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Dongwon Not Planning To Launch FAD-free Tuna Products South Korea, June 12, 13

Tuna is one of the most popular delicacies that Koreans enjoy. The country’s tuna consumption tops that of any other Asian nation. The amount of tuna caught by Korea’s fishing vessels is the third largest in the world with 311,925 tons in 2010, following that of Japan and Taiwan, according to Greenpeace Korea.

Among those catches, some 100,000 tons came into the country and are processed into canned tuna.

A report released by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization showed that the world tuna catch in total was some 5.3 million tons in 2010, with the greatest increases being between 2004 and 2007. During this period, the majority of global tuna fishing fleets used FAD. (Usually the catches reported by the FAO are considerably higher than those reported by the RFMO’s).

The use of FADs caused the reduction of the population of some species such as Pacific and southern bluefin tuna by 95 percent.

During the catching process with FADs, juvenile big eye tuna, yellowfin tuna and endangered marine species such as rays, sea turtles and dolphins were also “incidentally caught.” After collecting the tuna, fishermen generally discard the dead incidental catch.

According to Greenpeace Korea, the amount of these disposed marine lives surpasses 200,000 tons annually which is equivalent to 1 billion tuna cans.

To preserve tuna populations and protect incidentally caught fishes, Korea and other member countries of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) agreed last December to curb the use of FAD by extending the moratorium on FAD by four months from the previous three months.

Since Korean tuna fishery companies have to abide by the WCPFC agreement, they don’t use FADs from July to October. But except for this period, they use more FADs to catch more tuna.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace Korea reviewed the fishery policy of global canned tuna makers. Its goal was to review whether the companies are conducting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and catching tuna using “sustainable” methods such as line fishing.

Among those reviewed, Korea’s three major companies were the only ones which did not meet any of those standards. No company had environment-friendly fishing policies considering that tuna should be preserved as a sustainable food source.

“Some of the companies are even selling canned yellowfin tuna, which is designated as a ‘near threatened’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ Red List of Threatened Species. Consumers in Korea barely know that they are eating an endangered species,” said Han Jeong-hee, a campaigner at Greenpeace Korea.

Han said that none of those companies released “FAD-free canned tuna.”

“Fishing with FADs should be prohibited in order not to let our children learn about tuna only in encyclopedias. At least Korean consumers should be provided with options to choose FAD-free tuna cans,” she said.

In the report, Dongwon Industries, the country’s largest canned tuna maker controlling over 70 percent of the can tuna market, was singled out as the company pursuing the least sustainable fishery policy. A fleet of Dongwon’s fishing vessels were slapped with fines in waters off Liberia on April 28 for illegal fishing.

According to Greenpeace Korea, the company’s FAD use rate was higher than the other two companies, but they are unwilling to disclose the exact figures.

“A large number of global canned tuna makers changed their fishing policy to more sustainable ways by not using FADs and consumers are provided with FAD-free products. Korea, one of the leading pelagic fishery powerhouses in the world, should not be branded as a country of illegal fishing,’” Han said.

The country’s tuna industry is, however, opposing the prohibition of FAD, explaining why they have no plans to release FAD-free tuna cans, citing a possible price hike of canned tuna as well as the new products’ meager demand.

An official at Dongwon Industry said, “Though we are not planning to release FAD-free canned tuna products, it is nothing costly. Since Korean vessels strictly abide by the FAD prohibition period, all they need to do is label ‘FAD-free’ on the canned tunas captured during the period. However, if FAD is entirely prohibited, as Greenpeace claims, the price of canned tuna will skyrocket.”