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Fishing for tuna solutions

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Conservation

fishing for skipjack tuna

Tuna fisherman employ traditional pole and line fishing, a sustainable fishing technique.

Credit: Greenpeace

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In the 1976 film, Logan's Run, mankind "lives for pleasure" but eats fish farmed beneath the "great domed city".

It's one thing to deprecate dystopic sci-fi films. It's quite another to ignore the science, some of which says that given the status quo wild fish will completely disappear by 2048.

Bluefin, the piscine equivalent of the Sumatran tiger, is already so rare that a single individual caught off northern Japan sold in January for the astronomical sum of US$177,000.

Unfortunately for the species, a UN-led conference on the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species this week failed to pass a temporary ban on fishing the bluefin, dooming it forever.

Casson Trenor, San Francisco based author of Sustainable Sushi, bridles at the thought.

"It's beyond equivocation that the tuna stocks - and we're talking about yellowfin and bigeye, primarily - in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean are strongly beleaguered and are crashing."

Australian supermarkets make over $330 million a year from canned tuna, says Greenpeace.

Consumer power

Shoppers can help change how tuna are caught but better labelling is required so that consumers can make a more informed choice.

"I think that, in fact, the Australian audience is very sensitised to ecological marine issues because we've had one of the greatest marine reserves in the world for some time," says Greenpeace tuna market campaigner Genevieve Quirk.

A small percentage of Australian grocery establishments sell tuna caught by selective methods: methods that do not result in by-catch of such endangered marine life as turtles and sharks.

In February, for example, Aldi started selling Ocean Rise White Tuna - Pacific albacore caught by pole-and-line and trolling, which are preffered methods as they have no impact on the surrounding ecosystem. The product is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Greenpeace, however, advocates pole-and-line fishing of skipjack tuna and says that North Pacific albacore tuna is overfished. It has ranked Aldi's canned tuna a disappointing third behind Greenseas and Coles.

The MSC's Asia Pacific Commercial Manager Patrick Caleo says, in a press release, that the latest scientific information, based on an independent assessment, confirms that albacore are at abundant levels.
But the nations that jointly control access to wild tuna are not so sure.

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