Sustainability Questions on Commercial Tuna Fishing

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The Need for Commercial Tuna Fishing

Commercial tuna fishing is an important part of many global economies; the industry creates a number of jobs and tuna is a trusted food source for countries around the world (Majkowski, 2010). Many consumers include tuna as a part of a healthy diet and others simply love the taste. This increases the demand for tuna worldwide and the commercial tuna fishing industry must find innovative ways to continue meeting demand.
Responsible commercial tuna fisheries face a growing dilemma – meeting global demands for canned tuna and other seafood products, and also ensuring tuna stocks remain strong enough to feed future generations. The solution is sustainability, and this is accomplished with the implementation of sustainable fishing practices. Without sustainability measures being firmly rooted in place, the future of commercial tuna fishing will suffer, and so will the health of oceanic ecosystems.

What Does Being Sustainable Mean for Commercial Tuna Fisheries?

Sustainable fishing practice takes into account the following elements and ensures they are all sustainable for the long-term:
  • The amount of tuna that is harvested from a particular tuna stock
  • The way tuna is harvested
  • The resulting impact on the marine ecosystem (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014a).
Overfishing is a major concern for the sustainable use of tuna stocks. Monitoring and managing the status of the world’s tuna stocks is essential in determining the maximum sustainable yield for targeted stocks as well as identifying any stocks which are weak and need time to recover. Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) rely on catch data from fishing vessels to manage tuna stocks. These organizations face the difficult task of managing, conserving, and protecting the marine ecosystems for their respective region (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2011).
Clover Leaf is working toward achieving true sustainability in its operations by implementing policies to help eliminate overfishing. This policy dictates that Clover Leaf will forego dealing with fisheries where ALL of the following is evident:
  • Overfishing is currently taking place, and
  • The fishery is already overfished, and
  • No actions are being developed (nor are in place) to allow the fishery to return to a sustainable state.
Clover Leaf is dedicated to helping fisheries achieve sustainability. This includes helping fisheries that it deals with currently, and incentivizing other fisheries, that lack data and/or robust management, to develop improvement plans and adopt practices for sustainability (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014b).

Is Purse Seine Fishing Sustainable?

Purse seine fishing vessels are responsible for over 60% of the tuna caught annually (ISSF, 2014). Purse seine vessels are able to harvest large quantities of tuna consistently, efficiently and effectively, especially when FADs or fish aggregating devices (Tuna Sustainability, 2010) are used to attract schools of fish. Not only is purse seine fishing on FADs effective, this method also uses the lowest average amount of fuel per live weight tonne of tuna landings, thus generating a smaller carbon footprint (Parker, 2012).
While criticized for its high bycatch levels, purse seine fishing on FADs actually varies greatly depending on the time of year and where fishing occurs. Bycatch levels are actually quite low in the Western Central Pacific Ocean where the largest percentage of canned tuna is harvested (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014c). While Clover Leaf sources tuna caught on FADs, it is continuously working through the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to further reduce bycatch levels using this method, through best practices and commitments. 

Works Cited

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (2011, September 3). Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

ISSF. (2014). Purse Seine. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from International Seafood Sustainability Foundation:

Majkowski, J. (2010, November 15). Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. Tuna resources. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department:

Parker, D. P. (2012, March 12). ISSF Technical Report 2012-03: Fuel Consumption And Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Global Tuna Fisheries: A Preliminary Assessment. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from ISSF - Online Library:

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014a). FAQ - What does 'sustainable seafood' mean? Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Clover Leaf:

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014b). Sustaining Fisheries. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from Clover Leaf:

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014c). FAQ - How much bycatch is caugh using FADs. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Clover Leaf:

Tuna Sustainability. (2010, December 23). Glossary: FAD. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from YouTube:

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