Monday, June 4, 2012

Tuna Fishing & Sharks: industry group gets tuna companies to oppose shark finning

Organizations that represent the commercial tuna fishing industry have often times been difficult groups to work with when it comes to limiting or curtailing fishing so as to preserve tuna populations that have dwindled to frighteningly low numbers in many parts of the world.  ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) has been the subject of considerable criticism because of its repeated moves to maintain high catch levels in the face of recommendation after recommendation from scientists and conservation groups to reduce their catch levels significantly.  So, when any tuna organization makes a move that could be considered as truly positive for conservation, it deserves mention.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), an organization that works with the tuna industry in improving sustainability through fact-finding research, has taken a step forward on behalf of sharks.

On the ISSF website, it was announced, "This year we asked the tuna industry to take a step toward ending the practice of shark finning, the act of removing a shark’s fin while discarding the carcass at sea. It violates the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as well as several other resolutions adopted by the FAO, other international marine organizations and national governments. It violates our principles too.

Right now, all ISSF Participating Companies have adopted a policy pledging not to do business with vessels that fin. They’re asking vessel owners to adopt the same policy by September of this year."

The ISSF was formed in 2008, bringing together scientists, industry leaders, and other experts in conservation to act as an advisory council to the tuna industry by making recommendations based on the latest evidence.

"ISSF stands for scientific fact-finding to identify best practices and ecologically sustainable solutions, using direct action to compel governments and industry leaders to support that scientific reasoning while advocating for continued improvement in all tuna fisheries. We believe that it is imperative to take a evidence-based approach that puts the focus on the fishery pushing governments and industry to favor more responsible, sustainable practices on the water."

There are 20 participating companies in the foundation including many of the major commercial tuna fishing brands like Starkist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee.  As is often the case with industry-supported groups, positions taken by ISSF can be subject to a degree of skepticism.  After all, their primary goal for advancing the cause of sustainability is, fundamentally, the preservation of their business, and that can adversely affect the objectivity of the "evidence" upon which a position is based.

However, this new policy regarding shark finning seems pretty clear on the face of it.  Now, we need to see if the ISSF can actually deliver on their pledge.  And while they are at it, a bold policy regarding limiting the levels of legally-caught tuna while ensuring that participating companies do not do business with any illegal tuna fishing operations wouldn't be a bad idea.

Source: ISSF        

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