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Greenpeace Ranks Korean Canned Tuna Brands South Korea, September 13, 12

Greenpeace is continuing its global campaign to evaluate major brands in major canned tuna markets and its latest target is the Korean industry. Dongwon, the country’s largest canned tuna producer, ranked lowest in the group’s sustainability evaluation because it refused to provide any information on the sustainability of its products.

Released earlier this month, the report, titled “The Hidden Secret of Canned Tuna,” ranked the country’s three major tuna brands – Sajo, Ottogi and Dongwon – based on their sustainability policy, traceability, fishing method use, and tuna species catch. Equity, avoidance of illegally caught fish, product labeling and support for marine reserves and overall fisheries improvement were also factors. Together, the three companies control more than 95% of Korea’s canned tuna market.

Greenpeace’s main concern is the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in tuna purse seine fisheries. The fishing method, though efficient, is harmful to other endangered and threatened marine animals – including sharks, rays, dolphins and turtles. For every 10 kg tuna catch from FADs, up to 1 kg is by-catch and a further 2 kg is baby yellowfin and bigeye tuna, according to the report.

While most of the canned tuna from the three brands say “Dolphin Safe,” Greenpeace says this certification “does not guarantee their overall sustainability practices or safeguard other by-catch species including juvenile tuna.”

In the first part of 2011, Dongwon accounted for about 70% of Korea’s canned tuna market. With the country’s biggest purse seine fleet, the company received a red ranking for sourcing unsustainable yellowfin tuna and for relying on FADs. Greenpeace also found it “very disappointing” that Dongwon, which has a history of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, has made no sustainability commitments. In 2010, Korea’s purse seine fleet caught 278,227 tons of tuna and Dongwon caught more than half of this total.

Both Sajo and Ottogi received an orange ranking, which is a step up from red, but still below the green standard.

Sajo, which controlled about 17% of the country’s canned tuna market in the first semester of 2011, responded “positively” to Greenpeace’s tuna survey and their sustainability policy is available on their website. It plans to source more tuna from locally owned and operated fleets in the Pacific, thereby improving the equitable sourcing of its products. While it mainly uses skipjack tuna, the company still sources unsustainable bigeye and yellowfin and relies on FADs, says the report. Sajo also allows sourcing from vessels and companies that have been blacklisted for illegal activities.

Ottogi, which sources its tuna from a Korean tuna fishing company called Silla, claims that most of their tuna are caught without FADs but they did not provide evidence to support this, according to Greenpeace. It mainly uses skipjack tuna, but it also continues to source yellowfin, which is unsustainable says the group. The company does not have a public policy for sustainably or equitably sourced tuna products.
The sustainability ranking of Korean tuna brands is the latest effort by Greenpeace to promote greener fishing methods across the global tuna industry. Instead of using FADs, the environment group is pushing major brands and retailers to source tuna from pole-and-line fisheries or from free swimming schools using FAD-free purse seiners. Both methods have little to no by-catch.

“We have a choice. Either we require our favorite brands to change the way they source their fish, or we face the real possibility that our children will be the last generation to have tuna in their sandwiches and gimbap,” says Greenpeace.

Greenpeace has previously ranked canned tuna brands in the U.K, Australia, Canada and Italy.