Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), in collaboration with three other environmental organizations—Greenpeace, Birdlife International, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC)—has released a new report for seafood supply chains that contains advice on minimizing bycatch of threatened species in longline tuna fishing.

The report is designed to be a guide for tuna supply chain members that want to source more responsibly caught longline tuna and help improve the environmental performance of the fisheries they source from. The report describes the impacts on threatened species, such as turtles, seabirds, and sharks, that are commonly caught as bycatch in longline tuna fisheries and identifies best practices to substantially reduce catching of those non-target species. The report also offers guidance on how to ensure tuna producers employ those best practices. 

“Bycatch is an ongoing problem in the world’s fisheries in general, and longline-caught tuna in particular. This guide serves as a resource for responsible seafood buyers who want to make sure that the seafood at the other end of their supply chains is produced responsibly,” said Dr. Tom Pickerell, Global Tuna Director for SFP. “We urge tuna supply chain members to publically sign on to these best practices and encourage the producers they source from to adopt them.”

Longlines have been identified as having one of the highest bycatch rates for many species, which poses a global threat to long-lived animals such as sharks, sea birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals. Many of these species are distributed across large geographic areas and therefore have a large overlap with tuna fishing grounds. The report illustrates examples of longline fisheries that have already adopted best practices, including the Hawaii Longline Swordfish Fishery, which has reduced both seabird and sea turtle catch rates by 90 percent in shallow-set fishing alone, and the US Northeast Distant Fishery Experiment (NED), which has reduced bycatch rates of leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles by 65-90 percent.

"The toll that tuna longline fisheries take on threatened species remains a devastating problem that is not being taken seriously enough by companies sourcing from these fisheries," said David Pinsky, Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner. "Major tuna industry players like Thai Union have identified bycatch mitigation as a priority area, and we are now urging other tuna buyers to raise their game by moving beyond the circle hook status quo. If companies want to source from longlines they must, at the very least, employ full bycatch mitigation."

Mark Zimring, Director of TNC’s Tuna Program, explained, “the updated report is a vital resource for tuna suppliers and retailers, enabling them to ensure that longline fisheries are adequately monitored to allow managers to identify unsustainable bycatch fishing mortality, and to modify fishing methods and gear designs to prevent the fisheries from causing unacceptable impacts on the abundance and fitness of affected populations of species of conservation concern.”

“Tuna longlining in the absence of appropriate mitigation measures is responsible for the deaths of thousands of albatrosses and petrels every year. In fact, it is the number one threat to albatrosses, many of which are threatened with extinction,” said Steph Winnard, International Marine Project Manager at BirdLife International. “We welcome the publishing of this report as a commitment from buyers of tuna to encourage producers to adhere to best practice standards that could make a real difference to the reduction in bycatch of multi-taxa species.”  

Contact: Sean Murphy, Communications Director


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