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article imageMost French canned tuna from non-sustainable sources — Greenpeace

By Robert Myles     Sep 28, 2014 in Environment
Paris - Greenpeace France last week revealed its first survey of canned tuna sold in French supermarkets aiming to highlight which tuna brands are eco-friendly being sourced by sustainable means or from plentiful stocks.
Greenpeace said the vast majority of canned tuna sold in France comes from unsustainable fisheries — that's to say those where species are being over-fished or those using destructive fishing techniques.
Only one supermarket own brand, that of one of France’s major chains, Super U, passed the Greenpeace criteria and it was a similar story with branded tuna where only that of Phare d'Eckmühl passed Greenpeace muster.
Sustainable fishing for tuna involves catching fish by rod and line, rather than, for example, purse or seine-nets. Among tuna species, skip-jack tuna is plentiful but yellow-fin tuna have been over-fished in the Atlantic.
For their study, Greenpeace questioned 10 major suppliers of tuna to the French market, together representing 75 percent of all canned tuna consumed in France. One major supermarket chain, E.Leclerc, failed to respond to Greenpeace’ questionnaire.
According to Greenpeace, 95 percent of the French population share the organization’s call that companies engaged in industrial fishing for tuna should cease such practices. Hélène Bourges, in charge of Greenpeace’ oceans campaign said that with Greenpeace’ classification of tuna fishing practices, “the consumer will be able to choose and focus on brands that offer the most environmentally friendly products, that is to say, that contain tuna that hasn’t been over-fished or tuna caught by sustainable methods."
Atlantic yellow-fin tuna, says Greenpeace, is over-exploited yet it’s still widely sold in cans in France with number of leading tuna brands based on destructive fishing practices. The IUCN Red List of threatened species notes that while yearly catch levels have declined from a peak of 194,000 tonnes in 1990, there was an increase in tonnage landed in 2008. The general downward trend reflects changes in the overall number of purse seiners operating in the Atlantic Ocean. Significantly, IUCN say recent trends differ between the western and eastern Atlantic. While overall catches in the west declined by 26 percent since 2006, in the eastern Atlantic catches have increased by 23 percent over the same period. According to IUCN, the increase in the eastern Atlantic resulted from a substantial increase in the numbers of purse seine fishing vessels operating in that area.
Seine-netting, according to Greenpeace, is impacting on an entire ecosystem. This floating man-made object, the seine net, encourages small fish to shelter, feed and reproduce. The small fish attract larger fish which, in their turn, attract tuna. The catch-all of the seine net — with nets often several kilometers long — hoovers up many endangered species including sharks, turtles and rays. Seine nets also take young tuna which have not yet reproduced. Thus, they operate as a double-whammy to yellow-fin tuna stocks, not only taking out adult fish on an industrial scale but depleting the stocks of younger fish that would otherwise contribute to replenishing fish stocks.
According to Greenpeace own research, tinned tuna is likely to be found in the larders of nine out of 10 French households. But in a recent CSA poll conducted for Greenpeace, 95 percent of French citizens declared themselves against the destructive industrial fishing techniques that drive the industry. In the same poll, a significant majority of those polled put their principles ahead of price: 79 percent declared themselves willing to pay about 20 cents more for a can of tuna fished using sustainable means.
Ultimate power, of course, rests with the consumer. The only way to ensure supermarkets, not just in France, but elsewhere, move away from industrially sourced tuna (or other threatened fish species) is for consumers to vote with their wallet or purse and opt for tuna sourced by sustainable means.
More about Tuna, yellowfin tuna, industrial fisheries, Overfishing, Threatened species
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