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Fishing Sustainability Becoming a Hot Topic

Tuna has received some prominent attention lately, as Greenpeace ranked 14 well-known tuna brands for sustainability. Their overall grade was not great; in fact, their assessment stated that most companies in the industry did not have adequate resources and procedures in place to ensure the sustainability of ocean fisheries. Their top choice was Wild Planet, touted for its strong and fully-implemented sourcing policy. Supermarket staples Starkist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee all landed in the bottom half of the list.

Industry insiders do not believe that the results can be taken seriously. Gavin Gibbons, spokesperson for the National Fisheries Institute, argued that the study was “non-scientific, non-transparent and completely subjective… The media should keep in mind that Greenpeace is the same group that refuses to join the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)’s ongoing dialogue about tuna.”

Dave Melbourne, senior vice president of corporate responsibility for Bumble Bee, echoed the sentiments, arguing that the study was “a stunt aimed at raising money for Greenpeace.” He also noted that Bumble Bee would roll out a new online platform later in the year that would allow customers to trace products to their oceans of origin. Ultimately, it would seem fish producers are just as serious about fish sustainability as Greenpeace, despite their differing views on how and when such sustainability should be attained.

The federal government is launching its own fish tracking system that will allow customers to find where their fish was caught, processed and stored, which may make producers’ efforts redundant. Although the legislation, co-chaired by the Departments of State and Commerce, will focus on eradicating illegal fishing and seafood fraud, it stands to reason that it will also help consumers make educated choices about sustainable and legal fishery operations.