This is an exciting time because there are solutions to the problems plaguing the tuna industry; solutions that would mean a fair, thriving and sustainable fishery.
But this will require a fundamental shift in the way things are done.
Part of the solution has to be reducing the amount of tuna being caught, so stocks have a chance to recover. This means cutting down the number of boats on the water, starting with the most destructive and unscrupulous.
Part of the solution is also banning destructive fishing practices like the FADs / purse seine combination and the worst excesses of longlining.
Creating zones where no tuna fishing takes place at all, such as marine reserves, is a big part of the picture. A network of “no fishing” sanctuaries across 40 percent the world's oceans would give all marine species healing time.
A more robust tuna industry means better support for smarter fishing methods –pole and line, troll, handline, FAD-free purse seining and best-practice longlining.
And it means giving some of the power back to coastal communities to manage and fish the tuna that’s rightfully theirs. To see a model of how this might work in the context of the Pacific click here.
Then there’s the human suffering so rife on tuna boats. With increased transparency and properly enforced laws and regulations, human rights abuses and slavery at sea might finally be addressed. Cleaning up the industry would mean improving work conditions for thousands of fishermen worldwide, and in some cases saving lives. Page 4 of this document is useful for more information on this.
The last-but-not-least part is up to you. Don't buy endangered tuna. Tell your local supermarket or restaurant you won’t shop there if they sell it. If you see tuna in a can or on a menu, ask where it came from and how it was caught. If you can’t be sure it was caught well, and from healthy stocks – don't buy it.
Tuna lovers have already started doing this and it’s already paying off; consumer pressure has led to more sustainable tuna on our plates and shelves.
Retailers like Whole Foods, Target and Costco are beginning to offer to more sustainable and ethical tuna. In the UK, nearly all major supermarkets now offer 100% sustainable tuna in their own-brand products. Leading European brands Princes and John West have both previously committed to 100% pole and line and FAD-free, though with some deadlines slipping, they are now under pressure to meet these goals. John West Australia (which is actually a different company!)will reach this goal in 2015.
Also by the end of 2016, the entire New Zealand and Australian canned tuna markets should be supplied solely from pole and line, troll, handline and FAD-free purse seining.
But it can still feel like minefield out there on tuna shelves. So Greenpeace has produced a series of tuna ranking guides for consumers. These tuna brand rankings will help you figure out which brands are best.