The future of tuna is on the line

Many of us regularly eat tuna, but as TFT’s Head of France, Fabien Girard, explains – if we are to continue to do so there is work to be done to ensure tuna are caught more responsibly

Why should people care where their tuna comes from?

Tuna has long been one of the most accessible and cheapest animal proteins. But right now, stock levels – especially those of Yellowfin Tuna – are very low. We need to take measures to recover those levels.

Where does the tuna we buy in supermarkets come from?

Usually it comes from tropical waters in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna being very popular.

Are any tuna species endangered?

Yellowfin Tuna stocks are very low and continue to fall. This species has always been fished, but its reproductive cycle is longer than the Skipjack’s. On top of that demand is high and we fish way more than we did 50 years ago. Fishing techniques have also improved and diversified, making it very easy to harvest huge volumes.

Schools of fish naturally gather under floating objects. Fish-Aggregating Devices (FADs), which usually look like buoys or floats, are used to attract big schools of fish that are then easily harvested by fishing vessels.

How transparent is the tuna industry?

Transparency is quite good for the simple reason that the supply chain is short. For instance, the tuna in supermarket cans are traceable to where it was processed. While products coming out of canneries, which are factories that commercially can fish, are identifiable thanks to sanitary obligations.

The supply chain is also very direct. Boats supply canneries or loin factories, which are usually situated in producing countries, like Ivory Coast and the Seychelles. Then the final product is sent directly to consumer markets. The problem lies in identifying what fishing methods are used.

Whose responsibility is it to inform consumers on how tuna is fished?

We could say it’s the responsibility of the retailer, but we don’t want to target a specific person to take up that role. What we’re trying to do is work with the whole supply chain, so that everyone involved is more transparent about what they’re doing. If that doesn’t happen, tuna may become a luxury food, and everyone will lose. If the supply chain collapses, retailers will make less profit, and consumers won’t be able to buy affordable tuna.

We are supporting retailers to protect the ocean. Read more about our work here.