World Ocean Day - Let’s unite!
Five Steps to #TakeResponsibility in 2021
It is no secret that our planet’s health is in serious danger. For years, the methods used to produce food across industries have become increasingly commercialised, which has caused more and more harm to the environment. This is especially true when it comes to the fishing industry, which is currently dominated by industrial fishing vessels that often use destructive fishing practices, resulting in irreversible damage to aquatic habitats and ecosystems.
The ocean’s health does however concern us all and we, therefore, share the power and responsibility to change this. As individuals, we don’t always know where to start, or we may question whether one person’s actions can really make a difference. Luckily, when it comes to tuna, your choices can make a significant difference. Whether you’re a sushi lover or avid home cook, or whether you have to make tuna purchasing decisions as a chef, retail manager or seafood supplier, there are clear steps that you can follow to take responsibility and demand sustainably caught tuna!
Dare to join us in taking responsibility 💙.
If we all follow these five steps collectively to take small, local, and practical actions, we can and will make a difference for marine ecosystems across the globe and for the future of our planet.
1. Take care of your body and the ocean
As the global pandemic unfolds, studies gradually start to show the effects on our physical and mental health. For years, research has shown how the foods you eat affect how you feel and the health benefits of eating fish, especially wild-caught tuna as it’s so beautifully rich in iodine, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and niacin (Vitamin B3).
“But wait, shouldn’t we all stop eating seafood” and “aren’t all fisheries bad?”
No, not all fisheries are bad. In fact, it is possible to find sustainable, responsible, and ethical wild caught tuna, and it’s accessible to you. Respect the ocean by supporting fisheries that have minimal environmental impacts. You can choose the most environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial tuna that is caught one-by-one.
One-by-one caught tuna (being pole-and-line, handline, or troll) from coastal small-scale fisheries is the only tuna fishing method, which is considered to be environmentally safe, socially responsible, and based on generations of tradition. Since small-scale fishers catch fish one at a time, the fish is processed quickly, which preserves more minerals and vitamins and makes the tuna a premium protein source. Once you commit to taking care of your body and the ocean, you’ll be able to follow the next four steps with even greater ease.
2. Dare to question, aim to discover
Over time, industries no longer renew their thinking, and steered by large-scale profit-driven companies, the idea of sourcing in balance with nature is abandoned and local business or communities are often overlooked.
Don’t be fooled by stickers, stamps, and claims; instead, dive deeper and dare to question “how”. You need to understand how your tuna was caught, and the impacts of the particular fishing method, when it comes to sourcing your tuna. The truth lies in understanding that the fishing methods and gears used by fishers make a big difference in a fishery’s sustainability. If you are going to be an advocate for sustainably caught fish, then there is one phrase that has to be at the heart of your vocabulary: one-by-one tuna. Well-managed small-scale fisheries are known to work in balance with nature.
One-by-one are ancient fishing methods that have been passed down for generations in coastal fishing communities around the world. Because the fish are caught one-by-one, there is minimal impact on the surrounding environment. The ocean’s fish stocks cannot be depleted with this fishing method, and there is virtually no bycatch or the inadvertent catching of endangered or protected species. In addition, it brings wealth to these communities whose local economies depend on the fishing industry. The more you know about one-by-one tuna, the better you can advocate for it to local businesses, retail managers and suppliers so that they can make the decision to purchase fish caught one-by-one.
3. Dare to ask - cast your vote
Once you are dedicated to choosing one-by-one tuna you will need to find out who supplies your fish to understand if they source tuna from fisheries using one-by-one methods.
One way to do this is to read the packaging or labels. Does it say that the tuna was caught one-by-one? Commonly used phrases “pole-and-line” or “hand caught” is what to look for. If it does not say or if there are no labels, asking for sourcing information could lead to some more detailed findings. If you know the name of the supplier, but you still don’t know if their tuna was caught one-by-one you can use IPNLF’s Sourcing Transparency Platform, a visual and dynamic online platform, that tells the story of where your tuna comes from. The platform makes understanding the journey of tuna products from fishery to shop more accessible by allowing you to search products and track how it was sourced. Please remember that price is not an indication of sustainability. Rather use our checklist and resources to make an informed decision. If you have the means, look for tuna that’s caught by these small-scale fisheries. The quality of their tuna is on par, or better, than those produced by many industrial fisheries and you’ll have the added benefit that your seafood choice will be supporting coastal communities that rely on these fisheries for their livelihoods.
Together, our resources can help you get to the bottom of whether your tuna was caught one-by-one. At the end of the day, you need to make a choice: are you on Team High Seas Industry, or Team Responsible Local? Cast your vote in your shopping basket, sourcing commitment, or procurement policy.
4. Dare to hold others accountable
At this point, you are well on your way to becoming an expert on one-by-one tuna, but do you know the other methods that are used to catch tuna?
One-by-one tuna is estimated to currently supply fish for only about 12% of the market demand, while the rest is supplied by massive, industrial fishing vessels, which use longlines, nets, and other fishing methods that can have serious impacts on ocean biodiversity.
While small-scale one-by-one tuna fisheries employ 55 times more fishers compared to large-scale industrial fisheries, their impacts on the environment are also much lower. Tuna stocks have only become overfished since the introduction of purse seine fishing vessels. These large industrial vessels use enormous nets that can swoop up whole schools of fish as well as endangered species such as turtles, sharks and dolphins. The drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that are often deployed by purse seiners on the high seas are often abandoned, eventually either sinking or beaching on sensitive ecosystems like sandy beaches, seagrass beds and coral reefs. These drifting FADs are made up largely of plastic materials and sometimes have up to 100m of entangling netting underneath them. Tuna longliners, setting on average around 3,000 hooks per set, often lose long stretches of longlines and are also known to dump plastic waste from bait boxes in the ocean every day. These industrial tuna fisheries make a significant contribution to the astonishing 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear that is estimated to be lost or abandoned in the world’s seas annually, causing plastic pollution and ghost fishing and impacting on sensitive ecosystems.
5. Join to take responsibility
Restaurants and retailers will not know that there is an increasing demand for sustainability caught tuna unless consumers are clearly stating their preference for environmentally sustainable and socially responsible one-by-one tuna. So the next time you are ordering a dish with tuna from a restaurant or buying from a shop that does not label where their fish is sourced from, ask if the fish was caught one-by-one. Hopefully the answer will be yes, but even if it’s a no, the question itself is powerful. Collectively, when we start to ask about sustainable fish, it creates a new market demand, and over time, restaurants and brands will follow. As an organisation, IPNLF supports new and existing fisheries so that the market for sustainable tuna can continue to grow.
These five steps have the potential to stop the damage that is currently being created in our oceans. By making the choice to be more responsible in your seafood choices, you are standing up for your own health, showing respect for the oceans, and also taking part in a greater movement for socially responsible change. No matter what your role is in the food supply chain, whether you are a home cook for one, a chef for a restaurant, or a sustainability manager at a retailer or foodservice business, know that by following these concrete steps to demand sustainably caught tuna, you will be contributing to making an environmentally, socially and economically beneficial difference in our world.
Please join us today and tell us how you’re taking responsibility! Our next step? We’re taking responsibility to create change and stir up our industry because surely we must do better.
We’re about to explore how the status quo of the industrial tuna sector can and should be disrupted and replaced by equitable, Sustainable-Development-Goal-aligned, small-scale fisheries that contribute to food security, poverty alleviation and livelihood security by using sustainable one-by-one fishing techniques. And we would like you to join us for today’s Too Big to Ignore (TBTI) SSF Open House 2021. We’re ready to introduce you to the joint initiative called Reimagine Tuna – leaving no one behind.