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FOS Says It “Leads” ISSF To Ban Shark Finning

In a press release yesterday, Paolo Bray, director of Friend of the Sea (FOS) and also European director of the Earth island Institute (EII) dolphin safe program, claims that his organization FOS “leads ISSF members and Korean major tuna company to ban shark finning”.
In the release, FOS –which is an international sustainable seafood certification project- says it uncovered 1.5 MT of dried shark fins onboard a longline vessel owned by Korea’s biggest tuna company. FOS avoids mentioning the company name, but DongWon holds this position. It continues “In one fishing trip alone, the crew had killed over 5000 sharks for fins, among which were endangered ones”.
The Korean multinational officially explained that “shark business is only the procedure and a source to support crew’s income. We should consider seamen’s livings which are doing hard work at sea for about a year parted from their families”.
FOS claims that it has -for several months- alerted ISSF members, WWF and other tuna industry stakeholders, requesting action to lead the Korean and associated USA tuna companies to comply with basic environmental and social standards.
In the statement, FOS does not mention anything about the action that Earth Island Institute itself has taken towards the accused Korean company. According to the website the StarKist Seafood Company (DongWon) in the United States, and Dongwon F&B., Co, Ltd and Dongwon Industries are all listed as approved dolphin safe tuna processing companies and fishing companies.
FOS/EII states “the Korean company fully owns the producer of the top USA tuna brand, founding member of ISSF, which has obviously until now benefited from its owner’s shark fin trade and crew treatment not completely in line with international conventions.”  Clearly the seafood certification group here refers to StarKist Seafood USA –which is the US top tuna brand- but refrains to mention the company by name.
If one reads the EII dolphin safe company policy, it mentions under point 4 that an EII approved company or its affiliates should not purchase, import or sell shark fins. However it does not explicitly mention that the company –or its affiliates boats- cannot be involved in shark finning, or catching sharks.
EII has for many years, even at recent tuna conferences, been an active promoter of the use of FAD’s, which are known to especially threaten sharks. The organization advises to remove the sharks alive from the purse seine nets and throw them back into the ocean, which is quite hazardous and often an impossible practice.
FOS/EII, in its release, does not talk about the action it has taken, itself, against the dolphin safe approved Korean company, so that it will comply with its standards. Nor has EII sent out any alerts that the company had broken EII policies.
Paolo Bray sees the fact that on the 1st of February 2012, ISSF introduced a Shark Fin ban measure, as an achievement of FOS.  The ISSF ban requests that “by September 2012, processors, traders, importers, transporters and others involved in the seafood industry, must refrain from transactions with vessels that carry out shark finning or with vessel owning companies that do not have a public policy prohibiting shark finning”.
Bray states: “We applaud ISSF’s initiative, which took into consideration the Friend of the Sea request and which will hopefully save hundreds of thousands of sharks from wasteful killing practices”.
Bray did not make clear what the consequences will be for the Korean company and its affiliates breaking EII Policy on shark finning.
In a reaction on the FOS press release, the ISSF made the following statement: “Reducing by-catch of all species has been a priority area of focus for ISSF since the coalition was founded in 2009. The ISSF Board of Directors is continually reviewing mechanisms that can help to achieve our overall objectives. The participation and direct action of industry can ultimately lead to significant improvements and, as such, ISSF’s most powerful tool for facilitating change is enacting conservation measures requiring participating companies to refuse to enter into transactions for fish that are caught in contravention to one of its measures. Last year, ISSF adopted a conservation measure that calls for the full retention of all by-catch, except those that can be released alive or are prohibited from being retained. This latest measure is another layer to help eliminate a wasteful practice that also leads to a distortion of critical data on fishing’s impact on the greater marine ecosystem.”
ISSF also expressed that they are interested in learning of allegations of shark finning so that, if the claims are properly substantiated, they will have grounds to encourage appropriate action. In this case, the claim was brought to the attention of the relevant regional fisheries management organization, which according to ISSF determined there was in fact no wrong doing.