Monday, February 22, 2010

Is pole and line tuna really better?

Where are you getting your tuna?

There's a lot of buzz around tuna caught with a pole and line. Greenpeace says it's more sustainable than tuna caught using a purse seine or longline. The Seafood Choices Alliance offers some support for this fishing method in Afishianado, saying "development of well-managed pole and line tuna fisheries can represent a win-win situation."

Now entering the debate--the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation with a new report on a sustainability concern with pole and line fishing. The concern? It takes a lot of bait to catch all that tuna on hooks. What's the conclusion of the study? Catching all the baitfish could be a major sustainability problem. Agritrade raises some practical concerns, wondering how to convert all the boats, gear, and skills.

Like a lot of debates, there's probably truth on both sides. Pole and line tuna fisheries have some strong advantages, but it's probably not feasible to replace all tuna fisheries with new pole and line fishing. Unless we're going to cut way back on tuna catching and eating, we probably can't switch to all pole and line.

And then there's the governance problem. Tuna are pelagic fish, ranging across oceans. If there's overfishing in a region or for a particular species of tuna, then pole and line fishing is catching unsustainable tuna just like everyone else. Unless we fix the broken tuna governance bodies and end overfishing, there's no way to catch truly sustainable tuna with a pole and line or anything else.


Kevin Zelnio said...

Dammit Mark I want Tuna!!

Tim Adams said...

You are correct Mark. There are tradeoffs on both sides. Pole and lining is "cleaner" in terms of oceanic bycatch, and certainly produces higher-quality fish, and can be done with smaller, lower-cost boats and create more employment but, as pointed out it is dependent on a good livebait supply so it is not applicable everywhere. Difficult to do in Nauru, for example.

As for highly migratory tuna stocks, the main worry (in this region anyway) is with bigeye, and pole-and-lining doesn't catch a lot of bigeye compared to longlining.

Don't get me started on governance though. I'll be here all night. said...

Any additional concerns/debate regarding fuel use?

Mark Powell said...

Fuel use is higher for pole and line, I hear. And carbon footprint is worse for pole and line. So sustainability depends on which criteria you care about the most.

Tim Adams said...

Fuel usage by small boats (pole and line) is higher than large boats (purse-seine)?

Anonymous said...

purse seine fishing is promoted by EU while it is the most distruptive method if fishing in the world.

Pole and line is the way forward no matter what people are trying to advocate and trying to empty wast oceans

Anonymous said...

The ISSF mentioned in this article is paid for by industrial companies owning brands such as John West and Princes.

Go figure!