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Sealord under fire for overfished tuna

Sunday 10 Mar 2013 6:02 p.m.

Sealord is under fire for putting a tuna on the brink of being overfished in cans and marketing it as a premium product.

ITM Fishing Show host Matt Watson is calling for compulsory labelling to show how tuna is caught and a boycott of all Sealord products.

Sealord calls this its best tasting tuna yet, but opponents say its television advertisement is irresponsible.

“I think it's incredibly arrogant or ignorant – ignorant of the state of the yellowfin tuna fishery,” says Mr Watson..

That's because yellowfin tuna is the on the brink of being overfished.

“Ten years ago I would go out and I’d expect to catch a yellowfin tuna over the summer months,” says Mr Watson. “Now I would be surprised to lay eyes on one.”

But Mr Watson says Sealord has little interest in conserving yellowfin tuna because of its commercial value.

“I think they're relying on the New Zealand consumer about being ill-informed about which fish are sustainable.”

The New Zealand sports fishing council says yellowfin tuna stocks are half of what they were in 1990. But Sealord says stocks of yellowfin tuna in the Western Pacific are fine. It told 3 News in a statement it's trying to reduce the amount of yellowfin tuna it sells and is also working to reduce its bycatch rate to less than 1 percent of catch. But it also pointed out New Zealanders eat less than 0.5 percent of the world's canned tuna.

Greenpeace says part of the problem is Sealord's reliance on fish aggregating devices – a type of float used to lure marlin and tuna but wipes out young tuna and other ocean life too.

“There's a much higher bycatch of other ocean life, including sharks, turtles and quite importantly juvenile tuna,” says Karli Thomas of Greenpeace. “These are more vulnerable species, like big-eye and yellowfin.”

Mr Watson says it's up to consumers to drive change.

“You need to hit them in the pocket,” he says. “You need to stop buying their products and hopefully force their hand to change their way.”

That needs to happen before, Mr Watson says, yellowfin tuna disappears from New Zealand waters altogether.

3 News

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