Sealord bans device to limit bycatch

Last updated 16:19 29/05/2013

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One of the country's biggest fishing companies, Maori iwi part-owned Sealord Ltd, says it is banning the use of a device used to catch tuna in a bid to prevent also catching sharks and turtles.

Fish aggregation devices (FAD) are floating lures that are put out on the ocean in a bid to attract tuna which tend to gather under them.

Environmental group Greenpeace says that FADs globally catch 200,000 tonnes of other marine life every year.

Nelson-based Sealord, half-owned by the Maori trust Te Ohu Kai Moana and Japan's Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd, says its canned tuna product will soon be described as FAD-free.

"We have worked through Sealord's tuna sustainability goals with our suppliers and we now believe the quickest way to ensure by-catch is below our initial target of less than 1 per cent is to source tuna caught without FADs," said Sealord general manager Stu Yorston said.

Sealord at present buys much of its tuna from boats using purse seine nets set on FADs.

Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner Karli Thomas said the Sealord announcement was another important step towards protecting the marine environment and halting the decline of Pacific tuna stocks, the main source of canned tuna sold in New Zealand.

"This is great news, and makes the weekly supermarket shop easier for mums and dads everywhere, who can now have more confidence that their canned tuna won't be caught using methods that can kill sharks, turtles and baby tuna" she said.

"It's a real reflection of the changing market reality.

"Gone are the days of being able to peddle unsustainable tuna which costs the oceans far more than the price on the can."

Greenpeace said the announcement meant all the big Australasian tuna brands had now committed to phase out FAD-caught tuna.

WWF marine advocate Katherine Short hailed the move.

"More and more consumers and retailers are demanding ocean-friendly, sustainable seafood," she said.

"Sealord is demonstrating that industry can respond to these concerns by minimising the harm from fishing to other species, and helping protect marine ecosystems upon which people and wildlife depend."

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