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Killed alongside the skipjack tuna that finds itself in your tin is almost the entire cast list of Finding Nemo.
Charles Clover Canned tuna is Australia’s favourite seafood, but our voracious appetite is having a devastating impact. Almost all of our tuna comes from the Pacific and after only a few decades of industrial fishing, most if not all of the commercial tuna species are now exploited at unsustainable long-term levels.
We have a choice. Either we force our favourite brands to change the way they source their fish, or we face the real possibility that our children will be the last generation to have tuna in their sandwiches. Less well-known is the effect tuna fishing is having on other species. As a result of wasteful fishing methods, our tuna catch is causing the widespread death of endangered and threatened marine animals – including sharks, rays, dolphins and turtles – known collectively as ‘bycatch.’ In tuna purse seine fisheries using Fish Aggregation Devices, or FADs, for every 10kg
catch, up to 1 kg is bycatch and a further 2kg is juvenile tuna – meaning that it is too young to reproduce.
This bycatch is the dirty little secret of tuna brands.
The solution to reducing bycatch is simple. The first and most urgent step is to ban the use of FADs (floating objects, often equipped with satellite tracking, used to attract tuna) in purse seine fisheries. Doing so would, at a stroke, reduce bycatch by up to 90%.
“Safcol’s future depends on the health and sustainability of the ocean. We know that fish stocks around the world are in decline and many fishing practices are destructive and wasteful. The switch to 100% pole and line, and dropping yellowfin for skipjack, were in the end obvious choices.”
Andrew Mitchell, CEO, Safcol Australia.
Markets make a difference
Australia now imports most of its seafood, the bulk of this as canned tuna. Nearly all of this comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. As a nation, we spend over $330 million every year on canned tuna. Most of our tuna is caught in the national waters of our Pacific Island neighbours by East Asian and American fleets. It is then canned in huge factories in Thailand before being shipped to our supermarket shelves. None of our canned tuna comes from Australian waters any longer.If Australian brands demand sustainable tuna, producers will respond. In the UK all supermarkets and all major tuna brands have announced they will no longer source tuna caught with purse seines and FADs, making the UK the world’s most sustainable tuna market. Given it is also the second largest canned tuna market in the world, the impact in the water will also be significant. Australian brands are lagging behind. While some are moving slowly in the right direction, 8 out of 10 Australian brands continue to source tuna caught using purse seine nets with FADs. Only one major brand – Safcol – has dropped this practice fully by switching to 100% pole and line caught tuna. Greenseas, the second biggest tuna brand in Australia, has made the commitment to drop FADs from their product by 2015. But time is running out for tuna. UK supermarkets have banned the FAD; it’s time for all Australian brands to do the same.
1 What a waste: The hidden cost of canned tuna
FADs are floating objects, often equipped with satellite-linked sonar devices, which are used to attract tuna. Tuna gather around the FADs, allowing them to be scooped up in vast nets known as purse seines. These purse seines consist of a huge curtain of net that encircles a school of tuna and then closes when a line is pulled, much like a draw-string purse. It is estimated that around 70% of the total global purse seine catch is taken using FADs.1 The problem is, FADs attract all manner of marine life, not just tuna – this gets scooped up too and is known as bycatch. The global tuna industry knows it has a bycatch problem. The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) – which counts as its members the global giants of the tuna trading industry – agrees that when used without FADs, “purse seine fishing has
an average by-catch rate of less than 1 percent (0.5-1%).”2 When used in combination with FADs, the bycatch is typically ten times greater 3 – and can be much worse. Most of this is made up of sharks and rays – although whales, dolphins and turtles are also common casualties. But the problem is many times greater when you include the bycatch of juvenile tuna from highvalue, at-risk species. According to the ISSF, “purse seine fishing on FADs can also lead to greater catches of small tuna, typically of the bigeye and yellowfin species. This can represent 15-20% of the catch…”4 Globally, it is estimated that FAD associated bycatch in purse seine fisheries may now be as high as 182,500 tonnes annually.5 This global bycatch would fill the equivalent of nearly 1 billion cans of tuna every year.6
“Greenseas customers expect a sustainable product and we recognise the need to improve our footprint. Purse seining for skipjack using FADs is having an unsustainable impact on bigeye and yellowfin stocks, as well as other marine life, in the Pacific. We feel it is important to phase out FAD use, to ensure the long-term viability of Pacific tuna fisheries.”
Heinz Australia (Owner of the Greenseas tuna brand)
Sharks and rays
Sharks and rays are the major nontuna bycatch victims and are being killed in the hundreds of thousands by tuna fishing with purse seines and FADs.7 More than 75% of the oceanic pelagic shark and ray species are classified as threatened or near threatened by the peak scientific organisation for assessing threatened species – the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These species are slow to reproduce, making them highly vulnerable to overexploitation.8 Being top of the food-chain, sharks are especially vital to the marine ecosystem. Silky sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks make up particularly high levels of the bycatch in tuna purse seine fisheries.9 Both are on the IUCN red list. Cutting fins off sharks, often while they are still alive and then throwing the shark back in the ocean, is also still in practice on many tuna fishing boats.
What a waste: The hidden cost of canned tuna 2
Juvenile tuna and threatened tuna species
This year the IUCN listed five out of eight tuna species as threatened or nearthreatened.10 This is due to overfishing.
The reality of the current state of southern bluefin tuna should serve as a warning. As a species, southern bluefin tuna was once plentiful in Australia and formed the backbone of the local canning industry. Now few people have the licence to fish it, and quotas are small. The Australian canneries closed years ago. Bluefin now fetch thousands of dollars per fish on the lucrative Japanese sashimi market. The bluefin population has essentially collapsed and faces imminent commercial extinction as a result of overfishing. Southern bluefin tuna has been listed as critically endangered for over a decade. Now bigeye tuna, also targeted along with yellowfin by Australian fishermen along the east coast, is listed as vulnerable to extinction, with its population at worryingly low levels. Yellowfin too is deemed nearthreatened, meaning that without new conservation measures it will slip into the threatened category. This wasteful catch of yellowfin and bigeye is not only environmentally irresponsible, it is also economically short-sighted as the species are worth more on the higher value fresh fish market. Canned tuna is usually skipjack, which, while diminishing fast, for now retains a healthier population. But significant levels of bycatch of juvenile tuna threaten the long-term health of these stocks, as juvenile tuna are taken out of the water before reaching breeding maturity. In 2009 the incidental catch of mostly juvenile bigeye was 43,000 tonnes, roughly two-thirds the size of the targeted catch.11 So the canned tuna on our shelves, mostly caught using purse seines and FADs, is a major factor in pushing yellowfin and bigeye stocks further into depletion.12
A recent study has shown that the 85,000 turtles officially recorded as killed annually in global fisheries may be a gross underestimation.13 The main sources of turtle deaths are long line, gillnet and trawl fisheries, but purse seines using FADs can also be responsible for killing turtles. Research from the Pacific region shows 750-2,500 purse seine turtle deaths annually between 1994-2004. Bycatch from fishing with purse seines and FADs may cause problems for Pacific turtle populations14 which are found entangled in nets both below the FADs and on top where they frequently climb up to rest.15 All five Pacific sea turtles are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN red list.16 All turtles are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Appendix 1, making international trade illegal. Zero by-catch should be
the goal of every fishery that comes into contact with turtles. Remarkably, resistance to change remains entrenched. Industry is reluctant to change if it results in a smaller tuna catch. The summary of a 2009 ISSF workshop with tuna experts and skippers of purse seine vessels noted with regards to bycatch mitigation techniques that ‘if it is good for turtles but bad for fishing, it won’t be adopted’.17
For each 1,000 tons of yellowfin tuna caught in FAD sets over three years, fishermen caught nearly 111,000 other individual animals, including turtles, sharks, rays and marlins.18
3 What a waste: The hidden cost of canned tuna
PURSE SEINE FISHING WITH FADS RESULTS IN 10X GREATER BYCATCH THAN WITHOUT
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
FISH 4 EVER SAFCO L
COLES JOHN W
GREEN ALDI IGA SIRENA
WOOLW O SOLE M
CANNED TUNA TRADE GLOBAL VALUE $2.7 BILLION
… and rising
70% OF GLOBAL TUNA PURSE SEINE TUNA FISHING USES FADS
THE SOLUTIONS: • POLE AND LINE FISHING • MARINE RESERVES • PURSE SEINING WITHOUT FADS
1M 1966 1.75M
4.3 MILLION TONNES OF TUNA CAUGHT
Sharks and rays
75% of sharks and rays are under threat and many more are endangered. Shark finning is on the increase.
TUNA CAUGHT (TONNES)
DESTRUCTIVE PURSE SEINE NETS WITH FADS
200 m 2m 0.5 m
6 of the 7 sea turtle populations are in trouble.
Juvenile and threatened tuna species
Purse seining on FADs is killing high numbers of bigeye and yellowfin – both over-fished and in rapid decline.
WHAT’S THE CATCH?
The fish that most purse seines are trying to catch.
Tonnes of FAD bycatch in purse seine tuna fisheries per year. That’s equivalent to almost
Non target species caught by indiscriminate fishing.
1 BILLION TINS OF BYCATCH
5 OUT OF 8 TUNA SPECIES ARE THREATENED OR NEAR THREATENED
YELLOWFIN & ALBACORE
Top predators like sharks and rays. Even marine turtles
Including threatened tuna species
Other non target ﬁsh
“Taking an overall view, at present it is clear that the global catch level for tuna will not be sustainable unless action is taken.”
John West (UK)20 Most canned tuna sold in Australia is a small, relatively short-lived species called skipjack. John West and Greenseas are the brands that sell the most of it. But the more commercially valuable yellowfin and albacore tunas are also sold in cans – brands like Sirena and Sole Mare base their business almost entirely on yellowfin. The majority of tuna stocks are in decline and appear set to continue on this downward trajectory as fishing rates are very high. In 2009, 2,467,903 metric tonnes of tuna were caught in the waters of the Pacific – the highest ever recorded. This includes bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Globally, yellowfin tuna stocks are in serious decline,19 all four regional stocks of yellowfin are declining and continue to be fished at an alarming rate.20, 21, 22, 23 Yellowfin tuna is fully-exploited and on the brink of being overfished in a region of the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) where the majority of yellowfin catches are taken. Even previously healthy fisheries are now under pressure. 1.8 million tonnes of skipjack were caught in the WCPO in 2009 – also a record. At first that may look like good news but the maximum sustainable yield for skipjack — the upper catch limit that should avoid decline — was set by fisheries scientists at 1.35 million tonnes. Since this maximum sustainable yield makes no allowance for poor data or poor management, that overexploitation of more than 400,000 tonnes of fish is an incredible risk. Without better management, even stocks of the healthiest remaining species, like skipjack could suffer.25, 26, 27, 28 The increasing pattern of tuna overexploitation and its associated bycatch is exacerbated by the enormous increase in the capacity of tuna purse seine fleets and the proliferation of FADs. Larger boats with greater capacity are chasing fewer and fewer fish. Foreign purse seine ships fishing to supply global markets can catch 3,000 tonnes of tuna in a single trip to the Western and Central Pacific, almost double the entire annual catch that some Pacific Island nations make in their own waters.29 The number of tuna vessels continues to increase worldwide. For example, the US flagged tuna purse seine fleet in the South Pacific more than tripled in size between 2006 and 2009.30
Empty seas, empty future
When it comes to destructive fishing and dwindling tuna stocks, the Pacific Island nations lose out threefold. If overfishing continues, it will be the Pacific Islanders who suffer most. Firstly, a tiny fraction of the profits from the tuna industry is returned to the people of the Pacific. Pacific Island nations, although home to the world’s richest tuna31 fishing grounds, receive only around 5% of the value of tuna fished in their part of the world as industrial fleets from distant waters have taken the place of local industry. This meager portion of the profit, received through selling licences to overseas fishers, is for many Island nations their greatest revenue source. Improving their cut of the profits, through fairer licensing and redevelopment of the domestic industry, is key to long-term ecological and economic sustainability. Secondly, the bycatch of sharks, turtles and other marine life is not only environmentally destructive; it represents an economic cost to Pacific Island nations whose natural wonders are popular with tourists. Finally, practically all Pacific Islanders rely on seafood as their principle source of protein.32 With developing economies and environments at the frontline of climate change, Pacific Islanders are among the least food secure populations in the world. Destructive and excessive fishing is a humanitarian as well as an environmental threat.
5 What a waste: The hidden cost of canned tuna
1 J. Hallier and D. Gaertner, ‘Drifting fish aggregation devices could act as an ecological trap for tropical tuna species’. http://hal.ird.fr/docs/00/26/91/72/PDF/Hallier_ GaertnerMEPS7180_Prev2.pdf ISSF, FAD: Fact Aggregating Document, http://iss-foundation.org/wp-content/uploads/ downloads/2011/05/FAD-document.pdf Ibid. Ibid. Calculation based on the FAO estimates that total purse seine catches were 2.607.201 MT in 2007. 70% FAD with 10% bycatch. Greenpeace International, ‘A Growing FAD’: Kobe-II Bycatch Workshop, Brisbane 23-25 June 2010. It had previously been estimated that total bycatch from the use of FADs amounted to some 100,000 tonnes every year: T. Dempster and M. Taquet ‘Fadbase and Future Directions for Ecological Studies of Fad-Associated Fish’, 2005. www. spc.int/coastfish/news/Fish_News/112/ Dempster_112.pdf [accessed15.12.10] 16. 987,325,000 cans of tuna (i.e. almost 1 billion 185g cans) M.D. Camhi et al (2009). The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays. Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Pelagic Shark Red List Workshop. Tubney House, University of Oxford, UK, 19–23 February 2007 http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/ ssg_pelagic_report_final.pdf N.K. Dulvy et al, 2008, ‘You can swim but you can’t hide: the global status and conservation of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays’, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 18: 459-482 (2008). http:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.975/ pdf [accessed 16.10.12] M.D. Camhi et al (2009). The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays. Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Pelagic Shark Red List Workshop. Tubney House, University of Oxford, UK, 19-23 February 2007. http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/ ssg_pelagic_report_final.pdf and reported (typically<1% of total fleets), and to a global lack of bycatch information from small scale fisheries, this likely underestimates the true total by at least two orders of magnitude’, Wallace et al, 2010. ‘Global patterns of marine turtle bycatch’. http:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1755263X.2010.00105.x/full [accessed 9.12.10] 14 D. Bromhead et al, ‘Review of the impact of fish aggregating devices (FADs) on Global Tuna Fisheries’, 2003 15 J. Franco et al , Design Of Ecological Fads, 2009. www.iotc.org/files/proceedings/2009/ wpeb/IOTC-2009-WPEB-16.pdf 16 IUCN Red List Categories: Vulnerable: high risk of extinction in the wild; Endangered: very high risk of extinction in the wild; Critically Endangered: extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. www.iucn.org/about/work/ programmes/species/red_list/about_the_red_ list/ [accessed 16.12.10] 17 ISSF Meeting on mitigation of bycatches in the Tuna Purse seine Floating Object fisheries – Final Report AZTI Sukarrieta, Spain, 24-27 November 2009. www.iss-foundation.org/ FileContents.phx?fileid=e7f00ec6-01eb-4ba79ede-42f229199955 [accessed 16.12.10] 18 M. Hall, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission reported in Forbes. http://www. forbes.com/2008/07/24/dolphin-safe-tunatechpaperplastic08-cx_ee_0724fishing_2.html 19 Seafood Watch Seafood Report, ‘Yellowfintuna’. www.montereybayaquarium. org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/content/media/ MBA_SeafoodWatch_YellowfinTunaReport. pdf Seafood Watch Seafood Report, ‘Bigeye tuna’. www.montereybayaquarium. org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/content/media/ MBA. SeafoodWatch_BigeyeTunaReport. pdf Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Press release, 21 August 2007. www.wpcouncil.org/press/2007.08.21%20 Press%20Release%20on%20WCPFC%20 SC3.pdf and www.iss-foundation.org/tsm 20 WCPFC (2009). The Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Scientific Committee Fifth Regular Session, 10–21 August 2009, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Kolonia, Pohnpei. www.wcpfc.int/doc/ summaryreportpre-edited-version 21 WCPFC (2010). The Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Scientific Committee Sixth Regular Session, 10-19 August 2010, Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Summary Report. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Kolonia, Pohnpei. www.wcpfc.int/ node/2751 22 IATTC (2010). The Fishery for Tunas and Billfishes in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2008. Fisheries Status Report No 7. Inter-American tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), La Jolla California, USA. www. iattc.org/PDFFiles2/FisheryStatusReports/ FisheryStatusReport7ENG.pdf 23 IOTC (2009). Report of the Eleventh Session of the IOTC Working Party on Tropical Tunas, Mombasa, Kenya, 15-23 October 2009. Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Victoria, Seychelles. www.iotc.org/ files/proceedings/2009/wptt/IOTC-2009WPTTR%5BE%5D.pdf 24 WCPFC (2010). Summary report of the sixth regular session of the scientific committee. http://www.wcpfc.int/node/2751 25 IOTC (2009). IOTC Report of the Twelfth Session of the Scientific Committee, Victoria, Seychelles, 30 November-4 December, 2009 IOTC-2009-SC-R[E]. www.iotc.org/ files/proceedings/2009/sc/IOTC-2009-SCR%5BE%5D.pdf 26 ICCAT (2008). Skipjack executive summary. In: Report of the 2008 ICCAT yellowfin and skipjack stock assessments meeting. Florianópolis, Brazil, 21–29 July 2008. SCRS/2008/016 – YFT & SKJ Assessment. www.iccat.int/Documents/SCRS/ExecSum/ SKJ_EN.pdf 27 IATTC (2010). Fishery Status Report 7. Tunas and billfishes in the Eastern Pacific oceans in 2008. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. La Jolla, California 2010. www.iattc.org/PDFFiles2/IATTC-80-05-Tunasand-billfishes-in-the-EPO-2008.pdf 28 WCPFC 2010. The Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific. Ocean Scientific Committee Fifth Regular Session Port Vila, Vanuatu 10-21 August 2009. Summary report. http://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/2009/5thregular-sessionscientific-committee 29 WCPFC Area Catch Value Estimates 2009. http://ffa.int/node/425#attachments [accessed 16.12.10] 30 www.ntsb.gov/events/forum_fishing_vessel_ safety/Background/2010%2004%2030%20 DHS%20Distant%20Water%20Tuna%20 Fleet%20Report.pdf [accessed 14.12.10] 31 World Bank 2008, quoted in Island Business, 2011 http://www. islandsbusiness.com/islands_business/ index_dynamic/containerNameToReplac e=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=19010/ overideSkinName=issueArticle-full.tpl 32 UN FAO, http://km.fao.org/FIGISwiki/index. php/FishStatJ_download
3 4 5
10 www.iucnredlist.org/ 11 WCPFC Scientific Committee 7, Prospects for effective conservation of bigeye tuna stocks in the Western Central Pacific Ocean, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 9-17 August, 2011. 12 University of Hawaii, ‘The Associative Dynamics of Tropical Tuna to a Large-Scale Anchored Fad Array’,2008. http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PFRP/biology/ holland_itano_png.html 13 ‘The total reported global marine turtle bycatch was~85,000 turtles, but due to the small percentage of fishing effort observed
What a waste: The hidden cost of canned tuna 6
“The balance of power between the fishing fleets and tuna has shifted too far in favour of the fleets.”
Profesor Callum Roberts, University of York
Greenpeace Australia Pacific
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