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Aussie tuna transformation a consumer success story

The majority of tuna brands on Australian supermarket shelves have converted to sourcing from environmentally responsible fishing methods.

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For the first time ever the majority of tuna brands on Australian supermarket shelves have converted to sourcing from environmentally responsible fishing methods that avoid needlessly killing marine life like sharks, turtles, small whales and juvenile tuna, according to the 2015 Greenpeace canned tuna ranking.

“Most canned tuna in the world is caught using destructive fishing methods that wantonly destroy marine life and put tuna stocks at risk. Thanks to consumer pressure that no longer applies in the Australian market,” said Nathaniel Pelle, Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific launched the sixth edition of its successful canned tuna guide on World Tuna day, 2 May 2014. For the first time the brands that have converted to responsible fishing methods outnumber the brands who are yet to convert.

“Tuna’s the most popular seafood product in Australia and with several tuna stocks being in a precarious state, the environmental significance of this dramatic change is hard to overestimate,” said Pelle. “When we first introduced the guide in 2010 most brands couldn’t even tell us what species of tuna was in their cans, let alone where it came from or how it was caught.”

“For those brands to have negotiated directly with the fishing companies to ensure they only source from responsible fishing methods is a dramatic turnaround.”

Australians consume over 40,000 tonnes of canned tuna every year, most of it sourced in the waters of our Pacific Island neighbours. More than 2.5 million tonnes of tuna is caught in the Pacific every year, which contributes over 70% of the world’s tuna catch. All tuna species are in decline, with the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and purse seine nets being a major cause.

FADs attract marine life, including tuna, making the fish easier to catch with giant ‘purse seine’ nets, however this method results in a dramatic increase in catch of juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna, and non-tuna species known as bycatch.

All major Australian brands have committed to end the use of FADs with purse seine nets in favour of FAD-free and ‘pole and line’ fishing.

"The best thing Aussie consumers can do is use our canned tuna guide, find a brand that labels its cans correctly, and choose a product that has already switched to using skipjack tuna caught by 'pole and line' or FAD-free fishing methods," said Pelle.