‘Friend of the Sea’ and ‘Dolphin Safe Tuna’ Team Up Against Ocean Abuse
Collaboration Will Help Ensure That the World’s Tuna Industry Remains Sustainable and Accountable
When choosing tuna for one’s dinner plate, finding something sustainable can be a daunting, often impossible task. It is no secret that the global fishing industry is plundering the oceans at an alarming and devastating rate, with incidences of bottom trawling, appalling wastage, and overexploitation all featuring prominently in the industry’s practices.
Generally speaking, world tuna stocks for canned tuna are relatively good shape, but some are in decline, and others are being fished at rates that could lead to depletion if the pressure increases. (The Bluefin tuna, which is seriously endangered, is not fished for canned tuna, but for fresh tuna, mostly for Japan’s sushi industry.)
The need for regulation is therefore absolutely vital – a need that is now being met by Friend of the Sea. This international NGO’s raison-d’etre is to conserve marine habitats by ensuring that tuna companies operate in sustainable ways. Due to collaborative efforts between Friend of the Sea and Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Safe Tuna, many of the world’s tuna companies are examining their fishing methods to reduce bycatch of nontarget species and to maintain healthy stocks of tuna for the future.
On Feb. 22, 12 major Thai tuna companies, accounting for over 40 percent of the worldwide industry, applied for the Friend of the Sea certification. Since this is the only certification scheme that has an international monitoring program that verifies compliance on a first-hand basis, the applications from these companies symbolizes a milestone not only for Friend of the Sea, but for the oceans as well. Friend of the Sea monitors engage in spot-checks at harbors, cold stores, factories and supermarket shelves, in places as far-flung as in Costa Rica, Morocco, Philippines, and Sri Lanka, thereby enabling levels of accountability that are simply not achievable by other means. Earth Island Dolphin Safe tuna monitors often help verify Friends of the Sea criteria as well as making sure dolphins are not harmed by tuna fishermen.
The Friend of the Sea certification aims to stem destructive fishing practices as well as encourage sustainable ones. The organization reviews fishing methods by many different companies to make sure the fishing is sustainable and does not harm non-target species. Proper management of stocks, social accountability, and ensuring a low-carbon footprint for the fleets and manufacturing processes are among the other standards that certified companies must abide by. Once certified, a company can use the Friends of the Sea logo on their products, so consumers can make the best sustainable choices.
In addition, the Friend of the Sea certification requires adherence to the Dolphin Safe Tuna label, to which over 90 percent of the world’s tuna companies already subscribe. The Dolphin Safe label demands the halting of dolphin-deadly fishing practices whereby fishermen intentionally ensnare entire pods of dolphins in order to access the schools of tuna that are the dolphins’ traveling companions in the open ocean.
As the Dolphin Safe label facilitates its own international monitoring program, collaboration between the two organizations is both natural and logical. Paolo Bray, founder and director of Friend of the Sea, is also the European director for the Earth Island Dolphin Safe label and brings his many years of monitoring experience to bear on the broader regulations he imposes with his certification of many different kinds of seafood, including sustainable aquaculture.
Together, Friend of the Sea and Dolphin Safe Tuna will help to ensure that the tuna industry remains sustainable and accountable for generations to come. However, the work of these two organizations would be impossible without you, the conscious consumer. Remember to always vote with your pocketbook and only purchase tuna bearing at least one of the two logos pictured above on the can.
For further information on Friends of the Sea visit: friendofthesea.org
Laura Bridgeman has long been interested in environmental issues. After graduating from university in Canada, she came to work with the Earth Island Institute to follow her passion. She works closely with Ric O’Barry’s Save Japan Dolphins project and is also involved in fostering youth leadership with the Institute’s New Leaders Initiative.