It's good news... but we shouldn't be eating tuna at all.
The world’s biggest canned tuna company, Thai Union, has finally capitulated to Greenpeace’s demands. After several years of campaigning, the two adversaries have come to an agreement: Thai Union will clean up its act and start implementing measures that will improve labour practices and fishing methods.
Thai Union is responsible for 1 in five cans of tuna sold worldwide and supplies major retailers with popular brands such as Chicken of the Sea. It has a horrible track record of less-than-ethical practices, both from environmental and human rights perspectives.
In 2016 the Associated Press released a scathing (and award-winning) report that revealed slavery conditions for workers aboard fishing vessels, including those owned by Thai Union; and Greenpeace has been fighting against the company’s use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), which are a major source of bycatch – unwanted species that are caught inadvertently and thrown back into the water, dead.
The new agreement focuses on four main areas:
1) Reducing the number of FADs by 50 percent by 2020
2) Reducing the use of longlines for fishing, which are risky to other species such as turtles, seabirds, and sharks
3) Extending a moratorium on transshipment, which is the transferring of catch to other ships, enabling enormous ‘factory’ ships to stay at sea for up to 2 years
4) Improving labor standards and following a new code of conduct
Greenpeace sounds very optimistic in its press release. International Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid said:
“This marks huge progress for our oceans and marine life, and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry. If Thai Union implements these reforms, it will pressure other industry players to show the same level of ambition and drive much needed change. Now is the time for other companies to step up, and show similar leadership.”
While I recognize the value of these pledges, I can’t help but question, “Why are we even talking about this?” Not to detract from Greenpeace's important work, which I respect greatly, I think that no matter what Thai Union does to improve its practices, we should not be eating tuna.
Ever since I heard someone describe tuna as “the lions of the sea,” it has seemed absurd to be hunting and packing this mighty, magnificent sea creature as one of the cheapest forms of protein for humans. We wouldn’t sell canned lion for mere cents a can, so why do we do it for tuna?
I don’t eat tuna anymore because, no matter what happy-looking stamps or certifications appear on the can, I can’t justify eating such a complex, slow-growing animal.