Canned tuna campaign catches a big one

Feature Story - 30 August, 2011
Since releasing our latest Canned Tuna Guide a couple of weeks ago, we’ve had a breakthrough from a major tuna brand – Coles.

This week Coles took an important step forward to end its role in the overfishing crisis. It released a range of pole and line caught skipjack tuna – a sustainable tuna product. While, disappointingly, Coles hasn’t cleaned up its entire range, this is a significant improvement. It also follows the commitment by Safcol this year to switch its entire range to sustainably caught tuna – the first Australian company to rule out using destructive fishing practices altogether.

These new commitments are thanks to the thousands of consumers who demanded change from the tuna industry. Consumer pressure also resulted in other key improvements in this year’s guide. For instance, nearly all brands have now ruled out using overfished Yellowfin tuna. This includes repeat offenders, Woolworths. Many brands have also now shown support for the creation of marine reserves, as well as improved how they label their cans so consumers can make an informed choice.

But is it all good news?

Not by a long shot. While Safcol has led the way in the Australian industry and Coles has a new sustainable range, all other tuna brands refuse to rule out using the most destructive method of tuna fishing – fish aggregation devices (FADs) teamed up with huge nets. Even Coles has yet to drop FADs for most of its range – something we are urging the supermarket giant to do.

FADs act as deadly magnets, which not only attract tuna, but draw in other vital marine life. When huge purse seine nets scoop up all that surrounds a FAD, endangered sharks, turtles, baby tuna and dolphins are trapped and killed. In fact there’s enough of this ‘bycatch’ to fill a billion cans every year.

The entire UK tuna industry has ruled out using deadly FADs. Yet in Australia, most tuna brands are wedded to this destructive technique.

John West and Greenseas, while making some important changes, are still the biggest sellers of FAD-caught tuna.  Woolworths shows utter disregard for tuna by excluding canned tuna from its sustainability policy – it can’t even prove where its tuna comes from or how it was managed.  Meanwhile, Sirena and Sole Mare base their products entirely on overfished yellowfin tuna.

Greenpeace’s success in the UK has proven that it can be done – tuna brands can help reverse the decline of our oceans. We’re now targeting other key tuna industries across the globe – from the US and Europe to our neighbours in New Zealand.

Will the Australian industry be the first to follow the UK’s lead? Tell them that’s what you expect.

Take action today: Email the worst Australian tuna brands and supermarkets.