After the huge success of our UK tinned tuna campaign, described by the Independent as "one of the most successful environmental campaigns in years", it was great to hear a big European tuna brand - Bolton commit to completely clean up its act.
In 2011, tuna giant Bolton recognised the damage associated with fish aggregation devices (Fads) by committing to source nearly half its tuna by 2013 from sustainable fishing methods such as Fad-free fishing and pole and line. And judging by the latest announcement in mid-January, it seemed Bolton was ready to follow all the major UK brands and supermarkets in dumping Fads for good.
Or are they? Bolton put out a press release that promised great things, aiming to go "100 per cent sustainable by 2017". But the PR veneer concealed a lack of substance.
There was no detail about how the company will achieve this laudable aim. Will they now drop Fads and switch to pole and line and Fad-free fishing for all of its tuna? Bolton is not telling us, so we simply don’t know if this commitment is worth the paper it’s written on. I could happily commit to being 100 per cent fluent in Swedish by 2017, but without a plan to get there it’s not going to happen.
The tuna market is changing rapidly under pressure from consumers and NGOs to clean up its act and dump destructive practices - but there’s still a long way to go for the global industry. Setting aside environmental impacts for one moment, ultimately corporate reputations and bottom lines are at risk if the tuna industry clings to business as usual in this dynamic marketplace. Bolton can learn from the UK and build a genuinely transformative, profitable model for sustainable tuna, or it can watch market share and marine biodiversity fade away as it fights shy of fully embracing change.
Far from what the vested interests in the tuna industry would have you believe, this is not about hairshirt puritans going back to the Stone Age. It’s about fishing in ways that maintain the integrity of oceans ecosystems for future generations. That happens to be incompatible with the increasing industrialisation of tuna fishing using indiscriminate marine minefields – Fads.