Our oceans are home to marine wildlife which makes up complex ecosystems. Large-scale industrialised vessels go out longer, further, continuously increasing their numbers of catch. Large nets are dragging over our sea floors, destroying marine life and it is estimated that 10% of the plastic in the ocean comes from lost industrial fishing gear, amounting to between 800,000-1.2 million tonnes annually.
We all know that ‘we’, collectively, have to do ‘something’ and we’re here for it. As individuals, we don’t always know where to start or we may question whether one person’s actions can really make a difference. Luckily, when it comes to tuna, your choices can make a significant difference. Whether you’re a sushi lover, tuna melt aficionado or avid home cook, there are clear steps that you can follow. And the answer, dear tuna friends, is: “Yes, one person’s action can indeed really make a difference”.
It’s vital that we preserve this ecosystem so the wildlife and people around the world can continue to thrive for future generations. It is no secret that our ocean’s health is in serious danger; we understand the gravity of climate change, we are aware of the effects of overpopulation on the planet, and, needless to say, most recently as the global pandemic unfolds, studies gradually start to show the effects on our physical and mental health. The ocean’s health concerns us all and we, therefore, share the power and responsibility to change this.
Believe it or not, you can cast your vote with your shopping basket. Consumers have been (and should be!) increasingly concerned about ethical sourcing within food systems and the global economy over the last few years and, since witnessing the inequities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, have embarked upon a wave of ethical consumerism. What we sometimes forget is that each and everyone of us have market power; the ability for a demographic of consumer or single company can dictate the market. Or, as we at IPNLF like to say: you can demand change, by changing demand.
“But wait, shouldn’t we all stop eating seafood” and “aren’t all fisheries bad?”
No, not all fisheries are bad. In fact, it is possible to find sustainable, responsible, and ethical wild caught tuna, and it’s accessible to you. You can choose the most environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial tuna and that is tuna that’s caught “one-by-one”.
For years, the methods used to produce food across industries have become increasingly commercialised, which has caused more and more harm to the environment. Industries no longer renew their thinking and, as they’re steered by large-scale profit-driven companies, the idea of sourcing in balance with nature is abandoned and local business or communities are often overlooked. This is especially true when it comes to the fishing industry, which is currently dominated by industrial fishing vessels that often use destructive fishing practices, resulting in irreversible damage to aquatic habitats and ecosystems. When it comes to tuna, transparency is key to knowing where your tuna comes from. It’s time to flick the switch and change our narrative to one which works towards a future where nature, people and economies can live in harmony, together.
Don’t be fooled by stickers, stamps, certifications and claims; instead, dive deeper. The truth lies in understanding that the fishing methods and gears used by fishers make a big difference in a fishery’s sustainability. If you are going to be an advocate for sustainably caught fish, then there is one phrase that has to be at the heart of your vocabulary: One-by-one tuna from well-managed small-scale fisheries are known to work in balance with nature.
One-by-one methods are ancient fishing techniques that have been passed down for generations in coastal fishing communities around the world. Because the fish are caught one-by-one, there is minimal impact on the surrounding environment. The ocean’s fish stocks cannot be depleted with this fishing method, and there is virtually no bycatch or the inadvertent catching of endangered or protected species. In addition, it brings wealth to these communities whose local economies depend on the fishing industry. The more you know about one-by-one tuna, the better you can advocate for it to local businesses, retail managers and suppliers so that they can make the decision to purchase fish caught one-by-one.
How is my one-action creating change?
Force industry to change their sourcing behaviour and remember that price is not an indication of sustainability. Restaurants, retailers, and shops will not know that there is an increasing demand for sustainability caught tuna unless consumers are clearly stating their preference for environmentally sustainable and socially responsible one-by-one tuna. If you still don’t know if your shop’s tuna was caught one-by-one you can use our free-to-access Sourcing Transparency Platform, that tells the story of where your tuna comes from.
We have all looked forward to 2022 as a ‘post-pandemic’ fresh start. The crisis has helped many of us to put in perspective the importance of locally produced food from small-scale producers who use natural resources sustainably and are part of thriving communities. Small-scale artisanal fishers are no exception. They play a vital role in supplying food to millions of people around the world, whilst stewarding the natural resources from which it comes. From inland lakes to the wide ocean, communities are dependent on them for their culture, livelihoods and prosperity. If you have the means, look for one-by-one tuna that’s caught by these small-scale fisheries. The quality of their tuna is on par, or better, than those produced by many industrial fisheries and you’ll have the added benefit of your seafood choice supporting coastal communities that rely on these fisheries for their livelihoods.
So, the next time you are ordering a dish with tuna from a restaurant or buying tuna from a shop, choose one-by-one caught tuna. If it doesn’t carry a label stating where their fish is sourced from, ask where the one-by-one caught tuna is. Hopefully it’s stocked and the answer will be “yes”, but even if it’s a “no”, the question itself is powerful. Collectively, when we start to ask about sustainable fish, it creates a new market demand, and over time, restaurants and brands will follow. As an organisation, IPNLF supports new and existing fisheries so that the market for sustainable tuna can continue to grow.