Sealord signs tuna pledge

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 07/02/2013

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Sealord Group has signed a tuna conservation pledge and set a target of no more than 1 per cent bycatch by 2015.

The Nelson and Auckland-based seafood company has been under sustained attack from Greenpeace for its purchase of tuna caught using fish aggregation devices (FADs) that cause fish to gather so that they can be caught in purse-seine nets.

Greenpeace argues that this method has an unacceptable level of bycatch which includes turtles, sharks and juvenile tuna. It advocates pole-and-line fishing using bait, and some producers have switched to this method.

Sealord, which maintains that Greenpeace uses misinformation in its campaign, is the first New Zealand signatory of the World Wildlife Fund's Western Central Pacific Conservation Pledge which brings together brands, harvesters and manufacturers focused on ensuring tuna fishing is well managed.

It will still buy FAD-caught tuna if it produces the best sustainability results.

"We are not as hung up on catching methods as some other companies are. Our focus is on sustainability," said the general manager of New Zealand marketing, Stu Yorston.

"Where the catch data from specific trips shows FAD-free fishing provides the best result, then we will buy FAD-free. If selective fishing using FADs provides better results then we will buy from those fishers.

"Sealord's aim is to see non-tuna bycatch reduced to no more than 1 per cent of total catch by 2015," he said.

The company's tuna purchases would be based on catch data from each trip.

While this information was not currently available, collection of data was continuously improving and Sealord would make use of tools, including the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation proactive vessel register to track an individual vessel's fishing practices.

"This will improve our ability to tell our customers exactly what is being done by each vessel to reduce environmental impacts and keep the fishery healthy."

The new approach follows the recent introduction of New Zealand's first Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified tuna, Sealord albacore, which is caught off the West Coast of South Island.

The WWF tuna pledge is to:

- Support well-planned and designed tuna fishery improvement and conservation initiatives to sustain livelihoods.

- Minimise environmental impacts.

- Supply the world with responsibly managed, high quality tuna through certification according to the MSC standards.

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- The Nelson Mail

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