Last week’s announcement that a second tuna brand sold in New Zealand will be shifting to ‘greener’ tuna is good news for the Pacific, says Greenpeace.
Greenseas, owned by Heinz in Australia, has committed to phase out by 2015 tuna caught using a method which kills threatened sharks, turtles, juvenile tuna and other ocean species. The method combines purse seine nets set around fish aggregation devices (FADs).
Globally, it is estimated the bycatch from this method of catching tuna may be as high as 182,500 tonnes per year – the equivalent of nearly one billion cans.
Earlier this year local retailer Foodstuffs announced most of its Pams brand tuna would be sourced from pole and line or FAD-free fisheries by the end of the 2011.
Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas welcomed the Greenseas news and urged other tuna brands to follow. Thomas is currently aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza which is on a three-month expedition in the Pacific focusing attention directly on the region that supplies more than half the world’s tuna.
“This is another step towards protecting the Pacific from destructive tuna fishing which is threatening tuna stocks and the region's food security and economic prosperity,” she said.
“The canned tuna revolution that saw all the major UK brands commit to source more sustainably caught tuna is catching on here. We'll be keeping the pressure up until we see New Zealand's other main tuna brand, Sealord, end its use of tuna caught by indiscriminate fishing methods.” Sealord has so far refused to make a change in its practice of using tuna caught by purse seiners around FADs, although documents distributed by the company reveal that the bycatch of other ocean life is 5-10 times higher when FADs are used than when purse seiners fish on free-swimming schools of tuna. Additionally, the catch of juvenile and under-sized tunas around FADs is high, between 15-20% of the total haul.
Most of New Zealand’s canned tuna comes from the Pacific which, until recently, had the world's last healthy tuna fisheries. These are now under threat as industrial fishing fleets, which have exhausted tuna stocks in other oceans, are concentrating their efforts in the Pacific.
There are close to 6000 industrial tuna vessels licensed to fish in the Western and Central Pacific region. In 2009 those vessels caught almost 2.5 million tonnes of tuna – around 60 per cent of the world’s tuna supply.