The tuna industry is out of control. It is emptying the oceans of fish, killing other marine creatures like sharks and sea turtles — even abusing workers, who spend months or years at sea for meager pay.
For years, tuna companies have been getting away with this behaviour: out of sight, out of mind from most consumers. But a growing movement is taking on the tuna industry. And it’s winning battles for our oceans all over the world.
Just this past month, a Greenpeace student group at Michigan State University in the United States worked with their school to drop the dirty tuna brand Starkist and instead offer more responsibly sourced tuna on campus. With more than 50,000 students, that’s a lot of tuna!
And it’s only the start. Here are three ways people are making a difference in the tuna industry around the globe.
1. Transforming their brands
What do Connétable in France, Sealord in New Zealand, Oriental Pacific in the UK and every major tuna brand in Australia have in common? They have all committed to stop selling tuna caught with particularly harmful fishing technique called a FAD. But only after thousands of Greenpeace members demanded it!
2. Demanding retailers take responsibility
Consumers are pushing for change at the source of their tuna: supermarkets. In the UK, Tesco, Morrison’s and Asda have all committed to more sustainable tuna following public pressure. Système U in France, and stores like Hy-Vee and Safeway in the United States have also agreed to sell more sustainable tuna.
By demanding better options, consumers are not only ensuring that they aren’t connected to marine destruction or labour abuse. They’re sending a powerful message to tuna brands that they care about the industry’s bad behavior.
3. Asking for better from big buyers
Greenpeace activists are challenging big food providers that serve tuna directly. Food service companies like Compass Group and Aramark — that provide tuna to universities, hospitals, cafeterias and other venues that serve lots of meals — are taking the first steps to make the shift to more sustainable tuna, after they were pressured to make the change.
Our biggest challenge yet
Greenpeace supporters and ocean lovers around the world have laid the groundwork to change the tuna industry. Now it’s time to go after the big fish.
We’re coming together to demand that Thai Union Group, the largest canned tuna company in the world, immediately adopt better, lower-impact fishing methods and protect workers across its supply chain. If we change Thai Union Group, we can start shifting the entire industry.
Sustainable tuna fishing — where workers are respected, where local communities benefit from the fish in their waters, where marine life isn’t needlessly destroyed and where tuna species are able to rebound to healthy levels — is possible.
Graham Forbes is the Global Seafood Markets Project Leader at Greenpeace USA.