed to use more sustainably-caught Skipjack tuna and stop sourcing vulnerable bigeye tuna altogether. Later this year, Mareblu will also start labelling their products with the tuna species name, and where and how the tuna was caught.

Now Mareblu has to prove its commitment is real: action must follow words. Year by year the company will need to source an increasing amount of certified sustainable tuna products to satisfy consumers in Italy, and progress towards their 2016 target. Mareblu sustainable skipjack pole and line product should be on the shelves already this year.

Another ranking of the Italian tuna industry is coming soon- how long will we have to wait here for our brands to catch up to the UK?

Giorgia Monti is an oceans campaigner based in Greenpeace Italys Rome office

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