Enviro Monday: Greenpeace win over tuna giant Thai Union

Tuna giant Thai Union, which owns brands such as John West, has committed to a series of changes to its business that will help to:

  • Protect seafood workers
  • Reduce destructive fishing practices
  • Increase support for more sustainable fishing

This marks a major shift for the corporation, and sends a signal to the entire fishing industry to clean up their acts.

How did this come about?

As the world’s biggest tuna producer, one in five cans of tuna sold globally are canned by Thai Union.

Greenpeace’s global campaign to transform the tuna industry has included targeting its brands for several years through among others tuna rankings.

Says Greenpeace: “From our ships on the high seas, to supermarkets, industry conferences, and company headquarters, thousands of people including massive labour unions and human rights organizations joined our call for Thai Union to source more sustainably and responsibly. Together, we pushed companies supplied by Thai Union to sell better products and commit to policies that help workers and our oceans, including tackling practices like transshipment that fuel illegal activity and human rights abuses.”

So how has Thai Union changed?

Reduce FAD use by 50 percent

Reduce fish aggregating device (FAD) use by an average of 50 percent, and double supply of verifiable FAD-free caught fish globally by 2020.

FADs are floating objects that create mini ecosystems and result in the catch and killing of many marine species, including sharks, turtles, and juvenile tuna.

WATCH: The devastation of FADs

Shift longline practices to best practice methods

Shift significant portions of longline caught tuna to best practice pole and line or troll caught tuna by 2020 and implement requirements to help reduce bycatch.

Longline vessels are known for catching and killing non-target species like seabirds, turtles, and sharks.

Transshipment facilitates illegal activity

Extend its current moratorium on at-sea transshipment across its entire global supply chain unless strict conditions are met by suppliers. Transshipment at sea enables vessels to continue fishing for months or years at a time and facilitates illegal activity.

Presence of independent observers on all longline vessels

Ensure independent observers are present on all longline vessels transshipping at sea to inspect and report on potential labour abuse, and ensure human or electronic observer coverage across all tuna longline vessels it sources from. Much of the abuse that plagues fishing vessels takes place out of sight without authorities to report to.

Watch: Dirty tuna fishing

What can you do?

  • Urge your favourite brand or supermarket to ensure it is sourcing more responsibly-caught tuna
  • Avoid brands poorly rated in Greenpeace’s tuna rankings
  • Eat less tuna to help struggling populations to recover
  • When in doubt, choose vegan tuna – yes, that’s a thing!
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