If You Love Sharks, You Should Think Twice Before Buying Tuna
Paul Hilton / Greenpeace
By Jackie Dragon
Sharks are an iconic victim of the global crisis facing our oceans today. Every year, more sharks and rays appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species and it is estimated that one in four shark species are now threatened. Out of control tuna fisheries are one of the biggest culprits, where both men and sharks are exploited and abused to sustain short-term profits for big corporations.
As far too many boats chase dwindling stocks of tuna, sharks have become victims of incidental bycatch on a massive scale. In fact, about 25 percent of tuna longline fisheries catch is made up of sharks.
On top of that, their misfortune is intertwined with the misery of exploited, underpaid fishery workers. The drive to find cheap labor to catch tuna not only puts people at extreme risk, it is also fueling shark finning.
Shark finning is the slicing off of shark fins and throwing the mutilated animal, often still alive, back into the ocean to die a cruel death. Although various national and international laws now ban this barbaric practice, shark finning continues to plague global tuna fisheries.
Most sharks caught are finned, alive or not. The fins are too valuable to resist for many fishers, especially those looking to make up for meager or non-existent wages, who can sell these fins on the black market. Sharks are just a rung below the workers on a ladder of exploitation maintained by greedy companies set on gaming the system as long as they can still find tuna in the sea.
Shameless fishing operators look to improve their bottom line by cutting labor costs. Numerous scandals have exposed human trafficking, forced labor and inhumane working conditions on fishing vessels. These abusive practices occur in the shadows of a long supply chain that has been connected to Thai Union, the largest tuna company in the world and traced to store shelves of Walmart and other major supermarkets. Consumers buying canned tuna have no guarantee that people and sharks have not suffered for their meal.
Crew on the Taiwanese longliner Sing Man Yi 6 in the Pacific Ocean in 2015. Paul Hilton / Greenpeace
Investigations have caught tuna boats red handed, hiding bags filled with shark fins.
Tuna fishermen interviewed in the South Pacific reveal a system where the illegal cargo is typically offloaded at sea, long before vessels reach port and the scrutiny of law enforcement.
Fishers report working for wages that can amount to as little as $0.23 a day. Many see no earnings even after countless months of grueling work, often 17 hours a day, seven days a week. They have a strong incentive to collect the lucrative shark fins to make up for incredibly low or non-existent wages.
Some crews even include victims of human trafficking, migrant workers who become unwittingly trapped on fishing vessels for months or years at a time, their documentation confiscated so they can't escape.
Fishers report regular violence and a shocking proportion knew of workers who had been murdered if they spoke out or simply became to sick or weak to keep up. They rarely receive the wages they were promised. Instead, their agreed earnings are docked for the most basic necessities like clean drinking water or the use of a toilet. Like the sharks they are forced to fin to make ends meet, these humans are seen as expendable on the path to profit.
Countries like Taiwan have enacted bans on shark finning, but evidence shows that laws on paper will not curb this behavior until adequate monitoring and enforcement are put in place and offenders and authorities are held accountable.
Recognition of the connection between forced labor and illegal fishing practices like shark finning continues to grow. The EU has issued Thailand a Yellow Card, warning that if it does not rein in its illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing it risks a ban on imported seafood. The EU has made it clear that forced labor is at the root of Thailand's challenge with IUU.
When the mega-corporations at the top of the tuna supply chain take action to ensure they are selling tuna that is caught in a sustainable and ethical manner, people and sharks will be safer.
Which brings us back to Walmart and Thai Union.
Walmart is the world's largest retailer. Walmart buys tuna from Thai Union and sells approximately 25 percent of all U.S.-bought canned tuna. Walmart has a responsibility for taking care of its own workers, along with ensuring the fair and ethical treatment of workers who bring products to its shelves.
As the largest tuna company in the world, Thai Union has a responsibility to reject bad fishing practices and help change the tuna industry to ensure it is fair, sustainable and does not threaten our oceans. The company should embrace better, lower-impact fishing methods and more oversight, transparency and traceability from sea to the checkout counter.
If we don't change the way we catch tuna, we may see the extinction of shark species, as well as potentially far-reaching impacts on ocean ecosystems once the sharks are gone.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.