Canned tuna is synonymous with abuse and unsustainable fishing practices

tuna fishing
© Greenpeace

Greenpeace has turned the global spotlight on Thai Union, the world's largest canned tuna producer and maker of Chicken of the Sea, for its horrific track record. Learn why you should boycott and what you can do to help.

There’s a lot more to a can of tuna on the supermarket shelf than meets the eye – abused and enslaved fishermen, dead sharks and sea turtles, fuel contamination, and dying oceans, to name a few. Suddenly that tuna doesn’t look so appealing, does it?

It’s an ugly backstory that not enough people know about, and that’s why Greenpeace has just launched a new campaign against Thai Union, pressuring the company to clean up its act. The largest tuna producer in the world, Thai Union makes the popular brand Chicken of the Sea, which is sold in North America by Walmart and Costco.

Thai Union is known for destructive fishing methods that result in gross amounts of bycatch. There are two primary ways of fishing commercially for tuna. One is purse seining with fish aggregating devices (FADs), and the other is longlining.

Greenpeace reports: “These methods result in high levels of sharks, turtles, juvenile tuna, and seabirds caught unintentionally (known as bycatch), and are often associated with illegal fishing and violation of human and workers’ rights.”

Once caught, Greenpeace states that the tuna is stored in the same shipping containers used to transport the dirty fuel that ships use, and then is sold to consumers.

Thai Union is also notorious for atrocious working conditions, including slavery. “Workers have reported being beaten, abused, and forced to work on ships for months or years at a time.”

The New York Times reports that “Labor abuses in the Thai fishing industry are well-documented. Since 2014, the United States has put Thailand on the bottom-ranked Tier 3 in its annual Trafficking in Persons report.”

Earlier this year in April, the European Union issued a yellow card to Thailand on the basis of its fishing practices not being up to EU standards. (The EU issued the same yellow card to Taiwan just last week.) Thailand has failed to take action against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is often associated with labor abuses. Thailand has until December to fix human rights abuses and implement better fishing practices, or else a red card will be issued and all Thai fisheries products banned from the EU.

You can watch video interviews conducted by Greenpeace with Pacific tuna fishermen who recount their nightmarish experiences of abuse, inadequate or non-existent pay, food and sleep deprivation, even murder.

Chicken of the Sea failed the most recent canned tuna rankings on both human rights and sustainability. (See TreeHugger's report on the rankings.) It’s time for consumers to step forward and demand better from Thai Union.

Join the campaign by boycotting Thai Union products, using the hashtag #NotJustTuna, and signing the petition available here.

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