The video the global tuna industry doesn’t want you to see

Posted by simon clydesdale — 17 November 2011 at 2:22pm - Comments

Today we've released shocking footage of ocean life dying in gruesome ways at the hands of industrial tuna fishers in the Pacific Ocean. The footage was shot by a New Zealand helicopter pilot turned whistleblower, who undertook aerial reconnaissance for tuna boats in the Pacific in 2009.

The global tuna industry would have you believe their businesses operate sustainably. But fishing with fish aggregation devices (FADs) and purse seine nets is the dominant catch method used by the industrial tuna fishing industry worldwide. The slaughter shown in this film may shock you, but it will come as absolutely no surprise to the tinned tuna industry. This is how most of them fish, day after day.

Our whistleblower - whose identity we’ve disguised to protect him from reprisals - says he witnessed scenes like this on an almost daily basis. During his interview, he told us he was concerned about the impact purse seine fishing with FADs was having on other ocean life in the Pacific.

"When you see it happening all the time you’ve just got to think how many are actually getting killed, think over the whole Pacific, happening every day, it would be making a big impact. Something has to be done about the FADs”, he said

But instead of dropping this devastating fishing method, the global tuna industry knowingly embraces destructive fishing practices, because it’s ‘efficient’. No amount of jargon can hide the fact they are championing a non-selective, needlessly destructive fishing method that destroys vulnerable marine life and undermines the stability of oceanic ecosystems.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and we're working around the world to transform the fishing industry. Earlier this year, Greenpeace supporters forced industry in the UK (the world’s second-largest tinned tuna market) to recognise that tuna fishing must change. All major UK supermarkets and tuna brands are leading the way globally, by committing to stop sourcing tuna caught using FADs. 

We’ve made a fantastic start in the UK, but it is vital that the supermarkets and tuna brands making the transition to sustainable tuna deliver on their commitments, namely: John West, Princes, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Co-op.  The signs are good: we are in regular dialogue with them and we will be asking our supporters to help keep them on track.

The tuna fishing industry demonstrates a much wider issue: there are too many fishing boats trying to catch too few fish and the destructive fishing methods being used cause far too much damage to ocean life. This was brought home just a few days ago when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated its authoritative red list of species at risk. The news was not good for a number of species, including tuna. Five out of the eight species of tuna were in the threatened or near threatened categories, placing them at or near risk of extinction.

The solutions do exist and changes can be made.  Globally we need to change the way fish are caught, manage our fisheries for the long-term benefit of all - not just the fishing industry, and we need more fully-protected marine reserves. These steps can help create healthy oceans for future generations.

UK leadership is showing the rest of the global industry that tuna fishing can be responsible and sustainable. It’s a disgrace that the film shown here is contemporary reportage. It should be a shocking historical curiosity, not a snapshot of tuna fishing today.

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