In this issue:
Tuna Processing Companies Welcome Sustainability
Country Goes Bluefin-Free
What's in a Can?
Is Aquaculture the Answer?
Small-Scale Sustainability
Seafood Choices'
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Missed the European Tuna Conference? Get a recap here.

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Sustainable Ocean Summit
16-17 June
Belfast, United Kingdom

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25-27 June
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This edition of Afishianado is all about tuna - perfect timing given the release of the documentary "The End of the Line," which focuses on overfishing, particularly in the tuna industry.  Tuna is one of the most popular fish in the world, but its popularity has driven fisheries around the world into crisis, particularly  for prized species such as bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin. WWF has recently released a report estimating that the Mediterranean bluefin breeding population will be gone by 2012 and the EU has announced a reduction in the tuna quota and shortening of the 2009 season.  Read below for more information about the development of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Monaco's efforts to become the first "bluefin-free" territory, top tuna options in the U.S. and UK, developments in tuna aquaculture, and the Maldivian pole and line tuna fishery.  Learn more about The End of the Line and find a screening near you.
Tuna Processing Companies Welcome Sustainability

ISSF LogoThis March, the world's major tuna processors joined forces to form the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF); participating companies include Blumble Bee, StarKist and Chicken of the Sea. The ISSF and its members are committed to tuna sustainability and have pledged to source only sustainable tuna after September 1, 2009. Members commit to only sourcing tuna that:
  • Comes from well-managed, non-depleted stocks
  • Can be verified as having been legally caught
  • Has not been caught using methods that generate unacceptable levels of bycatch
  • Has not been transshipped (offloaded) at sea
The ISSF has appointed Dr. James Joseph, former Director of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), as head of the Board of Directors and the Science Committee. Dr. Joseph is considered to be one of the world's top tuna stock experts and led IATTC for 35 years before retiring as Director. ISSF emphasized that its initiatives will be based on recommendations from Dr. Joseph's independent Science Committee.
Country Goes Bluefin-Free

Monaco has gone bluefin-free in an effort to help protect the troubled tuna species. The fish will no longer be on menus or for sale in Monaco's shops and restaurants. Monaco's transition to a bluefin-free territory is especially significant not only because it is the first territory in the world to take this step but also because the principality has a long tradition of fishing and eating bluefin tuna. This pioneering move by Monaco comes at a time of growing international support for bluefin to be listed as an endangered species when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meets early next year in Doha, Qatar.

In France, at the end of 2007, Auchan Group decided to stop selling bluefin tuna in all its stores, as well as in its Atac and Simply Market brands. In 2009, after various years of progressive reduction, Carrefour has announced it would not market Mediterranean bluefin tuna in Europe anymore.
What's in a Can?

Tuna canAlthough prized as sashimi, high end, endangered bluefin is probably not ending up in the can of tuna purchased for a few quid at your average grocery store, so what is? Good question. Most canned tuna is skipjack, which is less vulnerable to overfishing than other tuna species; however, concerns remain about how these fish are caught.

Skipjack and other tuna species are often caught using "Fish Aggregating Devices," or FADs, that draw high numbers of tuna toward them and make it easy to catch a large number of tuna at once, as opposed to the traditional pole and line method where tuna are caught individually. The problem with FADs are that other species are drawn in too, like endangered sea turtles, sharks, juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tuna, resulting in significant bycatch.

Greenpeace ReportFor UK consumers, in August 2008, Greenpeace ranked the top eight canned tuna companies based on the sustainability of their practices. The leading UK retailer of tuna, John West, was found to be the least sustainable!

What can be done for tuna salad lovers? Look for the sustainable, eco-friendly, canned tunas that are out there. For the first time last year, a tuna fishery was certified to the MSC standard. The American Albacore Fishing Association, which represents the US Pacific tuna pole and line fishery, was a 2009 Seafood Champion and their products, sold under the American Tuna label, are a great tuna option for US consumers. UK consumers should look for Sainsburys, Co-op or Marks & Spencer tuna whenever possible as they engage in the most sustainable practices. Additionally, in April of 2009, Greenpeace published a retailers guide to sustainable tuna, which provides information on tuna sustainability.
Is Aquaculture the Answer?

As it is currently practiced, tuna aquaculture begins with the capture of juvenile tunas from the wild which are then fattened on farms in the Mediterranean, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Australia. But Clean Seas Inc. and Kinki University of Japan have recently developed technology to grow bluefin tuna entirely in captivity. The process, however, is currently both expensive and time-consuming, taking four years to grow a tuna to market size.

Bluefin tuna

Another new project, in the UK, is working on technology to farm a tuna species native to UK waters. This project, being led by Oceanic Tuna Ltd, is in its infancy, but if it is successful, the first farm could open as early as 2011.

From a sustainability aspect this process is an improvement but still not ideal. Refraining from removing juvenile tuna from the ocean before they are able to reproduce is clearly beneficial to increasing populations of threatened wild bluefin tuna. However, raising tuna in cages for several years will remove tons of forage fish from the wild; currently 225,000 metric tons of forage fish are removed every year to feed captive tunas in the Mediterranean alone. This causes the depletion of forage fisheries and places a further limitation on the survival of wild tunas.

Additionally, like the farming of salmon, aquaculture of tuna causes a net protein loss. For every ton of tuna produced with the current ranching method, 20 tons of wild forage fish are required. Growing tuna from hatchlings will likely result in an even less favorable ratio and has significant implications for meeting future world protein needs.
Small-Scale Sustainability

A recent video created and published by Greenpeace provides a case study of the pole and line caught tuna fishery in the Maldives (click here to see the video). The report outlines the case for skipjack (mostly used for canning) tuna sustainability in Pacific Ocean. Due to bycatch concerns of other tuna fishing methods, pole and line caught is the most sustainable method but it can also be economically advantageous.

 Maldivian Fishing

Currently, the demand for sustainable pole and line caught tuna exceeds supply. A number of companies, including Sainsbury's in the UK, have expressed a desire to source exclusively pole and line caught tuna, however the supply is not sufficient. This current market dynamic provides enormous potential for investment in pole and line fisheries.

Pole caught tuna also fetches higher prices than purse seine or longline tuna because the quality is higher as each fish is landed individually and alive. Additionally, limited technology is required for this fishing method, meaning it has lower operating costs than other methods and allows fishermen to enjoy higher profit margins.

The Maldivian case study also demonstrates the social advantages to this method. The lower technological barriers and economic potential make the development of pole caught tuna fisheries ideal for developing countries in the Pacific. As evidenced by the Maldives, the fishery creates badly need jobs, contributes to gross domestic product (GDP) (7% in the Maldives) and local food security.

Development of well-managed pole and line tuna fisheries can represent a win-win situation. Companies that are increasingly concerned with sustainability have an adequate supply of high-quality, sustainable tuna, while developing countries are able to reap numerous economic benefits.
Seafood Choices Alliance is an international program that provides leadership and creates opportunities for change across the seafood industry and ocean conservation community. We're about synergies and identifying creative solutions to long-held challenges. By building relationships and stimulating dialogue, Seafood Choices is encouraging and challenging all sectors of the seafood industry along the road toward sustainability.

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SeaWeb, founded in 1996 to raise awareness of the growing threats to the ocean and its living resources, utilizes social marketing techniques to advance ocean conservation. By increasing public awareness, promoting science-based solutions and mobilizing decision-makers around ocean conservation, SeaWeb has brought together multiple, diverse and powerful voices for a healthy ocean. www.seaweb.org.