Saving the oceans one tuna brand at a time

by Guest Blogger

March 21, 2012

BlogpostbySari Tolvanen

Too often these days political decision-making is just a front for the big businesses that are really running the show, so weve shifted our focus from pressuring politicians to campaigning where big business hurts the most – the markets where they sell their products to people like you.

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When it comes to the ways our oceans are “managed”, the decisions made at bodies like the Pacific Tuna Commission can have a direct impact on the millions of people who depend on our oceans for food and jobs. While Greenpeace campaigners attend the political meetings to keep the politicians honest, the focus of our work to defend our oceans has become markets-based campaigning. If we are to stand a chance of rescuing our oceans and the fish in them, we have to work with consumers like you and the businesses who also rely on our oceans. There is much work to do, with almost 80 percent of the commercially valuable fish populations facing collapse. With just 1 percent recovering, there are not very many truly sustainable options on supermarket shelves for consumers.

Not all tuna is the same of course. Some types of tuna such as bluefin and bigeye, two of the most prestigious, often used in sushi, are already on the brink of collapse and should be left alone completely. Globally, yellowfin tuna is nearing dangerously low levels. For other species, such as albacore and skipjack, there are still good options out there if retailers and tuna brands agree to catch them sustainably.

While you would think transitioning to sustainable fishing methods would be a no-brainer for the industry if they want a future, many companies have been resistant to let go of their old ways of cheap and super-efficient fishing methods that have netted them enormous profits. They want to see these profits grow year after year until the tuna is gone and they can then move on to invest in some other species. Even in the face of mounting scientific evidence that catching skipjack tuna, the tuna that is likely in your tuna can, would have a better chance of survival if it were caught using pole and line method of purse seine fishing without the use ofFish Aggregating Devices, floating objects that are meant to attract tuna into nets, but bring in all sorts of other ocean life with the tuna, causing huge levels of wastefulbycatch. If the numbers of tuna fishing vessels were to be reduced to levels that would allow fish populations to recover, we could have tuna and viable fishing industries for the future and cut the carbon footprint of the tuna fleets as well.

But change is happening. After years of campaigning around the world, many visionary leaders in the retailer and tuna sectors are starting to change their tuna. Today, just five days ahead of a crucial meeting in Guam, where the fate of the Pacific tuna will be decided, Greenpeace islaunching a roadmap takenby industry champions, and which needs to be taken by others, to ensure we have tuna for the future. From Europe to New Zealand to North America, consumers are demanding sustainable tuna and the industry is responding to this demand.Sign your name here and tell the governments standing in the way of progress – the US, Taiwan, South Korea and Philippines – to follow the momentum of the markets.This meeting in Guam is our chance to save the Pacific tuna- the worlds largest tuna fishery. Well be posting here about whats happening at the Guam meeting as well as how were working around the world to keep tuna in the oceans for everyone: for you, for fishing communities, for the future.

Read the Greenpeace report Changing Tuna: How the Global Tuna Industry is in Transition to Sustainable Supply.

Sari Tolvanen is an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace International.

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